Will 'Appy Make Us Happy?

Neville Dalton is a journalist and a Portsmouth fan of more than 40 years.

It is difficult for anyone to be anything other than underwhelmed on learning the identity of Pompey’s new manager.

Ignorance hardly puts us in pole position to offer anything but generalities about the new man.

We can be surprised, disappointed, encouraged.

But I’d suggest very few of us – in fact, none of us – are in a position to judge whether Michael Appleton will be a success or yet another failure as manager of Portsmouth Football Club.

The overwhelming view appears to be that Pompey have bottled it and gone for the cheap option (if his rumoured six-figure salary can be described as cheap).

And certainly, it’s likely that most other candidates would have expected higher remuneration than the 35-year-old erstwhile West Brom number two will receive.

But is he any good?

Roy Hodgson, his highly respected boss at The Hawthorns, seems to think so.

So, apparently, do former colleagues and the Pompey bigwigs who have put their trust in Michael Who, as he has become known.

Most fans seem to think otherwise. He’s inexperienced, unproven, a big, big gamble, they say.

And they’d be right on all counts.

But everybody’s got to start somewhere. And he’s certainly served a decent apprenticeship with the Baggies.

Yes, he’s still young. But it’s not his fault he suffered a career-threatening injury at such a young age, enabling him to earn his coaching qualifications when many of his contemporaries were at the zenith of theirs.

Most fans would like to think their clubs would appoint proven managers, but in reality, unless they have decent resources and are prepared for the upheaval and expense of moving backroom teams en masse, only a precious few have that luxury.

Moreover, the fact that Pompey appeared not only to be shopping in the bargain basement, but were prepared to entrust the club’s future with someone with no managerial record whatsoever appears to suggest there really is not much to spare in the post-administration Pompey coffers.

It’s fair to say the news of Appleton’s appointment came as a blow to many fans and probably dampened many’s enthusiasm for the times ahead.

But while people are entitled to feel flat at the announcement, they have no right to sit in judgment of the man himself or what he might bring to the club.

Let’s face it, few of us knew anything about the man before his name suddenly became the latest to be the “dead cert” next Pompey manager.

And of those who did, I doubt many knew sufficient about him to offer much idea about what sort of manager he would be: what tactics he is likely to use; what sort of players he likes; his approach to discipline on and off the field.

Pressure cooker

In truth, there must be doubts that David Lampitt and co knew much about that, either.

But I’m sure they did some homework before appointing him, not least taking soundings from some of those who do know him, professionally at least.

But even if they had asked the man himself – and come to think of it, they obviously did – and his most recent boss at West Brom, Hodgson, they still wouldn’t know what sort of manager he would make in the pressure cooker that is the Championship.

Because nobody knows. Not even “Appy” Appleton.

And therein lies both the risk and the excitement. It’s a learning curve for all of us.

His Hawthorns apprenticeship has been long and varied, taking control of players at a range of levels, including the club’s academy.

I’m not certain how successful it has been, but even if it were impressive, does that guarantee success at Pompey?

Did Paul Hart’s widely acclaimed achievements with youngsters at Leeds and Nottingham Forest make him a good manager at Fratton Park?

And as for his coaching, well, if the likes of Hodgson are happy to have “Appy” by his side, you have to believe he’s decent.

But as manager?

Was Joe Jordan a good coach? Was Kevin Bond?

Despite Pompey’s success in the years when they assisted Harry Redknapp, how much of that was down to the coaches and assistant managers?

It’s something that’s very difficult for anyone but those most closely involved to know.

And that includes prospective employers.

So whichever way you look at it, the appointment of Michael Appleton is not only stunningly surprising but incredibly risky.

A three-and-a-half-year contract and an eye to the future appears to suggest the club is happy it has the man for its mission.

As for the rest of us, we’ll have to like it or lump it.

But one thing’s for certain: Appleton comes with a clean slate and deserves time, tolerance and patience from the Fratton faithful.

Though not for ever.

* Many thanks for the recent comments on the message board about my articles. I’m glad that my views attract attention and interest, and I would never expect everybody to agree with them. One of football’s beauties is that everybody can have an opinion.

However, although I’m an avid reader of the board, I am not a member, so cannot respond to points or questions made on them. And I do not believe that these columns are the appropriate place for individual responses.

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