Over the summer period, many Pompey fans expected to see a complete overhaul of the first team. Many were right; with Guy Whittingham keeping just six players from the team that played in the 2012/13 League One campaign (Smith, Moutakil, Butler, Ertl, Ageymang, and Connolly). Whittingham wiped away the cobwebs of Michael Appleton’s reign over the January transfer window, and was left with a squad of has-beens, and youngsters. This ultimately led to relegation, leaving Whittingham with a fresh pallet to play with in the summer. One of the tasks was to scour the country for strikers, with Connolly switching to a player/coach role, it was evident that one lone striker for an entire season was never going to be enough. This led to the signing of Ryan Bird from Southern Premier Division side Burnham, having scored 45 goals in as many games the previous season.
Many thought the jump from non-league to the fourth division would prove a difficult task for the hit man, who was ever-prolific in the conference league, having served Burnham for four seasons, scoring 133 goals in all competitions. Touted to be the next Guy Whittingham, and follow in the gaffers’ footsteps, he looked promising in pre-season, scoring twice in the local friendly game against Havant & Waterlooville, the first after just 10 minutes. Bird was an ever-present figure in pre-season, being selected for the starting 11 regularly, and making appearances from the bench; that was until his pre-booked holiday had come around. Taking two weeks out, without training or any game time, he returned in time for the last friendly before the season began, against La Liga side Rayo Vallecano.
When the season began in August, Bird took a regular place on the bench, being pushed out by David Connolly and Patrick Ageymang, the striking partnership that worked very well towards the end of last season. With the introduction of Tom Craddock to the first team, and the loan signing of John Marquis, Bird began to fade into the background, losing his place on the bench. Bird was then loaned to the team he scored his first goal in a Pompey shirt against, Havant & Waterlooville, where he made three appearances without scoring. Although he was playing alongside fellow Pompey loanee Ashley Harris, he never settled at Westleigh Park.
Having returned to Fratton Park, following the short return to Millwall from Marquis, Bird was given the opportunity to play in a Portsmouth shirt once more, and this time he didn’t disappoint! Scoring as a substitute in the 81st minute against Torquay, rescuing a point for the blues on the road, the Trashmen single, ‘Bird Is The Word’ was once again sung by Pompey fans. His ruthlessness was rewarded with a call up to the starting 11 against Exeter City. Yet again, Bird scored two magnificent headers, almost soaring through the box, living up to his name! With three goals in two games, Bird is certainly the word at Fratton Park.
Stevenage is the destination on Saturday, with the FA Cup beckoning once again, Guy Whittingham’s men will be looking to push on and play for a dream-tie against Premier League opposition in the third round. Following shortly after, the Quarter Finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy will test the depth of the squad, which is expected to be rotated at Newport County. It will be interesting to see how well the squad perform, with several games in such a short space of time, and hopefully the Bird will continue to fly.
Maybe, Bird really is the word?
In Pompey We Trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Harry tweets at @MrDavishPFC