HIBS will be getting a future English Premier League manager in Michael Appleton, according to his former chairman at Oxford United.
Darryl Eales appointed Appleton after taking over at the club in 2014 and believes Hibs will be “very fortunate indeed’ if, as expected, they finalise a deal for the Englishman to succeed Neil Lennon.
The Easter Road outfit are expected to unveil their new boss this week after Eddie May and Grant Murray were told Saturday’s Scottish Cup win over Raith Rovers was their last match in charge.
Appleton appears to have fought off stiff competition from ex-Barnsley and Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom and Eales is in no doubt the 43-year-old will prove a hit north of the border.
The former Preston North End and West Brom midfielder lasted only 65 days in charge at Blackpool and just two days longer than that at Blackburn Rovers, but proved his credentials at Oxford, winning promotion from League Two and twice reaching the final of the Football League Trophy.
His three-year stint, which came to an end in June 2017 when he left for the number two job at Leicester City, is fondly remembered by United fans – and Eales.
He said: “I worked with Michael for three years at Oxford and I’ve got nothing but absolute praise for him. Oxford were very fortunate to get a manager of his calibre.
“He’s a very, very knowledgeable manager, a keen student of the game, and an outstanding coach. Importantly, for me, he tries to play football in the right way.
“But he combines that with, shall I say, a very disciplinarian approach. He won’t take any nonsense.
“If the Hibs job is for him, I think they’re very fortunate indeed. I think he’ll do an extremely good job.
“He’s a top individual off the pitch as well. He’s a straight shooter and an absolute pleasure to deal with and he’s very good at getting a team to play with a smile on their faces.
“We’ve stayed in touch and I have nothing but praise for him. For me, he’s definitely, longer term, got the potential to manage in the Premier League.”
It is thought Appleton’s spell at Oxford, where he achieved success working with a limited budget and blooded young players whilst getting his team playing attacking football, has helped attract Hibs to the one-time Manchester United trainee.
Stints as caretaker manager at West Brom and Leicester City, as well as an assistant’s role under Roy Hodgson at West Brom, have built valuable experience for the Salford-born boss.
And, with the help of some big-name mentors, Eales believes Appleton has the ability to adapt to a new environment north of the border at Hibs.
Now the owner and chairman of National League side Solihull Moors, Eales added: “He’s tactically aware, so he’s not a one-trick pony, but his basic philosophy is to try to play out from the back.
“There are obviously games where that’s not possible, so he’s definitely adaptable as well.
“But the thing I remember most about Oxford was him bringing in high-quality full-backs and high-quality wingers, and that was the foundation of playing with lots of movement, quick passing and pressing.
“He’s got a great relationship with Sir Alex and he’s got a great relationship with Roy Hodgson, so he’s got some managers of pretty good pedigree to lean on and take advice from. But he’s his own man and he’ll make his own decisions.”