The unbreakable spirit which gives us hope for Portsmouth’s defender’s future

Jack Whatmough has risen from doubts over whether he'd play again before. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jack Whatmough has risen from doubts over whether he'd play again before. Picture: Joe Pepler
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The first thought is a human one with our hearts going out to one of our own in Jack Whatmough.

The confirmation of the extent of his injury then led to the obvious, and entirely natural, thought about what a third serious problem to his left knee by the age of 22 would mean for his future.

Literally within moments of Kenny Jackett confirming Whatmough is to go under the knife once more we had an emphatic answer to the Gosport lad’s current mind set.

‘A situation I’ve been in before and come out on the other side,’ he said of the latest battle he faces to save his career. ‘This is no different. See you out on the Fratton green soon.’

On reflection, we shouldn’t have expected anything different.

Of course, cruciate knee ligament injuries aren’t the career-ending issues they once were.

But a third injury of that nature to the same area when you’ve only been playing the game professionally for just over five years?

If it doesn’t destroy your body surely it will break your spirit?

Not when you’re Jack Whatmough, apparently.

No doubt those close to the academy graduate will have counselled him in recent days, over what would be right path for him now to tread.

For the defender it appears the only consideration is another long and arduous period of rehabilitation, with the goal of him wearing the star and crescent again one day down the line.

It may be the sharpest of double-edged swords, but the reality - as the man himself noted - this is not new territory for Whatmough now becomes an asset.

The popular figure has done the hard and lonely miles in the gym on two significant occasions before, stretching back to the first cruciate issue picked up against Cheltenham in March 2015.

That night at Fratton saw the former Neville Lovett Community School student hobbling around up front with the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee wrecked.

That marked the start of 13 months away from Pompey first-team action, before another scare arrived at Crewe four months later under Paul Cook.

Fortunately, the problem focussed on medial collateral and lateral collateral ligaments, as Whatmough was forced off at Gresty Road, however. That was the pre-cursor for another two months out.

The fact he took his place in the starting XI at Notts County at the end of the 2016-17 season as promotion was secured, was undoubtedly one of the most gladdening factors amid the League Two title success.

More pain was around the corner, however, when a further ligament injury was picked up in training prompting another six months out.

Those setbacks have have prompted doubts and question marks over his fitness which have become an uncomfortable norm for a player still at such a formative stage of his time in the game.

From the first injury, picked up while he was still 18, all of the problems have arrived over less than four years.

And with such issues sweep in the kind of associated problems which blight such a career.

Where the next contract is coming from is chief among them, and whether his manager has him pigeon-holed as a crock are the most natural of thoughts to seep into a player’s mind in these situations.

Whatmough has found himself farmed out on loan to the Conference South with Hawks and a regular figure in Pompey XIs, as he’s worked his way back from the brink on previous occasions.

For a long while now, however, the ex-Rowner Junior School pupil has been regarded as one of the brightest beacons of joy among the Pompey squad.

A quip is always on offer when Whatmough wanders past at the club’s Roko training base, along with ready observations on choices of clothing on display from Pompey’s resident Gok Wan.

It’s a substantial compliment that his standing in the squad means it’s all-too easy to forget he remains one of its youngest members.

There’s also a nous and maturity to his work on the pitch which belies his 22 years, one, no doubt, formed by the trials he’s faced.

It’s one his team are now going to be desperately miss as the club aim to secure a place in the Championship.

Few would’ve marked an absence for the England age-group international as being such a significant blow for his side at the start of the season.

Whatmough has emerged as one of the pillars of Jackett’s side, though, and a nailed-on starter in his strongest XI, which makes his lengthy absence a big hit to take two days after the close of the January transfer window.

It’s another blow to take for a team very obviously affected by the upheaval its had to deal with in recent weeks through injuries and loans departing.

But we soon return to the personal plight of a lad who has long had a place in the hearts of supporters.

There will be some solace garnered from the fact Whatmough will undertake his rehabilitation just three weeks after signing a new deal which keeps him at Pompey until the summer of 2021, a move which offers security amid the injury uncertainty.

And doubts are again what the young, likeable fans’ favourite will face.

There will be those who are sceptical about the prospect of a return, and, even the player himself could hardly blame those doubts.

But they are outweighed by those who are simply anxious for Whatmough to make a healthy recovery, for himself as much as their football club.

For a lad whose already proved his unbreakable resolve there is no-one else you’d bet on to win the latest challenge for their football career.