A year from biggest win, Pompey find their soul again

Andy Awford's appointment as caretaker boss has been a shrewd piece of work by the club's board Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Awford's appointment as caretaker boss has been a shrewd piece of work by the club's board Picture: Joe Pepler

Barcelona are ‘more than a club’ for a reason.

It is a statement heaped in historical significance, one which referenced their support for the Catalan people’s fight against oppression.

A year down the line from Pompey’s most critical victory, the social importance of our ‘people’s club’ comes flooding back.

Twelve months on from Mr Justice Peter Smith signing the agreement which paved the way for the Blues to become the biggest fan-owned club in the United Kingdom, we celebrate that special occasion.

What happened in court 30 of the High Court’s Rolls Building that day freed Pompey from the suffocating grip of a string of shady owners, who had stopped them looking to any kind of future.

That victory epitomised the spirit of Portsmouth and the determination of its people to refuse to let a football club at the centre of its community die.

And, make no mistake, that’s what would have happened, had they not taken up that fight.

As we know, the course steered through the first year of community ownership has been far from smooth.

At times, Pompey have looked like a book in search of an author as fan angst grew amid what has been a disappointing campaign.

It has been saddening to see a club which is so strongly ingrained in the psyche of its people go through an identity crisis.

It’s like supporters have spent months trying to storm Southsea Castle, got the drawbridge down and then forgot which war they were fighting.

In many ways, the creeping effects of that process has gone unnoticed in the cut and thrust of a 46-game season.

That’s until the events of recent days, as Portsmouth Football Club has dramatically found its soul again.

What started with victory at Rodney Parade 12 days ago accelerated into a riotous show of force from supporters against Hartlepool last Saturday.

In between, there has been a number of events and indicators which have pointed towards a club remembering what they are all about.

Andy Awford has been the catalyst for that.

His appointment on a caretaker basis has been a shrewd piece of work by the club’s board.

But not half as shrewd as the way Awford has gone about his business since coming into the first-team picture.

The man who succeeded Richie Barker had the dual task of reuniting a fanbase with its football club, and lifting a dressing room which had lost its way.

To do that he needed the strength of his convictions his predecessor had lost, and the ability to rouse and motivate everyone associated with Pompey.

Through his understanding of what makes this club tick he has been able to do that in dramatic fashion.

Where previously players arrived on a home matchday in dribs and drabs two hours before kick off, they now meet at a hotel for breakfast as a team. A united front.

A dressing room which had lost its vibrancy, is now peppered with the mantra: Smile, enjoy, win – a message displayed against the backdrop of the Fratton End.

To see what was coming at Fratton Park against Hartlepool, you just had to be present 16 hours previously as the Pompey Hall of Fame returned to the club.

There Awford addressed supporters in an impromptu speech which echoed down the years to when his mentor Alan Ball was in his position.

Bally used to tell his players people go to war from this city. Awford had a roomful of Pompey folk willing to do the same for him on Friday night.

On the pitch the battle is not yet won, but those who believe this football club is special have been reminded why in recent days.

Thankfully, like Barcelona, it today still stands at the heart of a fighting city’s culture. A year on, we are thankful.