POMPEY’s title-winning heroes left in the cold have been told: Fight for your spot.
Kenny Jackett has sent out a clear message to the mainstays of last season’s success who are currently missing from his starting XI.
Kal Naismith, Kyle Bennett and Danny Rose have been left out of Jackett’s side in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, vice-captain Gareth Evans missed out on the squad for two games following suspension, before getting 17 minutes off the bench against Fleetwood last weekend.
Naismith’s fortunes mark a downturn after his 15 goals last term proved fundamental to Pompey’s League Two title success.
Jackett feels the forward has to fight for his opportunity – and seize it when it arrives.
He said: ‘Kal’s had game time early on but hasn’t had minutes on the pitch of late.
‘The nine and 10 positions has been Pitman, probably Chaplin next, Hawkins and then Naismith.
‘Naismith’s had brief opportunities wide left, where he’s spent most of his career. They’re the options for him.
‘Matty Kennedy’s come in on the left and has started well. Kal has to set his sights on him.
‘It’s a long season and he has to come out on top.
‘Above all, when he gets the chance, he has to take it and keep the shirt.
‘He can play nine, 10 or 11.
‘He has a very good delivery. Something we haven’t necessarily got is a natural wide left player who’s left footed.
‘At the moment he’s sub and it’s a consideration to use him in that position.
‘I’ve kept with Kennedy, but there’s form, injuries and suspension which come about.
‘Kal can give us something because all the other options in that area are right footed.
‘He’s trained very well.
‘The right-hand side has been Jamal Lowe and Gareth Evans. The left has been Kennedy.
‘Naismith is one of a number but has experience on the left. On top of that we have Bennett and Milan Lalkovic.
‘There’s six potential wide men here at the moment.’
The stats read that Naismith hasn’t started for five games, with Bennett missing out on the starting XI for the past four fixtures.
Danny Rose, meanwhile, hasn’t made a squad since the 1-1 draw at Wigan – missing four games. Jackett has words of praise for the attitude the midfielder’s showing.
‘Danny’s a top professional and has to keep working away to get back into central midfield,’ said the manager.
‘At the moment he has to get over O’Keefe and Close.
‘His attitude is different class. He’s a good pro and a very good lad.
‘It hurts him being out of the team and he’ll do everything to get back in that mix.
‘It’s a very long season. There’s many games left. Danny has the determination to get back in.
‘He should have his sights on Close and O’Keefe. He has to be better than them in training, and then, when he gets his chance, take it.’