ANDY AWFORD played down the impact of his formation switch and promised: It’s about the players.
The Blues boss believes it’s his men and not the systems they play which will define where Pompey are going this season.
Awford’s change to wing-backs has been lauded in the wake of Pompey’s Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough on Tuesday.
He has to decide whether to continue with that approach or return to his often-practiced 4-2-3-1 set-up against Cambridge today.
That formation was a hallmark of the Blues’ run to League Two safety last season.
Awford knows it’s the quality of his players which count, though – as proved when he was Academy boss.
He said: ‘It’s players over systems, all day long. We have to have a structure, but it’s about the players.
‘We did it once with the youth team about three years ago. We picked the players, didn’t tell them how to play and just sent them out there.
‘We put the names up, but didn’t tell them where to play. They were all looking at each other. They won 4-1!
‘We didn’t give them any set-pieces at all, we just told them to go play football.
‘I don’t know if I’m brave enough to do it at first-team level, though!
‘But don’t tell me it’s about systems.
‘The other night, if our players hadn’t been able to execute it, we would have had to change things back. But, thankfully, they did it superbly.
‘They’ve done it in training a few times, but it was fine and they executed it superbly.
‘I let them get on with it. It’s about players doing it.
‘You have to give a structure and explain the reasons why, but it gives us another option.
‘We can show them, walk them through it on a DVD and do it in training. But they have to do it on game day – and they did fantastically well on Tuesday.’
Awford acknowledged having the flexibility to change formations is a useful weapon in his team’s arsenal.
That was seen as Peterborough were caught off guard by the change in approach at Fratton Park.
Awford said: ‘If you have it in the locker it’s great.
‘We played so well in the first half the other night. I think it maybe caught them on the hop.
‘When I get another team’s sheet and there’s a curve ball, it takes five or 10 minutes to sort it out.
‘Maybe it did that with them and we were certainly worthy of the win.
‘I looked at the players last season. If a diamond had suited us I would have gone that way.
‘On the Thursday night before Newport County, I looked at what suits which player. I felt 4-2-3-1 was the best way of getting points – and it worked, thankfully.
‘There were little tinkers but the other night was the first major change.
‘It’s about players. You don’t want your best players on the touchline, so you play what suits them.’