I got to get my first face to face meeting with Michael Appleton today; I’ve been in a few press conferences but not had a chance to relax with him on a one to one basis and have a chat.
Liam Scully set it up, giving me a bit of time up at the training ground to introduce myself, the Stacey West and create a relationship. I’ll confess; going into the meeting I was apprehensive. I’ve seen plenty of him in action with the press and with the community and he’s obviously a decent guy, but you just never know how he might be once the door is closed.
After inviting me into his office he went and made me a cup of tea, offered me some chocolate and we had a long chat. Some of the stuff we spoke about was off the record, just introducing ourselves, talking a bit about the first few weeks and hoping to form a relationship. I felt very at ease in his presence, he’s pretty chilled out and is as honest and candid as I found his predecessor. It’s no secret I had a good relationship with Danny and I guess my fear was that Michael wouldn’t embrace the ‘alternative media’ scene as willingly.
There’s no doubt at all that he does, he was already aware of the site and how it’s developed which is great news for me and hopefully for you, the site users too. I did get a few quotes for a couple of articles and tomorrow I’ll be bringing you his thoughts about social media, alternative media and the like, as well as some interesting stuff on coping with management from a personal point of view. I thought I’d make part one very much about the club stuff.
I’d listened to the NTT20 podcast back when it first came out and was fascinated by Michael Appleton. I felt he’d be picking up a job at some point, but he was so measured and cautious in taking the right role. He’d been linked with Hibernian and a couple of other roles and I found his switch to Leicester from Oxford an interesting one too. Writing for FLW, we often linked him with jobs and it interested me that he always said ‘pick the club, not the level’.
It seems as though it’s a case of picking the people too, which is what led him to the door of Lincoln City.
“From an outsider looking in, the club has had a meteoric rise and that can be a good thing and a bad thing going into a club,” he said.
“The single most important thing for me was who you are going to be working with and when I first met Liam, Jez and the board I had a feeling, a good feeling straight away. I knew I could work with these people.
“Another thing you want going into a football club is stability and this club has stability. As we know, at this moment in time, for us to go to the next level we have to make sure we stay at this level. We have to make sure we stabilize and put a squad together that’s capable of competing at the top end of the league.”
That is going to be very much on his agenda come January and Michael has already spoken of putting plans in place just days after he first came into the club. Recruitment isn’t just about bringing in players for the here and now though, as he explained.
“We’ve got to make sure we recruit really well. We’ve got to make sure we bring players in with lots of potential. We want to get players in at a good age, so we can work with them for two or three years. On the back of that, we want to get success on the pitch, but the club gets success off the field too because you get a return on your investment.”
That return can go towards helping push the Imps up the table because Michael believes in terms of budget, there will always be someone further up the food chain.
“I’m happy to be shot down here, but I don’t think we’re ever going to have the budget to compete with the bigger clubs in the division, I don’t think that will ever be the case as there are always big teams and budgets at the top end.
“What we can do though is be cute and clever, to make sure we build a squad over a period of time which is double its value; we might have a team in this division with double our budget, but we want to create a squad that matches that of the other club.”
I suspect that it will be a busy January, but the new era isn’t simply going to be a continuation of the last one. I think we all knew, deep down, jumping up to this level was a big ask despite many sites pushing into the top six in their predictions. Even with stability, I thought tenth or around there, but now we’re seeing just how big that jump is. The teams we’re playing have huge budgets, £1m strikers or more and consolidation might just be the key.
I’ll drop the second part of the interview tomorrow; not sure what time but keep your eyes peeled.