Rejuvenated Christian Burgess never lost the belief of Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett
Pompey's bit-part player is flourishing once again during an ongoing first-team presence.
And Kenny Jackett is adamant he never lost belief in the ability of rejuvenated Christian Burgess.
The centre-half capped his 162nd Blues outing with a second-half goal against former club Peterborough in Tuesday night’s 3-2 defeat.
The 27-year-old’s impressive recent performances have rightly been lauded by the Fratton faithful during the Blues’ late-season surge.
Yet until February, Burgess had been granted just eight League One outings this term, with the Checkatrade Trophy offering his only regular football.
Jack Whatmough’s awful injury against Doncaster opened the door – but Jackett insists he always had faith in the defender.
Pompey’s boss said: ‘Christian is playing very well.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had any doubt about him, he’s a good player and, at 27, has his best years ahead of him.
‘As a centre-back, he is coming into his prime. I have never had any doubt, it’s just Whatmough was that good.
‘With Whatmough, Clarke and Burgess, I was always very comfortable at the start of the year. Since Christian’s come back into the side this year, he has gone on again.
‘It maybe took him a couple of games because he hadn’t played for a while but, looking at those early Checkatrade Trophy games, he was outstanding in some of them, he really was.
‘We’ve had matches with Haji (Mnoga) one side of him and Matt Casey the other. He has not just been outstanding in how he has played, but outstanding in his leadership as well.
‘I've always had confidence in him, it’s just that Whatmough and Clarke had the shirts first and didn’t do anything to lose them.’
Whatmough recovered from injury to replace Burgess in the side for the final two months of the 2017-18 campaign.
His partnership with Clarke remained intact during the first half of the current campaign, with Burgess’ appearances restricted.
Jackett, though, believes the former Middlesbrough man has benefited from greater squad competition.
He added: ‘Obviously it was frustrating for Christian because he didn’t play much in the first half of the season, but he’s got his chance since Jack’s injury and taken it very well.
‘Last season, from February onwards, we didn’t have the squad depth, choices or even competition around the place to lift and motivate the other players.
‘If you see two other good players in your position, it is the biggest motivation going.’