Brett Pitman explains how he won back Portsmouth place after period in the cold last season
Brett Pitman’s Pompey omission garnered shock reactions not just from inside the PO postcode.
From ex-Fratton favourite Darren Anderton on Twitter to national broadcaster Ray Stubbs in the talkSPORT studio, many couldn’t quite fathom why the forward had been left in the cold for a brief spell last season.
During the first half of the campaign, Pitman was a bit-part player and a regular on the bench.
Despite finishing as the Blues 25-goal top scorer in 2017-18, Oli Hawkins was manager Kenny Jackett’s preferred striker, with Gareth Evans occupying the number-10 role.
And when the Pompey boss bolstered his attacking options in January – recruiting both Omar Bogle and James Vaughan on loan – the former Bournemouth forward was pushed further down the pecking order.
A regular place on the bench turned into no spot in five match-day squads.
Jackett cited Pitman’s work-rate as a factor, claiming his GPS running stats came out significantly lower than the likes of Evans, Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe.
By the captain’s own admission, the feeling of getting up on a Saturday with no purpose was alien to him. Not since his teenage days had he experienced such disappointment.
Pitman knew he could have acted in two ways – sulked like a petulant child or showed the true characteristics of a skipper to win his spot back.
Always confident in his ability, the 31-year-old chose the latter and reaped the dividends.
He fought his way back into Jackett’s thinking, and during a sustained period in the team scored six goals in 12 games as the Blues agonisingly suffered play-off semi-final defeat to Sunderland.
Now the former Ipswich man has lifted the lid on what it was like to be out of favour.
Pitman said: ‘If I’m playing, then I back myself to score goals. That’s not changed from last season or the season before.
‘Obviously, it was disappointing not to have been involved for that period. But, ultimately, it’s not really my decision to make.
‘I did extra work off my own back to get back into the team.
‘When you’re not playing on a Saturday, it becomes tough. You can either sulk or work hard to get back into the team.
‘It’s difficult because when you're not in the team, you don’t have a release on a Saturday.
‘You train all week for no real purpose. It becomes tough for all players that aren’t in the team.
‘Even from 17 onwards, I’ve always been at least on the bench in squads on a Saturday.
‘It’s when you’re not involved in the match-day 18 it becomes difficult because you don’t feel part of it.
‘A lot of Saturday mornings, I’d go running at home then come to the home games and watch.
‘It gets boring. It’s not anything anyone would enjoy.
‘I didn’t do a lot different. If you’re not in the team on a Saturday you can push yourself a bit more – and that's what I did.’
To ensure he's in peak condition, the 31-year-old's maintained a commitment to extra work after training with Pompey’s head of sports science Jeff Lewis.
And it’s something he’ll continue throughout this term as the Blues aim for the Championship.
Pitman added: ‘I was doing similar last year because I did them at Bournemouth.
‘I’ve said to Jeff during pre-season if we get a chance to do a bit extra then I’ll do it.
‘I think it will benefit me throughout the season. There’s been a lot of stiffness from training and getting back into it.
‘But you don't do it for the here and now – you do it for the long term.’