Tumultuous tenure was an education for Awford

Andy Awford thanks Yassin Moutaouakil for his efforts against Hartlepool Picture: Bary Zee
Andy Awford thanks Yassin Moutaouakil for his efforts against Hartlepool Picture: Bary Zee
Milan Lalkovic

Pompey team news: Lalkovic starts

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In the end, it was six months with the first team.

But enough went on around Andy Awford and Pompey’s senior set-up in that time to last a lifetime.

The lows of a club-record run of games without victory, a record-breaking number of players used, continuing administration and the only league club Awford has served in turmoil.

And then the highs of a rag-bag bunch of rejects and youngsters becoming a unit, a single defeat in nine games and the Blues winning a dramatic fight to stay in existence and becoming the biggest fan-owned club in the United Kingdom

Yes, there’s certainly been a few things for Awford to contend with.

It’s been a steep learning curve for the 40-year-old who ended his stint with the senior set-up on Wednesday, after announcing he will not be taking up the post of Guy Whittingham’s number two, returning to his previous role as head of the Academy.

But it’s been a journey which has proved an education for the former Blues defender – and one he has absolutely no regrets about embarking on.

‘I’ve really enjoyed my time with the first team and it opened my eyes to a lot of things,’ said Awford, as he looked back over that tumultuous period.

‘It was not an easy decision to make, and I did lots of going backwards and forwards before I made my mind up.

‘There has been a lot of hard work put into the first team over the past few months. But even in the dark days I believed that, once the team got settled, things would start working.

‘Even in that period we got on with it and made sure the club kept ticking.

‘Then at the back end of the season it came together and we put the feel-good factor back into Portsmouth Football Club.

‘I grew into the job as it continued, so it wasn’t an easy decision to go back to the Academy.

‘I talked a lot with Guy over the last couple of months about the decision.

‘I’ll still be there if he wants to bounce ideas off me, too.

‘It’s an experience that I think will make me a better person moving forward.’

There hasn’t been a shortage of standout moments from his time with the first-team for Awford to take away with him.

Some have proved more memorable than others for the right and wrong reasons.

Those stood in ear-shot of the home dressing room at half-time against Leyton Orient last November will remember one of them.

Awford had just witnessed a pitiful 45-minute performance from Pompey, devoid of the kind of commitment which was the hallmark of his game in 361 appearances for the Blues.

And he wasn’t shy about letting the people who he believed had thrown in the towel following Michael Appleton’s departure know about it.

But that dark winter, as Pompey went 23 games without a win, made way for a spring full of optimism after the breakthrough victory at Crewe in March.

That culminated in a day last month Awford believes will go down in the Pompey annals.

A 3-0 victory over promotion-chasing Sheffield United in the first home league game of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust era proved a momentous occasion.

Being a key part of everything which culminated in that day is something Awford will savour.

He said: ‘Leyton Orient at home was the one where I lost it for the first time.

‘I felt some of the players in there weren’t giving their all.

‘I’m like 99 per cent of the fans here. I can forgive a mistake or a misplaced pass.

‘But I won’t forgive people not showing total commitment for the shirt.

‘Our fans demand a work ethic and there were players who didn’t give it.

‘The latest group we’ve got here have been taken to by the fans because they give everything they have.

‘That’s our philosophy, that’s the ethos here now – whether you’re an under-10 player, under-18 player or play for the first team. That’s what we saw at the end of the season.

‘I think the Sheffield United game will go down in history. People will always talk about that game. There were 18,000 fans at Fratton Park that day celebrating.

‘The players went out and performed for them.

‘To be part of that and everything it meant was special.’

So Awford now goes back to the role he came into two-and-a-half years ago on his return to the club which is ingrained deep in his psyche.

Leaving the cut and thrust of first-team affairs is never an easy decision.

But it’s one made easier when it’s a move into a position fundamental to Pompey’s future.

‘The Academy is the club’s future, said Awford. ‘I want to see the fruits of the work we’ve started there. I want to finish the job.’