Michael Appleton has been appointed as Charlton Athletic head coach. This is a new approach for our club, with the Head Coach reporting into Technical Director Andy Scott.
The idea at the top level of the manager acting as de facto leader of the whole club, stamping his presence and culture throughout, feels increasingly archaic. Think Alex Ferguson at Man U, Wenger at Arsenal and Curbishley here at Charlton. The likes of Guardiola and Klopp still retain powerful personality traits, but this is now much more directed at shaping their squad’s playing style. A more long-term and structural view is taken regarding player development, recruitment and trading. Then you have the extreme of clubs such as Chelsea where the ownership delivers an expensive collection of players at the coach’s door.
Addicks are still more familiar – and possibly comfortable - with the manager as leader model, with Chris Powell, Lee Bowyer and indeed previous incumbent Dean Holden, fitting this mould. After serious manager churn since Curbishley’s departure – 17 in 17 years not even including caretakers – we must hope that this refreshed approach means we can finally get used to a familiar face in the dugout.
Appleton, who takes charge of his first Addicks game against Stevenage, comes into the hot seat following the 2-1 victory against Fleetwood under Jason Pearce. Fans are hoping to start a winning streak that sees the Red Army climb up the table into play-off contention.
Hailing from Salford and a Red Devils fan (yes, just like Holden), Appleton signed as a professional but failed to breakthrough into the first team at Manchester United. His midfield playing prime was at Preston North End, where he helped them to promotion. In 2001 he moved to West Bromwich Albion but a serious knee injury cut-short his career at the age of 27.
He stayed on at WBA as a coach before embarking on a tour of the lower tiers of English football as a manager. He led Oxford United to promotion into League One in his second season. Timing suggests that he would have crossed paths here with Charlie Methven and Simon Lenagan, now of SE7 Partners. With spells at Portsmouth, Lincoln and Blackpool, it’s fair to say that ‘Mickey Apples’ (as some fans have coined) has a fair amount of experience and pedigree in League One, though he does not have a promotion to the Championship on his CV. His most recent post was a return to Blackpool in June last year but it wasn't a success. He was sacked six months later after only seven wins in twenty nine games.
However, this article by Joe Briley of All Lincoln gives a fascinating insight into the many positives that the author believes that Appleton brought to Lincoln City during his spell in charge from 2019-22.
Although the transition from the Danny Cowley manager-led recruitment model to the director of football model at Lincoln was all down to the club’s ownership/board, Appleton had a considerable impact on the direction of this journey at Sincil Bank. It’s clear to see that he fits into the structure desired by SE7 Partners at Sparrows Lane and The Valley.
When the Cowleys left Lincoln for Huddersfield, Lincoln fans were left hoping for somewhat of a new start- It was a fantastic opportunity to become a ‘modern thinking club’ and the appointment of Appleton as ‘head coach’ reflected this. The strategy of focussing considerable investment on younger players, with the idea that they would be sold on for big money, was no secret. Peterborough and Brentford have shown the football pyramid how to do it, and still provide the blueprint.
In the recent CAFC recruitment process the ability to nurture and develop young talent was high on the list. Appleton did have some promising players in his squads, including Brennan Johnson, Tyreese John-Jules, Liam Bridcutt and a certain Tayo Edun. He has shown that he is capable of working with the younger players in the senior squad as well as identifying the academy players capable of making the step up - utilising both to form squads that moved towards the upper reaches of whatever league Appleton XI’s found themselves in. Charlton and the Sparrows Lane Football Factory must be something that Appleton will relish, with young pros such as Ness, Anderson, Asiimwe and Leaburn hoping to replicate the recent history (and rise & rise) of Joe Gomez, Jonjo Shelvey and Ademola Lookman – initially plying their trade for Charlton then further afield.
Time will tell whether Appleton Is a good fit for the Addicks’ dugout, delivering the style that SE7 Partners want and the results that fans long for - but it’s fair to say that he is one of the more experienced managers (426 games in charge) that we could have enticed to south-east London. There’s an overwhelming desire that we quickly recover from a poor start, and he and the players will need the support of the fans. Lee Bowyer now of Montserrat, would say that The Valley needs to be ‘Bouncing’ – to spur on the players and to show that the fans are behind the squad regardless of their emotions of the business side to football. And with a sold-out crowd making the journey this Saturday to table-toppers Stevenage, what better time to get another three points chalked on the board and start the push upwards in League One ?
Come on you Reds