TREVOR BIRCH issued a hands-off warning to West Brom over Michael Appleton and vowed: He’s the future at Pompey.
The Blues boss has emerged as a contender for the Hawthorns job once, as expected, Roy Hodgson is confirmed as the new England manager.
Appleton finished yesterday as 8/1 fourth favourite with the bookies for the Baggies role, behind Chris Hughton, after starting the day as a 12/1 shot for the post.
The 36-year-old Appleton came to Fratton Park from West Brom in November after spending three years as a player with the Premier League club, before working his way up to assistant manager, which included a spell under Hodgson.
Despite the link, Birch insists Appleton is with Pompey for the long term – if the club can stave off the threat of liquidation this summer – and wants to stay.
Pompey’s administrator confirmed he has had no approach from the Baggies.
And despite the vast majority of the Blues’ playing squad being expected to be sold this summer to ease the financial crisis, Birch promised cashing in on a manager who still has three years left on his contract is one deal he does not intend to make.
Birch said: ‘We want Michael here, absolutely. Hopefully, Michael is here for the long term.
‘I met with him yesterday morning and there was nothing mentioned about West Brom. As far as I’m concerned, Michael will be staying as Portsmouth manager.
‘There has been no approach and we wouldn’t welcome one. He is the future of the club. The future of Portsmouth is in the hands of Michael.’
Despite the obvious lure of a Premier League club, Birch feels Appleton is keen to stay to rebuild Pompey.
He added: ‘Michael’s not thinking about going anywhere. He’s been blown away by the support and the last thing he wants is to go.
‘If West Brom were to make a bid, it would be hellishly difficult because they are in the Premier League and he spent many years there.
‘But bids are not welcome. Not at all.’
Appleton was being groomed to become manager at West Brom, after his playing career at the club was cut short by injury in 2001.
He was seen as a long-term project with the Baggies and took charge of various age-group sides there before being brought into the first-team picture.
Baggies chairman Jeremy Peace is known to be a huge fan of Appleton.
His managerial standing has only improved in his time in charge with the Blues, as he became the public face of the club through another period of turmoil.
But sources in the midlands believe it could be seen as too early for Appleton to move into the West Brom hot seat.
Meanwhile, Appleton has thrown his weight behind the FA’s bid to make 64-year-old Hodgson the next England boss.
He said: ‘I think he will make a very good England manager.
‘He has worked with the majority of players. I think he will be ideal.’