Defender’s form is a treat for Awford

Pompey defender Dan Butler Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Dan Butler Picture: Joe Pepler

Dan Butler has kept Andy Awford sweet after learning some harsh lessons from the Blues boss.

The 20-year-old left-back is keeping former England man Nicky Shorey out of the starting line-up at the moment, after some assured displays in recent weeks.

There was speculation earlier this week that he has attracted the attentions of Brighton, Ipswich and Millwall.

But Awford – who insists there has been no approach for the defender – believes his young charge does not need the golden ticket of a transfer to get the taste of success.

The Blues boss said: ‘I will never forget the day when he was an apprentice.

‘I walked into the changing room and he was eating a box of chocolate buttons after training.

‘I went potty at him, grabbed them off him and threw them all over the floor.

‘I said: “Who gave you them?” and he said: “My mum”.

‘In all honesty, he always had the ability and that great left foot.

‘What he didn’t have was the understanding of what it took to be a professional footballer – the desire levels and the sacrifice.

‘But we drilled him and drilled him. We made sure he drank lots of water, ate the right things, got enough sleep and did the right things off the field.

‘We told him: “This is your job” and that was the education for him. He gets that now.

‘He hasn’t surprised me with how well he’s done but he has certainly impressed me.

‘Hopefully, he can stay and be part of the success here, rather than having to find it elsewhere.

‘He has been excellent in the last few games and long may that continue.’

A knee injury interrupted Butler’s loan spell at Aldershot last term, although he did make a return later in the season.

But Awford sees him as a big part of the future plans at Pompey.

Awford said: ‘At the end of last season, he was on loan at Aldershot so I couldn’t get him back involved.

‘But I sat him down in the summer and told him: “I know what you can do and you know what I think of you”.

‘He’s had his ups and downs and has made the odd mistake but he is young so that will happen.

‘The one thing Dan does is learn very quickly. He is very receptive.

‘We see the ground he covers and that is natural for him.

‘He works at it because he wants to get even fitter and stronger but he is a natural athlete.

‘But we’ve not had any approach for him whatsoever.’