BRETT PITMAN is convinced Matt Clarke is destined for the Championship.
And he has urged Pompey to hang onto their prized asset for as long as possible.
The Blues are braced for substantial transfer interest in their outstanding central defender this summer.
In February, Clarke signed an extension to keep him at Fratton Park until the summer of 2020.
However, in reality it will entitle Pompey to a greater fee rather than ensure the 21-year-old’s ongoing presence.
Pitman has featured in the Championship for Bristol City, Bournemouth and Ipswich during a prolific playing career.
Having played in the Championship for a few seasons, I know he wouldn’t look out of place there, absolutely not I would sayBrett Pitman
And the Blues skipper is adamant Clarke possesses the attributes to make a winning impression at that level should suitors come calling.
He said: ‘It’s important we keep Matt.
‘Obviously it’s not my decision, but we all hope we can keep hold of him, that’s all I can say.
‘He has definitely got the ability, the temperament, the size, the speed, everything you need to play in the Championship.
‘I am sure there are a lot worse centre-halves playing there now.
‘The way he plays you wouldn’t say he was as young as he is, that is the biggest compliment you could give him.
‘Matt looks like the level’s probably a little bit easy for him at times, which is another compliment. He is very good.
‘There are bits and pieces he can improve on, like all of us, but on the whole he is very good.
‘Having played in the Championship for a few seasons, I know he wouldn’t look out of place there, absolutely not I would say.
‘I think he has been pretty good the whole season. Obviously he’s got better the more League One games he’s played, but he’s impressed at a higher level than last year.
‘He also wouldn’t look out of place in the Championship, but hopefully we can keep hold of him next season and then we’ll be in the Championship ourselves.’
Clarke was crowned The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season this term, beating off a challenge from Pitman.
Pitman had dropped down from Championship club Ipswich after signing for an undisclosed fee in July 2017.
He subsequently rattled in 25 goals in 41 outings for the Blues, proving to be Jackett’s best recruit.
It now remains to be seen whether Clarke will still be a Fratton Park team-mate next season.
Pitman added: ‘I try to stay away from him in training, he’s too big!
‘Matt’s obviously very good and deserves the plaudits he has received this season. He’ll get even better with experience and the more games he plays.
‘To be fair to him, he works ever so hard every day, he’s the first onto the training pitch, he’s like a big kid.
‘I am sure with that attitude he will go as far as he can.’