Football

Portsmouth - A revival is imminent

Awford has reinvigorated the Blues (©GettyImages)
Awford has reinvigorated the Blues (©GettyImages).

At one point, in the darkest depths of post-Christmas winter, it appeared that, for Portsmouth fans, the nightmare would be continuing.

Despite several small triumphs, such as the fans finally seizing ownership of this beloved community club, it appeared that under the misguided stewardship of Richie Barker, a third straight relegation beckoned, this time to the wilderness of the Conference.

In charge for just 20 matches, the former Bury boss initially appeared to galvanize a club that has suffered so deeply since their FA Cup triumph in 2008. Yet each positive would prove to be a false dawn, such as the 1-0 New Year's Day victory over Dagenham and Redbridge, followed by a hugely dispiriting 0-0 draw against then-bottom Northampton.

His departure was inevitable, but also led to the daunting question of a replacement that would finally restore some pride and confidence in an over-inflated, under-prepared squad. Andy Awford was the answer.

The long serving folk hero, whose association stretches over 20 years as both player and coach, inspired a remarkable a remarkable five match winning streak before last week's incredible 4-4 draw at Bury. This has demonstrated the wonderful about-turn in fortunes that has secured League 2 survival and boosted hopes of a promotion push next season under the imperious Awford.

He is Pompey’s third boss of this turbulent season, with Barker having earlier replaced Guy Whittingham in the role. A seemingly reluctant figurehead who had never seemed to previously seek the management position, Awford’s infectious positivity and obvious tactical nous has completely transformed the outlook on Portsmouth’s future.

Alongside stronger-than-expected financial performance that has led to debts being repaid ahead of schedule and a new training facility planned for the new season, it is no surprise than fans are already looking ahead to a swift return to the upper echelons of the Football League.

Yet there is still much to do; ironically, considering that Pompey had only four contracted players at the start of this season, the squad is now bloated beyond reasonable size due to unfortunate injuries and misjudged transfers. Goalkeepers Phil Smith and John Sullivan, purchased by Whittingham, were so incompetent that Trevor Carson was swiftly signed from Bury following numerous high-profile errors.

Simon Ferry, Marcos Painter and Andy Barcham are all undeniably gifted players who have performed at a higher level, but injuries have wrecked their seasons and led to replacements such as Therry Racon, Nicky Shorey and Jake Jervis being bought in as cover.

In defence, the club currently has four specialist right-backs and six centre backs on its books, as well as three left-backs. This is far too many, especially for a club of Portsmouth’s limited financial means. These issues mean that, with off-the-field issues currently under control, Awford must now conduct a root-and-branch restructuring of the first team, trimming down a huge squad into a leaner, fitter unit capable of competing at the top end of the table.

A full preseason will surely benefit many, with a lack of fitness clear in some of the side's late defeats throughout the season. Yet, with Awford a certainty to sign on as the full-time boss, it is clear that for the first time in many years, Pompey can start looking upwards with the freefall finally halted. Boasting several local talents, including Engalnd youth internationals Jack Whatmough and Adam Webster and a fan base that remains fiercely loyal - attendance records have been broken at Fratton Park throughout this season- the re-emergence of Portsmouth is well under way.

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Portsmouth
Football

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