Michael Appleton hailed the return to form of Dave Kitson and promised: He’s never been a problem.
The Pompey boss praised the striker for showing the resolve to bounce back when his Fratton career looked dead and buried.
Kitson returned to the fray with the winner and man-of-the-match display at Doncaster last weekend to keep Pompey alive in the Championship.
The 32-year-old followed that with a start against Crystal Palace on Tuesday – his first since being sent off at Barnsley in February.
Kitson had found the going tough at Pompey and found himself the target for criticism from some fans.
That factored in Appleton’s thinking when leaving him out of the side, but the Blues boss has held an open dialogue with the former Reading man throughout his omission.
Appleton dismissed the notion Kitson had been a troublesome influence and felt he was now getting his reward for his professionalism.
The Pompey manager did hint, however, the striker could be looking to a life beyond football with a year left of his current deal.
Appleton said: ‘I’m pleased for Kits. He’s had a bit of a time of it and he’s not had a great time since he’s been at the club, let’s be honest.
‘I’ve just asked him to be professional, do the right things and make sure he’s ready.
‘He took his opportunity last week at Doncaster and on Tuesday.
‘He’s not disruptive at all. I’ve had no problems from that point of view.
‘He’s an intelligent lad. I know there’s something wrong when I see him on a Saturday morning reading the Financial Times. Maybe it should be the other way around!
‘He’s got plans for things to do after football. Whether that’s next season or the season after is down to him.
‘All the way through I’ve been having open and frank discussions with him.
‘That’s the way I am, anyway. I don’t mince my words or play games. I say things face to face and if it upsets them, it upsets them.
‘That helps and the players enjoy it. They might be annoyed or disappointed at that point, but they then know there is no hidden agendas and I’m doing it for the team.
‘If I have to play someone to get the balance right for the team I will do. I think Kits realises that.
‘I’ve always said I thought he had a part to play, even when he wasn’t in the squad – and that’s how it’s proved.’
Appleton made light of Kitson’s assertion that he no longer sees himself as an out-and-out striker.
The Blues boss added: ‘I think he’s got it into his head that he’s a deep-lying striker or attacking midfielder.
‘On Tuesday, I said to the players some of them looked like they were struggling after 60 minutes – Kits said “I was after 25 minutes, gaffer!”.
‘He’s maybe trying to deflect it a bit and take the pressure off himself. I’ll be demanding what he did over the past couple of games against Derby.’