Why Jamal Lowe’s remarkable Portsmouth legacy will long outlive messy departure to Wigan

Jamal Lowe with the Checkatrade Trophy after Wembley success against Sunderland Picture: Joe Pepler
Jamal Lowe with the Checkatrade Trophy after Wembley success against Sunderland Picture: Joe Pepler
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His was an ornamental presence at the Broadfield Stadium, Pompey’s glittering asset adorning the substitutes’ bench.

Curiously, Jamal Lowe served no involvement, failing to be called upon in the penultimate pre-season fixture.

Jamal Lowe warms up on the sidelines during Pompey's pre-season game at Crawley Picture: Joe Pepler

Jamal Lowe warms up on the sidelines during Pompey's pre-season game at Crawley Picture: Joe Pepler

Yet there was one final classy touch in a Pompey shirt.

Crawley’s ground had almost emptied when Lowe and his fellow substitutes performed the running drills embedded into the post-match routine.

The 25-year-old was distracted, however, soon breaking away to answer the calls of a small group of fans beckoning at the front of the KR-L Stand.

Following a warm exchange, he cheerfully posed for photographs with those appreciative Blues followers, before returning to his colleagues.

Lowe had craved a Fratton Park departure during his final south-coast months, an agitation which saw him absolved from a Hawks friendly, excused from five days of training and embroiled in constant dialogue with Pompey’s hierarchy.

Nonetheless, the messy finale should not be allowed to detract from the accomplishments of an immensely-talented player who always found time for the supporters who adored him. Even during the final throes.

While attending the AGM of the Pompey Supporters’ Club London some six months following his January 2017 arrival, Lowe confessed he previously had never heard of the song which would supply his Pompey soundtrack.

Yet Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ became a popular accompaniment during the feats of a firm fans’ favourite who contributed two glorious moments now entrenched in Fratton folklore.

Irrespective of the winger’s unwieldy departure, a legacy consisting of Meadow Lane and Wembley ensure he will forever be revered by Pompey supporters.

It was Hampton & Richmond chairman Steve McPherson who proclaimed Lowe would become a £1m player following his Fratton Park switch.

The second caveat to his bold prediction to The News was the then 22-year-old would inspire the Blues to promotion ‘as soon as he gets into the first team’.

Recruited following 23 goals during the opening half of the season with the Conference South club, Lowe netted just eight minutes into a Pompey bow while on reserve-team duty at Exeter.

In little more than three months later, the former Barnet man had earned Paul Cook’s men League One football at Notts County.

Coming off the bench for Carl Baker in the 69th minute, he netted twice to seal a 3-1 promotion-clinching triumph, sparking an emotional Meadow Lane pitch invasion - and the Titanic music attached to replays.

Similarly, Lowe’s sublime lob in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley was thunderously received by more than 40,000 Pompey followers present - a moment to spark goosebumps upon every subsequent viewing.

It represented a second trophy in the Blues career of the ever-blossoming Lowe, whose desire to enter the Championship should not be begrudged, no matter how painful the parting is.

Admittedly, there are those at Fratton Park unimpressed with the conduct of the player’s agent, associated with Kin Partners, having recently taken control of the winger’s interests. 

The graceless handling of the situation merely strengthened the Blues’ resolve to part with Lowe strictly on their terms.

There are similarities with the unsettling of Kal Naismith during his final Pompey campaign, each instance involving Wigan boss Paul Cook attempting to lure a former signing up north.

Lowe should not be absolved from criticism, however, having faithfully acted upon debatable instructions from his agent. No coercion was necessary, this was not somebody blindly led astray. 

As a consequence, the club and team-mates had long been left in no doubt of his intentions.

Certainly Jackett did all he could to dissuade his prized talent, spending a number of hours locked in talks while sat in the reception of the Portmarnock Hotel in Dublin during a Thursday evening.

Not even 48 hours later, Lowe failed to appear at Westleigh Park, despite being listed on the team sheet. It was later explained by Jackett as a mistake, passed off as a lack of communication among staff.

Last season’s top scorer would be excused from Pompey duty for a total of five days. In time, as ever, the full extent of the story will be pieced together.

Still, Lowe got his wish and, while the destination of the DW Stadium may have its detractors among the Fratton faithful, crucially it offers Championship football and several multiplications of his existing wage.

Following the finest season of his career, this remains a timely and well-deserved opportunity to test himself in a higher division, irrespective of the identity of his employers.

Lowe’s stock has never ranked so high, with 17 goals, including that memorable Wembley contribution, and another campaign of immense personal development.

His game has improved significantly during each season spent on the south coast, matching Matt Clarke stride for stride, culminating in both of their inclusions in the PFA League One Team of the Year.

Granted, the rigours of featuring an exhausting 55 times last season impacted upon Lowe’s play-off semi-final displays.

Jackett even rested him from the final match of the League One campaign against Accrington, halting a remarkable run of 88-successive league outings since August 26, 2017.

With Lowe having become a father for the second time around that period, Pompey’s boss felt his star man appeared jaded. His leading scorer was also benched in the second leg, before an inevitable entry.

Nonetheless, he netted six times in his final 14 appearances in all competitions.

Lowe now considers himself ready for the Championship - and is entirely correct, of course.

Along with Clarke, they were a cut above this level last term and it is time to depart, regardless of the inevitable adverse effect on Pompey.

At the age of 25, with both of his children born during his Blues association, financially the Wigan switch will catapult him into an earning bracket never before sampled.

Having been plucked from non-league, his most recent Blues deal was signed in January 2018, yet still not sufficient to put him within touching distance of Pompey’s top earners.

The Championship simply offers opportunities Pompey presently cannot possibly match.

Indeed, it would be naive to believe a bumper new Fratton deal could possibly trump Wigan’s attractions. Besides, a player must show willing to sign.

Lowe this summer wanted to leave Pompey to fulfil his Championship ambition - and received his wish.

He departs having secured two trophies, featured 119 times, netted 29 goals, and created life-long memories at Meadow Lane and Wembley.

An outstanding legacy from an outstanding player who deserves a new challenge following an immense Pompey contribution. Good luck to him.