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A Week In The (New) Life Of Michael Appleton

Wednesday 23rd November 2011

This week will prove to be the most testing of Michael Appleton's managerial career.

Despite falling to a 2-0 defeat away to Watford on his debut, the onus has now switched to this weekend, when Pompey will host Leicester City.

Failure to win away from home has become custom to some supporters, with the Hornets representing a ninth away match this season for the blues, which they have failed to win.

But the command and heroics of duo Guy Whittingham and Stuart Gray has provided the Fratton Faithful with a reason to rejoice.

Pompey have toasted three successive home wins under the pair's guidance, claiming Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers, and Nottingham Forest. In each of these encounters, fans and staff alike have been treated to an exhibition of quality. The same, however, can not be said about certain performances on our travels this season. But nonetheless, our home form must take priority and Appleton will understand this.

The thirty-five year old boss has taken charge of first team affairs at a transitional period, and he's already reportedly began plotting moves for personnel. Reports claim that Appleton is in the market for 'up to three' players, all of which would be on emergency loan deals. With the window slamming shut at 5pm on Thursday, the pressure is mounting on Appleton to secure his signings. Although he's remained tight-lipped on the identities of the mystery-men, the situation seems open to speculation on which areas he will strengthen.

During his time on the South Coast, Steve Cotterill suggested that he would like to bolster his ranks with another 'left-footed' defender, a creative midfielder, and a goal-scoring forward. Cotterill succeeded in ticking the second box, with the addition of Bjorn Helge Riise from Fulham, but the Norwegian's tenure has since expired.

Reports have inevitably linked Appleton with moves for members of his previous contingent at The Hawthorns, mentioning players such as Roman Bednar and Marc Antoine-Fortune. Between them, both have registered just three Premier League appearances this season, which suggests they could be open to a short-term move elsewhere to maintain match-fitness. Although such speculation is yet to be confirmed by the blues boss, news that such high-calibre names are being touted will excite fans.

Despite witnessing his new team slip to a 2-0 defeat to Watford on Saturday, the occasion did at least offer Appleton the opportunity to survey his squad, and assess the areas he believes will need to be improved.

After this week, the former West Bromwich Albion coach will be either praised for his mettle, or criticised for his inexperience. This week promises to be a typically turbulent one. Not only will Appleton be delving into the transfer market for the first time in his managerial career, but he'll also have to learn the art of juggling outside matters, with preparing his squad for the visit of Leicester on Saturday.

Situations like these are reasons to why Pompey opted to retain the services and influences of Whittingham and Gray. Although Appleton will be eager to lead his team to victory on his Fratton Park debut, the pair can also help prepare the side for the game.

An incredible visiting attendance at Vicarage Road would suggest that the once-doubters of Appleton, because of his managerial 'inexperience', have since switched allegiances, and will be out in their forces on Saturday to back their new messiah.
Jack Preston

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