Why Jamal Lowe will never echo loyalty of Portsmouth fans as he closes in on Wigan move
The way their scenarios have been perceived could scarcely be further apart.
Matt Clarke last month left Pompey with the acclaim of his followers ringing in his ears, bound for the land of milk, honey and telephone number salaries.
It’s no exaggeration to say there was scarcely a negative comment aimed in the 22-year-old’s direction, as he headed along the south coast for Brighton for a fee north of £4m. Instead just an understanding of the inevitability of his exit permeated and an appreciation of the quality of his service, along with an over-riding sense of goodwill towards a diligent and professional young chap with glowing bright future in the game.
It’s not quite working out like that for Jamal Lowe, however.
The resentment at the prospect of the winger departing for Wigan has grown incrementally more and more palpable this week, with the majority of the ire being aimed at the man who fired 17 goals last season to see the angle of ascent of his rising star sharply increase.
There are those who feel Pompey should be doing more to keep the 24-year-old who’s assumed the status of prized asset from his now departed team-mate. It seems unlikely he’ll be keeping that title too long.
But, for the most part, it’s the player himself who’s beginning to face flak with it abundantly clear he wants to continue his career away from Fratton Park.
Which brings us to what is likely the first bone of contention about the unfolding transfer narrative with Blues fans.
After the failure to secure promotion last term, both players possessed a desire to make playing at a higher level a reality.
But while Clarke’s exit for the Premier League made it a move no one could get irate about, Wigan being Lowe’s likely destination is something which could stick in the craw.
A comparison of the stature and relative merits of both clubs has prompted some to wonder why a switch to the DW Stadium could possibly appeal. Why does our main man want to move up the country to a club we could be swapping leagues with at the end of the season anyway? That’s been the gist of plenty of the sentiment since the weekend, and, in itself isn’t the most outlandish thought.
Some may point to length of service and compare career paths when looking at reasons for the disparity in reaction to both players.
While Clarke bravely stepped down from the Championship to League Two to make his name, Lowe was granted a golden opportunity to move to a fourth-tier title charge from a National League South backwater.
And while we lost a young prospect to greater things, we did so after he’d given four years of his young career to his adopted home picking up 175 appearances and back-to-back News/Sports Mail player of the season titles along the way.
His goals at Notts County gave the Londoner an immediate place in Pompey folklore, yet Lowe’s exit now after two-and-a-half years is more truncated in comparison.
A significant factor, no doubt, in perceptions will be the manner in which the two players and their respective parties have played the game this summer.
A summer which has seen the constant speculation fuelled, in part, by stories drenched in an agent’s DNA took another jarring turn with the player’s absence at Westleigh Park on Saturday.
Whatever you make of Lowe not featuring against Hawks, and there’s plenty about the official version of events which doesn’t add up, it’s abundantly clear his absence was a result of the growing noise about his future amid renewed Wigan interest.
So is it any surprise there is a world of difference between how these two transfer stories are being seen? On the evidence, no. Is it fair to see such a chasm? Well, that's a greyer area.
There’s no doubt it’s sometimes difficult for us as fans to assume the same headspace as players in these scenarios.
For all the spin and badge-kissing our loyalties and bloodlines are simply not echoed by those we pay to watch each weekend. They are not bound in the same way we are to our club. So it’s no surprise we view these matters tribally and feel scorned when we see someone can turn their back on Pompey in a way we could never contemplate.
We are also sometimes quick to judge in such circumstances, yet can use warped morality as our yardstick. Without being privy to the finances surrounding the Lowe saga, it’s not unreasonable to suggest his earnings will go up four or five-fold from moving on. Do you love your current employers enough to refuse a similar opportunity should it arise?
Yes, there are ways to behave and if it comes to light Lowe has crossed the line on that front his Fratton legacy will be tainted. And for such a likeable vibrant character that will be sad to see.
But just as Clarke earned huge praise for hitting 60 games last season, Lowe managed 55 from a position which is undoubtedly more gruelling and wearing on the body. That after an early red card prompted his only absence in 2017-18 amid 50 appearances. The commitment to the cause has been there.
Pompey now have to protect their position in the best way they see fit. If that’s to play hard ball with the player so be it, but no one should now be getting their hopes up that concludes in Lowe remaining. These scenarios tend to finish only one way.
Instead maximising income and mobilising for the best-possible successor with the least upheaval now appears the most satisfactory outcome.
So strip back the two Pompey transfer stories of the summer, and what are you left with? A football club acting in their best interests in the same way as two young men in a finite profession.
And a game which became a business and parted company with romantic notions like loyalty a long, long time ago.