The changed man who Pompey need to step up

Kal Naismith in action against Cambridge United. Picture: Joe Pepler
Kal Naismith in action against Cambridge United. Picture: Joe Pepler
Alex Bass played well in Pompey Reserves' 1-0 loss at Bristol Rovers. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey Reserves fall to defeat at Pirates

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Kal Naismith has the belief he is a different player to the one who signed for Pompey.

And that could be important news for his side at a crucial point of the campaign.

With Gary Roberts, Adam McGurk and Michael Smith on the sidelines, Naismith’s promising performance against Cambridge United on Saturday arrived at the right time.

It was just the fourth start in the league for the 24-year-old since arriving at Fratton Park last summer – and was followed by more moments of promise at Exeter.

The Scot was always signed with one eye on the future, as he arrived on a three-year deal from Accrington Stanley for a nominal fee.

But a thigh injury hindered him at the start of the campaign and the reality is it has been slow progress for him since.

Naismith had to wait until the start of September for his first appearance – a 24-minute cameo along with the kids thrown in for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy trip to Exeter.

It was mid-October before his first start arrived, however, in the success at Newport County.

A few doubts had been quietly aired about the talented former Rangers trainee’s mental attributes by Pompey staff by that stage.

That, with the injury, explained much about the lack of minutes he had picked up in the opening to his Fratton Park career.

Naismith had been honest enough to publicly air the difficulties he has faced settling into his new surroundings.

He’s now a long way from home and his family, and the tragedy which has afflicted his life with the death of his girlfriend, Ashley Dickson, following an epileptic seizure 16 months ago is well documented.

The loneliness he would have felt at times would, no doubt, have given him time to reflect but Naismith isn’t looking for excuses or sympathy.

His attitude and mindset as he spoke to the press this week, by his own admission, is refreshed and refocused.

That was evident as he gave his thoughts ahead of the trip to Exeter.

‘Since I’ve come back from Hartlepool I feel a different player,’ said Naismith, in an interview with the The News which will be published on Thursday.

‘I’m in a better place and I feel my head’s in a good place.

‘I feel a different person and player on and off the pitch.’

Pompey, and the player himself, owe Ronnie Moore a debt of gratitude for that.

Moore lost his job at the Victoria Ground last month but not before handing Naismith four 90-minute appearances for Pools at the end of last year.

It’s those run a games which have handed Naismith’s confidence back, after it had ebbed away on the sidelines at Fratton.

Cook, however, still feels there is a distance for the attacking talent to travel

‘We’ve had a glimpse of what we bought,’ said Cook on Naismith.

‘He has all the talent in the world.

‘The minute his mentality changes he’ll become a better player.’

That time, Naismith argues, has arrived. And that, at present, could be significant for Pompey.

The injured trio are not expected to be back as a whole until the clash with Newport County a week Saturday.

That made Cambridge the start of a quartet of crucial games where his team could really do with Naismith stepping up.

It’s encouraging to hear Naismith talk this week of his fortune and appreciation at being at Pompey, when asked about his early struggles. It hints the penny really is dropping.

With others injured and Ben Tollitt still in the novice category, this is the time for Naismith to show he has the ‘talent’ his manager speaks of.