Pompey to treasure non-league friendships

Andy Awford. Picture: Sarah Standing PPP-140626-164846001
Andy Awford. Picture: Sarah Standing PPP-140626-164846001
Conor Chaplin in action against Peterborough. Picture: Joe Pepler

Chaplin backed to start against Plymouth

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Pompey will continue to treasure a special bond with their non-league neighbours.

That is the pledge from Andy Awford, who is determined for the club to maintain its close relationship with the Hawks and Bognor.

The Blues open their pre-season friendly campaign at Westleigh Park on Saturday (3pm).

They then travel to Bognor on Saturday, July 19 (1pm).

It is the second successive year both local clubs have formed opposition in the build-up to the start of a Pompey league campaign.

A crowd of 3,009 turned out for the Blues’ 5-0 win over the Hawks last summer, while 1,850 attended the 4-2 victory at Bognor.

Both fixtures offered precious revenue for the hosting clubs.

And Awford believes it is only right that friendship is maintained.

He said: ‘One of the first things I did when taking over was make sure those games were in place – and thankfully Mark Catlin put them in before I got into the seat.

‘They were there ready to go and I was pleased to rubberstamp it really, because both clubs have looked after us and helped us in our hour of need.

‘If we can return any sort of favour, return any goodwill, then I think we should – and that is clear with what we have done.

‘A lot of clubs have written to me and asked if we can have friendlies but, unfortunately, we can’t play every single club locally.

‘I am good personal friends with Lee (Bradbury), Shaun (Gale) and Derek (Pope) over at Havant and that counts.

‘I am also very good friends with Jack Pearce, Jamie Howell and Dabba (Darin Killpartrick) at Bognor as well.

‘But the most important thing is the club’s relationship with those clubs, not mine.

‘When we needed them they were there and they would have been there as well if it had gone the wrong way, so it is really important we maintain that relationship.

‘We will certainly be there for them.’

The Hawks are hoping for another bumper gate for the visit of Pompey’s new-look squad.

It will be the Conference South club’s second friendly and Awford is banking on them embarking on a promotion-winning season.

He added: ‘I felt for Lee at the end of last season.

‘They were the nearly men, missing out in the FA Trophy, Hampshire Senior Cup and the play-offs. I was gutted for them, I really was.

‘I really wanted them to have a bit of success and believed they deserved it.

‘I went and watched them play a few times while watching Nigel (Atangana) play and they played some real good stuff.

‘They got themselves so close – even with that tough schedule they had – and I really do think they can push on this year and achieve something.’