Awford: New man central to Pompey plans

James Dunne playing for St Johnstone
James Dunne playing for St Johnstone

Pompey’s evolving squad is equipped with versatility and adaptability across the pitch.

But Andy Awford is adamant there is only one place James Dunne will be utilised – the centre of midfield.

The 24-year-old has arrived from Stevenage for a five-figure fee, ending a summer-long chase by the Blues.

He’s joins a Pompey set-up oozing with options, with the likes of Ricky Holmes, Jed Wallace, Wes Fogden, Andy Barcham and Craig Westcarr capable of operating in a number of midfield positions.

Throw in Nicky Shorey, Jack Whatmough and Danny East who featured in the centre of the park as well as defence last term and the flexibility is there for Awford.

Dunne, though, has been earmarked for one area.

And no matter the system employed, Pompey’s boss has pledged he will feature in the engine room.

He said: ‘James is a central midfield player who gets around the pitch, is competitive and sticks his foot in.

‘You get your ball players but he is quite competitive and tackles, he doesn’t shirk too much.

‘The lad will play in the middle of the park.

‘If I want to play a different system and stick a holding midfield player in he can do that.

‘If I want to play 4-4-2 and stick him in the middle alongside someone to give that balance he can do that.

‘So he can play centrally in a 4-4-2, in a 4-3-3 or a holding role. He will do any of that no problem. Any of those roles, he can do for me.

‘James gives me good competition in the middle of the park if you’ve got Danny Hollands, Johnny Ertl, Nigel Atangana, Wes Fogden and Jed Wallace.

‘I am going to have a few headaches this year, nice headaches hopefully, but I wanted quality rather than quantity and was prepared to wait to see if we could get something done.

‘Now he’s here and I’m delighted.’

Dunne has 203 career appearances and 15 goals to his name after starting out at Wimbledon and moving to Arsenal as an apprentice.

He spent the second half of last season on loan at St Johnstone having been transfer-listed by Stevenage boss Graham Westley.

During his time in Scotland, he was part of the Saints team which won the Scottish Cup against Dundee United.

There has been a midfield overhaul at Fratton Park following the departures of Therry Racon, Simon Ferry and Romain Padovani from last season.

And Awford is delighted to have captured Dunne.

He added: ‘Once we asked for permission to speak to him, Mark (Catlin) and Tony (Brown) have been great reaching an agreement with Stevenage because of the difficulties we’ve got.

‘I have got to be honest, he didn’t take much convincing about this place. It was quite apparent he wanted to come and I am just pleased it happened before today’s return to training.

‘We had been chasing him all summer and he’s had offers from leagues above and offers from up north, obviously at St Johnstone and places like that because he did very well up there.

‘But he chose us and the pull of the club does it again. I think that will go down quite well.’