ANDY AWFORD has heard the whispers.
He knows all about the finger-pointing and hushed tones which have arrived with an association with Pompey in recent years.
That will be the case no more, though, after the Blues this week announced they are debt free.
Two periods of administration, debts of around £190m and an unprecedented fall from grace had many in the game sneering at the club.
Salvation has arrived in the form of community ownership, fan investment and the efforts of the club’s presidents and Pompey Supporters’ Trust.
Chief executive Mark Catlin termed the Blues’ current position as ‘ground zero’.
Awford now knows the task ahead for the club is steady growth.
He said: ‘It was easy for people to have a dismissive attitude about us.
‘The chairman, Iain McInnes, said when he went to the first Football League meeting he felt a bit uncomfortable.
‘The next year he went back and the people were a bit more warming because they saw what we were going through.
‘Others thought we shouldn’t have been there because of what happened at the club before.
‘It wasn’t our fault. If we get in that mess again then kick us out, because it would be our fault.
‘But that won’t happen. The challenge now is to keep on improving on and off the pitch.
‘It’s not just about what takes place on the pitch at this football club.
‘We nearly weren’t here 18 months ago. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.
‘We must make sure we never go there again.’
Despite criticism of the club in the past from the likes of Rochdale manager Keith Hill, Awford explained most of the people he has encountered in management and coaching have been sympathetic.
‘Most people within the game had sympathy,’ said the manager.
‘A couple of managers came out and said they didn’t. That’s fine. I have no problem with that.
‘I don’t think anyone in football wanted to see the club go to the wall.
‘They didn’t know the full facts of what has taken place here. Does anyone really?
‘No-one wanted to see the club go out of business.
‘But the managers, coaches and friends I have are delighted we stayed in the league last season and can now look to improve on and off the pitch moving forward.
‘Hopefully, we can continue to do that now.’