New Pompey coach goes from one crisis to the next

A dejected Ashley Westwood applauds the Kettering fans on the final day of last season after the Poppies' relegation
A dejected Ashley Westwood applauds the Kettering fans on the final day of last season after the Poppies' relegation

Administrations, points deductions and embargoes – part of every day life for Ashley Westwood.

After all, Pompey’s new first-team coach experienced precisely the same pain at Kettering Town last season.

It has been a case of entering chartered waters for the 35-year-old upon his Fratton Park arrival a fortnight ago.

He was the fourth manager to seize the helm at Kettering last season as they plummeted out of the Blue Square Bet Premier.

Westwood took over in January, inheriting four players, one member of staff, a player registration embargo, a three-point deduction and a team rooted to the bottom of the table

The once-ambitious era under owner Imraan Ladak had imploded spectacularly.

Inevitably, the Poppies were relegated, their campaign reaping just eight wins and conceding 100 goals.

There was also a winding-up order to negotiate, while new chairman George Rolls claimed the club had debts of £1.2m.

A subsequent securing of a CVA this summer saw them demoted a further two divisions to the Evo-Stik Southern League premier division – where they will take on Gosport.

And, like Pompey, Kettering will start the term with a 10-point deduction.

As for Westwood, with his first stint in management over, he signed as a player/coach for Lincoln this summer before Pompey came calling.

His switch to the south coast reunites him with fellow Manchester United apprentice and long-time friend Michael Appleton.

And the ex-Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford defender remains undaunted over the latest crisis club he has walked into.

Westwood said: ‘The club (Kettering) was dead on its feet. It had got into trouble through overspending.

‘Ladak had put a lot of money in but with all the bills, ground rent, bad team performances and getting knocked out of cup competitions early, it escalated. It got unsustainable.

‘The players hadn’t been paid for two months and, on one of my first training sessions, I had four bodies turn up. That was it. The next time there were seven, the next time eight.

‘My staff was one physiotherapist. I did everything else myself, getting in there at 7.30am, leaving at 5pm at night and going to watch games.

‘I had to change the whole way it was set out, make it a lot more professional, instilling a bit of discipline and changing the whole mentality.

‘The minute you say “we are doing this” the players would respond with the excuse “we’re not doing that because we’re not getting paid”.

‘I had to get bodies in for training whether triallists, young lads or kids from elite academies, just to get the numbers up.

‘We were also on a 16-player rule. If somebody got injured you were allowed to sign a replacement as long as they were under-21 and signed for free. They had to be on non-contract terms with no expenses, no payment, nothing.

‘Then if the lad they signed for became fit again they would have to leave. Basically, one in, one out – you were not allowed over 16.

‘The lads had been through a lot, it was the lowest it had got when I walked in – then we got two wins out of my opening three games and it gave everyone a little lift.

‘George Rolls eventually came in as chairman and did stabilise things, but the club were relegated. Still, it was an unbelievable grounding for coaching. Looking back, you would have paid to have experienced the whole package.’

Westwood won three and drew two of his 18 matches in charge of the Poppies.

In truth, the damage had been done long before his arrival midway through last season.

‘And he observes similarities with the current state Pompey find themselves in.

Westwood added: ‘Pompey is a lot bigger scale – but a similar kind of thing, I suppose.

‘With transfer embargoes and dealing with stuff like that it was a tough but invaluable experience, especially with coming here.

‘It didn’t put me off management at all, just another tool to your armoury to learn and take it all in and get some experience.

‘At Kettering and being involved in that side and then coming to a club like Portsmouth, it’s like you have won the lottery.

‘That makes it a lot more special and drives you on to work even harder.’