Awford: I’ve rebuilt my confidence after losing Pompey job

Former Pompey player and manager, Andy Awford, with wife Mandy, on a recent visit to Fratton Park
Former Pompey player and manager, Andy Awford, with wife Mandy, on a recent visit to Fratton Park
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He departed with the promise he would one day return to Fratton Park.

Yes, Pompey remains in the soul of Andy Awford. But then having an association with a club spanning more than a quarter of a century will do that to you.

Andy Awford during his time as Pompey manager

Andy Awford during his time as Pompey manager

It’s been two-and-a-half years since that came to a close, after the club called time on his 13-month stint as Blues boss.

Carrying his team to league survival in such memorable fashion back in the 2013-14 season earned the 45-year-old his shot at firing their rebirth from the managerial hot seat.

The romantic notion of the one-league club man carrying Pompey up the leagues never materialised, however, leading to Awfs’ exit during the death throes of an under-achieving 2014-15 campaign.

By his own admission, the failure rocked Awford’s confidence.

But the Blues’ FA Cup opponents today offered the former defender the chance to rebuild his standing away from the PO postcode.

The position as Luton’s academy manager is one which has seen Awfs return to his role of harnessing young talent – a role he was so successful in with Pompey during his post-playing career days.

It’s been a period which has allowed the man who was the club’s youngest league player to grow again.

‘I’m a person who stayed at one club for a particularly long spell,’ said Awford, as he reflected on his life since 2015.

‘You do move around and I’ve now gone to Luton.

‘I work for Luton and have been welcomed there with open arms at a good club with good people.

‘I’ve been treated well and I love working there. It’s been good for me. I really enjoy it.

‘Your confidence can take a knock in football when things happen, but I’ve been able to rebuild that.

‘We’re pushing on now with things we want to do. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m aiming to continue to do so for a few more years yet.

‘You have to make positives out of negatives.

‘I left Pompey in the April, had a bit of time out and it was nice to have a breather.

‘I was able to gather my thoughts and decide what I wanted to do.

‘The Luton job became available, I was offered it and was delighted to accept the position. I’ve loved it from day one until now. Long may that continue.

‘I do have an allegiance with Pompey, but people can see I’m making my way. It’s done me good to do that.’

Awford has maintained his Blues links since his departure from the club.

That saw him regularly take in games as League Two title success was secured under Paul Cook last term.

It’s been the same this time around, too, with Kenny Jackett joking this week that Awfs had watched more of his side’s game than Luton’s.

Awford explained he’s been received in the manner a hall-of-famer deserves.

He said: ‘Nobody’s thrown rocks at me yet!

‘I left the club on good terms and it was an amicable parting.

‘I’m always welcomed back with a smile and in friendly fashion.

‘There’s Big Kev, Knightsy and the guys in the offices.

‘Mark (Catlin) and Tony (Brown) always say hello and there’s John Jenkins on the boardroom door. That’s always a pleasure.

‘It’s always nice to come back because I’ve got a lot of friends there.

‘Right the way through people nod, say hello and ask how I’m getting on now.

‘That’s always been the way – and hopefully always will be.

‘My rapport with the fans is hopefully still as it was, I hope.’

Hearing Awford talk of Pompey’s opponents as ‘we’ in conversation jars, but underlines where his allegiances naturally lie now.

He has been watching Jackett’s men attentively ahead of a first-round meeting which has the hallmarks of a lively battle.

No-one has scored more goals in League Two than Nathan Jones’ side, who will be aiming to get one back on the visitors to Kenilworth Road after two losses last season.

Cook’s men, of course, went on to secure a glorious final-day title success, while Luton suffered late, late heartbreak in their play-off semi-final with Blackpool.

‘For Luton, we’re at home but it’s going to be tough for both teams,’ added Awford as he weighed up the meeting.

‘We’re going well at the top of League Two and scoring plenty of goals, especially at home.

‘Pompey are the current League Two champions so it’s a good gauge for us. I’m sure it’ll be a good game.

‘We have scored lots at home. We scored eight on the opening day and seven past Stevenage.

‘It’s a different Pompey team this season. The one I watched last week was unrecognisable from the one I watched a lot last season.

‘But there’s some good players. There’s experienced players along with some decent youngsters.’

With Awford’s role in the Blues’ 1992 FA Cup run, there will be time for some reflection as he prepares to take in a match his club’s manager has billed at the tie of the round in the famous, old competition.

A moment’s contemplation will be afforded on the occasion before Awfs’ analytical eye comes to the fore.

‘I’m looking forward to the game,’ he explained.

‘I’ve not heard much from people – apart from Big Kev ringing and asking for 15 comps!

‘I’ll go to the game, watch it and see what it brings.

‘But everyone knows I will have very good friends there.

‘I have very good friends at Pompey but I now have a very good job at Luton, thoroughly enjoy it and I have to be professional when it comes to the game.

‘Of course, though, it’s a game with special significance for me.’

Awfs on... Pompey’s young guns

It’s been nice to see all those lads being given a chance to show what they can do.

For me, personally, it was nice to see Closey (Ben Close), who was one of ours, play in last week’s game against Bradford.

Conor (Chaplin) got on, too, in that game and Adam May has been playing.

Brandon (Haunstrup) has been in-and-around it this season, too.

Jack (Whatmough) has been injured but will come back, I’m sure.

Fingers crossed they get some more youngsters into the side and are okay this season.

There’s a few of the lads in there now and there’s the two big-hitters of (Jed) Wallace and (Adam) Webster in the Championship.

We did okay back in the day with what we had, I suppose.

I’m proud of that – and so should all the people who played a part.

...Luton’s youngsters

We’ve had a few at Luton already.

James Justin’s in the first team and Akin Famewo and Frankie Musonda are just starting to get their chances, too.

We have been able to move a few on as well.

Cameron McJannet has got himself a move to Stoke.

Then there’s Tyreeq Bakinson and Freddy Hines who have gone to the Championship with Bristol City.

I think people will soon be aware of them.

Hopefully, I can now help push a few more the same way with Luton.

...A scouting assignment

I was at the Bradford game and I thought Pompey were unlucky.

I wasn’t really responsible for the scouting on the day.

Mick Harford was there – he’s the chief scout, and he asked me to accompany him to the game.

All clubs do it. Pompey will send someone to Luton for their last game as well. It’s no secret clubs do it.

I really enjoyed it and got well looked after.

I felt the team deserved a bit more than they got on the day, to be honest.