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Interviews

THE ANDY AWFORD INTERVIEW: PART FOUR

21 June 2014

Manager in Pompey's rebuilding process

If one wishes to pinpoint when the rot began to set in at Pompey then they might look towards the immediate aftermath of the 2008 FA Cup celebrations.

The celebrations on Southsea Common had barely died down when worrying murmurs started to emerge from inside the camp.

On the first day of the following campaign’s pre-season training, Harry Redknapp confided in this writer that he and owner Alexandre Gaydamak had hit problems.

This was not exactly surprising news as several other influential people in the club’s hierarchy had also expressed concerns.

Those fears proved justified as several farcical takeover attempts, various owners, two periods of administration, three sets of points deductions, many managerial changes and three relegations all followed.

Andy Awford – at odds with some of those at the helm – had long since departed the club when it started to fall apart.

But from the ashes of that carnage, the shoots of recovery have slowly emerged.

And Awford, now installed as Pompey manager, has a more optimistic outlook regarding the future of the Blues and those at the top.

“I really do believe that the club is now in a position where it can begin to take small and steady, but significant, steps forward,” he says. “And if we can end up back in the region of where we originally came from, but with a sound footing rather than on quicksand, it will be a giant step with massive progress.

“The recent announcement of the new training ground is evidence already of the shifting sand.

“The beauty of the training ground is that it can grow with us. We have the scope and the flexibility to improve it as we go and make it bigger and better as the football club gets bigger and better.

“Hopefully there is also going to be a Tesco superstore in our back yard which will then enable us to improve other aspects of the stadium.

“Previously we have seen plans for different training grounds and about 16 different ones for a new stadium and that is all they have ever been – plans on a sheet of paper.

“Despite the numerous blueprints, I have never previously seen a bulldozer. But go down to Roko and it is actually happening.

“The pitches are taking shape to our specification and they are happening, rather than merely being talked about.

“I’ve seen all the glossy brochures with regard to stadiums, seats and training complexes, but finally we are dealing in reality.

“Fair play to all of those involved in doing it rather than talking about it and it is that which gives me the confidence to know we are finally moving forward.

“The important thing is that we don’t get ahead of ourselves, but just move at the pace which is right for the club.”

Clearly Awford is comfortable with Pompey’s status as a community-owner club and the company of those he reports to – a requisite for any manager in any business.

And he believes that his blueprint is also shared by them as a unified club plot the next stage of the Blues’ regeneration plan.

“I have not had to hold a gun to anyone’s head or make any demands in the short time I’ve been manager,” Awford explains. “But it’s great to know there is a board of very good people who share my vision for the football club.

“There is a plan and we will try to stick to it. I have only been to two board meetings, but I was impressed by both.

“I have my own plans for the club as far as the football is concerned and I will try to make them happen. There have been short, medium and long-term plans put in place.

“And those I have spoken to were agreeable to that strategy. Of course there were questions. The type you would expect as people required clarification from me, just as I needed from them on other points. But it’s great that I didn’t have to argue – it’s a shared ambition.

“The relationship I have with (chief executive) Mark Catlin and (financial director) Tony Brown is first class. I speak with them every day and both have been a terrific help.

“When we need to speak to each other on any subject it is not a problem because that is the way we work. That makes things so much easier.

“Long may it continue and I’m looking forward to now leading the club as manager and seeing where we can get to.”

It is perhaps ironic that to create a level of infrastructure and legacy that Pompey have not had in recent years, there first had to come the threat of liquidation.

If FA Cup success was a false dawn, then the black cloud which quickly followed has now been brightened by its silver lining.

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