Bird admits debt to Whittingham

Ryan Bird operated as a lone striker against Wycombe Picture: Barry Zee
Ryan Bird operated as a lone striker against Wycombe Picture: Barry Zee
Pompey new boy Dion Donohue Picture: Colin Farmery

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Ryan Bird has thanked Guy Whittingham for helping develop him into a better striker.

Now the 26-year-old is striving to impress Pompey’s next boss and prove he has a long-term future in the Football League.

It was Whittingham who plucked Bird from non-league football with Burnham this summer following a successful Fratton Park trial.

He has since netted three times in 16 appearances, although has started just six fixtures.

Under caretaker boss Andy Awford, the striker has lined up in the Blues’ past two matches as a lone forward after injuries to Patrick Agyemang, David Connolly and Tom Craddock.

Nonetheless, Bird has steadily grown into his Fratton role as he adjusts encouragingly to professional football.

And he has acknowledged the part former boss Whittingham has played in his progress.

He said: ‘My game has come on a lot. I am learning things every day – in training and in games – from the players.

‘I don’t know what I would be like if I went back to Burnham now, although I think I would be a lot better than I was last season.

‘Guy always pulled me aside at training, gave me little pointers and little tips about what he used to do.

‘You take that into consideration because when you are up there you have to think quicker than everyone else, think quicker than defenders.

‘Definitely, my movement has improved – you need to think about where defenders are going to go and stay away from them. They will grab hold of you or read your run, you have got to be always checking your shoulder.

‘A lot can change when a new manager comes in. He might think you’re okay or may not like the way you play and take you out of the side.

‘But, hopefully, I’ve done enough to stay in it.’

Of course, following Agyemang and Connolly’s contribution off the bench against Wycombe, Bird faces a battle to keep his place – regardless who is in charge.

Agyemang netted with a header to make him the Blues’ joint-top scorer, while Connolly impressed despite missing a penalty.

Their re-emergence following injury adds considerably to the competition for places, while Ashley Harris has now returned from his Chelmsford loan spell.

Yet Bird is not prepared to relinquish his place.

He added: ‘People say I’m busy in training because I run around and don’t give others time on the ball, that’s what I’m always like.

‘I work as hard as I can because you are only playing 90 minutes – then you can relax the next day.

‘I don’t want to go back to that old life. I want to be training every day and playing football, that is what I love doing and every boy dreams of.’