Pompey fans have their say on the big talking point

The votes are set to be counted and verified as Pompey people decide.

Thursday, 4th May 2017, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:44 pm
David Forde has a groundswell of support. Picture: Joe Pepler

And it’s a many-faceted decision to make with so much to consider. All the indications are it’s going to be a close call, too, as the Fratton masses have their say.

Yes, The News/Sports Mail Pompey player of the year award is about to be dished out again.

Okay, there’s been the odd web page and column inch dedicated to another decision which is a bit of a talker around PO4 right now.

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But there is a team who could conceivably win the League Two title on Saturday after sealing promotion – and maybe the men who’ve achieved that do deserve a mention in dispatches.

Saturday will see the 39th winner of the The News/Sports Mail trophy named at Fratton Park ahead of the meeting with Cheltenham.

So often in the past, the recipient has stood head and shoulders above his colleagues as the outstanding candidate. Not this season, though.

That has been reflected in the thousands of votes now received being spread evenly across the field of contenders. As a dramatic season has progressed so have those at the forefront of our thoughts ebbed and flowed.

It’s easy to now forget it was Gary Roberts who started the season at a ferocious goalscoring pace with six goals in as many games.

A mid-season drop in form would probably place him out of the top contenders for the trophy. But having his travails earlier in the campaign and finishing strongly has seen Kyle Bennett receive his share of backing.

Likewise, David Forde, who was harangued by some sections at points at one stage. He ends the season with a groundswell of support.

The Irishman was recruited to remedy a deficiency when it came to dealing with high balls into the box. Forde’s strength there has been evident from the very outset, but increasingly married with key saves at important junctures.

Saturday could see a 21st clean sheet arrive in all competitions with Forde’s place in the League Two team of the year assured.

In front of him, Christian Burgess has emerged as a leader, and one of the club’s biggest assets amid an outstanding nine months.

Some colossal performances have been delivered in a consistent term from the 25-year-old, which, no doubt, has seen his list of admirers grow.

One of the most dominant displays from a Pompey defender in many a season came at Cambridge, as Burgess carried 10-man Pompey to a clean sheet and three big points.

Kal Naismith’s renaissance has undoubtedly been one of the most eye-catching feel-good narratives.

Transfer listed and cast aside last summer, few would have backed the flying Scotsman to become a key attacking figure in sealing promotion.

12 goals in 28 appearances have arrived as Naismith has gone on to stage his own goal-of-the-season competition.

It’s his role in the all-important winning run which has seen him gain attention, though. Naismith has started all of the nine wins and draw which have got Pompey over the line – missing only the defeat at Stevenage through injury.

Enda Stevens is an appearance behind ever-present Michael Doyle, who will be another contender. But the left-back is the most decorated Blues man of the season with his promotion supplemented by League Two and Football League team-of-the-year recognition.

The fact Stevens is the most in-demand of all of Cook’s squad tells you all you need to know about his season.

There’s one unsung hero who hasn’t been mentioned, though.

Matt Clarke’s missed out on the plaudits many of his team-mates received.

There has been no more consistent performer than the unassuming defender, however.

‘If he had a few more tattoos, he would have got the recognition,’ said one shrewd observer at Pompey’s Roko training base.

Clarke’s contribution to Pompey’s success is recognised by those around him, that’s for sure.

He perhaps lacks the glamour to get the overall vote – but there would be no one more deserving.