MICHAEL APPLETON doesn’t harbour regrets.
Remorse at how the club crumbled around him through outside influences, undoubtedly, but certainly not over his decision to leave Fratton Park in November 2012.
Following 11 months and 29 days as Pompey boss, he controversially walked out to join Blackpool without so much as a farewell to his staff or players.
Employed by Convers Sports Initiatives and chief executive David Lampitt the previous season at a time when the Blues still resided in the Championship, Appleton felt he had to quit.
Barely two weeks into the job, Vladimir Antonov was arrested over allegations of money laundering, administration soon followed, there was a registration embargo, first-team players had to be loaned out to save money – then there was relegation.
The summer of 2012 would see Pompey’s boss given the go-ahead to recruit by prospective owner Balram Chainrai, then that wage bill was slashed by 75 per cent days before the season’s start.
In November, less than 24 hours following a 1-0 home defeat to Brentford that left the Blues in 17th spot in League One, Appleton had quit.
For the first time since that moment, he will be back at Fratton Park on Saturday to lead his Oxford United side against Andy Awford’s in-form team.
Yet the manager who had established himself as a highly-popular figure with supporters before his exit, insists he has no regrets.
He told The News: ‘The timing was right to leave Pompey.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and don’t regret leaving as such, there were things going on behind the scenes and I was not prepared to put up with them. I didn’t like it and didn’t feel it was right.
‘There were a couple of things that did not sit well with me, for that reason I looked to leave the club.
‘For 12 months after I left Pompey it was up and down for me, I probably made a couple of poor decisions, but I have moved on from there now. I am at a club where I like to think people have confidence in me and what I am doing.
‘I had to leave Fratton Park, though, with the things that were going on, even if it was probably the most enjoyable times I have ever had in football for 12 months.
‘When the time is right I will have my say on what really happened, things going on above me that I was not prepared to put up with.
‘Things like having the transfer embargo sprung on me when I was told there wasn’t one, although that wasn’t the only reason why I left.
‘I met Balram Chainrai constantly, they had a football club but I am not sure they wanted it. There were a lot of political issues and legal issues – and I found myself in the middle of it.
‘We did argue quite a bit and that is because I always had the best interests of the club at heart.
‘At Pompey I didn’t only have my hands tied but was gagged and my feet were bound together. I know things happen and you have to be adaptable, but ultimately enough was enough.’
Unsuccessful managerial spells at Blackpool and Blackburn followed before he joining Oxford as manager in the summer, ironically replacing Gary Waddock.
His U’s side are presently in 17th spot, four places below Pompey, and six points clear of the League Two relegation zone.
Yet his affection for his former club is highly evident.
He added: ‘Pompey have been a massive part of my coaching and managerial career and I had a fantastic relationship with the fans.
‘There were games like at Doncaster when they would not leave the stadium until I came out and clapped them to show appreciation. Hopefully they saw I was 110-per-cent committed.
‘I am a very simple person and tell it like it is, some people like it, some people don’t, but I like to believe the fans appreciated that from me.
‘Just two weeks after I had found what I thought was the perfect job one of the owners is arrested for alleged money laundering – the floor broke beneath me.
‘Regardless of what happened, I had a fantastic time at Pompey – and I am not sure I will ever better that relationship I had with that set of supporters.’