Portsmouth head coach Kenny Jackett has told The News that he wants Paul Downing to challenge for a place in the first team.

The 28-year-old signed for Portsmouth this summer on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers but he has not had a pleasant time on the south coast. He started the season with a run of poor form and was dropped in September in favour of a central defence partnership of Sean Raggett and Christian Burgess. Because of this, Downing has not appeared for Portsmouth since September.

But Jackett has not forgotten about Downing and has challenged him to get back into the first team. If the season is resumed, Jackett believes these few weeks before everything gets going again will be like pre-season where every position is up for grabs. That means this is the best time for Downing to prove himself and get back into their first team.

  Birmingham City have decision to make on future of returning Portsmouth loanee

Jackett said: “Paul didn’t get off to a great start (after joining), but has never given up.

“During this time away, he has looked very fit with the amount of fitness work he has done.

“The (running) times he’s doing are good at the moment so – as and when the football starts – it will be like a fresh season for him.

“For the lads which have been on the fringes, it is similar going from one season to the next. During a campaign, it can be quite hard to get yourself into the side, particularly if the team is in a bit of a groove and a rhythm.

  Blackpool snap up Leyton Orient and former England C international defender

“But whenever we do start, it will feel like the first day of pre-season because of the time we’ve had off.

“For the likes of Paul and Bryn Morris, they’ll be fit and hungry – and hopefully ready to capitalise on the new opportunity they’re going to get.”

Should Paul Downing get a chance in the first team?