Appleton seeking emotional St Andrews return

Pompey manager Michael Appleton
Pompey manager Michael Appleton
Joe Pigott celebrates Southend's winner against Pompey in League Two. Picture: Joe Pepler

Southend’s sterling record in November ahead of Pompey clash

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St Andrew’s represents the end of Michael Appleton’s playing career.

Now Pompey’s boss is returning – this time targeting becoming the first manager this season to win there.

It was on November 7, 2001, when the then-West Bromwich Albion midfielder lined up in a midlands derby.

Hosts Birmingham tasted a 1-0 defeat against their rivals in that game.

The Baggies went on to win promotion to the Premier League that season as runners-up.

As for Appleton, he tore cruciate ligaments in his right knee the following week in training.

He never played again.

The 36-year-old is now tasting his first job in management with Pompey.

Tonight, he heads back to St Andrew’s, gunning to end their unbeaten league record.

Chris Hughton’s men have won nine and drawn five of their 14 home fixtures so far.

In addition, they have conceded just six goals.

It adds up to a tough ask for Pompey.

But Appleton has experience of triumphing in that part of Birmingham.

He said: ‘St Andrew’s is actually the last game I played competitively, so it is a good and bad ground for me.

‘We actually won on the night, but it turned out to be my last game. So I’ve got a few memories of that ground as it is.

‘My record there is pretty good.

‘I remember winning there with Preston, and with West Brom when we beat them 3-1 last year.

‘So I have a decent record and decent memories of the stadium.

‘They are in a rich vein of form at the minute.

‘They have got some decent players and a striker in (Nikola) Zigic who recently scored four goals in a game.

‘It was also a decent performance against Southampton at the weekend and they are a team who are not conceding goals but scoring a lot. So they are going to be very dangerous.

‘We just want to make sure we back up a decent performance against Peterborough.

‘If we do that or like we did up at Burnley, then it is fortune favours the brave, I suppose.

‘We are not going to go there just to defend. We will go there with a frame of mind that we respect the position they are in, the players they have got and the fantastic management team.

‘But we are aware that there are areas in their team that we can go and hopefully get some joy from.’

Hughton’s side currently sit in fifth spot in the table.

They are 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions, including bundling Wolves out of the FA Cup.

Birmingham are rapidly emerging as the challengers to West Ham and Southampton for automatic promotion.

And they have an unbeaten home record driving them on.

Appleton added: ‘The Birmingham fans can be quite volatile at times. They give you a bit of stick if you come on as sub or are going off.

‘But they get behind their team and, obviously, they have reason to at the minute because their team are doing well.

‘They are a fantastic set of fans who get behind their team – similar to ours in a way.

‘But it’s sometimes easy to forget once you get on a little bit of a run – whether home or away – the morale and confidence you get from that is amazing.

‘It’s going to be a difficult game. We’re aware of the threat they have got, especially in the forward ranks.We fully expect 90 full minutes of pure concentration and make sure we keep doors locked and we don’t give them opportunities.’