Cook: Pompey defender can win international honours

Enda Stevens. Picture: Joe Pepler
Enda Stevens. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Paul Cook has tipped Enda Stevens’ career path to lead him to international honours.

The attacking left-back has once again enjoyed an outstanding season for Pompey.

He is without doubt one of the most popular lads in the group, he is well-liked by everyone – and an absolutely fantastic player

Paul Cook

Since he was recruited as a free agent from Aston Villa in June 2015, Stevens has established himself as a vital component of Cook’s regime.

He has amassed 96 appearances and on Saturday recorded his ninth assist for the campaign.

Out of contract this summer, inevitably there will be plenty of interest in the highly-regarded 26-year-old.

Pompey themselves are desperate to retain the services of the Dublin-born defender.

Regardless of that outcome, Cook can see him progressing into the Republic of Ireland team in years to come.

Cook said: ‘In my opinion, Enda is the best left-back in this league and the one above. There is more in him, too.

‘Last year we got Martin O’Neill over to watch him play because we believed he was good enough to represent the Republic of Ireland.

‘I still believe there is a cap in Enda Stevens. I think he is that good a player.

‘He has to keep pursuing that hunger to be better and if he can do that then I still think the world is his oyster, without a shadow of a doubt.

‘Enda thoroughly deserves the awards he’s been given this season. He is an absolute credit of a lad to work with and be around.

‘He is without doubt one of the most popular lads in the group

‘He is well-liked by everyone – and an absolutely fantastic player.

‘Enda is more consistent this year, although he’s always had good performances in him, while his fitness levels are terrific.

‘I can tell supporters in his two years here he has barely missed a day’s training.

‘He’s just a great kid and a pleasure to be around.’

Stevens first came to Cook’s attention while representing Shamrock Rovers.

As Sligo boss, Cook had long identified the left-back for a promising future, with a January 2012 switch to Aston Villa subsequently taking him to the Premier League.

But during the next three-and-a-half years, Stevens made only nine appearances for the Villa Park club. Instead he served on loan at Notts County, Doncaster and Northampton.

Then Pompey provided a new permanent home.

Cook added: ‘Enda has always been a good footballer.

‘He lined up against me as a Shamrock Rovers player and was signed by Aston Villa.

‘He might have been a victim of getting it a bit too quickly in relation to wages and everything else.

‘Enda was not really playing enough games for Villa yet the lifestyle was really good and sometimes if you don’t really have to work hard then you don’t appreciate it.

‘Then he came here with an ambition to get better and be successful – and that shines out in his performances.’