Michael Appleton has been speaking to podcaster Joe Citrone, which you can listen to in full here.
It’s a great listen, it always is when Michael speaks as he is very candid, and he’s certainly opened up a little about his mission here, and the future. I haven’t transcribed it all because you really should listen, especially when Michael talks about the crowd response to the final few games of last season.
However, I did find his comments about the reasoning behind joining Lincoln to be relevant, and perhaps a little more candid than we got when he first came. The change of direction and budgeting has been discussed in great detail, but I think these comment perfectly compliment the future direction and pour some real scorn on some of the more outlandish claims after Huddersfield sacked their management team recently.
“I knew it was going to be tough at Lincoln because they had three years of success with Danny and Nicky,” said our boss. “They did it in a certain way which isn’t my style and I knew they spent a lot of money in gaining success.
“They (the board) knew they couldn’t compete budget-wise in League One with some of the big clubs. They felt that they overspent on certain players who were at an age where there was no resale value at all. They knew when Danny and Nicky left, they had to change their way of thinking and that was music to my ears.”
Whilst being open and transparent, Michael isn’t the type of person to name names in this respect, but you have to wonder if alleged club-record signings such as John Akinde fall into this bracket?
“They said they wanted to improve value on the pitch and develop their own players as well as other people’s young players. You go into any job and as an individual, you have a certain way of doing your job. I think I have a reputation for developing young players in a certain brand and a certain style. Everyone has got a USP and my USP is developing young players. It ticked a lot of boxes, what they wanted and what I enjoy doing came together.”
“We did it in January, we got rid of a lot of players in January and took a calculated risk on players, young players. At the time we went through a spell where we had a poor run, six or seven games where we lost a few and drew a few. All of a sudden, we came good again just before Covid kicked in. You could tell the belief was in the dressing room and I think it has stood us in good stead what happened in January. I think now, all of a sudden, I have got a young group I’m going to add to and bring more players in of a similar sort of ilk.”
Michael hints a little at the future direction of the transfer business; it doesn’t sound like the likes of Liam Bridcutt will be coming in on big wages, because that would ape the situation of the past. Let’s be clear; there is no criticism of the strategy which brought us to League One here, just an acceptance of change and a new direction.
However, if you’re concerned that leaves us in a potential relegation battle, Michale believes we’re going to be dark horses for a decent finish, if not a promotion challenge.
“I think we’ll surprise a few this year. We will be competitive, we’ll certainly not be near the big dogs in the league, expecting to be in the top six, but you never know. If you get a group of young players like we have got, and their belief grows, and they start winning games…
“The biggest thing you need to do with young players is winning close games. I know on any given day I’ve got a group of players who could win a game five or six nil, like Oxford did against us before I arrived. I know I have. Belief grows more when you win a game 1-0 or win a tight game against a top side.
“Let us see how it goes. There is going to be no massive expectations on us as a club, but we can be really competitive and surprise a few people.”
This is genuinely worth a listen, the Lincoln stuff starts ten minutes from the end, if you’re not inclined to hear how Michael’s career has developed so far. However, I’d recommend a full listen, as I would with our own interview with Michael back in December, just to remind yourself of the type of man we have in charge and the belief he has (and the board) in the direction we’re taking.
The future could well be exciting, Oxford fans certainly think we’ve got a good man and personally, I’m intrigued and hopeful that the mission Michael is on will lead us to a continued stay in League One, unheard of during my time as an Imps’ supporter.