Farewell Pompey’s title talisman

Pam Wilkins, left, pictured alongside great ally Ken Malley in Braga in 2008. Picture: Steve Reid

Goodbye to heartbeat of Pompey’s fight for survival

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The mercurial Kal Naismith was Pompey’s League Two title talisman.

Now, 12 months later, he has bid farewell to Fratton Park in a departure which will surprise few, but disappoint many.

Kal Naismith and Conor Chaplin celebrate Pompey's League Two promotion at Notts County. Picture: Joe Pepler

Kal Naismith and Conor Chaplin celebrate Pompey's League Two promotion at Notts County. Picture: Joe Pepler

In truth, under Kenny Jackett, the Scot failed to reproduce the irresistible form which inspired Paul Cook’s side to claim that dramatic final-day triumph.

Fittingly, it was Naismith who struck twice in that 6-1 demolition of Cheltenham in May 2017, establishing him as Pompey’s 15-goal top scorer.

His wondrous displays in the aftermath of that abject Crewe loss yielded seven goals and seven assists in 11 matches.

During that remarkable 12-game run-in, he was absent only for the trip to Stevenage. It represented the Blues’ sole defeat during a haul of 31 points from 36.

Thriving in the number 10 position, and on occasions pushed into a central striking role because of injuries, Naismith possessed a swagger.

Ever-confident, supremely talented and gloriously on top of his game, the former Accrington player was a phenomenal presence during the strut to the summit.

Unfortunately, he failed to reproduce such delicious moments when challenged to perform under a different manager within new league surroundings.

Naismith made 31 appearances this season, of which 23 were starts. An outcome of three goals and one league assist portrays a character disparate to the one savoured by supporters in the previous campaign.

The 26-year-old had pleaded for first-team opportunities during the first half of the season after being sidelined by selection and injury.

Ultimately, he would start 10 of the final 11 matches, scoring the opener against Oxford United. Yet the previously-glimpsed magic was absent.

It could be speculated the aborted move to Wigan during the January window hampered his mindset, having turned down Pompey contract offers and made known his desire to reunite with Cook.

They had their spats, there was a transfer-listing and banishment to the youth team for a period, but last season Cook dragged the best out of him.

Not that Jackett sacrificed the availability of the midfielder out of spite over that potential deal, actually handing over more Pompey starts in the aftermath.

With loanee Matty Kennedy tumbling out of favour, Naismith subsequently had the chances he craved – yet failed to sufficiently shine.

It was a surprise to observe the Scot lining up for the season finale against Peterborough, especially considering he had been dropped from the match-day 18 the previous game at Bury.

Jackett deals in rationality, not sentiment, yet recalled him, handing over 77 minutes before Kennedy climbed off the bench to occupy the left flank.

Those present may have noticed Naismith’s lingering applause towards several sides of the ground, an action he continued as he approached the dug-out. It screamed farewell.

As it turned out, it was. After 94 games and 21 goals, Naismith’s three-year Pompey residency is over.

It could have been more – but his contribution to that League Two title win will forever reside in Fratton folklore.