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New Rovers boss has taken a risk with switch
WORKING for Venky’s would be seen by many as your worst nightmare after the Blackburn Rovers’ owners have overseen a farcical two-and-a-half year regime.
Eyebrows were raised when Henning Berg accepted the managerial post in November – having just months previously stated no ‘credible manager’ would want the role – and sure enough his words came back to haunt him after being fired just 10 games in.
With a power divide in the boardroom, a set of frustrated and split supporters, tumbling crowds and almost non-existent owners, the Ewood Park hot seat is hardly one which many contenders would come running to fill.
Even the people who have managed to instil a bit of a calm into proceedings have been treated poorly.
Assistant manager Eric Black and coaches Bobby Mimms and Iain Brunskill learned they had been fired by watching Sky Sports, and recent – and very successful – caretaker duo Gary Bowyer and Terry McPhillips also kept updated of their fates via the media.
There can be surely be few less appealing jobs in the top two divisions.
So forget asking why Rovers have again moved for a relatively inexperienced manager – a question many have been asking over the past few days – is why Michael Appleton has risked his early managerial reputation with a move to Ewood Park.
Leaving Blackpool just nine weeks after being appointed their manager suggests he still sees something to work with.
Of course, doubling his wages helped the decision but the last few results, the money spent by Venky’s and the quality individuals in the squad look to have tipped the scales. It is not as though Appleton is a stranger to doing things the hard way. From having his playing career cut short through injury to cutting his teeth in management at Portsmouth – a club that made even working for Venky’s look okay – the 37-year-old has already shown he won’t shirk a challenge.
After being forced to retire at the age of 27, Appleton worked his way through the coaching ranks at West Brom, before being handed his first managerial job at Portsmouth in November 10 2011. By the end of the month the club's parent company CSI were in administration and in February the club followed.
A glance at the stats would suggest his managerial record is far from impressive. After all, no manager wants a Championship relegation on his CV and that is just what happened to Appleton when Pompey suffered the drop at the end of that season.
The fact he remains a favourite among the Fratton Park faithful is proof there is far more to the story though. Dealing with a 10 point deduction, a cash crisis, the loss of key players and club employees regularly not getting paid, he actually almost pulled off the miracle.
The manner in which he handled himself in the face of such adversity only served to win him more admirers.
His subsequent Fratton Park exit was only a matter of time.
He got what many saw as his big break when he was named Ian Holloway’s successor at Blackpool. A little more than two months later and he walked out.
The reaction of many Blackpool supporters to his exit is one of indifference.
A lot were satisfied with the performances under him but just two wins from 11 games – albeit drawing seven – he was hardly setting the world on fire. It is a record many Rovers fans are well aware of.
He has certainly learnt from the best, having started his playing career at his boyhood idols Manchester United.
Growing up in Salford, scouts first spotted his talent when he was playing as a junior for Barr Hill and his beloved Reds took him under their wing when he was just 10. Six years later he was signing youth forms at Old Trafford.
Appleton played twice for United under Sir Alex Ferguson before moving to Preston for £500,000 in August 1997. He made more than 100 appearances for North End, including a key role in the Lilywhites’ promotion to the second tier.
In January 2001, he moved to West Brom for £750,000 and was a regular until he tore posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee after an accidental training ground collision with team-mate Des Lyttle.
The moment was initially supposed to keep him out of action for the rest of the season.
It ultimately sparked a two-year rehabilitation process, premature retirement at 27 and and the suing for £1.5m of the surgeon who wrongly operated on his right knee.
So when people question whether Michael Appleton knows what he has let himself in, it is pretty safe to assume working under some controversial owners won’t daunt him.
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