The risky gamble which paid dividends - now Ronan Curtis is poised for Portsmouth landmark
Recruited from the Irish League, his signing was perceived as a gamble.
Even Ronan Curtis himself, a player not lacking self-belief, initially anticipated nothing more than match residency on the bench.
Nonetheless, the 24-year-old is pencilled in to reach his Pompey landmark of 100 games on Saturday.
Tellingly, he has been in Kenny Jackett’s starting XI for all but nine of those outings to date.
A reflection of his development, ability, consistency and – most crucial of all in the current climate – importance to the Blues.
With 27 goals from that customary position on the left wing, Curtis has been a pivotal performer since his May 2018 arrival from Derry City.
Curiously, his debut was as a central striker, with Brett Pitman operating alongside him in the opening match of the 2018-19 campaign against Luton.
Fielding a 4-4-2, instead Brandon Haunstrup was instructed to line-up on the left wing for the first and last time in the Blues senior side.
Jackett’s men collected an ill-deserved 1-0 victory over the Hatters on that afternoon. Nonetheless, Curtis has remained a first-team fixture.
The following match at Blackpool, the Irishman was asked to serve on the left flank – and responded with both of Pompey’s goals in 2-1 win.
He has dominated that position ever since, except for a spell sidelined after chopping off the top of his finger and a brief lack of form early last term.
The arrivals of Dion Donohue, Viv Solomon-Otabor and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild over the seasons have failed to dislodge a player whose outstanding Pompey displays have earned Republic of Ireland recognition.
Admittedly, Curtis has started this season slowly, by his own high standards.
He’s not alone. Only Jack Whatmough and arguably other members of the back four have so far emerged with any credit following a wretched beginning to League One.
Certainly it can be argued that the Blues’ awful league start is intrinsically linked with Curtis fumbling around for form and struggling to discover his goal touch.
Removing him from the side for Burton may well be a consideration for Jackett as he seeks to reinvigorate his worryingly flat team.
Yet, realistically, it shouldn’t be the table.
Curtis’ work-rate, pace and goal threat make him an essential presence, particularly away from home when the Blues often employ the counter-attack.
When the Irishman is on-song, there are few finer at this level in that position. While finishing as runner-up in last term’s The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season reflects the supporters’ opinion of his talents.
At the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday, the likelihood is Curtis will join Whatmough and Tom Naylor in this season reaching 100 appearances for the Blues.
It would be pure Ronan Curtis to mark the feat with the winner to kick start the season.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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