“I’m not stupid,” Michael said to press this morning.
“I don’t ever see myself being held in the same regard as those two (Danny and Nicky Cowley) because of the early success they had. I’m cool, I’m relaxed about that. I’ve got to do my thing now.”
I don’t know why, but those words have really struck a chord with me. I suppose it was inevitable; our former managers come back with another club and the questions about them start. Michael isn’t prone to hyperbole, he won’t be trying to match their success nor making bold statements to the media. How could he; he came into a successful football club, where the upward trajectory wasn’t mapped out. Where do you take a club that has three trophies and two promotions in as many years?
Well, the answer was to success on a smaller budget, and one game from achieving promotion to the third tier for the first time in 60 years. You know what? That wasn’t bad at all, was it? If we’d beaten Blackpool, or if we’d stayed injury-free in the winter, we wouldn’t be welcoming former managers back tomorrow, we’d see Michael welcoming Wayne Rooney instead. I know football is all about ifs and buts, but I don’t really think that comparisons between Michael and Danny are fair. I still find Michael’s comment sad.
The fact is, some already hold him in higher regard. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes when Danny and Nicky left the club; who approached who, etc, but I do know that one week they said they were staying put, and the next they were saying their goodbyes. What I also know is this summer, Michael was the subject of intense speculation and he too said he’d stay. He stayed and I know for a fact, that earned him a huge amount of respect amongst some fans. The same goes for the style of football; we do play attractive football and whilst we lack the players to carry it off at the moment, that’ll change in January. Unofficially, and therefore not going down on this site, I’ve been told of one loan player already in the bag and one we’re trying for and believe me, both would have supporters calling our policy genius if they come off. Last season wasn’t a fluke, or a one-off, and I firmly believe with the right recruitment we can replicate those performances. They didn’t happen by accident, we waited for the right players in the transfer market and lucked out. We tried the same this year, and didn’t.
However, the failings we have this season are not just Michael’s fault. The players we missed out on, it isn’t entirely down to him. There was a whole recruitment team who will be looking at the summer and wondering what they can do differently. I recall deadline day, we had a game and Michael was asked prior to kick off if he expected to sign new players. I can’t recall his exact words, but his answer was if we didn’t, he’d be having sleepless nights. I can’t imagine how he felt, coming back from a cup tie against Bradford to be told he wasn’t getting the new face. I’m sure he wanted more than one, but he got nothing. Did he cry about it in the media? Did he pass blame? No, he carried on, dignified and silent.
That’s a personality type that might not get fans singing Sweet Caroline. He might not be the type of man to fist-pump in front of fans after a 3-1 home win against Morecambe in December. However, that shouldn’t mean he is appreciated any less. You can’t see Michael’s passion because he hides it away, just like he buried his cancer scare in the summer. I went to the training ground just before the big kick off, and there was no talk of that, nothing. Michael won’t ever make Lincoln City about him, ever. It makes me sad to see our current manager, every bit as decent and approachable as our previous one, talking about not being held in the same regard.
Some managers who won nothing here are held in high regard. Some, like Chris Moyses, for his actions off the field as much as in the dugout. Some, such as Keith, for getting us so close, and yet so far. Some, such as John Schofield, because he was just a nice bloke. In Michael, we have another good man, one who is guarded about many things, and yet always open and honest about others. If he tells me something, I believe it, I have no reason not to. It genuinely upsets me to think he feels he won’t be appreciated as much as Danny and Nicky because of their early success. Actually, if fans had been in stadiums last season, I think Michael would have felt more of the connection, more appreciation than perhaps this season has brought. That’s not to say there’s any disconnection, not at all, but I think the way fans feel hasn’t come across because the only times he’s managed with fans in, there’s been a period of rebuilding. The one season had had his squad his way without complications, we had to shout his name in joy in our living rooms, not the stadium. Can you imagine Sincil Bank, with 10,000 fans in, the night we beat Sunderland 2-0 in the play-offs?
I’ll never take away what Pompey’s managers achieved here, never. However, it shouldn’t be allowed to cloud what Michael has achieved in a short space of time either. Danny’s interview talked about the training ground, staff and people connected to the club as if they were still his, as he clearly still has a fondness for us. However, they’re not. Like a scorned lover, he left us for someone new and a new man came into our life. He has made changes; the training ground is different, the ground is different and this is Michael Appleton’s club now. He came into a job where the former manager’s ghosts still walked the corridors, where their shadow cast a darkness over what seemed like an impossible future. However, impossible is just an opinion, and Michael proved that by taking us somewhere I never thought possible; the League One play-off final. I’m not being a sycophant when I say I think he’ll do it again; maybe not this season, but I really believe he will someday soon.
As for the regard he’s held in, it isn’t all about winning trophies. Michael earned a lot of respect for the dignified way he handled his health scare, and the honest way he has approached speculation around his future, and that’s without the excitement last season generated. Danny and Nicky Cowley have their place in our history, but Michael is the present. He’s the future, not the past, and I hope he understands that a large majority of fans, many of whom are silent, hold him in very high regard.
Those who shout the loudest etc. He has the full respect from many people, certainly from who I speak to. There's the odd (being the operative word) who can't move on and like to compare, but we have a manager that any club in League One would be happy to take.
— Shane Clarke (@ImpGunner) November 22, 2021
We were 90 minutes from the Championship. We were playing some of the best football seen at the Bank for years. And that was all done with hardly any money. Yes, the Cowleys will always have their place in our history but MA is right up there as well
— ( Lincoln ) Rob (@leahdan1) November 22, 2021
I struggle to believe last year would have been such a success under the Cowley's.
— Sam & whānau fully vaccinated 💪 (@alwaysheapstodo) November 22, 2021
Completely different characters, backgrounds, tactics and time in the clubs history. If Michael got us on another FA Cup run or got us promoted, he’d be in the same bracket as the Cowleys without a doubt. I hope we’re prepared for a Cowley Shithouse performance we grew to love.
— Stu (@LN_STU) November 22, 2021
He is by me Gaz. Did wonders last year.
— martyn green (@impyblue) November 22, 2021
Appleton you see what you get where as Cowley tries to pull wool over peoples eyes,personally prefer Appleton as a manager and more importantly a person.
— Gavin Yates (@yatesyimp30) November 22, 2021