Why one of Pompey's own will never shirk a fight

From his elevated vantage point, Jack Whatmough surveyed the thousands spilling out across Southsea Common.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 16th September 2017, 10:30 am
Updated Saturday, 16th September 2017, 3:32 pm
Pompey central defender Jack Whatmough Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey central defender Jack Whatmough Picture: Joe Pepler

Finally the central defender successfully seized upon what his eyes had been scanning for – his family.

The Gosport branch had gathered to embrace the capture of the League Two title, amid a proud city rejoicing its glorious footballing history-makers.

As one of their own, the on-stage presence of Whatmough on that May occasion was poignant – for relatives as well as the Fratton faithful.

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A product of Neville Lovett Community School and former player with Gosport Falcons, the 20-year-old’s local credentials are impeccable.

Nature, of course, also blessed him with that indomitable Pompey spirit.

Cheerfully wise-cracking, armed with rapid-fire chat and always personable, Whatmough is a popular presence around the club.

Yet he remains a scrapper, raised to fight rather than accept any miserable decree thrust upon him by the cantankerous hand of fate.

The defender has defiantly clambered back to his feet following several previous low blows to his fledgling career. Unbowed and unaffected.

And he will similarly swat away with disdain the latest misfortune to have struck him down at a time when his Pompey reputation was once again soaring.

Whatmough damaged cartilage in his left knee during a recent training session. The outcome was an operation 48 hours later – with the prognosis he could be sidelined for up to six months.

The youngster had days earlier completed a seventh-successive start, earning him an ever-present tag in competitive matches since Kenny Jackett’s arrival as boss.

The return to fitness of Matt Clarke had just presented itself as a challenge to that ongoing involvement, no question about that. Nonetheless, Whatmough had begun the season in impressive early form.

The ex-Rowner Junior School pupil had already succeeded in the first challenge cast in front of him by Jackett – dislodging Tom Davies.

There surely must be no Pompey fan with the recklessness to write him off from emerging from this current gloomy injury predicament and yet again reclaim a first-team spot.

Granted, Whatmough is burdened with a history of serious injury, a concern for somebody still so young with so much promise to fulfil.

On the flip side, his record also demonstrates such brutal setbacks have been negotiated every, single time.

In selection as well as bodily blows, this is a fighter who refuses to acknowledge the possibility of defeat.

Only this summer Davies was seemingly earmarked as Christian Burgess’ central-defensive partner following injury to Clarke during a friendly at the Hawks.

Whatmough became associated with the Pompey XI, sent out to do pre-season service at Poole Town and Newport Isle of Wight, while his rival bedded down in what was perceived as Jackett’s first team.

Then the pair went head-to-head, an injury to Burgess ensuring they were matched in defence for the final friendly outing at Crawley.

Whatmough triumphed, outshining his colleague and at the death booking a spot alongside Burgess for the League One opener against Rochdale. Within a month Davies had been sold.

Of course, the gutsy Gosport youngster had been condemned to a similar position under Paul Cook. The outcome was just as comprehensive.

Starting last season alongside Burgess, he damaged medial ligaments in his left knee against Crewe in his second appearance.

Davies, a summer recruit from Accrington, capitalised. By the time Clarke had returned from a persistent groin problem to reprise his partnership with Burgess, Whatmough was considered fourth-choice centre-half.

Come the promotion run-in, the academy product was selected ahead of his rival to deputise for the injured Clarke at Meadow Lane.

At Notts County, Pompey finally earned their freedom from League Two – with a local lad part of their triumphant side.

Subsequently, he kept his place for the following match against Cambridge United, yielding another win, while was introduced from the bench at Mansfield to stem worrying waves of home attacks.

At the season’s end, Cook was keen to retain free-agent Whatmough on a long-term deal, while had plans to dispose of Davies to the likes of Tranmere and Colchester.

Of course, Whatmough’s biggest challenge was recovering from anterior cruciate ligament damage to his knee against Cheltenham in March 2015.

It would be almost 14 months before he returned to the Blues first-team, albeit having spent the final four of those attempting to win selection.

There was also a brief loan spell at the Hawks along the road to successful rehabilitation.

It represented a dispiriting period in Whatmough’s career. Yet he returned.

Incidentally, as a seven-year-old, he was among 40 hopefuls attending Pompey trials at Admiral Lord Nelson School, only to suffer rejection.

He later impressed a watching Southampton scout in the Gosport & Fareham Cup final, and was snapped up for a four-year spell which ended upon his request.

Whatmough eventually ended up on the Fratton Park books at under-13s level, thriving under Paul Hardyman, Alan McLoughlin and Andy Awford.

Today he has amassed 57 first-team appearances since granted a Blues debut aged 17 years, three months and eight days.

Those bulging blonde locks may have departed, but the bloody-minded footballer beneath remains – ready to conquer another fight.