Defender gives Pompey boss flexible options

Nathan Thompson in action against Scunthorpe. Picture: Joe Pepler
Nathan Thompson in action against Scunthorpe. Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey first-team coach Robbie Blake on the training ground with the Blues

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Nathan Thompson’s versatility has been saluted after his midfield switch.

But Kenny Jackett always knew the defender could shine after being moved into the middle of the park.

Connor Ronan. Picture: Joe Pepler

Connor Ronan. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Pompey boss sprung a surprise when moving Thompson from right-back to a holding-midfield role against Scunthorpe last weekend.

The 27-year-old shone in that position, as he added some steel with Jackett switching to a wing-back system.

But that was no shock to the Blues manager, who knew Thompson had operated as a deep midfielder in his time with Swindon.

Jackett said: ‘They had quite a few seasons playing a back three at Swindon before Tim Sherwood came in.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘Nathan’s experience in a back three is playing centrally, staying behind as a sweeper, or coming out just in front. That’s where he played for the majority of his time there.

‘He very rarely played right-back and, when they did switch to a back four, he played centre-back.

‘He is an experienced and flexible player – and that was a big strength of Swindon’s in this league for quite a few years.’

Many were left scratching their heads guessing Pompey’s approach when the teamsheets went in ahead of kick-off last weekend.

No doubt it was the same in the away dressing room, with Graham Alexander’s men taking time to fathom the way the Blues were set-up.

Jackett explained he feels there has to be some kind of experience of the role when using a player out of position.

But, conversely, there is always a leap of faith when instigating a change like the switch to a 3-4-1-2.

Jackett said: ‘Injuries and changes through necessity are just part of the game.

‘You just have to be effective against the opposition. You very rarely get it perfect.

‘The problems are the same for your opposition and competition. You just have to be better than them.

‘In terms of making sure you get your message over, it has to suit the people who are there. That’s very important. There has be some kind of confidence overlap if at all possible.

‘Previous experience of playing in that area of the pitch is a big thing.

‘You take a chance on some but it’s not exclusive to us that one. It happens through the course of the season.’

A big factor in the shift in formation was to get new loanee Connor Ronan into the side in a central attacking role.

Jackett is wary of the demands being placed on the 19-year-old, however.

He said: ‘We’ll assess his performances as we go but he’s made a bright start for a young guy making his debut. I think he can handle it.

‘There is an adjustment period but he is capable of playing in League One.

‘In terms of his own development, I don’t know if he’ll play 90 minutes in every game. If he can that will be great. We’ll see and assess it as we go along.

‘It’s not something we’ll suddenly decide on.’