Players must bounce back from the pain of rejection

Matt Ritchie in action for Portsmouth against Reading earlier this season at Fratton Park. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (102561-13)
Matt Ritchie in action for Portsmouth against Reading earlier this season at Fratton Park. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (102561-13)
Mel Gibson as Kurt Mayron, Mark Wahlberg as Dusty Mayron, Will Ferrell as Brad Taggart and John Lithgow as Don Taggart in Daddy's Home 2. Picture: PA Photo/Paramount Pictures/Claire Fogler.

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Accepting rejection is something aspiring players have to become used to.

It’s a scenario many of the young pros at Fratton Park have faced in recent weeks.

The axe officially fell for the likes of Pete Gregory, Billy Goddard, Marlon Pack, Ellis Martin, Tom Kilbey and Perry Ryan last Friday, as they were listed on a group of 10 names whose contracts aren’t being renewed.

The reality is they had known for while. That doesn’t make it any less painful for them, though.

It was at the end of last year when Matt Ritchie’s dream of carving out a career at his hometown club was shattered.

The 21-year-old had been on loan in League One with Swindon, where he was making a big impression.

The lad from Gosport always saw himself returning to his hometown, though, and making the grade with the club where he had spent his life.

Steve Cotterill thought otherwise, however.

Ritchie had first aired his doubts about whether ‘the gaffer fancied me’ back in America. His instincts were proved correct.

Cotterill’s reservations about his physical attributes and ability to survive the ‘man’s league’ that is the Championship led him to the conclusion Ritchie wasn’t what he wanted.

One or two contract problems could have been a contributory factor, too.

But one thing the Pompey boss didn’t harbour reservations about, however, was the quality of the player’s character. He was fulsome in his praise on that front.

Few can question the Pompey boss’ judgement but there was inevitably some sadness at one of the most high-profile homegrown players being sold to Swindon for a decent £200,000.

It’s a measure of the quality of Ritchie’s character that he understands wholly where his boss was coming from.

‘To be fair, what he needed was people who could handle the physical side of the Championship straightaway,’ said Ritchie, when reflecting on the past season.

Not that it makes the rejection easier to accept.

Ritchie today speaks in The News of the hurt of coming to terms with the fact his Pompey career ended.

Rarely when a player has given an interview, has the pain of an ambition being crushed come across so rawly.

The midfielder’s words were intersected with pauses as he attempted to verbalise his emotion.

Ritchie also found himself on a number of occasions referring to Pompey as ‘we’, before realising his error.

It was impossible not to feel sympathy. The words you read from him today are heartfelt and genuine.

Ritchie, though, will not be the last player to find himself in the position of being unwanted at his club.

He, at least, has the comfort of a two-year deal at Swindon and is a popular figure at the County Ground, picking up their player-of-the-year honour.

Many of those who were shown the door last week now face a summer of uncertainty.

But if they are looking for inspiration they can gain that from another player who was sent on his way down Frogmore Road after being released by Pompey.

His name was Mick Mills. He went on to captain England at the World Cup.