Survival this season would be the greatest escape

Guy Whittingham, left, and Andy Awford are faced with the mamoth task of keeping Pompey in League One
Guy Whittingham, left, and Andy Awford are faced with the mamoth task of keeping Pompey in League One

Off the pitch, the battle for Pompey rages on.

And on it the Blues now face a fight for survival which would supersede any of their previous great escapes.

There have been some incredible against-the-odd victories but staying in League One this season will top the lot.

We are all well versed in the miracles of Valley Parade, the JJB and all the other near-relegation experiences of years gone by.

Make no bones about it, the challenge Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford are facing is above and beyond anything previously achieved.

That’s not hyperbole, that’s not sensationalism – just the grim reality of where Portsmouth Football Club currently stand.

The situation may look a distance from being terminal on the surface right now.

And yes, being eight points from Premier League safety with 10 games to play in 2006 and four points adrift at the foot of division one in 1998 looked graver scenarios.

But scratch beneath the surface at the circumstances enveloping the club and the size of the test now facing the caretaker team becomes apparent.

There is still hope in some quarters a victory for the Pompey Supporters’ Trust in their ownership battle with Portpin can circumnavigate a 10-point deduction.

As former boss Michael Appleton was keen to point out, however, the Football League have hardly been forthcoming in lending a sympathetic ear to the club’s plight so far.

The worst is to be expected on that front and if those points came off tomorrow that would be leave the Blues keeping Hartlepool company at the foot of the table – 10 points from safety.

It’s not just the points deduction which stacks the odds against Awfs and Guy, though.

Pompey are a football club without any kind of boardroom leadership or direction.

When Appleton was being chased by clubs, who was there to tell him he was still a wanted man at PO4?

A glance in the direction of Pompey’s directors’ box on a matchday would tell you no-one.

It was that rudderless nature to Pompey that saw him grow exasperated at his working conditions.

The sense of drift will not be lost on those who remain at Fratton Park.

Whittingham hit on the impact of being on month-to-month contracts will have on players last week.

Being unable to put roots down in the area and living holed-up in hotels for long periods will eventually make its mark.

Meanwhile, a players’ wife took to Twitter to bemoan a club with ‘no direction, no authority’.

Quite where it all will leave a squad which has just ended the club’s worst losing run in 37 years when January comes around is anyone’s guess.

Players have been renewing deals each month in the knowledge they are unable to play anywhere else if they didn’t. That will not be the case in the new year.

The darkness on the horizon will be lifted for the majority of fans if the Trust wins the club’s date with destiny in the High Court in a fortnight’s time.

Whittingham and Awford will then face the test of convincing players this is a football club with a future.

The good news is the management pair aren’t the type to duck a challenge.

The smallest chink of light appeared deep in injury-time at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, and the players do appear to be buying into the temporary team’s back-to-basics approach.

The duo possess an understanding of what makes this club tick and passion to match – as anyone within earshot of the home dressing room last week against Leyton Orient will testify.

Crucially, after showing unflinching loyalty to the star and crescent, they have the ability to galvanise supporters who know they truly care.

The greatest gift this year will be having a football club to support.

If there is a final-day miracle at Shrewsbury’s New Meadow come April, it will truly be the greatest escape.