Paul Cook has praised the ‘outstanding’ contribution of the resurgent Enda Stevens.
And he has challenged the in-form left-back to maintain his impressive standards.
Enda’s a great lad, as good a lad as you can meet in the game and doesn’t cause you any problems whatsoeverPaul Cook
By his own admission, the Irishman is playing his best football since arriving in England in January 2012.
A dream move from Shamrock Rovers to Aston Villa promised much, but in the summer he found himself in League Two with Pompey.
Yet the 25-year-old has revelled as an attacking full-back in Cook’s 4-2-3-1 system, establishing himself as an ever-present in the league campaign.
Stevens’ assist for Marc McNulty’s goal in last weekend’s 3-0 victory over Crawley was his seventh of the campaign.
And Cook has been delighted with the defender who has turned his career round at Fratton Park.
He said: ‘Enda has been outstanding, he is playing really, really well.
‘He’s got to keep it going, though, there’s a long way to go.
‘If you look at Enda now, he is a lad training every day, working very hard, his fitness levels are now ridiculously high, they have come on in leaps and bounds.
‘As a player he is a good defender, has good stature, good presence, and in my opinion there is no reason why he can’t go on and have a really good career, hopefully with us.
‘He reckons he is in his best form in England but that also might be down to concentrating on his football.
‘I don’t think the problem is just Enda’s. The problem comes sometimes when you get young lads maybe given great contracts at clubs and football might come second in your life so you don’t quite train so hard.
‘I am not talking specifically about Enda now, but footballers in general.
‘When you do apply yourself properly to the game it is amazing what you can do.
‘Enda’s a great lad, as good a lad as you can meet in the game and doesn’t cause you any problems whatsoever.
‘He is very popular among the rest of the players, conducts himself great and is a great lad to have around.’
Stevens made only nine appearances for Villa, instead experiencing his football during four different loan spells.
It’s a journey which has taken him to every division in the Football League.
And Cook believes the former Republic of Ireland under-21 international is in a good place.
He added: ‘With a lot of these lads it is down to them.
‘The game is littered with players who don’t achieve what they should, that is the nature of the game now because of the money.
‘Our job is trying to manage all the players and everything else – and I think money should go with success.
‘What we have now in football is a case of people getting a lot of money if they don’t get success.’