Pompey's video star battling for Fratton future

There's a video clip which captures the moment and encapsulates a talent.

Saturday, 24th March 2018, 9:30 am
Pompey attacking midfielder Kal Naismith

Brett Pitman, Dion Donohue and Connor Ronan had embarked upon a post-training challenge, with striking the crossbar their purpose.

Positioned on the right touchline, level with the 18-yard box, they took aim. Yet the stationary target continued to elude, unscathed amid the impromptu firing range.

Then Kal Naismith strode forward and delivered a sumptuous left-footed shot which pinged back off the bar, greeted with a look of utter indifference from the nearby Pitman.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Off camera, the Scot responded to that triumphant first attempt by nonchalantly wandering off towards the changing rooms. He had made his point, emphatically.

There can be no questioning the immense natural ability possessed by Naismith. Paul Cook often dismissed his presence, before being lured back by the attacking midfielder’s footballing charms.

However, the 26-year-old’s Fratton Park career is ticking down.

There are six weeks remaining of the League One campaign – and nine matches left on Naismith’s existing contract.

It will take something dramatic for Pompey to reach the play-offs. The task is similarly demanding for the attacker to extend his stay beyond the summer.

As the Fratton faithful are only too aware, the ex-Accrington player is capable of brilliance, blessed with gifts to inspire a side. A flash of skill can shatter the humdrum.

In the charge to the League Two title, his seven goals in his final nine appearances galvanized a team previously meandering within play-off confines.

Enda Stevens scooped The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season along with the his team-mates’ crown of Players’ Player of the Year, warranting a switch to the Championship with Sheffield United.

However, Naismith’s blistering performances during the second half of the campaign, often from the bench, were the overriding reason for a Fratton finale many regard as more delectable than winning the 2008 FA Cup.

Back to the present and the contracts of 15 players expire at the season’s end. The stand-out name is comfortably Naismith.

The list contains seven loanees, scheduled to return to parent clubs before awaiting news of whether further Pompey interest will follow.

The remaining eight consist of six academy products – plus Naismith and Nicke Kabamba.

During the campaign, the club have wasted little time in securing playing assets, handing new deals to Matt Clarke, Christian Burgess, Danny Rose, Ben Close and Jamal Lowe.

Even during the final throes of the Cook reign, Gareth Evans and Kyle Bennett were given new contracts, with Jack Whatmough following shortly after.

However, the League Two title-winners’ 15-goal top scorer has yet to seal an agreement to maintain his ongoing presence at Fratton Park.

While fellow members of that triumphant side have earned pay rises and extended stays, Naismith is on course for a summer exit.

It is a sobering situation, yet not beyond rectifying, particularly should the Scot enjoy a sprint finish to the season. As this stage last year will testify.

Certainly, moves were made before the January transfer window to keep him at Fratton Park – there has been no idling from the Blues’ side of the table over a new deal.

Terms, however, could not be agreed, figures could not be settled upon. Negotiations cannot always reach successful conclusions, not always should there be blame.

Besides, Wigan had been whispering, the attraction of representing a side pushing for the Championship was irresistible. Naismith’s appetite had been whetted.

Ultimately, the DW Stadium bid oft trumpeted by representatives never materialised – and the attacking midfielder was stranded on the south coast.

He is not alone in mulling over whether his future involves Pompey, there are seven companions within the dressing room.

Kabamba has endured difficult loan spells at Colchester and Aldershot, totalling one goal and six starts. The Blues have an option whether to retain the 25-year-old’s services.

Jackett this week spoke glowingly about Brandon Haunstrup, intimating he would remain. Activating a club option on a 12-month extension would ensure that.

Similarly, there are club options in the existing deals of rookie trio Alex Bass, Theo Widdrington and Jez Bedford.

Meanwhile, the contracts of Adam May and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain finish at the end of June.

In midfielder May’s case, it will be a major surprise if he is not offered fresh terms considering how highly Jackett has spoken of him at times, in addition to 17 first-team appearances.

As for the seven loanees, the situation is not quite as straightforward for Matty Kennedy, Stuart O’Keefe, Sylvain Deslandes, Connor Ronan, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Stephen Henderson and Anton Walkes.

Tomorrow’s visit of Oxford United will most likely see Naismith named in Jackett’s starting XI.

It would represent a fourth appearance and third-successive start since the Wigan deadline-day situation, demonstrating the manager’s faith in his talents are undiminished.

Injuries have accounted for an eight-game absence. Nonetheless, a return of 11 league starts, one league assist and two goals overall is not sufficient for a player of the Scot’s calibre.

Particularly when attempting to convince a new manager at a different playing level that he is worthy of a pay increase and fresh deal.

Still, Naismith has his stage. His future – wherever that may be – could hinge on nine remaining matches.