Ben Burgess: Appleton perfect for Pool

Ben Burgess
Ben Burgess
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BIG Ben Burgess talks Michael Appleton, and what it’s like to have a new manager at a club.

Appy Blackpool

Michael Appleton should be the perfect man for the Blackpool job. He has worked for the last 12 months at a club in administration, so he will know how to work within the constraints of Karl Oyston’s financial parameters. After his recent experiences at Portsmouth, he has probably looked at all the teams in England and chosen the one that’s least likely to go bust again.

Joking aside, I think Mr Oyston has made an astute appointment in bringing Appleton to the club. I know a lot of people, myself included, felt Thommo should have been given a chance, especially after Tuesday’s convincing performance, but if Karl didn’t think he was right for the job, then he could have picked one of the less than impressive names that were being bandied around. We should trust Karl, as his previous two managerial appointments (Simon Grayson and Ian Holloway) proved to be inspired.

Appleton has a great reputation in the game, and before he went to Portsmouth he was being linked to a lot of jobs. I know players who have worked with him as both a coach and as a manager. By all accounts his coaching and training is first class, and he seems a good person to work for. His CV looks impressive, having grown up at Manchester United as a player. He then worked under current England boss Roy Hodgson and Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo at West Brom. Best of all for Blackpool’s new number one is that he has inherited a very good team. I think he recognises this as he has already said how he doesn’t need to make big changes. Thommo will also be able to fill him in on all the players strengths and weaknesses.

The 2-2 draw on Saturday will have given him plenty to think about. One of the things that impresses me so far is that Appleton has clear ideas on how he can improve the team. He pointed out that there are too many players in the squad and interestingly, that the team is not fit enough. He has wasted no time in putting on extra work for the players in training and it will be interesting to see how the players respond to this change in training. All managers work differently, and Ian Holloway used to enjoy doing lot’s of team shape during training, and this certainly paid off for Blackpool over the last three years. Other managers prefer higher tempo training, with lots of little drills and small-sided games. The squad have a full week to work before playing bottom of the league Bristol City on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the players respond to the change in training.

The only thing I do worry about is if he will be quite as entertaining as Ian Holloway in his post match interviews.

First day at School

This week the players would have felt like it was their first day at school. When a new manager comes in, and you’re sat there waiting for his first talk, it can feel like being in the Headmasters office. The first time a manager addresses his players holds a lot more significance than people might think. Our first meeting with Ian Holloway was fantastic. It lasted about two hours, but he was so positive, confident and enthusiastic throughout, that you buy into his ideas straight away. We may have come out of the meeting thinking he was mad, but we were also excited and looking forward to working with him.

Contrast that to the first meeting with some managers I’ve had previously. They stuttered, mumbled and fidgeted their way through 10 minutes of awkwardness. They told us we weren’t doing certain things right, and they wouldn’t be putting up with any messing about/ill discipline. They never mentioned any positives, and if you’re always negative with people then you will get negativity back. I came out of those meetings feeling down and not looking forward to working with the new appointment. Lo and behold they were promptly sacked within a few months. I liken it to being a teacher and standing in front of a class. We have been told at University, how important it is that you gain the children’s respect and attention from the first minute that you stand in front of them. The teacher I’m working with at the moment is a great example of this. His pupils respect and respond to him because he is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, respectful and he has a sense of humour, which I think is a much under-rated skill in leading people.

One of the best first meetings I’ve had with a manager was Martin Allen. It’s no surprise that he gets a great initial reaction at clubs he goes to. We were on a terrible run at Notts County at the time and were on the verge of relegation. He came in and laid four A1 pieces of paper on a table, then told us we had 10 minutes to anonymously write down all the problems we had with the club, with the staff and anything else. He came back after 10 minutes to four full pieces of paper. He sat down in front of us and talked through the issues then went about addressing them. Members of staff were sacked, food was improved, and we even got a trip to Benidorm at the end of the season when we avoided relegation!

In just that one meeting, Martin Allen had united all the players and staff, and made us feel like we owed him something out on the pitch, because off the pitch he was battling for us.