Why Pompey can expect to see plenty of Chaplin’s badge kissing

Pompey striker Conor Chaplin Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey striker Conor Chaplin Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey striker Curtis Main. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey striker: I never lost the belief

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Conor Chaplin looked to the travelling Pompey fans as the star and crescent on his shirt was held to his lips.

It’s the classic display of passion from footballers, so often these days an empty gesture in a game devoid of loyalty.

A symbolic moment loaded with meaning to supporters then, but one devalued immeasurably by it being followed by contract wrangles and exits which speak louder of a player’s motivations.

When it arrives from a lad who has spent his life at the club he represents the moment tends to become a little more credible, though. And certainly more emotive.

Which leads us to the image Chaplin displayed on social media this week in reply to yet another question on his Pompey future.

The prodigious striking talent delivered the picture of him in badge-kissing celebration as the riposte – a definitive statement revelled in by the online royal blue community.

Chaplin, of course, is the single player who creates the most impassioned response when his future is discussed.

An academy graduate of real promise. The most natural goalscorer at the club. A marksman who’s shown he can do it against powerful opposition. One of our own.

The stats read 20 goals from 89 appearances for the 20-year-old since he was given his debut by Andy Awford as a 17-year-old in 2014.

Of course, as Pompey fans are all too aware, 66 of those outings in royal blue have been off the bench.

It was arguably the single biggest stick to hit Paul Cook with in the darker moments of the last campaign.

Cook’s preference to play 4-2-3-1 hurt Chaplin. The manager’s view was there was no natural place for the striker within the framework of that formation. Chaplin didn’t agree.

The meeting with Exeter in January remains a vivid defining moment in that argument. The former Pompey boss quite literally relented to the intense clamour to play 4-4-2 against the Grecians.

It was evident he had no conviction in the approach, however, as his side foundered on the way to a 1-0 loss, with Chaplin alongside Michael Smith in attack.

‘I’m not going to debate formations and tactics because fans at Portsmouth have a way of dictating what goes on,’ said a glazed-eyed and sweating Cook in the wake of the game. ‘I keep saying to people about this change in formation – just be careful what you wish for.’

That defeat was the last start for Chaplin until the penultimate weekend of the season, with promotion secured. The lad from Worthing always publicly kept his own counsel on the topic. He did well to keep a lid on his emotions, however, with his frustrations known.

Well, it appears things are going to be changing on that front.

Cook’s successor is known to be a big fan of the predatory instincts Chaplin brings to the table.

Ahead of the Blues’ return to training, there is a buzz being felt among the younger members of the squad. Chaplin epitomises that, as he relishes the clean slate afforded all by Kenny Jackett.

Jackett’s historical preference to play with two strikers offers another reason for the former League Two apprentice of the year to be cheerful.

He may yet decide to go another way at Pompey, however, when choosing how to best utilise the options at his disposal.

Make no mistake, though, whatever his approach, Chaplin will be playing a central role in his plans,

So, it’s unlikely it will be needed, but the news provides further reason for fan optimism ahead of the new campaign in League One.

The opportunities are going to be there for the darling of Fratton to be kissing his badge on plenty of occasions next term.