Friendship on the line for determined Appleton

Derek McInnes, right, tackles former Pompey midfielder Glen Little back in the 2001-02 season
Derek McInnes, right, tackles former Pompey midfielder Glen Little back in the 2001-02 season
Matt Clarke celebrates his goal at MK Dons. Picture: Joe Pepler

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They shared a room together during their playing days at West Bromwich Albion.

Now close friends Michael Appleton and Derek McInnes are going head-to-head in a crucial relegation battle at Fratton Park.

Bristol City journey to the south coast tomorrow seeking to put further distance between themselves and the drop zone.

McInnes has occupied the Ashton Gate hot seat since October, enjoying an instant impact and lifting them off the foot of the table.

However, the Robins have yet to win away from home in 2012.

In fact, they haven’t even scored a goal during that time.

For Appleton, the visit of his good pal and former Hawthorns midfield partner-in-crime represents a must-win fixture.

Of Pompey’s 11 remaining fixtures, five are against relegation rivals.

And there will be no place for sentiment for 90 minutes as the two scrap for points tomorrow.

The former West Brom assistant boss said: ‘We’re good friends.

‘We used to be room mates, so I know exactly everything about him as a person – his temperament.

‘He has been successful at St Johnstone and has got his opportunity to manage in England.

‘I think he has realised how difficult it is down here, especially in the Championship.

‘But he is doing a good job with a team that’s going through a little bit of a transitional period as well themselves.

‘I would imagine his remit is not to finish in the bottom three and hopefully try to build something for next season.

‘I will have a glass of wine with him after the game, hopefully.

‘It has been a while since I have rubbed a bit of salt in some wounds!

‘I have stayed in touch with Derek, though, he’s a good friend.

‘If I didn’t speak to him for six months, I could ring him tomorrow quite comfortably.

‘We would talk as if we had only spoken to each other yesterday, which is always a good sign, whether he is a friend in football or a friend in general.

‘We are close enough for him to pick the phone up at any time and ask me about a player and the likes.

‘It will be interesting tomorrow, especially up against someone you respect and get on very well with.

‘Derek is a professional and I am sure he will be a success down here as much as he was in Scotland, taking St Johnstone and doing a great job with them.

‘He took them into the SPL by winning the league and then sustaining them – making sure they stayed there and were comfortable for two seasons.’

The pair spent two-and-a-half years at West Brom together before McInnes left for Dundee United in July 2003.

By that stage Appleton had been forced to retire after 38 games, remaining at The Hawthorns as a coach.

McInnes went on to also represent Millwall before becoming St Johnstone boss, initially as a player manager.

It has now been more than 11 years since they first met but the duo remain good friends.

He added: ‘We had a good time at West Brom.

‘Gary Megson was the manager and he actually signed me to replace Derek for the short term because he had done his cruciate ligament.

‘Slightly ironic that we played together for a while and then I ended up doing mine.

‘When we did play together we had a really successful side that went on and got promoted from the Championship to the Premier League.

‘He is a proper football person. He was captain of the club at the time and is a leader, you can see why he went into management.

‘He was all right to share a room with.

‘He was a good lad, although a typical Glaswegian – very competitive.

‘But he makes a good cup of tea!’