NO points, no goals from open play, no clean sheets – Oxford United’s start to Sky Bet League Two would give plenty of coaches sleepless nights.
But Michael Appleton does not come across as someone with a nervous disposition, even if three successive defeats represents the worst start the club have made to a league season since 2000/01.
While results are ultimately the bottom line, performances, which have been broadly encouraging, also matter.
The U’s head coach has had no trouble looking at the bigger picture as he attempts to implement his brand of football.
But if there are any fleeting moments of doubt, Appleton need only look down.
“There’s a saying ‘being defeated is a temporary condition, giving up is what makes it permanent’,” he said.
“It’s something I actually have on my arm because it’s something that is dear to me.
“It’s staying strong and sticking to your beliefs.
“As long as the performances are there it makes it a little bit easier.
“I think if you’re getting turned over in games 3-0 or 4-0 and getting absolutely murdered, that’s when it’s time to really start to worry.
“I’m not overly worried at the minute, I’m disappointed and frustrated because I think our performances have des-erved more.
“I’m not one of these managers who are going to start making up things, I think it’s plain to see what we’ve seen so far, that we deserve a few more points than we’ve got.”
There will be a section of United’s support who will remain unconvinced until results turn, but Appleton’s sense of perspective is only reinforced by the identity of tomorrow’s visitors.
Portsmouth offered him the chance to become a full-time manager in 2011.
He walked into a club sinking amid financial meltdown, leading to ten-point deductions in successive seasons.
A turbulent year later he left to join Blackpool.
It was an experience Appleton is not keen to repeat, but one he views as important in moulding his abilities as a team boss.
He said: “I do believe things happen for a reason, we don’t know why at times, but you do get tested as a character.
“I’ll be very surprised if I go through anything in my professional management career that comes anywhere near what happened at Ports-mouth with the goings-on, on and off the field.
“I think it will stand me in good stead for the rest of my career.”
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