Ever-competitive Nathan Thompson prepared to gamble on Portsmouth future – Neil Allen’s verdict
A groggy Nathan Thompson departed the pitch, mouth deprived of several teeth.
A sickening clash of heads with Matt Clarke, as both attempted to clear the ball, condemned Thompson to an early dressing-room return during Saturday’s hammering of Bradford.
The 28-year-old had produced a characteristically dogged right-back display, wholehearted, combative and without fear.
The contract situation is destined to rumble on beyond the season’s end, yet there can be no questioning his ongoing dedication to the Pompey cause.
According to Kenny Jackett, Thompson has elected to call off negotiations over a new deal in favour of examining his options in the summer.
Chief executive Mark Catlin later expanded that the former Swindon man is keen to break into unexplored lands of the Championship, wary of marching towards his 30s.
It’s a fate which may yet be accomplished with the Blues, that 5-1 triumph over the Bantams reinvigorating a fading League One automatic promotion bid.
Failure to reach the top two and there remains the back-up plan of the play-offs, offering another route to the Championship.
Effectively, however, Thompson is prepared to gamble in pursuit of his own ambition.
Rendering himself a free agent may well yield the desired interest – yet could also potentially alienate the opportunity to remain with a newly-promoted Pompey.
In the meantime, Jackett has no hesitation in retaining him as his first-choice right-back, as appearances against Bury and Bradford will testify.
Following injury spells this season, and there have been several, upon his return to availability the Blues boss has initiated an instant recall in place of Anton Walkes.
Thompson is a prized member of the side, performances and results have notably dipped during absences, it would be churlish to sideline him during the promotion run-in over contract matters.
Publicly, the player has yet to be granted his say, but Jackett insists it has been indicated during discussions that he would like to stay at Fratton Park.
However, there remains the nagging issue of the talented defender having never risen above League One and keen to prove himself in such surroundings.
It’s a leap experienced by younger brother Louis in September 2014, venturing to Norwich from Swindon.
To date, he has made 14 appearances for the Championship leaders, although injury ruled both brothers out of January’s FA Cup encounter at Carrow Road.
Still, at the age of 28, the Thompson stationed on the south coast is aware opportunities to reach such a level are diminishing.
Certainly the Championship presences of former Fratton team-mates Kal Naismith and Gary Roberts will not have escaped his attention.
Naismith has made 18 league starts for Wigan this term, with Roberts amassing 12 and last month earning a new deal.
Regardless, a resolution is not anticipated until the summer, with the two-year contract signed in June 2017 expiring on June 30.
In the meantime, nobody can accuse the player who on Saturday lost teeth in an aerial challenge with his own team-mate of not committing to Pompey.