The Pompey fan whose good name should not diminish

Andy Awford, centre, celebrating victory at Newport County in his first game in charge as caretaker manager Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford, centre, celebrating victory at Newport County in his first game in charge as caretaker manager Picture: Joe Pepler

The Pompey players celebrate winning the League Two title on the final day of the 2016-17 season following their 6-1 win against Cheltenham Picture: Joe Pepler

Gallen: Let’s carry momentum of Pompey title win into opener

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A Pompey fan yesterday departed the job he treasured.

In recent times managerial exits have been entirely one-sided, driven by a determination to escape to reaches such as West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Blackpool.

And while Richie Barker’s may have been a mutually-agreed flight, within 24 hours he had conveniently landed at MK Dons.

Awford was different. A man with the Blues at heart, with never the merest of intentions to employ his job as a career step.

At 11.38am yesterday, he sped out of the training ground at Roko with a wave to the media, but no words.

Yet we understood.

The 42-year-old would have been devastated at the developments which saw him leave a job he had put his heart into.

No man at the Blues helm could have been more determined to succeed.

Yet, in the end 14th position in League Two was an unassailable barrier to progress.

Chief executive Mark Catlin and chairman Iain McInnes had arrived at the club’s Copnor Road training ground for a pre-arranged 9am meeting.

Unlike January, when the manager’s job was under real scrutiny also, there was to be no reprieve.

Awford subsequently addressed all players and staff in the canteen before heading off to pack up office belongings.

Instead, Gary Waddock took training, alongside Paul Hardyman. After all, footballing life goes on, with tonight’s match against Stevenage to prepare for.

Certainly those youngsters taking part in school holiday football sessions on adjacent 4G pitches would have had little idea of what was unfolding around them.

Awford had paid the price for failing to fulfil the board’s play-off target – a challenge accompanied by a player budget double previous manager Guy Whittingham’s original war chest.

In addition, the backroom staff had also substantially increased in numbers.

During the current campaign, Awford named 41 different players in his squads – of which 27 signed contracts during his reign.

That consists of 12 loanees, seven permanent arrivals and eight presented with new deals.

However, the crucial statistic was 11 points adrift of the play-offs with four matches to go. Ultimately, that dictated Awford’s future.

Such has been fans’ strength of feeling of late, McInnes had been bombarded with e-mails calling for the axe to be wielded.

Ian Abrahams, from TalkSport, had even taken to Twitter repeatedly gloating over the pressure piling on Awford.

Let us not forget, however, Awfs is a thoroughly decent man who dedicated his Football League player career to one football club.

He adores Fratton Park and its people. His portrait an early addition to the Hall of Fame.

As first-team manager he didn’t succeed. The reasons for which can be long debated.

Yet Awford’s standing among supporters should not be allowed to diminish. He is, after all, one of you.

– NEIL ALLEN

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