Bristol Rovers' mercurial Kyle Bennett will always be a Portsmouth favourite - but winger didn't fit Kenny Jackett's philosophy

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He’s a mercurial talent who still remains a firm Fratton favourite. 

And when Kyle Bennett’s departure was announced on transfer deadline day in January 2018, it took large sections of supporters aback.

Only eight months earlier, the winger had penned new three-year deal to remain on the south coast.

Days before that coming together, Bennett had been cartwheeled on to the Southsea stage and nicked Iain McInnes’ wallet when Pompey celebrated their League Two title success. The life and soul of the party as ever. 

Twenty-four hours prior, he scored the decisive goal in the 6-1 routing of Cheltenham which saw the Blues clinch the crown in improbable circumstances. 

But the genial forward knew, by the time the 2017-18 winter transfer window opened, it was the right moment to bring his Blues love affair to an end and make the move to Bristol Rovers. 

Kyle Bennett, left, and Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Kyle Bennett, left, and Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘It had been going on for a couple of weeks,’ he told The News after he left by mutual consent. 

‘It looked as though I was falling down the pecking order. The writing was on the wall for me, really.

‘I could have stayed and seen it out, but it’s just not me, to be honest with you, and it probably wasn’t going to get better for me in the weeks to come.’

Bennett left after recording 13 goals and 21 assists in 117 appearances following his arrival from Doncaster in the summer of  2015.

Kyle Bennett takes former Pompey chairman Iain McInnes' wallet during the League Two title celebrations. Picture: Joe Pepler

Kyle Bennett takes former Pompey chairman Iain McInnes' wallet during the League Two title celebrations. Picture: Joe Pepler

But all of his plunders in the final third came under Paul Cook’s reign. 

The Liverpudlian undoubtedly got the best out of Bennett, who fitted into his system.

With his jinking runs, close ball control and the ability to quickly change direction – with Enda Stevens also bombing forward on the outside of him from left-back – he was a key man under Cook.

Things were to change, though, when the boss departed for Wigan and Kenny Jackett succeeded him at the helm.

Bennett was a shadow of his former self during the first half of the 2017-18 season.

He was earmarked to start on the bench for the curtain-raiser win over Rochdale, only for Milan Lalkovic’s Achilles injury to hand Bennett an opportunity.

There was strong interest to reunite with Cook at the DW Stadium just six games into the season.

Bennett stayed on the south coast – but the arrival of Matty Kennedy from Cardiff on summer deadline day meant he slipped further down the pecking order.

When the Telford-born ace did have his contract ripped up, he’d failed to register a goal or assist in 22 outings, having operated on the left, right and in the number-10 position. 

Ultimately, Bennett wasn’t the type of wide man the new boss really desired – and he knew it. 

‘It was time to move on. Kenny has his own ideas and will most likely be manager for a long time to come – it probably wasn’t going to change for me,’ he admitted.

When he left, Jackett was already plotting a promotion challenge the following season.

Pace and power were the attributes he wanted. In fairness, Kennedy, Lalkovic or Kal Naismith didn’t really offer that either and departed at the end of the campaign. 

It was Ronan Curtis who was recruited, giving Jackett exactly what he coveted both going forward and defending.

The Irishman finished on 11 goals from 52 games as Pompey reached the play-off semi-finals.

Bennett comes up against his former side when Pompey travel to Rovers on Saturday.

While he hasn’t been a regular at the Gas, he remains a player who can hurt the Blues and they’ll be wary of his threat.

And one certainty is he’ll be given nothing but applause from the travelling Fratton faithful.