MICHAEL Appleton used his first meeting with Oxford United’s players to call for them to stick to their strengths and play without fear.
The new head coach is well aware time is of the essence after starting work on Monday, just over a month before the start of the Sky Bet League Two season.
He is keen to bring in new players quickly, but also wants to get to know those already at the club.
Appleton spoke briefly to the squad to lay out his plans, and the former Portsmouth and Blackburn boss intends to lead by example.
He said: “I told them there’s going to be no Robert de Niro speeches. You’ll know what my qualities are and you’ll see what I’m about over the next days, weeks and months with the professionalism I bring to the party.
“I expect them over a period of time to come and introduce themselves to me and tell me about themselves.
“That’s how I work. I always have an open door and I’m quite an easy guy to get on with as long as you do your job properly.
“I just want the players to express themselves.
“Whatever qualities they bring to the team – do it without fear.
“Whether you’re someone who defends well, a good passer or like to attack people, stick to your strengths and relax.”
Dave Kitson is the only U’s player who has worked with Appleton before, when the pair were at Fratton Park during the 2011-12 season.
The rest will have to learn how the new boss wants to play, their first outing coming with the start of the pre-season games at Farnborough this Saturday.
Appleton believes his sides have a track record of attractive football but also acknowledged there was a need to be pragmatic.
He said: “Most people are going to say ‘I want an open brand of football’.
“They use all the right words and to be fair, with 90 per cent of them, that is what they want.
“With my background I think the majority of sides I’ve been with have always played good football.
“But on the other hand, you have to find a way to win.
“There will be occasions between November and January where the weather isn’t fantastic and there will be situations where we need to find a way to win when we’ll have our backs to the wall.
“Hopefully we have enough personalities and strength of character to do that.”
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Bloxham School pupil Heathcote, who is 17, will be representing England Girls White.
She is relishing the chance to shine saying: “I’m so happy to have been selected.
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“It will be a great opportunity for me to develop as a swimmer and as an athlete overall.
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