“Appleton is Pompey’s manager, accountant and miracle worker”
While most people were topping up their tans, Portsmouth boss Michael Appleton was assembling a squad from scratch and against all odds it seems to have worked. With a takeover still up in the air at Fratton Park, Appleton’s budget is narrower than a shoestring, but Pompey still have managed two draws in their opening two games. The Life’s a Pitch panel examine what is a remarkable story, before taking a look at what’s going on at Watford after Udinese became heavily involved at the club.
“[Appleton] had a team of triallists with him for about two or three weeks,” says the Guardian’s Dominic Fifield. ”He took them to Spain with him on a pre-season tour that had been funded by a fan. He only got sanction on the Thursday before the opening game of the season that he could sign them on short-term deals and thrust them all in. He met one of them, a loan signing, the night before the game. And somehow, after two matches, when they’ve got no fitness, they’re unbeaten.”
A large part of the praise must go down to the fans, who in the last week have pledged £40,000 to help Appleton secure more loan signings. “It’s a fantastic example of the community backing the club,” says the Daily Mirror’s John Cross. ”They deserve so much more. And when you hear Michael Appleton talk, he talks with passion, he talks with feeling, he completely gets the amount of support that he’s tapped into with the fans. It’s a wonderful story, Michael Appleton is a football manager, accountant and miracle worker all rolled into one.”
The People’s Janine Self hopes the fans can take this momentum a step further. “[Portsmouth] have a fanbase that belongs in the Premier League and they’re keeping it afloat. I think it would be absolutely wonderful if they could get together, buy the club and give Michael Appleton some money and hopefully go back up.”
At Watford, meanwhile, it seems fans are being alienated, rather than encouraged. The Pozzo family, owners of Udinese, took over during the summer and their changes to the academy are causing some concern. “Watford had a Category One academy there,” says Dominic. “Suddenly it’s Category Three. It sends out a message that we’re not going to be producing homegrown players, we’re going to be getting lads in from Udine on loan and we are basically just a temporary club that people pass through.”
The academy in question took a decade to build and turned out the likes of Team GB international Marvin Sordell. John is convinced it will all end in tears, and not even Watford’s new Italian manager will be able to help. He says: “I think it’ll be a disaster and part of that disaster will be Gianfranco Zola.”
Watch the full video discussion by clicking on the play button in the image above.
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Watford v Birmingham, 5pm, 25 August, Sky Sports 2
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