Michael Appleton Presser – Our Verdict

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I’m gutted; it’s typical that whenever I’m not around, something happens. On deadline day, when I walk the dog, we make a signing.

If I go to the loo during the game, a goal is scored. I book one weekend away all season and that’s the weekend we appoint a new manager and he gives his first press conference. Still, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I’ve been able to watch it. It’s not easy though is it? The Twitter feed says it’s going to be streamed live of YouTube and what happens? Nothing. I’ve seen quite a lot of upset people who missed it thanks to whatever technical difficulties were being encountered.

Eventually, after fifteen minutes of cursing and moaning, I got the feed and welcomed in the new era for our football club.

It’s strange to think that the previous ride is over, but it is. The Grimsby fans think it’s hilarious and other clubs love suggesting now we’ve lost the manager who guided us to where we are, we’re going to collapse again. It’s a fear at the back of everyone’s minds; that this is the beginning of an era we won’t be so proud of.

That’s the sort of attitude that Michael Appleton has to fight through. That’s the perception he’s got to change. The thrashing at the weekend was very apt in a way, a crushing finish to a period of instability and uncertainty. How can it only be a few weeks since we were top of the league, unbeaten and hadn’t conceded at home? How was it less than a month ago I left Sincil Bank bursting with pride at our fine display against Everton, and yet here we are before Green Day have woken up and we’ve got rebuilding to do.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Before I consider Michael Appleton as a man, I want to delve into the message a little. It’s very much a case of ‘we’ve got a job to do here’, rather than ‘we’ve got a job to keep doing here’. I found that very interesting. This whole ‘lost eight in nine’ or whatever it is people are saying; I’m not putting a terrible amount of weight behind that. One of those defeats was Everton, the other was a weakened and fatigued side in the EFL Trophy. Two defeats have come during a period without a manager too; this crisis that some people seem to be building up is not as severe as people think it is.

Yet, I was left feeling that we were in a rut after today’s presser. I felt that the squad might not be good enough and that results might take a while to come. That surprised me; less than six weeks ago this squad of players were having superlatives poured on them. In August, we had three League One quality centre backs to choose from. Now? We’ve not got one. The squad we all purred at on deadline day is suddenly not good enough for our level. I can’t help but think, even from so-called rational thinkers, that everything has been overplayed a little.

It suits the club for this to happen though and perhaps that’s part of it spreading so rapidly. After all, a new manager always had a huge gap to fill and to enhance the feeling of us being troubled and on the slide gives him time to settle in. He’s clearly of the belief there is a job to do and warned that it might take six months for his style to come through. Personally, I can’t help but feel that is an over-estimation. He inherited a team of journeymen at Oxford, but has good ball players here. That lack of heart we showed on Saturday came as much from a lack of leaders as anything. Michael O’Connor didn’t start and the midfield duo didn’t function. Jason Shackell had a bad game, Bozzy sat on the bench and that contributed as much as anything.

That said, I don’t want to pile pressure on the new man and frankly, there is clearly a job to do; if the players can turn in such a hollow, vacuous performance after just ten days without a manager, then there clearly something to be addressed.

On to Appleton the man. I felt he handled the conference well, I thought he had some tough questions to answer and some bad ones too (how long before the fans get a chant for you like they did Danny? Seriously, who lets these people in the room?) and yet he dealt with them well. His background is fascinating; anyone thinking this is a four-team journeyman looking for the next paycheck is wrong. I enjoyed his recollections of his time as a player and the lessons he learned from his injury hell.

I feel he has a tag to shake just as we do. Whilst we want to throw off the Danny Cowley era, he was careful to point out he had moved on from his Oxford success. At one point he even said; I don’t want to keep talking about this because we’ve moved on (or words to that effect) and I wasn’t sure whether he meant us as a club or him as a manager. It’s almost like two people coming out of big relationships, believing they’ve found the right fit and still being quizzed incessantly about their ex; it’s inevitable but at some point everyone needs to leave well alone.

Completely disregarding that last paragraph, I remember that first presser with Danny and Nicky, the magic that swept through the place the second they walked in the door. Did I feel that in this press conference? No. Why? Because we’ve had the magic, the redemption and the rebirth. We’re galvanised and grown, developed and assumed an identity. Now, in League One, magic won’t work. Coaching will, methodical tactical approaches will and hard work will.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I’m excited about the new era. I feel that there is an underplaying of where we are, helped in no small part by a humiliating home defeat on Saturday. Maybe I can see the positives having not sat through the thumping, but up to Doncaster away in the cup I felt we’d been competitive in every match and only since the rumours started have we been poor. I think Michael Appleton has a strong squad to work with and a good background of coaching and developing good players. However, the club have been careful not to overstate the quality he’s inheriting and he’s been careful not to raise expectations too early as well.

