The Cross Word: Let’s give Foggy a clear run to fitness

Wes Fogden is in possession of that curious gift of becoming a better footballer without kicking a ball.

The midfielder’s seven-month absence has served only to cement his reputation as one of Pompey’s greatest assets.

It seems his team’s shortcomings this season have elevated the 26-year-old’s undoubted ability to almost mythical levels.

But there’s a danger of building the attacking talent into the saviour of his side.

That would be placing an unfair burden on a player who has the potential to be a big part of his club’s future.

That will only be the case, however, if he’s given the time to complete his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury.

The eternal optimism which greets a new season, and had been further fuelled by a powerful finish to the previous campaign, was firmly in place last July.

News Fogden had picked up an innocuous-looking injury in training refused to quell the sense of momentum which had been built by the five wins which secured the club’s place in the Football League.

But, by the time the opening pre-season friendly with Hawks arrived, it was clear things were a little worse than anticipated for the wiry little dynamo.

Still, the sentiment then was it was little more than bouncing over a speed bump on an inexorable drive to glory. Now his injury is seen as a complete road block.

Even Andy Awford would admit he didn’t realise what a setback Fogden’s injury was at the time.

That’s no slight on the Pompey boss at all.

Awford had just utilised a 4-2-3-1 formation to carry his team to safety in his caretaker tenure.

It seemed a simple mechanical process of replacing a cog with another cog and things would be up and running again.

Turns out Fogden’s boundless energy was the fuel which made the engine purr, though.

A debate with Awford about formations last week ended with the conclusion you can play 1-1-8 and it will work with the right personnel.

‘It’s about players not systems,’ the Pompey boss said. Fogden springs to the mind’s eye as those words hang in the air.

And that is the danger for not only the Fratton faithful but the returning player.

The goodwill and optimism which is greeting his return can easily make its way into the realm of unrealistic expectation.

The news of the former Bournemouth man’s scheduled runout against Woking was given a joyous reaction on social media.

There’s little doubt there was plenty of humour and jest in the hallelujah chorus when news of the specially-arranged outing surfaced.

But there was also a genuine tone to the relief of his return and optimism at what his presence can provide.

We have to temper those emotions, however, and not place too heavy a load on the former Brighton trainee.

A return to fitness is characterised by fluctuations in form as a player reaches each milestone.

Fogden’s ‘graded’ comeback has seen him have differing levels of interaction with the rest of the first team in training. He is now in his third full week and has the game on Monday under his belt.

Part of that process, under the watchful eye of Pompey’s medical and strength and conditioning team, provided one of the brightest sights of the season on Saturday.

Fogden being put through his paces in front of Blues fans in the warm-up against Hartlepool was one of the most heart-warming chapters of the campaign.

Now he needs the time and patience to make sure there’s a happy ending to his to story.