Modest Awford lauds Pompey ‘Achievable’ Escape

Pompey celebrate during their vital win at Newport. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey celebrate during their vital win at Newport. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey's Brett Pitman scores a penalty in the Blues' 1-1 draw against Walsall at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler/Digital South.

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It was not so much a Great Escape in the eyes of Andy Awford.

Pompey’s League Two survival should instead be forever regarded as the Achievable Escape.

In just four matches the caretaker boss dragged a side languishing one place above the relegation zone into the lush pastures of Football League safety.

It’s a remarkable run which produced four successive triumphs – followed by another one at Northampton when next season’s destiny had already been decreed.

As a player, Awford twice endured last-day survival acts to preserve the Blues’ division two status at the time.

He was a fascinated on-looker not employed at the club when Harry Redknapp conjured up his remarkable Houdini show at the end of the 2005-06 campaign.

Inevitably the man who masterminded this year’s successful scrap is modest regarding his achievements at present.

Nonetheless, he believes it cannot compare to the other close calls the club has endured over the years.

Awford said: ‘I wouldn’t call this a “Great Escape”, that was in 2005-06.

‘With this one we were never going to go down. This was achievable.

‘All those years ago everybody thought it was unachievable to stay in the Premier League, but this was always possible with the squad of players we’ve got and the support we get.

‘We have done really well, don’t get me wrong, but that was something else back then.

‘I guess you can call it the Achievable Escape!

‘I knew we wouldn’t go down from that first day I took over, I didn’t even fear it. We weren’t going down, I knew that 120 per cent.

‘The reason was I knew how good the players were, and I knew the supporters would get behind that – when you put that together you won’t go down.

‘During my experiences here I have played in two last-day relegation battles, I have been through administration and some tough times at the football club with the fans, stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

‘They know me and I know them so they know what they are going to get from me.

‘But it was about getting the understanding into the players’ heads about what it means and they get it. It didn’t take long.

‘The Newport win was massive, that was the biggest win out of the five to bring some confidence into the dressing room, that was vital.

‘And the players did superbly to build upon that.’

Now all eyes are on Pompey’s board over their next move.

Awford has kept his side of the bargain by securing survival, weighing in with an outstanding five successive victories in the process.

Yet he is keen to credit many others who made it possible for the Blues to stay up with effectively three matches to spare.

He added: ‘I’ve won five out of five so from that respect couldn’t have done any more. But it’s not me, it’s everybody, it’s the group thing.

‘I have led it and been vocal with it to explain to the fans what we are trying to do. Somebody has to do that and I have enjoyed that, I have relished it.

‘But it has been the staff and the whole group of players that have earned Football League status.’