Michael Appleton has emerged as the frontrunner for the Hibs head coach role as the club closes in on appointing a successor to Neil Lennon.
The 43-year-old has had spells at the helm of Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn and Oxford United but it was his 178-game stint at the Kassam Stadium where he enjoyed the most success, winning promotion to League One with the U’s and taking them to the EFL Trophy final in consecutive years. Oxford fans have fond memories of his time in charge, and have been giving their thoughts on Oxford fans’ forum yellowsforum.co.uk.
Here’s what they had to say about their former boss...
‘It was like watching Brazil at times’
One fan wrote: “His football is the best we’ve had in about 30 years.
“He is a very good manager and good with the youth - we were trusted with a few youngsters such as Jonjoe Kenny [now Everton’s second choice right-back] and he also developed [Leeds United forward] Kemar Roofe into a top striker.
“His football is beautiful to watch. Ball on ground and fast football - it was like watching Brazil at times.
“Players won’t p**s around with him about. He’s like a rugby player; you’ll become a disciplined team. He’s also had some mentoring from Sir Alex [Ferguson] so he knows his stuff.”
‘Enjoy exciting, attacking football’ Pete Burrett added: “His initial record at Oxford was uninspiring, but thank goodness the club stuck with him. Many fans, including me, wanted him gone after a couple of months of the season.
“Now we’d love him to be back at the helm. Lucky Hibs. If you’ve got the right players, enjoy exciting attacking football. And go easy on him if his start is slow while he finds his feet.”
‘Somewhere between a god and a demi god’
Radicalox wrote: “Michael Appleton is seen as somewhere between a god and a demi god by Oxford fans.”
‘Less prickly than Lennon’
Gary Baldi offered: “[Appleton] had a hard start at Oxford for various reasons, but worked hard and used his connections well to bring in young players, getting us promoted playing good football.
“He’ll require a bit of money behind him to get the team as he wants it, but he’s clearly a manager who gets it. He’ll be less prickly than [Neil] Lennon, but don’t mistake the silence for softness. “Although he has a fondness for a certain system, so if your fans are expecting a 4-4-2, they will be disappointed.”
‘A good bloke’
Shropshire U said: “He made a slow start in management generally, and here at Oxford. But he stuck at it, and the success he had here seemed like the results of hard work on a long-term plan. “A good bloke. I would think that he has learned more since as well with the experience he gained at Leicester.”
‘Needs time to build his empire’
Another Oxford supporter suggested that Appleton shouldn’t be judged on his time at Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn - “a series of basket-case clubs”.
They continued: “[At Oxford] he initially tried something impossible with players that weren’t capable. Lower-league veterans trying to play tika-taka was a bleak watch and only when given the cheque book and an opportunity to clear a lot of players out did we start to see what he was capable of. We excelled after that and he gave us some great cup runs, Wembley appearances and a coveted promotion.
“He’s a head coach, not a manager as such. He invests his time in the coaching and relies on [others] for scouting. As such, Oxford built a reputation as a means of developing young talent and playing good football.
“He needs time to build his empire. Give him that and a team of scouts to work with and he’ll change Hibs from top to bottom.
“We’ve glossed over it a bit considering what some after, but Appleton’s first season here was a poor one and we were looking like relegation candidates for a good half of the season. “As mentioned, it was only when he ‘accelerated his plan’ as he put it and chopped and changed things that we started to excel.”
‘Always got respect’
Leysboy said he was “confident” Appleton would do well north of the Border, adding: “Hibs have got themselves a top bloke. Always got respect from his players, and played a great brand of fast, counter-attacking football. Very rarely did you see the ball leave the ground.”
‘Deserves a shot at a big job’
Another fan wrote: “Not certain what he can do in that league but good luck to him, deserves a shot at a big job one day so hopefully this is a stepping stone to that.”
‘An excellent choice’
JonnyAubs said: “Tactically astute, plays some excellent football, works the team hard and develops youth, would be an excellent choice as manager in my opinion.”
‘A resilient side’
Another supporter wrote: “Took time to build the side he needed here and lost some of the fans in the process. Good attacking football but more importantly a resilient side. “[I] remember not having to worry about going behind. Good relationships with players but not afraid to get rid of disruptive influences or players who didn’t want to wait for their chance in the side. God I miss him.”
‘Fast, attacking passing football’
“If your side is winning 2-0 under Appleton they won’t sit back and take the 2-0 - they’ll keep going for more goals. The best manager I’ve ever seen at Oxford by a million miles. Fast, attacking passing football, even when you lose a game it will still be the best football you’ve ever seen,” offered another fan.