New Hibs boss: Michael Appleton set to be named Neil Lennon’s successor

Michael Appleton remains the front-runner to replace Neil Lennon as Hibs head coach with the Easter Road club set to make an announcement within 48 hours.
Michael Appleton during his time as manager of  Oxford United. Picture: Pete Norton/Getty ImagesMichael Appleton during his time as manager of  Oxford United. Picture: Pete Norton/Getty Images
Michael Appleton during his time as manager of Oxford United. Picture: Pete Norton/Getty Images

The 43-year-old could be installed as soon as tomorrow after a lengthy recruitment process. Lennon officially left his post at the end of last month, five days after he was reported to have been suspended by Hibs.

This was denied by the club in a statement that claimed Lennon and his assistant Garry Parker had “parted amicably” with Hibs. Head of Academy Eddie May and coach Grant Murray were placed in temporary charge of first-team affairs and they have overseen two victories and two defeats.

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May said after Saturday’s Scottish Cup win over Raith Rovers that he did not expect to be in the dug out when Hibs host Hamilton Accies this weekend.

The usual veil of secrecy has been drawn over the club’s efforts to recruit a new manager. Former Leeds United head coach Peter Heckingbottom was reported to be an early front-runner ahead of such candidates as Australia manager Graham Arnold and former Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

But Appleton, pictured, has leapt to the top of Hibs’ wanted list after impressing Easter Road officials.

Appleton once expressed the belief he would be a better manager than he was a player. That wasn’t to decry his abilities as a footballer, only his luck.

He started out at Manchester United, making his debut alongside the likes of Brian McClair and Roy Keane in a League Cup win over Swindon Town in 1996. He played only once more for the Old Trafford giants before leaving for Preston North End in a bid to secure regular first-team football.

A serious knee injury derailed his career and saw him earn a £1.5 million payout after he successfully sued the surgeon who operated on him. The procedure should never have been attempted. 
He was only 25 and with West Bromwich Albion at the time.

Appleton attributes the drive he has now to succeed in management as being partly because his career was cut short. Rather than dwell on the misfortune – the injury occurred during a training session – he vowed to be proactive.

Gary Megson, the then West Brom manager, employed him as a scout and before long Appleton was helping Craig Shakespeare with the youth side. They teamed up again at Leicester City two years ago after Claudio Ranieri’s side suffered a post-title winning slump.

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Appleton was promoted to first-team coach at West Brom in 2009. He took over at financially troubled Portsmouth the following year. It was the start of a period when he seemed drawn to major clubs down on their luck.

“Two wealthy Russian owners had such high hopes for Portsmouth and then two weeks later, one of them was arrested,” recalled Appleton, in an interview in 2012. “I just decided I was going to tough it out and I did. I am my own man.”

Four year younger than Neil Lennon, he already has over 15 years’ worth of coaching experience. Appleton was employed in various roles at West Brom – academy development coach, Under-18s coach, reserves coach, first-team coach and caretaker head coach.

As well as Portsmouth, he had short-lived spells as manager at Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool, again places where he has to fight fires due to their perilous financial position at the time. His links with Scottish football have been limited to date. He bought Dundee striker Kane Hemmings in 2016 during a successful period in charge of Oxford United.