Why fond memories cannot solve Pompey’s problems

David Norris celebrates his strike at St Mary's. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121221-534)
David Norris celebrates his strike at St Mary's. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121221-534)
The under-repair South stand will not be used for the Bournemouth friendly. Picture: Colin Farmery

The £1m project breathing new life into Pompey’s home

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Suddenly a flatlined deadline day for Pompey fans lurches into life, at long last there is movement in those static limbs.

All is not lost it seems, there is transfer action unfolding at Fratton Park, a newcomer for the Sky cameras to capture entering the building.

The pedigree is unquestionably impressive, an individual possessing substantial experience in the Championship and encouragingly prepared to drop into League Two.

Turning 34 later this month, he is a hard-working midfielder with an eye for goal and an excellent attitude.

So back to our town crier Jim White in the studio to make the official proclamation.

Excited?

Just one minor problem, Pompey’s season-saving recruit has played a mere two matches in the past 666 days.

Even then they were Capital One Cup fixtures against lower-league opposition – and he failed to see out either.

The last time our glorious saviour completed 90 minutes was April 6, 2013, during a 2-1 defeat at Charlton.

Still excited?

So let us recap, here is a midfielder bordering on 34 whose career has been devastated by injury for almost two years and has now been released from his club by mutual consent.

Would the majority of Pompey fans truly rejoice at the prospect of Awford completing such a signing, in the process adding to a 28-man squad still bloated in numbers and in desperate need of slashing?

Got to be a little doubtful.

Yet what if his name was revealed as David Norris? Would that be a little more palatable?

It would seem so, judging by the noticeable deadline-day clamour among some for an emotional Fratton Park reunion, particularly on Twitter.

Romantically, Norris returning to the Blues would be wonderfully misty-eyed.

But logically, it just doesn’t stack up.

Of course, all events depicted earlier in this column are purely fictitious, nothing but a hypothetical situation.

The truth is the Blues under Awford have no interest in recruiting the former Leeds man following Monday’s arrival on the market as a free agent.

In painting such a scenario, no disrespect is intended towards a player who entered Fratton folklore with an unforgettable stoppage-time volley at St Mary’s.

Norris is one of football’s good guys who last year revealed his intention to buy a share in the Pompey Supporters’ Trust long after his south-coast departure.

A former Blues captain, he scored eight goals in 42 matches during his Blues stay over the duration of the 2011-12 campaign before crippling financial problems dictated he had to be moved on to Elland Road.

A player to line-up alongside Linvoy Primus, Darren Moore, Gary O’Neil, Richard Hughes, Ricardo Rocha and Simon Ferry in terms of absolute gentlemen who have graced Pompey in recent times.

However, the damning verdict is that in his present guise Norris does not represent the resolution to Pompey’s ongoing problems.

Fans may gaze longingly at former players wishing to recreate past glories, yet realistically there is no happy ending.

Norris wasn’t the only ex-player championed either. Deon Burton, Aruna Dindane, Lomana Lualua and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie were names also suggested during the latter stages of the transfer window by supporters with nothing but good intentions.

All free agents, all ex-Blues, all who can ‘do a job in this division’.

The big drawback, though, remains none have been supping copious amounts from the fountain of eternal youth.

Memories of their Pompey days may still be deliciously fresh, yet time has marched on, leaving behind very different players to those last glimpsed in royal blue.

Benjani’s attempt at rolling back the years upon his August 2011 return was an agonising sight, his aged body restrictive and performances inadequate.

A reunion designed to invigorate the fans and conducted under cloak and dagger to enable his unveiling on the Fratton pitch pre-kick off against Brighton, yet the end product didn’t match the build-up.

After 17 appearances and one goal, the Zimbabwe international made his last appearance in February 2012 before effectively being frozen out by Michael Appleton for the remainder of the campaign.

Paul Walsh returned to Fratton Park in September 1995 for a second spell, the deal involving Gerry Creaney going to Manchester City in part exchange.

He was not the same player so adored by the Fratton faithful, either, scoring five goals in 26 matches before damaging his knee five months after the reunion. He never played again.

His former partner-in-crime, Guy Whittingham, netted seven times in nine matches after joining on loan from Sheffield Wednesday in February 1999.

Encouraging enough, although upon signing permanently that summer he could not get near to old glories.

Of course, supporters are always going to hanker for the return of former favourites should their availability become apparent, it’s a natural affinity.

In Rocha’s case it wasn’t so bad, he returned twice to serve with distinction and total 97 appearances.

Yet time wins the race on every occasion as the body begins to seize and the glitter starts to dull.

You see, some players’ Pompey presence should be kept as a memory.

And that is why a midfielder with two appearances over the past one year, nine months and 26 days should not be encouraged to return.