Andy Awford assessed Nigel Atangana’s flying start to his Pompey career and insisted: It’s no surprise to me.
The French midfielder, who joined from non-league neighbours Hawks over the summer, has taken the move to the Football League in his stride with a series of eye-catching displays.
The 24-year-old turned in his best performance yet in the 2-0 win over Northampton and looks set to start at Oxford again tomorrow as the Blues look to extend their unbeaten start to the new campaign.
But Awford dismissed the suggestion that Atangana’s signing had been a risk after doing extensive homework on the player.
‘He hasn’t surprised me at all. I watched him nine times last season,’ said Awford.
‘I also spoke to Lee Bradbury about him. We are good friends and Lee assured me he could make that step up.
‘He knew he could do it and I was sure he could do it. I didn’t see it as a gamble at all.
‘He has made the step-up and he is at ease with the professionalism that you need stepping out of non-league football.
‘He’s been superb for us so far. The fans have taken to him and they’ve liked what they’ve seen.’
While other players have taken more time to adjust to the increased demands of the professional ranks, Awford believes his new recruit looks comfortable – and will continue to improve.
Awford said: ‘Some players step up from non-league and try to do too much.
‘But he just looks comfortable and I’m sure he’ll get even better.
‘He was unlucky to hit the post the other night. I thought his performance deserved a goal and he definitely went up a notch.
‘I had to take him off against Cambridge when we went down to 10 men and that was really tough to do.
‘But I’m grateful that we came to an agreement with Havant. He is certainly proving his worth.’
Some have likened Atangana’s playing style to Manchester City skipper Yaya Toure, earning him the nickname of Non-league Yaya with Hawks last season.
But Awford drew on his knowledge of 1980s cartoon character, Inspector Gadget, for his own comparison.
‘He can run all day, he can pass it and he can tackle,’ added Awford.
‘Those Go-Go-Gadget legs come out and he pinches it from nowhere.’
Awford, meanwhile, is expecting his side to find their feet on their travels at Oxford after a sluggish start at Exeter.
He said: ‘There were a few nerves and the pressure built up over the week back then.
‘But we are settled now. Those first-game nerves have gone so I don’t expect us to have the same problem.
‘We will be ready to get cracking straight from the first whistle.
‘Everyone is confident and so they should be. They were fantastic the other night.’
n Pompey are weighing up a loan move for Bournemouth midfielder Sam Matthews, who impressed in the friendly with Hawks.
The 17-year-old has yet to play for the Cherries but has already attracted interest from Premier League clubs.