EVEN though he has only been in charge for just over a month, it is clear Michael Appleton is not someone who deals in hyperbole.
So it was unsurprising that even on the eve of a new season, when optimism normally rages unconfined, the Oxford United head coach was yesterday keeping his feet firmly on the ground and talking about a side in transition.
“People talk about optimists and pessimists, but I’m just a realist, I say it how it is,” he said.
“I’ve been in the building four or five weeks now and there’s been a lot of things going on with the new ownership, new staff, new players.
“It does take time, but we work really hard every day.
“We enjoy our work, we don’t come in and just do enough, we make sure we get every inch out of the players every single day.
“Hopefully over a period of time the fans and everyone else will see that.”
One of Appleton’s key tasks is to create a side capable of lasting the distance.
Strong starts have been a feature of United’s recent campaigns, topping the table in August for the past two years.
Equally familiar, though, has been the late slump, undoing all the good work.
Appleton clearly would not turn down a flying start at home to Burton Albion tomorrow, but the U’s boss has his sights set on changing the boom and bust nature of the side’s results.
He said: “Even after being in the job a week I spoke to (assistant head coach) Mickey Lewis who said we have got a bit of a reputation of starting really well and literally going to pot after Christmas.
“We have to make sure everything is in place to make sure we’re being consistent all the way through.
“That comes from the messages I send out, the way we play, so it’s not panicking if we lose a couple of games and thinking we need to change formation or the style of play.
“We don’t, because we believe in it, we think it’s right and we think it’s going to be successful.”
He added: “If we make a fantastic start I won’t say no to it, but it doesn’t matter how well you start, as long as you’re there after 46 games.
“We could be in the top three come January, but we all know what can happen.
“We all saw it happen last season.
“It’s not where you are after 25 games, it’s more important where you are after 46.”
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