The Pompey A to Z starts here.
This article focuses on the letter, ‘A’ and provides us with three worthy candidates;
‘A’ is for Andy Awford
Andy Awford, not as some might believe a local lad, but blue & white through and through nonetheless, moved to Pompey from Worcester F.C. where, when he came on as substitute in a tie at Boreham Wood, became the youngest player ever to appear in the F.A. Cup, aged just 15 years 88 days.
Awford’s first Pompey appearance, an away fixture at Crystal Palace in April ’89, saw him set another record. Due to injuries to Gavin Maguire and Graeme Hogg, Pompey manager John Gregory believed Awford had shown enough of what it takes and at the age of 16 granted him the honour of becoming the youngest ever player to play for Pompey’s starting eleven.
The quick and intelligent left sided player made three further appearances that season but it wasn’t until 91/92 that new manager Jim Smith gave Awford, together with a number of other young players (Darren Anderton, Darryl Powell, Chris Burns to name a few) their big break. Awford played all but one game that season which included lining up against the likes of Ian Rush & John Barnes in the now infamous F.A .Cup semi-final against Liverpool.
The following season saw Andy start to play alongside another youngster; Kit Symons, at the heart of Pompey’s defence. Their partnership conceded only nine goals at home that season but again the campaign was to end in heartbreak as Pompey missed out on promotion by a single goal scored.
Despite making over 400 appearances for Pompey some would argue that his career was a classic case of what might have been. Having missed out on the FA Cup Final and promotion in successive seasons, any hope of glory or indeed a big money move were dashed when in 1994 he suffered a number of injuries (the worse a broken leg) which kept him out of the game for over 14 months.
In some respects Awford never quite recovered from his injury setbacks, but nobody could ever question his passion or commitment whenever he pulled on the famous blue shirt.
Following his retirement in November 2001 at the age of just 28, Awford took up the post of Chief Scout and later Reserve Team Coach at Fratton Park a position he held until he joined his former Pompey boss and Harry Redknapp sidekick Jim Smith as first team coach at Oxford United in April 2006.
‘A’ is for ‘Anderton’s Goal’
Darren ‘Shaggy’ Anderton (or Sick note as he later became known) may be best remembered as a Tottenham or indeed an England player but his name is written deep into Pompey folklore for scoring a goal which took Pompey to within three minutes and forty two seconds of the 1992 F.A. Cup Final.
Having beaten Nottingham Forest in the Sixth round Pompey were in the hat for the semi finals alongside Norwich, Liverpool and Sunderland. Unfortunately Pompey drew the short straw and found themselves having to travel to Highbury to face the mighty Liverpool.
On the afternoon of Sunday 5th April 1992, in bright North London sunshine Pompey, sporting an all blue kit, played the team of the moment and for ninety nervous minutes managed to contain them. The score? 0-0, but then came Extra Time?
The minutes ticked by and although the thought of Pompey scoring was always a possibility most of the blue and white contingent were discussing travel arrangements for Villa Park, in the hope that Pompey could hold out and force a replay, a fete which in all honesty not many of the travelling throng had though possible minutes before kick off.
The end of the first period of extra time saw the score line still goalless. The second period got underway..
Suddenly the impossible happened..
With only twelve minutes of the 120 remaining ‘Shaggy’ ran on to a through ball from Warren Neil and lashed the ball passed the advancing Bruce Grobbelaar. One-nil!
Highbury turned into a sea of excitement, there was blue & white everywhere, old men were jumping up and down, women punched the air, those supporters who had them were waving scarves around their heads. Fully-grown men were hugging each other, many with tears of joy and anticipation in their eyes. Second division Pompey were one up against the might that was Liverpool – Bring it on,.
Elation quickly turned to realisation and nervousness as it suddenly dawned on everybody that the game was not yet over, Pompey still had eleven minutes, yes just ELEVEN minutes, ONLY eleven minutes to hold on in order to secure a place in the F.A. Cup Final .
In all the tension thoughts of the final entered heads, An F.A Cup Final, Pompey at Wembley, as much as people didn’t want to think about it they couldn’t help it. Pompey were only Eleven?, no! ten, its now ten minutes away from a final against either Norwich or Sunderland, both of which, every Pompey fan whether standing on the Clock End or watching at home believed we could beat ? If we could just hold on for ten, no it’s now NINE, Nine more minutes, a day out at Wembley would be ours and Pompey would lift the FA Cup for the first time since 1939. Eight more minutes and fingernail droppings were beginning to fill up the Clock End? the minutes ticked by Seven, Six, Five and Pompey continued to hold on. People were looking at their watches and then looking again, they began asking each other whose watch was actually right?FOUR minutes to go ? and then ?’Oh no! Andy Awford has committed a foul just outside the Pompey penalty area’. The tension was too much to bear.
