Wilson’s Wisdom: Pompey wingers deserve a bit of leeway

Pompey winger Kyle Bennett can be both brilliant and frustrating to watch   Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey winger Kyle Bennett can be both brilliant and frustrating to watch Picture: Joe Pepler
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Those of you who frequent our website (and if not, why not?) may have seen a video we made with Kyle Bennett recently.

It’s testament to the welcome we get from players and staff at the Pompey training ground these days that Bennett – at short notice might I add – was keen to show off some of his skills in beating opponents.

And boss Paul Cook, who had given us permission to do some filming, was even happy to delay training for a few minutes to accommodate us.

We’re working on some other videos and Michael Doyle’s excellent guided tour of the training ground is worth a watch.

But as Bennett ran through his repertoire of tricks in front of our camera crew from Giant Leap, it crossed my mind that his type of footballer might just be part of a dying breed.

Wingers who run at defenders can be frustrating to watch.

Seeing them go past opponents for fun one day, is often balanced against the fact that they run into blind alleys on others.

It’s an occupational hazard and is also unique to the position.

Nowhere else on the pitch is a player expected to dribble past his opposite number regularly.

And with that comes a lack of tolerance from some supporters when it doesn’t come off.

The strange thing is that they are not even mistakes – a winger is asked to beat defenders and create something for his team-mates.

So when it doesn’t come off, it can just as easily be good defending and not necessarily bad play from him.

Bennett enjoyed a brilliant start to his Pompey career with two goals and a fine display against Dagenham & Redbridge.

It’s been sporadic since then.

But a moment of class last weekend saw him open up a stubborn Newport County defence to set up Matt Tubbs’ winner.

He clearly has the ability to make a key contribution to a match but he can’t be expected to do it all the time.

His critics say he needs to do it more often and I take that point.

But based on what we have seen of him so far – and it’s a less than a third of a season, let’s remember – if he could marry consistency with his ability, he wouldn’t be playing in League Two.

In the mid 1980s when I started following Pompey, Vince Hilaire and Kevin O’Callaghan were the wide men in Alan Ball’s team.

And I still recall those shouts of ‘Skin him, Vince’ whenever Hilaire got the ball at his feet.

But even those two had those occasions when it wasn’t their day.

Since then, we’ve had an array of players who have operated the flanks.

Players like Mark Chamberlain, Darren Anderton, Preki, Jimmy Carter, Martin Phillips, Paul Hall, Kevin Harper, Mike Panopoulos, Courtney Pitt, Steve Stone, Matt Taylor, John Utaka, Glen Little, Ricky Holmes and Jed Wallace.

And I know there were some fine wingers before my time too.

Whatever your opinion on those players, they all had their moments (admittedly, some more than others).

There were also times when it didn’t come off for them.

But the good ones keep trying to make things happen, even when it’s not their day.