Comment: Diminishing minutes drive Chaplin's potential Pompey exit
It was supposed to be new manager, fresh start and renewed hope.
Yet for Conor Chaplin, first-team opportunities have actually regressed as the potential for a Fratton Park departure crashes into reality.
Paul Cook’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system dictated a lack of openings for the ever-popular striker, who struggled to be allocated an appropriate role.
Granted, he was an accomplished impact player, netting a total of nine times when called upon from the bench during Cook’s Blues reign.
The arrival of Kenny Jackett as boss delivered timely optimism for Chaplin, with the possibility of an increased number of starts. It was a time to be reinvigorated.
However, Worthing’s finest has subsequently lined up 13 times for Jackett’s side in all competitions – the same amount as last term.
More worrying has been 10 fewer outings from the bench – and, on occasions, even omitted from the 18-man match-day squad.
Such reduced involvement has raised the likelihood of Chaplin’s summer departure in search of regular first-team football.
Certainly, Jackett has delivered the impression he would not attempt to block any overtures from the striker to exit Fratton Park, albeit on Pompey terms.
Instead, there is acknowledgement towards the youngster’s growing discomfort at occupying the bench.
The Blues boss cannot offer opportunities the ever-frustrated Chaplin craves – and it appears there now can be only one outcome.
The 21-year-old has made 121 appearances since graduating from the academy, scoring 25 times and establishing himself as a fans’ favourite.
Crucially, 70.24 per cent of those outings have arrived from the bench.
Incidentally, his 85 substitute appearances fall just four short of Kanu’s record during his six-year Fratton Park service. Chaplin has played two fewer seasons.
Nobody could begrudge his desire for regular matches, while there remains an excellent and clearly underused finishing ability.
It is unclear whether there is potential to loan out Chaplin or opt for a sale, with his contract expiring in the summer of 2019.
Jackett wants striking replacements before either occur – and Chaplin wants a first-team involvement which has become rarer by the season at Fratton Park.
– NEIL ALLEN