Appy’s got search for Pompey talent all mapped out

Michael Appleton's eagerness to take in live football has helped him bring in talent like Kevin Long
Michael Appleton's eagerness to take in live football has helped him bring in talent like Kevin Long
Former Colchester United striker Macauley Bonne

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There are many facets to being a top football manager.

But who would have thought map reading would be up there as one of the most crucial assets to becoming a boss of note?

It’s a skill Micheal Appleton has perfected on the way to already unearthing a number of gems in his time in charge of Pompey.

Because doing the miles on the road on frequent trips to some of football’s backwaters is all part of the job for the 36-year-old – a big part of it.

Appleton will clock up 60,000 miles this year getting to and from fixtures.

It’s part of the process of keeping up the football vocabulary that is a basic facet needed for any manager worth their salt.

Appleton has already picked up relatively-unknown talent like Chris Maguire, Scott Allan, Liam Walker and Kevin Long in his time as Blues boss.

And it’s getting to those games way down the football fixture list which has proved key in doing that.

Appleton said: ‘I think in a year, I’d do 60,000 miles.

‘Watching any game of football live as opposed to on the telly educates you.

‘It’s not just the vocabulary of knowing players, but also watching different teams play.

‘When you are there watching them in the stands and looking at the way they set up and play, you learn.

‘You also get a feel for a player’s personality when you watch them play live rather than on the telly.

‘That’s especially the case when you go to watch lower-league teams.

‘When you are in there in the stands you can physically hear what people are saying.

‘It’s alright hearing someone talk, but a lot of the time you can actually hear what they are saying.

‘You have your barkers who shout a load of rubbish and scream “come on!”.

‘Then there are those who actually talk and talk sense. That’s important.

‘There are quite a few players I know about, and plenty more I could get in from getting to these games.’

The level of matches Appleton frequents, of course, has to be relevant to the sphere he is operating in.

European fixtures are largely off the agenda for now, with the former West Brom first-team coach shopping in football’s bargain basement – when he does have the opportunity to do business, of course.

And Pompey’s packed fixture list this season will have a bearing on the number of matches visited.

Appleton said: ‘The amount of games would depend on when we have games.

‘If we are playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, the only time I’m going to get to a game is on a Wednesday.

‘Thursday’s is Europa League, and, with the greatest of respect, we are not going to be signing Europa League players at the minute.

‘So I can have a night in and watch that on the telly!

‘But if there’s a game on Wednesday there could be something quite relevant down the line, whether it’s the team or a player.’

Appleton is also now fortunate enough to call on a support network of staff to assist him in his recruitment.

Luke Dowling was added to his staff specifically for that purpose.

Appleton’s relationship with Dowling was developed from the pair being faces at the same fixtures.

And the Blues boss can call on the services of his assistant Ashley Westwood when searching for names, along with a few other key members of a small but knowledgeable backroom team.

Appleton said: ‘We are at games all the time.

‘There’s people like Luke Dowling there to help me as well.

‘Obviously he has a good vocabulary.

‘It’s about contacts as well, contacts with the coaches and agents.

‘Ash has a lot of experience from that point of view, playing in every league from the Prem down to the Conference. He has a lot of friends in the game.’