How Ronan Curtis must refocus and rediscover Portsmouth form if he's to follow Bournemouth new-boy Jamal Lowe's Championship pathway

Jamal Lowe was a ferocious trainer, equipped with an insatiable desire to improve which drew strong praise from Michael Doyle.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 11:30 am
Ronan Curtis was hoping to follow former team-mate Jamal Lowe into the Championship this summer. Yet it didn't happen. Picture: Joe Pepler

Indeed, the winger would often be accompanied by Matt Clarke for unscripted early sessions at Roko’s gym for around an hour before their Pompey colleagues turned up as scheduled.

Then, in the summer of 2019, something changed.

Senior team-mates began to notice a difference in training intensity, primarily in small-sided games which potentially involved physical contact. Some raised the issue.

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Then there was the July 2019 pre-season fixture at Stevenage, when Lowe appeared disinterested, solely intent on rapidly laying the ball off whenever it arrived rather than embarking on trademark surges at the opposition’s heart.

For the Blues’ next friendly in front of a crowd, he was an unused substitute at Crawley.

Lowe was determined to reunite with Paul Cook at Wigan – and Pompey were adamant any possible departure was entirely on their terms.

Ultimately, he got his move and a deserved shot at the Championship which few could begrudge.

Nonetheless, it was an acrimonious exit with the Blues hierarchy, certainly contrasting with how Clarke handled his departure to Brighton that same summer.

Some two years later and Lowe’s former Blues team-mate Ronan Curtis similarly spent a summer eyeing a Championship challenge.

Earmarked as the next big-money Fratton Park sale, there was interest from Cardiff, Blackburn and Preston, some of which stretching back to the previous January.

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Yet on the deadline day which marked Lowe moving to Bournemouth – a third Championship club in two years – Curtis was unable to engineer a Blues exit.

Plummeting player valuations outside the Premier League was pivotal, with Lowe himself fetching a reported £1.5m, despite 14 goals for Swansea the previous season.

To think Curtis had been priced by Pompey approaching the £2m mark.

Unquestionably, the ambitious Republic of Ireland international will be disappointed over the failure to secure a Championship move.

For him, it was never a slight against Pompey, more a desire to test himself at a higher level following three League One campaigns.

Certainly there has never been any suggestion of easing up on the training ground in an attempt to force open the Fratton Park doors.

By all accounts, Curtis has handled himself with great maturity during his wait for potential suitors to declare interest, an attitude repeatedly earning praise from Danny Cowley.

The 25-year-old has started all of Pompey’s six matches so far this term, demonstrating that trademark passion and workrate. Nobody can fault his effort.

Yet personal performance levels have clearly dipped, irrefutably reflected by no goals or assists in the 2021-22 campaign as it stands.

It has been a poor start to hardly persuade Championship clubs to splash out £2m in a transfer market financially devastated post-Covid.

Now the window is closed and Curtis must remain until January at the earliest, while is contracted until the summer of 2023.

It is not unreasonable to assume an unsettling summer impacted significantly on his form, albeit not in terms of attitude or commitment to the Pompey cause.

Still, now is a time for Curtis to refocus and readjust, rediscovering the form which has brought him 40 goals and approaching 40 assists in 148 Blues outings.

The former Derry man has the potential to be a key performer in League One this season – then perhaps he will follow Lowe’s Championship pathway after all.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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