The Brett Pitman saga and a hard-headed decision to send a Portsmouth fans' favourite on his way
Kenny Jackett dropped the news grenade in his usual matter-of-fact manner and with little regard for the resonance his words would have.
‘Brett is not training with us this week and I have told him he is not in my plans at the moment,’ the Pompey boss relayed in last Thursday’s press conference, sending the digital sports traffic spiking at portsmouth.co.uk in the process.
Jackett’s former skipper and the top scorer of the past 10 years being bombed out was always going to make waves among an audience where the 32-year-old still retains significant favour.
Being thrown into the stiffs is one thing, but packed off to the under-23s of another club? Well, that does ramp it up another notch, and perhaps offers an insight into the current status of the standing between manager and player.
The move is a path rarely trodden but a manoeuvre clearly deemed necessary by the Pompey boss, as the PO4 whispers spread of a breakdown in relations.
There wasn’t a great deal which was surprising about that development, but the timing of Jackett’s words certainly did raise a few questions.
The first, naturally, was the proximity to the transfer window closing six days earlier.
Why wait until he can’t be sold to bomb and alienate a man who’s known to be one of the club’s top earners? That was one of the more popular questions being asked in the wake of the issue being relayed to the public.
The answer, to some degree appears to lie in the question. There weren’t any takers.
Or, evidently, there was no one prepared to contribute a sizeable enough portion of the player’s wages to see a move through. That after Jackett confirmed the water had been tested by a couple of sides, with League Two pair Plymouth and Swindon mentioned.
Pompey weren’t actively pursuing an exit for the player and didn't hear from the man himself or his people, with the goal predator not agitating for a move.
Pitman remains a popular figure with supporters and the way the affair has panned out won't affect that, while leaving him the freedom to plot one of the final moves of his career in the summer as a free agent.
Which then leads us to why Jackett saw fit to take the course of action he did.
The word is Pitman’s presence at Pompey’s training has been sporadic in 2020, with it confirmed he’d previously been given dispensation to do fitness work from home.
Likewise, you don’t have to have much more than a passing interest in Fratton affairs to hear some of the talk which has emerged from various directions in recent months.
Pitman and Jackett have fallen out. Pitman’s become a disruptive influence. There’s been an incident between the pair. He’s owed another contract if he plays again (that one still won’t go away despite being nonsense).
One thing is for sure, the man at the centre of it all deserves a chance to defend himself to any perceived slight on his professionalism. Whether he wants or feels the need to is another matter, for a man has never particularly felt the desire to court attention in his two-and-a-half years at Fratton.
That's despite arriving as the marquee signing of the summer of 2017 and the Jersey man being handed the captain's armband as a part of the bargain.
Pitman has always been obliging and observed his skipper duties, but perhaps wouldn't have been most people's natural fit for that role with the perception, rightly or wrongly, of him possessing the kind of self-centred characteristics the best goalscorers usually have.
Being relieved of his duties was viewed as an inevitable consequence of his lack of playing time on all sides in September. And things haven't improved since.
Then came Jackett's barely-veiled statement last month about a selfish attitude existing among his squad at the start of the season.
‘It was a little too much “what about me?”,’ the Pompey boss said 'It has to be about the club. It has to be.
‘We get paid to put Portsmouth first. That’s our job and it’s similar with the players.'
You didn't have to be an Only Connect contestant to figure out who those words were being linked to.
Publicly, Kenny Jackett has refused to close the door on a player who will go down as the first major signing of his tenure at PO4. But if it’s seemed a long way back for the former Ipswich man before, a comeback now would be heading into Tiger Woods territory.
Whatever the state of their relationship, though, the fact of the matter is the Pompey boss is too pragmatic to not call on Pitman if that’s what was required. Unlike some of his predecessors, any perceived personal slights would be put aside for the good of the team, if that’s what was deemed necessary.
But with two established strikers in Ellis Harrison and John Marquis, Oli Hawkins' physical presence still in the ranks and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild catching the eye as a front man for the reserves it would be unlikely, if not totally impossible.
Clearly, Jackett, for whatever reason, felt it necessary to take what is a fairly unusual step of sending a senior pro to train at another club, rather than keep him on site during the week. Make no mistake, that decision would’ve been reached from a hard-headed point of view.
So, we arrive at the current state of play. One which has moved to any ugly finish to Pitman's Fratton career, but a situation he will believe doesn't deserve to taint his Fratton goal legacy.
And Jackett will feel justified in managing a potentially damaging situation how he sees fit. Ultimately, like everything else, it will be judged against his side’s success this season.
Promotion and the whole affair will barely warrant a mention in dispatches. Failure on that front and a Pitman-sized shadow will loom over the inquest.