That’s why things are very different this time around in terms of an introduction to the fans. Back in 2016, there was no underplaying what the management inherited because we all knew. There was no expectation to fulfil, no bar to raise, no predecessor to live up to.

This time out a good football man, an intelligent and driven coach with a varied and contrasting background to the man he replaced, has nothing to prove but an awful lot of expecting fans to prove it to. He certainly passed his first test but football management is about one thing and one thing only; results.

 

9 Comments

  1. Gary

    I don’t have any of the negative thoughts that you have and a few others have.

    In fact I am very positive. We have just experienced the Cowley whirlwind; 3 years of unbelievable success and excitement and we are now half way up League 1. We couldn’t have written this script.

    The Cowley’s left – best of luck to them and thanks guys. No-one knows why they made the sudden decision to leave, after saying they would stay on. Maybe…maybe, they suddenly realised they had taken LCFC as far as they could with their lower league experience and needed to ‘cash in’ now – they have probably increased their salaries by 10x and within their contract period will be financially set up for life! Why wouldn’t you make that decision?

    But the Cowleys have a challenge now – Huddersfield have 1 point from 8 games. They need 1.2 points per game to reach 45 points and safety in the Championship – no new players until January and some of the best Huddersfield players left over the summer. Will be interesting to see if the Huddersfield Chairman is as supportive as Clive Nates has been. Best of luck Danny – this is a new experience for you and I hope it works out and we are not entertaining you at SB next season!.

    We Imps now have a good new manager AND THE SAME FANTASTIC Board OF DIRECTORS, PLAYING STAFF AND SUPPORTERS. Its a new part of life at the imps – its exciting, its optimistic and its great.

    I started supporting Imps 50 years ago, just after Andy Graver signed. Within a couple of years we were promoted to Division 2 (Championship) and we had some great years. I am 75 years old, but I want to see this repeated again in my lifetime! Lets get out there at the Sunderland game and celebrate our good fortune!

    • Richard, we need a bit more than Boris Johnson-type “optimism”. We need some quality players to keep us in this division. Surely that has become increasingly evident over a number of recent games and made crystal clear by the superior quality of play of the Oxford lads last Saturday? I’m 77. I still harbour a hope of Lincoln getting into the Championship sometime before I fall of my perch…… but not with the current team.

  2. Great words Richard but I think you are doing yourself a disservice regarding the length of time you’ve been an Imp. Andy Graver first signed for us (first of 3 spells with the club) in 1950. Is I reckon you’ve been supporting the Imps for 69 years. Well done that man!

  3. To be fair there have been signs of a leveling off of form since last January. The Cowleys have to be Citys greatest ever Manager team but the time had come for them to move on. The next stage in our progression up the leagues will happen with the new Manager and I will be interested to see how many of the current lineup will start season 2020/21.

  4. Danny begged borrowed and stole a group to put together for this season.. Anyone who watched Saturday will realise the assembled squad including the beloved Harry Anderson by Tommo are not good enough at this level…. far too lightweight! This man will bring a steel to the side… be assured there will be players shown 5he door in the coming 12vmonths.

  5. Saturday wasn’t just an “off-day”. It showed that for this division we need players who are a lot faster, more skilful and who show considerably more energy and conviction in their play. Oxford, a mid-table club, were man-for-man better than us. This demonstrates that all bar a handful of our current squad, especially full-timers, aren’t up to the mark…..which means the need for a clear-out and the bringing in of some decent quality players. Maybe financially a forlorn hope.

  6. I don’t see how you can say that one win in 9, or 8 if you wish to take out Everton, is fine. We have won one in over a month. I would go so far as to say the first few games were the surprise. Turn it the other way, we have won just four games in the league and three of them in the first three games. The first to a team three points off the drop, the second to a team in the bottom half and the third to a team in the relegation zone and have since sacked their manager. The outstanding result was beating Fleetwood. We have had nothing to cheer in 5 weeks.

    My concern is that yes we have a ball playing squad. But does it work? Has the blend been found? All very well having a collection of good players, but do they make a winning team? Buckley got us playing nice football with good players. Currently it looks like they make a team that play well but lose. And a team that have an absolute disaster of a result in them as the basics go wrong. If Walker gets injured and Akinde suspended, what on Earth do we do? Same question but with Bolger and Bostwick as the names? How is that a balanced squad? For me there is a lot of work to be done. I agree we not in the situation the Cowleys picked us up in, but similarly I don’t think Appleton is coming into a team performing well with plenty of scope to make adjustments.

    Not wishing to be a doom merchant, I just think there is a lot of work needed. And how long before the 6k new fans start to get a bit chippy about not winning things? Most have known nothing but success.

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