Awford lays down challenge to striker

Ryan Bird, left, in action for Cambridge against Gosport at Wembley
Ryan Bird, left, in action for Cambridge against Gosport at Wembley

RYAN BIRD has been challenged to show the hunger to make it as a professional footballer.

Andy Awford has thrown down the gauntlet to the striker and called on him to deliver the strides needed to make it at Pompey.

That’s after the Blues boss invoked a clause on the striker’s contract to give him another year’s deal at Fratton Park.

Bird established himself as a popular figure with fans last season after making a huge leap up the football pyramid from non-league Burnham.

The 26-year-old stepped up four divisions after scoring 45 goals and playing a key role in helping his side to the Southern League division one central title.

His first season with Pompey provided the 6ft 4in hitman with a steep learning curve.

Bird grabbed three goals in 22 appearances amid loan spells at Hawks and Cambridge.

Now the test is for him to build on the promise he has shown so far.

Awford acknowledged there is still a rawness to Bird’s game as he learns his trade.

He feels there is a desire to be a success, however, in him – and that needs to boil to the surface.

Awford said: ‘There was an option on Ryan and we invoked that clause.

‘Ryan has that rawness about him still.

‘He’s new to professional football.

‘He’s 26 and only been a pro for a year.

‘So he has that hunger that perhaps some lads haven’t.

‘I insist on that hunger and desire and I want to see it from him.

‘Some players who have been in it for a few years maybe lose that appetite.

‘Ryan has that in abundance. That’s one thing he definitely does have – he’s hungry.

‘So we’ve got the year with him and we’ll see how goes next season and we’ll go from there.

‘We’re pleased to have the option of keeping him here.

‘He could do us a job next year definitely.’

Bird’s goalscoring prowess was underlined after his loan move to Cambridge at the start of the year.

He helped himself to nine goals during his stay with the U’s, including a goal in their FA Trophy final victory over Gosport.

That led to Awford making one of his first acts as Pompey boss recalling the striker from the Abbey Stadium.

Awford never got to use Bird, however, after a groin problem left him on the sidelines through the season’s finale.

That has increased the Pompey manager’s anticipation at working with him next season.

Awford said: ‘Ryan is raw and did very well at Cambridge.

‘I brought him back to play at the end of the season.

‘I brought him in to play because he was in a good place after doing well at Cambridge and scoring goals for them.

‘He helped them win the FA Trophy and get into the play-offs.

‘I just felt his positivity would be good.

‘But he came back and had a groin injury and a couple of other bits and bobs.

‘So, I’m looking forward to working with him next season.’