An inevitable Pompey exit – but one viewed with a heavy heart

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The prospect of Conor Chaplin leaving Fratton Park is enough to sadden most Pompey fans.

But it's also one which now seems to make sense on all sides.

Fans' favourite Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Fans' favourite Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

The name of Coventry has today surfaced as a likely destination for the striker long viewed as one of our own.

That makes the talk of his exit which has circulated since the end of the season that much more tangible.

Chaplin's elevated standing in Pompey's squad has always been one which has belied his relative youth.

Amid a dressing room of big characters under Paul Cook, the arch-poacher quickly earned the respect of his peers after making the breakthrough under Andy Awford as a 17-year-old at the end of 2014.

Likewise, his bright, effervescent personality saw him hit it off with staff and media alike pretty much from the outset.

The fact he is a proud academy graduate was always going to put the 21-year-old in a good position with supporters.

But it's his eye for goal, often the spectacular and instinctive play which are the key attributes which saw him emerge as a darling of the Fratton faithful.

It's that undoubted ability which makes the prospect of his exit galling for many supporters.

Unfortunately, for a few different reasons his face doesn't fit in Kenny Jackett's regime.

The irony is the manager who was touted as the man to get the best out of lad from Worthing will be the one to call time on Fratton Park career.

Twelve months ago fans were excited at the prospect of Chaplin linking up with new arrival Brett Pitman and causing havoc for League One defences.

In fact, it was a year ago Sunday Chaplin routed Hawks with a hat-trick in a 6-0 romp to seemingly whet the appetite of fans for what lied ahead.

With Jackett known to favour using two strikers the outlook was bright for Chaplin after being in and out of the side under Cook.

The lack of playing time under Jackett's predecessor frustrated the striker, but those emotions were to only deepen last term as he had to once again settle for 13 starts - but 10 fewer outings off the bench.

The decision to use one out-and-out striker, a view Chaplin wasn't suited to the role and Pitman's success combined to make it the most frustrating of seasons for the fans' favourite.

Chaplin publicly kept his counsel on the subject and portrayed his usually bubbly exterior, but a player with his belief was never going to settle for more of the same this term.

Jackett went on the record to say as much back in May, which seemed to put the final nail in the coffin of his Pompey career.

Many fans hoped for a loan rather than permanent exit, but with a year left on his existing contract Chaplin is not going to remain bankable for much longer.

So the logical step is to use him to raise some capital towards finding a replacement with the turn of pace Jackett feels his striking options are short on.

When the player concerned is a popular figure, however, and one of undoubted talent the decision is always likely to generate an emotive reaction.

Some will be fearing a repeat of Matt Ritchie's departure seven years ago as his career soared away from PO4, and there are many parallels with the Gosport lad's exit.

The difference this time, though, is a cold analysis of the situation and what's best from all angles leads to the same outcome of Chaplin moving on.

That doesn't mean one of our finest homegrown products of recent years leaving won't be viewed with a heavy heart, though.