There has been much talk of who Michael Appleton might turn to as his assistant manager here at Sincil Bank.
He’s believed to be close to bringing in an assistant, with one name popping up more than a couple of times in various conversations. That person, former Sheffield Wednesday defender Ashley Westwood, appears to be linked due to his time with our boss at Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn. The only time Appleton didn’t work with him was at Oxford; his most successful period in management.
However, his assistant from the Kassam was Derek Fazackerly and he’s still with Oxford. He’s 67-years-old now and is unlikely to leave the U’s to come and help Appleton out here.
The business of an assistant is, in some cases, as important as the manager himself. Who remembers Neil McDonald’s spell as assistant to Peter Jackson? He brought tactical knowledge and calmness to Jackson’s side and, for a short while, we looked good. Terry Yorath did a similar thing for Jacko but when Iffy came in as his back up, things weren’t quite as straightforward.
Whilst we await the actual announcement, I thought I’d take a look at Ashley Westwood’s career.
It’s a little-known fact that Westwood was actually on our books for a short while as his career wound down. He signed for us in 2012 as a player under David Holdsworth, but was tempted away to Portsmouth as assistant manager by Appleton. Now, seven years later, it is possible he’ll be back in our dugout and focused on helping his former teammate,
The two go way back, all the way to Old Trafford. He was part of the 1995 FA Youth Cup winning side at Old Trafford, but didn’t make an appearance and later moved to Crewe for £40,000. He made over 100 appearances for them, helping them to what is now the Championship before joining Bradford City for £150,000. He was part of the Bantams side promoted to the Premier League, but was restricted to just five top-flight appearances. Oddly, in those five outings they earned 13 points from a season-long total of 36.
He moved to Sheffield Wednesday for £150,000 once more and played three years in what is now the Championship for them before spells with Northampton Town, Chester, Swindon and Port Vale. Slowly he seeped into the non-league scene, playing for Stevenage, Wrexham and Kettering. Eventually, he wound up with us, didn’t make an appearance and then went off to Portsmouth as assistant manager.
He followed Appleton to Blackpool and Blackburn before being sacked at the same time as his boss. From 2013 to 2016 he managed Bengaluru FC in India with much success; he lifted the I-League title twice in 2014 and 2016, as well as the Federation Cup in 2015. The team were only formed in 2013.
He then had a short and unsuccessful spell in charge of Malaysian side Penang FA before taking over from Teddy Sheringham as head coach of ATK in the Indian Super League, only to leave when Robbie Keane came in as manager.
His spell in India is worth reading about and if you want to know more, this is a very good read.
The one issue that may crop up is a 2010 conviction for assaulting a police officer, something that has been dealt with and is in the past, but that may be a consideration of the board when approving such a move.
There is a chance that Appleton will go with someone else as his assistant of course, with a couple of interesting West Brom connections cropping up. Deon Burton was his assistant for West Brom Under 23’s – the 42-year-old scored 13 times in 62 appearances for Jamaica in a career that brought five seasons of Premier League football with Derby. He also spent time with Scunthorpe as a player and may know the area relatively well.
There’s an outside chance that Gareth McAuley could be a target. He played 84 times for us at the start of a career that saw him also feature for Rangers, West Brom and Ipswich, as well as making 80 appearances for Northern Ireland. He spent a short period of time with Appleton at West Brom, but is also likely to know Michael O’Connor from international duty.
Other names mentioned are Craig Shakespeare and James Shan. The former has managed Leicester City and took Appleton to the top flight as his assistant in 2017, but since leaving the Foxes had coached for Sam Allardyce at Everton. Whilst Shakespeare would seem an unlikely choice, James Shan might be an interesting shout.
He took over as caretaker manager at West Brom after Darren Moore left and did a stellar job, winning seven of his 12 games in charge. He’s a free agent after leaving the club when Slaven Bilic came in, but his coaching background is strong; he’s worked his way up through the Baggies ranks, starting with the Under 7’s in 2006. He managed the Under 23’s for four years up to 2018, then came in as first-team coach last season, eventually taking over as caretaker manager.