At least we’ve got Appy

Manager Michael Appleton has been the shining light during more dark times for Pompey
Manager Michael Appleton has been the shining light during more dark times for Pompey
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Michael Appleton’s five-year plan was shredded just two weeks in.

The triumvirate of club owners who appointed him are no longer around.

More players have left than arrived into Fratton Park as the Football League’s smallest squad continues to diminish.

So much for longed-for stability and the grand ambition of building for the future.

Barely three months into his reign as Pompey manager and Appleton could be forgiven for edging towards the exit.

Certainly, there is enough going on to distract people while he makes a run for it out the back door.

Yet through all this mess, amid all the chaos, there is one constant which continues to inspire the harangued supporters.

Michael Anthony Appleton, himself.

For a club crying out for leadership, it is the manager who has stepped forward so magnificently.

The fans are desperate for a figurehead, somebody in authority to talk to them during such dark, dark times.

They crave someone to arouse their passions, represent their fighting spirit.

Appleton, like the supporters who have demonstrated it time and time again, is a born fighter who will never declare his innings.

He speaks with refreshing honesty and an openness which should be applauded.

Others may be currently shying away from making public statements, others who are far more qualified to answer the crucial financial questions of the current climate. Yet filling in is Appleton and doing a grand job.

Just ask any Pompey fan and their admiration for the rookie manager is growing by the press conference.

His approach oozes a realism coupled with a genuine optimism which is gratefully received by the Fratton faithful.

This is a man who has no desire to trawl over hard-luck stories and instil a blame culture to deflect criticism.

He talks about the future, aims for happier times, retains a deep-seated belief that Pompey will one day shine once again.

And to achieve that, the players, staff and fans must unite as one, holding hands to charge through the endless barricades.

These are not merely words aimed as PR stunts to appease his supporters, they come from the heart and inspire as much.

Granted, as no insolvency expert, Appleton is restricted on what light he can shed on the club’s on-going financial woes.

However, he does his best and clearly it is thoroughly appreciated.

Of course, on the flip side, others’ silence continues to irk many.

David Lampitt’s silence to The News during this unsettling period has been tremendously disappointing.

This is a period when Portsmouth Football Club could cease to exist.

It’s a doomsday scenario which has rightly left supporters desperately clamouring for information on their club’s future.

They are worried, too many times in the past they have been ignored.

Check message boards, browse Twitter, peruse The News’ e-mails, study Sports Mail letters and they are brimming with questions surrounding the Blues’ off-the-field issues.

People want to hear about the potential for administration, how a meeting with HMRC has fared and the likelihood of Plan B coming to fruition.

That occupies their minds rather than Tal Ben Haim being doubtful for Blackpool or how Pompey are going to beat this team this week.

We are all here for the football, but it is not football which is dominating our thoughts.

It is the Pompey world we live in at the moment. It is something we must all accept.

There is an information vacuum at present which clearly needs to be addressed for the sake of the supporters.

And while the chief executive continues to maintain his self-imposed silence, it is his manager who has been left to front it up.

In fairness, he is living up to such an arduous task superbly.

Little wonder he has emerged as such an immensely popular figure among supporters. After all, they want nothing more than fighting spirit and straight talking.

Take Avram Grant, for instance, who remains a tremendously popular figure in these parts.

That is despite having overseen relegation to the Championship, 16 points adrift from safety.

In fact, he also possessed a worse league record for Pompey than Paul Hart.

Admittedly, there was a nine-point deduction hampering progress and he did take the Blues to the FA Cup final.

However, what really won Uncle Avram a place in the hearts of the fans was the dignity with which he carried himself.

That and the very public half-time on-pitch confrontation with the ever-hapless Kevin Friend against Sunderland.

Defiant until the end was Grant – he even took to the field with a microphone after the final home game against Wolves.

With another goosebump-inducing fighting speech, he magnificently rallied those fans who had stayed behind to hear his address.

In the process, it ensured he cemented himself into Pompey folklore.

Within a week of that FA Cup final against Chelsea, Grant had left for West Ham – an ill-fated decision which has all but ended his hopes of working in this country again.

Even now that ‘Won’t break our spirit’ banner sporting Grant’s face is brought out of storage for the right occasion.

And never has the occasion been more fitting than it is at present.

Of course, let’s not forget Appleton’s primary role is to win football matches.

Ultimately, he will live and die by such statistics, regardless of how he handles himself when faced with other issues away from true football.

Yet credit where it is due, he has also impressed in that area.

Appleton has reintroduced the swagger to Pompey’s football and a desire to produce attractive, entertaining fare.

Peterborough is a prime example – an outstanding away performance which eclipses even Leicester, Norwich and Swansea from last season.

It was a 3-0 result achieved with style and panache, without a hint of flattery.

The players are responding to his input, they are rallying round the team.

Some have had the chance to depart but refused. That says it all.

Appleton often admits he has learnt more in three months of management at Pompey than he would have done six years elsewhere.

He may still be a 36-year-old rookie, but for Pompey fans, Appleton is in the right place at the right time.

Here a leader to lead them into battle. And what a battle it continues to be.