How Awford needs that Wall of Noise

Pompey manager Andy Awford Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey manager Andy Awford Picture: Joe Pepler

That night still brings out the goose bumps in Andy Awford, the joy of reminiscing is gushing and contagious.

‘That was something special. It is as much a difference I have ever known a crowd make to winning a football match.’

Stockport, Steve Claridge, Wall of Noise, February 1998 – the occasion needs little explanation.

Officially 8,622 were present to tirelessly chant ‘Alan Ball’s Blue and White Army’, although in the ensuing years that figure has swelled considerably.

As a player who amassed 361 appearances and netted three times, it remains Awford’s prized Pompey match, peerless and without equal.

Having taken residence in the South stand as a supporter for the visit of AC Milan, according to the 42-year-old’s ears, not even that glorious atmosphere could compete.

Days of playing or being a spectator have now gone for the Blues Hall of Famer. These days he serves as the club’s manager, battling to save his job and convince supporters.

Make no mistake, defeat at home to Hartlepool next Saturday would surely render his managerial involvement as untenable.

Awford survived Monday’s boardroom talks over his future, the situation now to be ‘continually assessed’ according to director Ashley Brown.

Thereby, expect the Blues boss to avoid dismissal after Wycombe today, providing an unmitigated disaster is avoided.

Then it’s all eyes on the visit of League Two’s bottom club and a side labouring with the joint-worst record over the past 10 matches – sharing the honour with Pompey.

How Awford requires a vibrant and inspirational Fratton Faithful for an encounter not only pivotal in terms of league progress but also his longevity in the job.

A day of arm-linking unity, a fixture to inflate demoralised spirits, a show of magnificent vocal support to inspire the wilting and the deflated.

Already a kids for a quid offer has made a timely run into the box.

What price Awford’s Stockport moment is resurrected – certainly it’s required to drag this football club back onto its feet this campaign.

As anyone present against Southend last weekend will testify, this is a group of players shorn of confidence and self-belief.

These are footballers dominated by fear as a consequence of eight matches without a win, five victories in the past 27, and regular boos accompanying every abject performance.

Nothing a spine-tingling, sustained Fratton roar wouldn’t resolve.

No question, though, Pompey followers have every right to deliver such damning verdicts.

After all, up until this point the season has been awful, a ridiculous waste, and all supporters, regardless whether they have had a Fratton Park presence, are disillusioned.

The average attendance of 15,245 remains impressive, yet includes total season-ticket sales rather than the match-by-match figure.

Clearly, there are holders staying well away.

The anger among supporters is not irrational or hysterical. Flailing in 18th spot in League Two by January 31 deserves every bit of reasoned criticism hurled at the club.

Not that those in charge need educating on such matters. From Awford and first-team coach Paul Hardyman up to the board of directors, they are Pompey fans.

Nonetheless, there remain ongoing concerns centred on playing matters.

Awford revamped his squad in the summer, utilising one of the biggest budgets in the division, even paying transfer fees for two players.

He has subsequently been backed in two transfer windows, named 36 different players in his match-day squads, while Gary Waddock was recruited to strengthen the coaching.

Tony Adams, Paul Hart, Avram Grant, Steve Cotterill, Michael Appleton and, to some extent, Guy Whittingham could only have fantasised over the stability the current incumbent is enjoying.

No player registration embargoes, no Balram Chainrai and Andrew Andronikou on transfer deadline instructing any fit player to be sold, no key players loaned out by Trevor Birch to save money.

It’s little wonder chairman Iain McInnes and his directors’ pre-season target was a consistent play-off challenge.

Awford has been backed by the club – but desperately requires a fanbase divided by their thoughts on his qualities to follow suit before it’s too late.

Of course, it was fine margins which saw him emerge from Monday with his position still intact, following a stay of execution focusing on the short-term.

The alternative of returning to the club’s Academy was mooted, yet the vote of confidence was granted.

There was a consensus among the seven-man board that improved form against tough opposition during the last four games should be taken into account.

In addition, there remains a concern being seen to bid farewell to a third manager in 16 months, particularly involving somebody linked so intrinsically with the club.

And so the man who masterminded Pompey staying in the Football League at the end of last season continues in his job for now.

A manager learning on the job, making inevitable mistakes, has been granted a little more time.

Not that his inexperience appeared to be too much of an issue to many upon his May 2014 permanent appointment.

The wrong decision in the eyes of some, the correct call in the eyes of others, such is the dividing line.

Still, perhaps the battered fans can unite and summon enough energy to produce one more rousing vocal home performance. One last push.

As a footballer, Awford was a club favourite, a former player of the season forced to retire at the age of 28 through a number of injuries sustained on Pompey duty.

His position is being questioned and rightly so, results and performances dictate such a scenario.

Awford once said the Fratton Park crowd would always support a player if they gave 100-per-cent effort, commitment and passion to the cause.

As a manager he’s finding it doesn’t apply – and Hartlepool is looming.