Early in 1982 it was agreed at a meeting of Football League Chairmen that clubs would not poach each other’s managers during the season. Within days Wolves had poached Ian Greaves from Oxford United, a move that Oxford’s new owner, a certain Robert Maxwell, described as “an unprovoked act of aggression against a struggling club.” Greaves himself showed his disdain for his former employer by commenting that “there seems to have been a bit of a hoo-ha down there.” Many felt that justice was served at the end of the season when Wolves were relegated to the Second Division and Greaves was sacked and faded into obscurity.
There is a warning here for Michael Appleton who, after just eight weeks at Blackpool, has moved to Blackburn. Appleton is a Salford lad who began at the club he supported, Manchester United, before moving to Preston from where Gary Megson signed him for the Albion. He played relatively few games for the Baggies as a knee injury ended his career at the age of just 27. Appleton was held in such high regard that he remained on the payroll joining the coaching staff. He did his badges and rose to become First Team coach and eventually assistant to Roy Hodgson. It was inevitable that he would leave at some point to further his career and last year he was appointed to his first managerial job at Portsmouth. Even Hercules would have struggled to stop Pompey’s kamikaze descent into non-league football and local derbies against Havant and Waterlooville and Appy was generally reckoned to have done a decent job in impossible circumstances. There was no long term future for him at Fratton Park and his move to Blackpool following Ian Holloway’s move to Crystal Palace seemed a logical one. Blackpool were reasonably well placed in the Championship and still receiving parachute money even if Holloway was always going to be a hard act to follow.
What he might have achieved at Bloomfield Road will never be known as he has now gone. While Blackburn are better resourced than Blackpool and may have mote potential they are owned by the Venkys who have turned a well-run club into a circus. What if he falls foul of the Global advisor Sebby Singh? What if it all goes pear shaped? Who will then employ a manager with a reputation as an opportunist with no loyalty? If he were to drive a couple of junctions down the M65 and talk to people in Burnley he might appreciate the risk he runs. Owen Coyle went from hero to zero in January 2010 when he abandoned the Clarets to move to Bolton. Having taken Bolton down and been sacked he finds himself out in the cold, his reputation seriously damaged. Burnley folk might also tell him about Coyle’s immediate predecessor at Turf Moor, (and his own predecessor at Portsmouth)Steve Cotterill, whose reputation has never really recovered from his walking out in Stoke City ten years ago. Still, if the chickens are to come home to roost, the Venkys will make sure there are plenty available.