Westleigh Park Pompey rebirth for Bird

Pompey striker Ryan Bird Picture: Mick Young
Pompey striker Ryan Bird Picture: Mick Young

Last summer Westleigh Park staged the birth of Ryan Bird’s Pompey career.

Fittingly, the same venue this weekend provided the platform for the striker’s potential resurrection as he seeks to establish himself in the Blues first team.

It was an eye-catching run-out from the 26-year-old as Andy Awford’s side ran out 4-0 winners in Saturday’s pre-season opener.

Entering as a half-time substitute, Bird was involved in all four of the goals which arrived in the second period, including netting himself.

There was also an assist in Ricky Holmes’ strike, while ricochets off his body on other occasions fell invitingly into the path of Craig Westcarr to score twice on his Pompey bow.

For Bird, it was a first Blues appearance since appearing as a substitute at Oxford in January, before going on loan to Cambridge.

And on Saturday he gave an impressive reminder of his talents back at the Hawks ground where he netted twice in a friendly last summer to earn a Pompey deal.

Awford said: ‘It’s a lucky ground for Ryan, maybe he should play there every week!

‘There have been no problems at all with him, he has settled back into the squad and is working hard.

‘Last season he went to Cambridge and did really well, scoring goals for them, and I brought him straight back to the club.

‘Unfortunately, he wasn’t fit so we didn’t see him in those last seven games.

‘I had actually planned for him to come back and be part of the squad. Sadly, that didn’t happen but he’s back now and training well.

‘He wouldn’t have played on Saturday if he wasn’t over that injury – and he’s fit.

‘During that second half I looked at it and ran down and shouted to Danny East to swap him over with Miles Storey and get Birdy down the middle.

‘Like the rest of the players in that match, Birdy did great and I am really pleased with everybody’s attitude.’

Following nine goals during a two-month loan stay at the Abbey Stadium, Bird was recalled by the Blues in March to help fire-up their League Two survival push.

Yet a groin injury ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign, as then caretaker boss Awford prevented relegation out of the Football League.

At the season’s end, Pompey activated a 12-month option in Bird’s contract to keep him at Fratton Park.

The former Burnham striker netted three times in 22 Blues appearances, of which eight were starts, during his first year as a professional footballer.

Awford saw enough to opt to retain him during a summer which has seen a large-scale overhaul of playing personnel.

With Pompey opting to use 26 players against the Hawks, Bird was granted his run out at the break, replacing teenager Bradley Tarbuck.

Initially, positioned on the right of the three playing behind lone striker Miles Storey, Bird later switched places with the loan arrival.

He continued to shine and had a hand in late goals for Westcarr and Holmes as the visitors ran out 4-0 victors.

Yet Bird has plenty of competition in those front-four forward positions in Awford’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.