Awford calls for spirit of ‘98

Pompey caretaker boss Andy Awford Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey caretaker boss Andy Awford Picture: Joe Pepler

ANDY AWFORD has called on the spirit of ’98 to save Pompey’s Football League status.

And the Blues caretaker boss has asked the Fratton faithful to recreate the famous ‘wall of noise’ atmosphere against Stockport in the 1997-98 season, to power their club to safety.

Awford has delivered a rousing verbal opening to his tenure in charge of the only professional club he played for.

He wants to tap into the sense of unity which carried Pompey to victory in relegation battles in his playing days.

The 41-year-old believes it may take more of the legendary backing produced by Pompey fans in that 1-0 win at Fratton Park 16 years ago, to turn it around.

Awford said: ‘If you look back to the Sheffield United game last season, that was great – but I want Stockport.

‘That’s what we need and that’s what we’ll have.

‘We need to create that Stockport atmosphere.

‘If we are doing the right thing the supporters will come out in their droves and back us. We need that backing and united spirit.

‘I’m not saying every game will be like Stockport. We were seven points adrift at the foot of the table that night when Steve Claridge scored.

‘It was the start of something special, but we might need another Stockport.

‘It was deafening. For those who were there it was some experience.

‘I’ve got a VHS video recording of it, and I watch it back. It’s pretty inspiring.

‘It was strange because we’d had backing before, but nothing to that level.

‘We defended the Fratton End in the second half, we didn’t attack it.

‘A mate of mine was in St Mary’s Hospital and he thought there was a riot.

‘For me, it was the first time I’ve ever witnessed the fans making the difference.

‘The 12th man was invented that night against Stockport. We might need them to come up trumps again. We have to have that united spirit and that united Pompey back. That spirit will keep us up.’

Pompey went on to stay up on the final day of the campaign at Bradford in the 1997-98 campaign.

Awford is hoping to avoid a repeat of that, but knows the battle to stay out of the Conference could go to the wire.

He said: ‘I don’t want a last day do-or-die game against Plymouth. If it has to be, it has to be, but I want it sorted before then.

‘We hadn’t won at Bradford for a stupid amount of years.

‘But we knew back then it’d happen, because of the togetherness.

‘We knew there’d be a load of fans there and we knew we were organised and prepared.

‘The fans won’t keep us up on their own, but what we need is them to help us.

‘We’ve still got to do it on the pitch for seven games.

‘I want to recreate the atmosphere we had then.’

Show your support for the spirit of ’98 rallying call by tweeting #wallofnoise