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Michael Appleton a perfect fit for Oxford United, says new chief executive

Michael Appleton

Michael Appleton

First published in Sport Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Reporter covering Oxford United. Follow us on twitter: @oxfordmailoufc. Call me on 01865 425458

MICHAEL Appleton officially starts work at Oxford United today, with the man who made the appointment comparing him to Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.

The new head coach will meet the players for the first time this morning to end a whirlwind few days at the club.

The move to sack Gary Waddock and bring in the former Portsmouth and Blackburn boss on Friday took everyone by surprise.

It was part of a shake-up at boardroom level with the arrival of Darryl Eales as chairman and Mark Ashton as chief executive.

Ashton has known Appleton for more than a decade and sees similarities between the 38-year-old and the previous manager he hired, during his time at Watford.

He said: “I look for a specific DNA in managers and coaches.

“The last manager I appointed was a gentleman called Brendan Rodgers.

“He was a coach at Chelsea who no-one had heard of at that point, but I saw something in Brendan and he has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“If Michael gets anywhere near that we’ll have all done very well.

“I see that hunger, determination and professionalism and he has been educated in that way.”

Appleton will need to hit the ground running, with the season less than five weeks away and United’s first pre-season game, at Farnborough, this Saturday.

He will be the fourth person picking the side in less than six months, with caretaker manager Mickey Lewis and Waddock following on from Chris Wilder’s exit in January.

United are in need of some stability, with Appleton in a similar position.

He will be remembered by many for stints at Blackpool and Blackburn, which both lasted just over two months, following on from a year at a financially troubled Portsmouth.

Ashton believes Appleton has been unfortunate and is confident this will not be a short-term arrangement.

He said: “Michael’s taken on some challenging roles.

“His words to me were ‘yes the next club I go to is vitally important, but more important are the people’.

“With myself, Darryl and Ian (Lenagan) he sees stability and he’s adamant he wants to be somewhere he is successful for a long period of time, so we think the fit is right.”

The pair first met at West Brom, when Appleton was a player and Ashton, a former goalkeeper at the Hawthorns, was running the club’s centre of excellence.

When injury cut short the midfielder’s career, the club offered him the chance to work in the coaching system.

Ashton said: “What was clear was as a player he was a natural leader.

“We brought him in and he started with the under 13s and progressed through to assistant manager to Roy Hodgson.

“He was educated in a way of working with a group of people who allow the first team head coach to focus on purely winning football matches.

“He understands that and hence we felt the fit was perfect.”

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