MICHAEL Appleton insists the Premier League is still “reachable” for Blackburn Rovers this season – but admits he has ‘put his neck on the line’ by taking up the Ewood Park challenge.
Ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Charlton Athletic, Rovers’ new boss has revealed he has already set his players a ‘win target’ to cement a Championship play-off spot, having admitted automatic promotion is now beyond them.
Appleton, who quit as Blackpool boss after just two months, was quick to insist owners Venky’s had promised him “full control” of the football side of the club and that he was expecting to add ‘two or three’ signings before the end of the transfer window.
The 37-year-old, who appointed goalkeeping coach John Keeley from Portsmouth yesterday, also warned West Ham United they would need to up their valuation of Martin Olsson after revealing their latest bid, in the region of £4million, had been rejected.
Appleton also took the opportunity to rubbish links between him and sports agency SEM – insisting he had never met Jerome Anderson and does not have an agent – as the absence of global advisor Shebby Singh from yesterday’s unveiling raised further questions about Singh’s future.
Rovers entertain Charlton tomorrow seven points off the Championship top six but, with a run of home games ahead, Appleton believes reaching the play-offs is still possible “The board are very, very ambitious,” he said. “They want Premier League football which I totally understand. This has been a Premier League club for a long time. We have got 20 games left, we are not a million miles away from the play-offs. It is certainly reachable.
“We know the amount of games we need to win in the remaining 20 to give ourselves an opportunity to do that, I won’t be making that public. That is our focus at the minute. If we are around it with five or six games to go. We are in the hat to then push on. I had a conversation with the owners and knew how ambitious they were.
“There is a demand they do want to get back up to the Premier League and I have never shirked a challenge.
“The challenges I have faced at the clubs I have been at so far have been of the highest order and it doesn’t get any different.
“When you look at the tally of points teams have got going straight up over the previous years, around the 85 to 90 mark, that’s obviously beyond us now.
“From a realistic point of view, if we can get to the play-offs then it would be a fantastic achievement.
“The remit is obviously Premier League football. I’ve signed a two-and-a-half-year deal and if we can do it in the first 20 games and get into the play-offs then fantastic.
“Every job is a risk, but you take calculated risks as a manager and you’ve got to be brave enough to take on challenges and this is a big challenge, I’m aware of that.
“I’m putting my neck on the line to take the job.
“If I do it, there will be a lot of people very, very happy.”
Appleton, who insists his decision to quit Bloomfield Road for Rovers was a ‘football’ one, insists he has no qualms about working with controversial owners Venky’s.
“As an outsider looking in before I came in, there were a lot of things said about the circus that revolves around Blackburn,” he said.
“After the conversations I had with the owners and how ambitious they were, the thing that stood out to me more than anything was that this was the right place for me and they needed someone to captain the ship.
“Being given full control of the football side is important.
“If I want to sign a player or if I think someone is surplus to requirements, if I feel I need to add a member of staff, I am in a position to do that.
“I felt that was important.
“In doing that, as long as they are prepared to back that which they say 100 per cent they are, we are going to give ourselves a 10 times better opportunity to get back to the Premier League.
“The understanding I have with the owners and the agreement I had when I took the job was that from a recruitment point of view and anything that was involved with football, I would pretty much have full control of that.
“Myself and Shebby, we will work together in terms of players coming in, players going out, the right balance.
“There is still a window of opportunity to make sure we get two or three faces in.”
Appleton also revealed that he had been keen for Gary Bowyer to remain with the first-team coaching set-up, but said that Rovers’ recent caretaker boss has decided to return to his job working with the reserves and youth players.
Bowyer won three of his four games in temporary charge.