Awfs ready for Appy reunion

Former Pompey boss Michael Appleton Picture: Steve Reid
Former Pompey boss Michael Appleton Picture: Steve Reid

Andy Awford knows all about many of the struggles Oxford boss Michael Appleton faced during his torrid year-long spell in charge at Pompey.

When Appleton was selected to replace Steve Cotterill in November 2011 by former chief executive David Lampitt, he was sold a different vision of the club to the one he found just a few weeks later.

A Championship club with ambitions of returning to the Premier League, soon became relegation-certainties as the Blues were placed into administration again.

Appleton attempted to rebuild the team for the following League One campaign, with a budget agreed by Balram Chainrai.

But the former Manchester United midfielder had the rug pulled from beneath his feet once again on the eve of that 2012-13 season when his budget was slashed, meaning many of the players he had lined up went elsewhere.

While he could have been forgiven for walking away on any number of occasions, the former boss remained dignified and stuck it out – until he accepted an offer to join Blackpool in November 2012.

For the most part, Pompey fans excused a record of just 13 wins in his 51-game stay, amid the ongoing turmoil at Fratton Park.

But while he remained popular with supporters, the manner of his departure left a sour taste when he flatly denied the rumours of a move away in the wake of a home defeat to Brentford – only to be pictured with a Blackpool scarf above his head less than 24 hours later.

Awford, who will go up against his former club colleague as Pompey visit Oxford tomorrow, revealed the pair enjoyed a good working relationship.

The Blues boss said: ‘It was a tough time for Michael here.

‘He came in and then a few weeks later the club was in a bit of a mess.

‘I’m fortunate now that it is more stable and we are building. I suppose I have that advantage.

‘We got on really well. I was Academy manager and I kept away from the first team. But he was very supportive of what we were trying to do.

‘He has an Academy background himself, having been at West Brom, so we had that in common.

‘We got Ashley Harris, Adam Webster, Jed Wallace and Dan Butler through into the first team squad under him.

‘I’ve seen him at a couple of meetings and we have bumped into each other at games and we always say hello and have a chat. He’s a nice guy.

‘He’s not on speed dial on my phone but I have a lot of respect for him.

‘What he tried to do here was good.’

Appleton’s management career has been a succession of struggles ever since, with an ill-fated spell at Blackburn arriving after jumping ship at Blackpool shortly afterwards.

And three straight defeats so far in League Two with Oxford this term has not been the ideal start, either.

Awford said: ‘It’s early in the season.

‘They have got a new management team that has gone in and new players so it will take time to gel.

‘Oxford is a good club. I had a year there myself working with Jim Smith and I really enjoyed it.

‘I’m looking forward to going back and seeing some old faces but obviously we are trying to put one over on them.’