A Pompey player with a difference – but sometimes Jed Wallace didn’t rate himself

Jed Wallace. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace. Picture: Joe Pepler

The text from Jed Wallace sneered in the direction of a match rating pinned upon him.

Footballers are sensitively precious when an intruder attempts to evaluate their input through numerical means.

Take the occasion when a Pompey player from yesteryear saw fit to unfollow me on Twitter on the back of a pre-season friendly rating.

It was accompanied by the usual muttering about journalists not knowing what they were talking about. Incidentally, he had been substituted at half-time.

Then arrived Jed, who bagged his long-anticipated move away from Fratton Park on Thursday afternoon.

‘Bit generous with the five on Saturday,’ stated the text following a 1-0 defeat at Newport County in January.

‘Not even joking!’

That’s Jed Wallace – a different footballer.

Steadfastly confident in his ability, unquestionably, yet still self-deprecating and possessing a refreshing honesty which often landed him in trouble with his team-mates.

Not arrogance.

The Fratton faithful watched the kid recruited from Lewes grow up, effortlessly brushing off the haters and those attempting to impede his rapid progress along the pathway.

Following his Pompey debut at Plymouth, Michael Appleton branded him as ‘100mph, he’s like Speedy Gonzales sometimes and needs to slow down and relax’.

Well, the attacking midfielder was certainly in a hurry to develop at Fratton Park – and the process has been maintained at breakneck pace.

Now the 21-year-old has embarked for Wolverhampton Wanderers, a new adventure to be addressed with that customary brimming belief, trademark grin and mischievous chuckle.

In his slipstream he leaves well-wishers waving off a player who almost single-handedly has brightened these lowest Football League days in the club’s proud history.

A contrasting finale for the relative unknown who took his bow in July 2012 on Gibraltar’s Astroturf.

Replacing Lloyd Sam after 60 minutes, the Blues lost 4-0 in Wallace’s first of three first-team appearances over that summer.

Off the pitch during that pre-season tour to Benahavis in Marbella, the youngster initially caught my eye through his chirpy, confident nature and table-tennis boasts rather than with a football.

While attending the 10-day trip on behalf of The News, I was once approached by this likeable youngster for a Twitter plug to boost his meagre followers. Today he possesses the blue tick, boasting 12,708 followers.

Wallace stood out from his peers during that week in terms of maturity and assurance – and has maintained that stride ever since.

Although his quiz team consisting of Ashley Harris, Adam Webster, George Colson and Dan Butler had never heard of Lothar Matthaus.

As for social media, perhaps no Pompey player has truly embraced it as effectively in terms of connecting with supporters. Another crucial crux of his popularity.

And when the abuse trickled in over Twitter – and don’t be so naive as to suppose they didn’t overwhelmingly emanate from Pompey fans – Wallace sensibly adopted a tactical retreat rather than fire fight.

Yet, he would always return. Of course he would.

In real life, the youngster was adopted by the London Pompey Supporters’ Club, establishing himself as a favourite guest when circumstances allowed at twice-yearly functions.

During one Fratton Park meal, he was flanked by SOS Pompey’s Carl Paddon and the Trust’s Tom Dearie, with a mocked-up contract on club-headed paper positioned on his place on the table. As ever, Wallace took it in tremendous spirits before obligingly posing for photographs and chatting with supporters.

It was the norm in public, a natural talent with people.

Of course, the genuine contract was signed last summer, including the stipulation of a buy-out clause worth around £275,000. Crucial in his exit.

Still, Wallace’s continued involvement in the community was as impressive as any goalscoring feats.

Take April 2014 for instance, when he turned up at Fratton Park with Ricky Holmes and Simon Ferry to pay their respects to four-year-old Jack Robinson, who had died.

The trio also accompanied the youngster’s Denmead-based family on to the pitch to let off balloons in Jack’s memory.

Earlier this month he attended the Shepherds Crook on a Sunday afternoon to be part of a welcome party for the York2Pompey riders.

Neither presence was stipulated by player rotas. He wanted to attend.

Perhaps most indicative of Wallace’s loyalty was the demise of the 2013-14 season’s regular afternoon coffee gatherings at the Garage Lounge in Albert Road.

A boisterous group, by January 2015 leading characters such as John Sullivan, Ferry and housemate and sidekick Holmes had all departed. Wallace remained.

Most crucial of all, once the prospect of promotion under Andy Awford also fled Fratton Park there was only one route he was heading.

All that remained to be decreed was which of his Championship suitors would be his destination, with his eyes fixed on higher-league football.

There were those within the club and the dressing room who winced at Wallace’s ‘We’ve failed’ article in The News last month, which cast such a damning verdict on the season.

It was brutal, it was straight, it was from the heart.

And it was effectively an exasperated farewell message from somebody who genuinely cared.

And Wallace did care about Pompey. He still does, ask anyone who encountered the lad face-to-face during three years and nine months at the club.

A nine out of 10 – class act.