ASHLEY HARRIS has been backed to thrive as a professional footballer away from Pompey.
Andy Awford believes the Purbrook talent will benefit from a new start after being released from his hometown club earlier this month.
The new Blues boss believes the attacker had become ‘stale’ at Pompey, with his progress hitting a wall after making a first-team breakthrough in 2011.
Harris went on to make 35 appearances, with 24 of those coming off the bench, scoring three goals.
But this season saw loan spells at Hawks, Chelmsford and Bognor not go to plan for him.
Awford then made the tough call to name him among the nine players who were officially released from his ranks 11 days ago.
Skrill South Gosport have been quick to announce their interest in signing Harris, while the attacker has also been linked with Skrill North side Gainsborough Trinity.
His former manager is adamant, however, he can go on to have a career in the professional ranks.
‘Ashley now needs a change of environment,’ said Awford.
‘I think he has become a little too stale at Portsmouth Football Club.
‘I feel, for his own personal development, he now needs to get out and go somewhere new.
‘Ash is a good player who will be a professional footballer, in my opinion.
‘He will earn a living in this game.
‘But I think it goes deeper than that with him. It’s not just about getting him out on the green grass.
‘Ash has been here since he was nine.
‘This is his football club, I know that.
‘But he needs challenging now.
‘He needs to move away and get his hands dirty somewhere else. I will think that will benefit him and help him.
‘For Ash’s overall career chances it will be beneficial for him to move on.
‘He needs to experience different things that will add to him as a player.
‘At the moment I think he needs to be challenged more.
‘I think that challenge will arrive from being at a different club.’
Awford hasn’t shied away from making the tough decisions over players’ futures, which is a necessary part of his role as manager.
But he admitted telling Harris he was on his way after spending his life coming through the ranks was tough to do.
It was a similar story for the likes of fellow youngsters Liam Triggs, Josh Warren and George Branford, who were also told their contracts weren’t being renewed.
Awford said: ‘It wasn’t just Ash. It was George Branford, Liam Triggs and Josh Warren.
‘They are lads I’ve had for four or five years so, of course, you become attached.
‘They are still young lads, so it was very difficult for me to do that. I’ve been a guiding hand for them, so it was difficult.
‘Talking to senior pros was easier than talking to lads I’ve worked with for years.
‘Ash comes into that category. But, at the end of the day, I’ve had to do what is best for this football club.
‘If that means releasing Ashley Harris, that’s what I have to do.
‘It’s a difficult bit of the job, but that is what I have to do.’