Pompey turned to Pat in record winless run

Patrick Agyemang celebrates his memorable strike against Oxford. Picture: Joe Pepler
Patrick Agyemang celebrates his memorable strike against Oxford. Picture: Joe Pepler
New Pompey keeper Luke McGee Picture: Joe Pepler

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He joined a Pompey team on the worst winless run in the club’s history.

But Patrick Agyemang soon endeared himself to the Fratton faithful by helping to end an unprecedented 23-game search for victory.

And such was the optimism breathed into the side by that fateful March 2013 Crewe outing – and the subsequent Pompey Supporters’ Trust takeover – even relegation to the lowest tier of English football could not stop the feel-good factor around the Blues.

Indeed, life in League Two began promisingly as that man Agyemang gave the bookmakers’ promotion favourites the ‘best possible start’ to the season in front of a sell-out Fratton Park.

Unfortunately, though, the striker’s 25th-minute opener was followed by four goals from visitors Oxford on a day to forget for all at Pompey.

And much like that humiliating 4-1 defeat to the U’s, it didn’t take long for things to get worse for both the Blues and Agyemang.

He said: ‘I came to the club on loan initially – I wasn’t playing at Stevenage and I knew Pompey’s physio, Steve Allen, down there.

‘He got in contact with me and told me to come down and get some games under my belt.

‘If I played well, then the fans would love me and I would be treated like a hero.

‘We lost my first game against Bournemouth and were on a really bad run of form at the time but I felt we were unlucky that day.

‘We kept going, though, and eventually got our first win at Crewe, which was a great day for everybody connected to the club.

‘I scored the first and then set up Dave Connolly in that 2-1 win.

‘Being relatively knew, I probably didn’t have the same feeling as everyone else heading into the game.

‘But the fans had followed the team the whole season and been waiting 23 games to get a win – they had been waiting for too long.

‘To be a part of the team that stopped that run and to give them a little lift was a good feeling.

‘Afterwards, it was really nice having people congratulate me on how well I played – it felt like I had earned that hero status already.

‘That goal and win gave me a big lift and I just tried to carry that form on for the team.

‘From then on, it sort of turned things around and gave everyone belief – fans and players.

‘We started playing really well and felt like we weren’t going to lose any games.

‘The 10-point deduction for administration ultimately ended our hopes of staying up but we ended the season a confident side.’

Indeed, a run of five wins from 11 games brought an unforgettable campaign to a close and had many predicting Guy Whittingham’s side would bounce back up to League One at the first attempt.

It was an opinion shared by Agyemang, who moved permanently to the Blues in the summer on a free transfer.

Alongside former Wimbledon strike partner Connolly, big Pat as he was known, was keen to fire Pompey to promotion – starting with the sell-out curtain raiser.

Agyemang said: ‘Playing with Dave again was good. Guy made me the main man and gave me the freedom to do what I wanted.

‘I was able to play up top, receive the ball and make stuff happen – that’s what I tried to do and we had been linking up well.

‘Heading into the new season, everyone was buzzing.

‘Fratton Park was as busy as I had ever seen it and we started off really well against Oxford.

‘I remember Andy Barcham crossed from the left and I headed it in – it was the best possible start we could have hoped for.

‘But afterwards Johnny Ertl got sent off and then we were up against it.

‘Things became hard for us that day and that was the same for the following games.

‘Maybe there was a bit of inexperience or the odd mistake – we were still scoring but conceding too many goals.

‘We didn’t have that leadership.

‘We had a lot of promising younger players but we probably needed another older head in there to steady the ship.’

With the underachieving Blues six points above the relegation zone, Whittingham was shown the door in November 2013, a move that saw youth-team boss Andy Awford fill in at PO4 before Richie Barker’s permanent appointment.

Come March, though, Barker’s nightmare four-month spell in charge ended with Pompey just two points above relegation.

Awford answered an SOS to save the 2008 FA Cup winners from the shame of relegation to non-league football.

So another crack at promotion was to follow?

Well, that’s what Agyemang thought.

He said: ‘We had the talent to get out of the division.

‘Guy was the man who got me in and I had a lot of respect for him.

‘He didn’t want the ball to just be lumped high in the air for me – it was aimed at my feet for me to turn people and I loved that.

‘When he left, Awfs filled in for a bit and let me do the same thing.

‘But Richie Barker then came in and wanted to change things up.

‘He just wanted to hit aimless balls into the channels and make me run for no reason.

‘I’m not saying at 34 I had done all of my channel running but at my age I would strategically make different runs to when I was 21!

‘I can’t run for every single ball down the channel.

‘It seemed Richie just wanted to make an impact in some way but it didn’t work – the players weren’t playing well and everyone lost their confidence.

‘It played against him in the end – that’s why he got sacked.’

With Awford in charge, Agyemang was hoping for an extended run in the side, something that failed to materialise.

He said: ‘Awfs came in and I thought I would play under him because I had done before.

‘But when he got the management position I feel like he thought: “I am the man now”.

‘He wanted to put his stamp on his team – a younger team – and picked people over me.

‘He picked Tayls (Ryan Taylor) as a hold-up man which I disagreed with completely.

‘But he was the manager so there was nothing I could do about it.

‘If you have got a manager who doesn’t believe in you, there is nothing you can do.

‘I never really got the chance. I felt when I did play, I played well but it wasn’t ever enough.

‘People knew what I could do but I lost the enthusiasm for coming in to training and playing.’

With first-team chances limited and the burden of travelling down from his east London home weighing heavily, Agyemang left Pompey for league rivals Dagenham & Redbridge on loan before seeing the Blues terminate his deal in March 2015.

Eight goals in 68 appearances present an unkind statistic to the skilful striker, when considering he came off the bench 25 times.

Nonetheless, Agyemang remained popular with the Fratton faithful upon his exit, not least for his work ethic and moments of high quality, including a stunning goal at Oxford in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

And while the Ghana international may not have seen eye to eye with Awford, he has nothing but fond memories of his up-and-down time at the club.

He said: ‘I enjoyed my time in Pompey. With the fan base, it was like coming into a family, especially with the supporters’ trust takeover.

‘I met a lot of people who were happy with me and I was sad to go.

‘But as an experienced pro I know that every player moves on, so I just had to deal with it.’

Now 35, Agyemang has called time on his professional career, is enjoying spending more time with his son. He is looking to qualify as a personal trainer, having decided against pursuing a career as a football agent.