Appy’s ways has Blues buzzing again

Marko Futacs gave John Terry a tough time at Chelsea
Marko Futacs gave John Terry a tough time at Chelsea
Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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Pompey are capable of making a major move up the Championship table under new manager Michael Appleton.

The effects of what he has been doing on the training ground are now clear to see.

This team are now playing with more belief, passing the ball well, looking solid and starting to add extra creativity and goal threat.

Tactically, the new boss looks smart.

Pompey, though still no world beaters, no longer look the punchless, bland outfit destined to spend the season hovering just above the drop-zone.

The 4-0 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea on Sunday might appear to disprove my points, but Pompey actually played cleverly until changes in personnel allowed the Premier League big guns the space to score three flattering late goals.

Appleton is getting more out of players like Dave Kitson and David Norris than his predecessor Steve Cotterill.

And the introduction of Hungarian striker Marko Futacs has given Pompey an attacking dimension that was so crucially missing before Christmas.

The big man’s touches and movement at Stamford Bridge gave even England captain John Terry plenty to think about.

It rather begs the question of what Pompey were doing leaving Futacs on the bench for so long.

Or has he suddenly burst into this sort of form in the past three weeks?

The manner in which Pompey outplayed Watford in the second half last week suggested that this team has moved on a couple of levels.

For the first time in ages, the Blues produced a spell of exciting and intense pressure at Fratton Park.

That, in turn, ignited a crowd who had become punch drunk with disappointments.

Appleton’s trick has been to retain the team’s previous solidity while mixing in better ball retention and creativity.

What happens next depends on whether new owners can be quickly installed and a 10-point deduction dodged.

In an ideal world – admittedly not a concept too familiar at Fratton – Mr Appleton would be allowed to sign a winger, a midfield creator and an extra striker. If he can, Pompey are certainly capable of a top-half finish. I put it no stronger than that.

But, of course, that is a big ‘if’.