Charlton Athletic manager Michael Appleton has played down rumours that he is close to the sack after speculation emerged of his dismissal on Sunday.
The Addicks are in the midst of a dreadful run of form, with Saturday’s 2-0 defeat against Burton Albion stretching their winless run to 11 in all competitions. This has seen the London-based club slip to 16th in the table and they are currently just seven points above the drop zone.
Charlton began the campaign as one of the pre-season favourites for promotion but started terribly, leading to the dismissal of Dean Holden in August. Appleton was announced as the 44-year-old’s successor in early September and he initially turned things around, remaining undefeated in his first seven games in charge.
His first loss came at the hands of former club Lincoln City in October, and Appleton has only two League One wins to his name since. The 2-0 defeat at the Pirelli Stadium at the weekend continued their recent woeful form, having now lost five of their last six league outings.
Heavy rumours surfaced soon after that Appleton had been sacked, although the club were quick to deny the speculation. All eyes were then on today’s press conference ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Northampton Town, where the manager was understandably pressed on his future:
“I can’t comment on speculation but in terms of conversations with myself then unfortunately I’m probably going to disappoint a few that those conversations haven’t taken place,” Appleton told reporters, via South London News.
“No (there has been no conversations in the last 48 hours). After the game, whether it be Saturday evening or Sunday morning, myself and Andy (Scott, technical director) speak – as we do every single week and after every single game.
— The Real EFL (@RealEFLSocial) January 21, 2024
“There is a disappointment that we’re on the run we’re on at the minute and clearly, between us, we know we want to improve that and make sure it changes very, very quickly.
“I’ve been in the game a long, long time. I know if that doesn’t change very, very quickly then I know what the outcome will be. But as far as discussions that are supposed to have taken place, I can’t really comment on that because they haven’t really happened.”
Appleton isn’t naive though, and knows results have to improve if he wants to remain in charge:
“No, no…but I think from a personal point of view, the reality is the longer the situation goes on without winning a game of football that does come with the job.
“It’s not my first rodeo. I’ve been here before, in difficult positions before, I understand the job and the role – the fact if you’re not winning games on a regular basis then your job is up for threat.
“I’m just trying to focus on tomorrow really, making sure the players are in a good frame of mind. It will be a difficult game. If we get a performance at the start of the game similar to what we did on Saturday in that first period, a little bit more clinical in our execution, we give ourselves a great chance of picking three points up.
“You always want patience and time as a manager but it’s not something managers get in this day and age. The only way we’re going to get time moving forward is by picking up a few results. If we do that I think you’ll see a natural progression and the team get better, win games on a regular basis. If that doesn’t happen then clearly we know what happens.”
The 48-year-old remained defiant throughout and stated that he will not walk away from the situation:
“I’ve never been in that position before where I have walked away or quit from something in my life. I’ve had a few challenges in my life – I’ve had cancer and an injury that cost me my career at the age of 22. I’ve never stepped away or taken a step back from anything.
“I won’t on this occasion.
“The harder it gets sometimes, the sweeter it can taste on the other side.
“That has always been the challenge of any manager, that when you are going through a tough period you have got to try and find a way of changing that and pulling it around. That’s the challenge I face at the minute.”
Charlton are now 19 points off the play-off places and will surely succumb to a fifth successive season in League One, providing they can do enough to avoid relegation of course.
It’s becoming an increasingly difficult situation for Michael Appleton. The crowd have turned and they have made it clear that they want an immediate change. However, he has been heavily backed throughout the transfer window and their winter business is unlikely to be complete just yet.
That indicates that the club are willing to give the ex-Blackpool manager one last roll of the dice to steady the ship and regroup ahead of a potential promotion bid next season. However, form needs to improve quickly before they find themselves in a battle to survive relegation.