A certain Mr John Barnes stepped up to take the free kick , ‘oh no? he’s gonna score’ was the thought inside most peoples head ‘Come on Pompey, just hold on we are nearly there’ ? Barnes kicked the ball – ‘It’s hit the post!’? but before anybody could take in what had happened the ball had bounced back of the post straight into the path of Ronnie Whelan who duly slotted home the equaliser. The blue and white Army inside Highbury were speechless, their hearts had just been ripped out.
At the final whistle, what was a wonderfully creditable draw felt like a heavy defeat and although downbeat thoughts turned back to travel arrangement for Villa Park.
Although goalless the replay at Villa Park was just as tense with Pompey being the first team ever in the history of the competition to take a semi final to a penalty shoot out. Sadly shooting into the Liverpool end, Pompey’s nerve finally deserted them. The blues lost, leaving the players staff and fans of Portsmouth FC sick with disappointment but with the consolation of seen Pompey establish themselves as a team of true grit and a team that could finally go places.
Anderton joined Spurs later in 1992 for a princely sum of £1.75 million and went on to make over 300 appearances for the North London club and represent England scoring seven times in 30 appearance most notably in the Euro 1996 4-1 drubbing of Holland at Wembley.
Having had brief spells at both Birmingham and Wolves, Darren now plies his trade at Bournemouth as Club Captain under former Pompey Coach Kevin Bond.
During a recent pre-season friendly between Pompey and the Cherries, Harry Redknapp heaped praise on the now 35 year old by commenting to the Bournemouth Daily Echo: ‘In the right team and with the right players around him, I honestly think Darren could still be playing in the Premiership’.
If he could provide another memory like the one at Highbury I’d be the first to welcome him back to Fratton.
‘A’ is for Asia Trophy
The third edition of the Premier League Asia Trophy took place in Hong Kong in July 2007. The four team tournament comprising of Pompey, Liverpool, Fulham and South China was not the most lucrative event Pompey have ever participated in, but it provided our first piece of silverware associated with the top flight of English football for more than 50 years.
In comparison to winning the Championship in 2002/03 it does not stack up at all, but this event put Pompey on the world stage, not just because it was won outside of the UK but more for the manner of the victory, who we beat and where we beat them.
Pompey’s first game (the semi final) against Fulham was settled after Benjani slotted home in the 45th minute. This set up a tie against the winners of Liverpool (the obvious favourites) and South China. Not surprisingly, Liverpool ran out comfortable 3-1 winners with goals from Riise, Alonso & Agger and the all-English final was ‘game on’.
The game was played at the Hong Kong Stadium on 27th July 2007 in front of a packed 40,000 crowd. Inevitably the previous season Champions League finalists dominated in terms of possession and scoring opportunities, but Pompey held firm and ended the ninety minutes on level (albeit goalless) terms and therefore took the game to penalties.
After two penalties each Liverpool were leading 2-1 (Utaka had missed Pompey’s first, Taylor scored the second) and memories of that fateful day at Villa Park in 1992 came flooding back. LuaLua levelled the score with Pompey’s third?The pressure was now on Liverpool to reassert their lead.
Yossi Benayoun stepped up but the ever reliable David James saved the kick to level the score and more importantly the number of penalties taken. Next up was Hreidarsson a recent Pompey signing from Charlton. The Herminator duly buried the kick to put Pompey in front for the first time.
Liverpool’s fourth penalty taker was Spanish wonder kid Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s recent £21.7 million signing from Atletico Madrid. Knowing he had to beat James to level the scores he duly provided the Pompey keeper (later to be named as player of the tournament) with a relatively easy save. All that was left was for Niko Kranjcar to score and secure Pompey’s win.
The pressure built as Niko placed the ball on the spot and with one strike performed his duty masterfully and with aplomb.
The travelling fans were in raptures. Pompey had laid the ghost of that fateful night at Villa Park and had beaten Liverpool in the very arena they had gone to make ‘friends’ and marketing opportunities. Pompey had embarrassed the mighty Liverpool.
The Asia Trophy may be deemed by some as insignificant but Pompey had stolen what Liverpool had believed to be their silverware their prize money (£100,000) and probably most importantly their exhibition.
Add your inductions into the Pompey A to Z for the letter ‘A’ below.
Written by Chix.
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