The Cross Word: Resolve needed amid solitude on Jack’s road back

Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler
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The manner in which Jack Whatmough writhed in agony on the turf told its own story.

The teenager laid prostrate in the shadow of the Fratton end, as a dark night against Cheltenham deepened into pitch black.

Handling that slog while his team-mates are uploading their summer holiday snaps to Instagram will be a test of mental resolve to match his physical challenges.

Jordan Cross

Within a couple of minutes the defender was astonishingly back on his feet, though, and limping around as a makeshift striker.

The collision with Robins striker Shaun Harrad had been enough to seriously injure Whatmough’s anterior cruciate ligament.

It said much of the Gosport lad’s attitude he endeavoured to remain on the pitch.

The damage had been done by that stage and Whatmough’s continued presence was of little consequence to the extent of the problem.

But it was an example of the fast-emerging teenager’s resilience – something he’s going to need in spades in the coming months.

The news of the extent of his knee problem became clear last week, as his scan results were made public.

The fears over the severity of the issue were well founded.

With the timeframe for recovery marked as eight to 12 months, Whatmough is facing a huge early test in his exciting young career.

The good news is the time when a player’s talent was rarely the same after such a problem has been left firmly in the 90s.

Most footballers, especially younger ones, will make a full recovery – and Whatmough doesn’t turn 19 until August.

Temptation leads us to liken the path he will now travel down to the journey his team-mate Wes Fogden has just completed.

It’s a comparison which can’t be made, however, with every player’s rehabilitation unique.

What can’t be doubted is the news is a blow for Pompey – both in the immediacy and moving forward.

Paul Robinson has been the star performer and key man at the back this season.

But Whatmough’s steady development alongside him in the three-man central partnership has been significant.

The former Neville Lovett Community School pupil has picked up 24 appearances in his first full season at senior level.

And his presence in the team was a big factor in Pompey’s upturn in fortunes earlier in the year.

In fact, the Blues’ unbeaten run with Whatmough in the starting line-up stretched back to Boxing Day – and covered five wins and four draws across nine fixtures.

His talent is obvious. The England under-19 international has that rare gift of appearing to have more time on the ball than his peers.

Pompey have worked on Whatmough simplifying his game, though, and assessing when are the right times and areas to play.

That along with utilising his 6ft-plus frame and improving his aerial prowess has been evident, as he learns his trade in the League Two rough house.

The road to recovery is arduous for any player and full of solitude.

Whatmough will wait to have the operation which will be the pre-cursor for a long summer of work building strength in the knee again.

Handling that slog while his team-mates are uploading their summer holiday snaps to Instagram will be a test of mental resolve to match his physical challenges.

By the time the players report back for pre-season training, Whatmough will be heading towards full recovery.

That will bring its own tests, as he looks on while those around him gear up for a new season he should have been at the heart of.

Noises over the ability Whatmough possesses have been made for a number of years now.

An assessment of the players around him soon had Alan McLoughlin purring about the promise of a mop-haired 15-year-old when he returned to Pompey as Academy coach.

To fulfil his potential, the home-grown youngster will now have to exhibit some robust qualities.

They are the same attributes which had him hobbling around Fratton Park with his knee ligaments in bits.