When Michael Appleton came to the club on July 4th 2014 he took over a side that had finished 8th, 9th and 9th in the previous 3 seasons, but featured players who weren’t really suited to the style of football he wanted to play. During his first summer transfer window in came the likes of Will Hoskins, Junior Brown, Brian Howard, Alex Jakubiak, George Long and Michael Collins, and by the end of March were 19th in the table, fans were saying that he had to go, that he didn’t know what he was doing.His previous managerial appointments hadn’t suggested that he was going to be a success, a year in charge of Portsmouth had seen relegation and (very) brief spells at Blackpool and Blackburn had hardly set the world alight.
His first January window saw the arrival of, amongst others, Joe Skarz, Alex MacDonald, Jeremy Balmy, Richard Brindley, Kemar Roofe and George Baldock, joining November arrivals John Campbell, Pat Hoban, Chey Dunkley and Wes Burns. The season ended with Utd in 13th place. 2 years later, with a promotion and 2 trips to Wembley to his name, he left to become assistant manager to Craig Shakespeare.
Almost 3 years to the day that Appleton took over Pep Clotet arrived. He came in with a respected history of coaching and assisting similar to Appleton, with his management success being equally uninspiring. Coming in half way through pre-season, the previous model of bringing in young talent with sell-on potential that had seen the arrival of Ledson, Lundstram, Rothwell, Nelson, Hall and Johnson, was seemingly abandoned as more experienced players like Raglan, Obika, Henry and Mousino arrived, along with some foreign imports like Xemi, Richardinho, Mehmeti, Pekalski and Tiendalli.
An inconsistent first half of his first season in charge sees Pep in charge of an Oxford side currently in 10th place in League 1, 3 points off a play-off spot. However the 7-0 home defeat to Wigan increased the number of critical voices, with echoes of Applelton’s first season in charge.
The arrival of Dickie, Brannagan and Buckley-Ricketts seems to be a return to the model of young talent, similar to Appleton’s own first January window that saw the arrival on loan of Roofe and Baldock and which paid such dividends the following season.
The worries that fans had about Appleton’s first season in charge and his abilities eventually turned to a genuine affection and admiration for a manager who rebuilt his reputation. That first January window showed that perhaps there was something there, that he was building something special. Perhaps a couple more impressive signings and the rest of the season will show that Pep is building a similar reputation for himself as well.
As Shirley Bassey (and Propellerheads) put it…
“They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolution’s near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That’s it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”