Appleton maintaining dignity in face of sorry Fratton saga

West_Ham 14/01/12  (sport)''Pompey manager Michael Appleton on the touch line during pompeys match against West Ham at Fratton Park. 'Pictures: Ian Hargreaves (110140-20)
West_Ham 14/01/12 (sport)''Pompey manager Michael Appleton on the touch line during pompeys match against West Ham at Fratton Park. 'Pictures: Ian Hargreaves (110140-20)
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Would anyone blame Michael Appleton for walking away right now?

No one could have a moment’s quarrel with the man from Salford if he was to decide the mess that Portsmouth Football Club once again finds itself in wasn’t for him.

Appleton suggested at the weekend it took just a week for the goalposts to be moved, after agreeing to leave the security of West Brom for his first managerial role.

Now, the posts haven’t been moved so much as lifted up and stuck in such a position that they continuously score own goals.

It has quite simply become impossible for the 36-year-old to go about his job in any kind of effective manner.

No one could see the demise of Convers Sports Initiatives coming.

But it has set in motion the sequence of events which you fear is now on the brink of making his position untenable.

Promises have been made and broken for a man who has somehow managed to maintain his composure throughout the whole ridiculous saga.

Talk of a five-year plan the job was sold on now seems laughable at a club that can’t look more than five minutes down the line.

Appleton is working with the smallest squad in the Football League and started the week with 13 fully-fit senior players.

And the reality is, it is going to be reduced still further.

The £1.6m tax bill the club has been hit with ensures that is the case.

The revelation Appleton knew nothing of that situation until one of his staff read it on the pages of The News is a startling one.

Now the vultures, having made a couple of half-hearted swoops, are ready to fly in and feed on the tastier morsels of Pompey’s carcass.

Joel Ward and Jason Pearce are on the radar of the club’s Championship rivals and Stephen Henderson’s promising form has aroused Premier League interest.

Appleton admits this sorry story has now been taken out of his hands.

Working with one hand behind his back?

Try both hands strapped up tight while being dealt continual kicks in the nether regions.

But, through it all, Appleton continues to go quietly about his business with an overwhelming sense of dignity.

He faces up to the media’s enquiries with an open honesty, never ducking a question and fielding the ones he’s heard a thousand times before with a continuing patience.

Appleton also fronted up at a supporters’ club meeting on Monday night, when it would have been easy to duck out given the circumstances he faces.

Two months into the job, the 10th Pompey managerial appointment in 11 years has faced the kind of troubles many of his contemporaries will never come across.

Yet, he sees that as a positive, with this steep learning curve standing him in good stead for the years to come.

While many other managers would worry about the impact of being associated with a club in Pompey’s dire situation could have on their careers, Appleton admirably takes the glass-half-full approach.

He insists he has no regrets over moving from the stability of the Hawthorns to a club the outside world have long viewed as the Fratton Park funny farm.

It’s an admirable stance, as is the call-to-arms he delivered in The News yesterday for the rocky road ahead.

The proof so far indicates Pompey’s latest leader has the weapons in his arsenal to deliver success, given the chance.

But there is also the sizeable evidence on the table which questions whether he’ll ever get the chance to show that.