From losing an entire squad to breaking club records: A look at the new Lincoln City manager Michael Appleton

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 20 September 2019, 18:12

After a two-year absence, Michael Appleton is back in the Football League dugout with Lincoln City, his fifth permanent position within the managerial arena.

In order to take up the new role at the League One club Appleton had to vacate his post at the helm of West Brom U23s, with whom he managed for just five games (W2 L3).

There’s no question that he has huge shoes to fill, given the outstanding success of the Cowley brothers, Danny and Nicky, who gained legendary status at the Imps following their rapid rise from non-league to the League One play-off positions. It’s now up to Appleton to keep up the momentum.

The former Man Utd trainee may only be 43, but he’s already experienced a jukebox of emotions in his managerial career to date; from his tumultuous tenure at Portsmouth, to shockingly short stints at Blackpool and Blackburn, before he orchestrated an impressive re-building job at Oxford.

Below we take a look at the twists and turns of Appleton’s managerial journey, so far...

A Taste of Management

Appleton worked his way through the West Brom youth teams through to the position of first team coach, then in 2011 experienced a small taste of life as a manager when he oversaw one game as caretaker following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. Appleton couldn’t have wished for a better start, with the Baggies scorching into a 3-0 lead at the break. Fast-forward 45 minutes later and the game had ended 3-3. Football eh?

The Portsmouth Experience

Later that year Appleton chucked himself in at the deep end for his first permanent role, which came at financially-stricken Portsmouth. The job was undoubtedly a steep learning curve for the young boss who in a single year experienced administration, a subsequent 10-point deduction, the arrest of the club’s owner, relegation down to League One, and then watched helplessly as the whole of his senior squad departed in the summer.

Appleton later pertinently summed up the experience to the Coaches Voice:

“The first three or four weeks at Portsmouth were brilliant. And then, overnight, the carpet was ripped from beneath us.”

Blink and you’ll miss it: Blackpool and Blackburn

Appleton ventured back up north to Blackpool where he enjoyed a five game unbeaten start. Seven games later and he’d become the shortest-serving manager in the club’s history - 12 games spanning 65 days - after he handed in his resignation in order to become the new Blackburn boss...

...15 matches and 67 days later and he was sacked with Rovers 18th in the Championship, although on the plus side he did conjure up a memorable FA Cup win at Arsenal.

“I never felt I had the opportunity to stamp my authority on the football club or get across my philosophies and ideas that I wanted to,” Appleton would later state.

Oxford: A change of fortunes

18 months later he returned to management with Oxford, already his fourth job at the age of just 38. Luck may have previously deserted Appleton but - inspired by the All Blacks book Legacy - he rebuilt his reputation at his new side, who prior to his summer arrival had ended the season deflated after they suffered seven defeats in eight matches.

In his first season Oxford came 13th in League Two, but a year later Appleton had installed a winning mentality, taking his troops to automatic promotion up to the third-tier, and in the process set a new club record of 14 straight wins on the road. There was also an appearance at Wembley for the Football League Trophy final, a thrilling match which they lost 3-2 to Barnsley.

Oxford then finished 8th in the third-tier - four points adrift of the play-off place - their highest Football League standing since 2001/02, and again reached the FLT final but again ended up empty-handed.

During his time in charge of the club Appleton doubled home attendances, enjoyed great success in cup competitions - conjuring up numerous scalps - and employed a brand of high-tempo football.

Leicester and West Brom

The lure of returning to the Premier League proved too strong as Appleton departed Oxford after three years in order to take up the assistant managerial role at Leicester City, who at the time were managed by Craig Shakespeare.

"The opportunity to move to a Premier League club was something I felt that I couldn't turn down, which I hope fans will appreciate,” Appleton said at the time.

A few months later and Shakespeare’s script had been ripped up, meaning Appleton stepped up to the plate as caretaker. He oversaw two wins from two games but it was Claude Puel who came in as the club’s next permanent manager - Appleton stayed on as his assistant.

Appleton left the club in June 2018, and just under a year later was appointed first team coach at West Brom, before later taking up the role as the club’s U23 manager in the summer.

Lincoln?

We may never know how close the likes of Gareth Ainsworth and Micahel Flynn were to switching jobs, but now Appleton is at the helm a line can be drawn under it. The new Imps boss can be backed at 8/1 to lead his new side to promotion, 3/1 to finish in the top-6, and 30/1 to win the title.

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