Kenny Jackett has praised Tom Davies for his pre-season impact.
And Pompey’s boss insists it is ‘tight’ between the ex-Accrington man and Jack Whatmough in the battle for his starting line-up.
I like his attitude, he is wholehearted, and it has been tough for Tom and Jack to shift Burgess and Clarke in recent seasonsKenny Jackett
Davies has regularly deputised for the injured Matt Clarke during the summer friendly programme.
That has put him in pole position to partner Christian Burgess for the August 5 kick-off against Rochdale.
Davies made only 15 appearances during the Blues’ title-winning season and was earmarked by Paul Cook for offloading.
However, Jackett’s arrival presented the 25-year-old with a prized clean slate.
And the Blues manager has been impressed with the defender’s contribution.
He said: ‘Tom is competitive and aggressive in a centre-back position where in your mid-to-late 20s you go on to have your best time.
‘That is because, like goalkeepers, it is a decision-making position.
‘Every season you learn, every season you have to improve, every season you have to get a bit better – and he is of the age where he can consistently get better and improve.
‘I like his attitude, he is wholehearted.
‘It has been tough for Tom and Jack (Whatmough) to shift Burgess and Clarke in recent seasons.
‘The injury to Clarke in the Havant game has opened up a space and in pre-season Tom has worked towards that.
‘We will see if he starts the first match – he has had chances and opportunities.
‘I have been impressed with both him and Jack, I think it’s very tight between them.
‘As a unit – where you are talking about four centre-halves – they are all very capable.
‘It’s not an area I’ve looked to strengthen.
‘The pair of them have to make sure they are ready behind Burgess and Clarke so when called upon can hold on to the shirt.’
Clarke will miss the start of the League One campaign with a groin problem.
The versatile Nathan Thompson is another defensive option but is missing with a foot injury.
In the meantime, Davies has been standing in as the left-sided centre-half alongside Burgess.
Jackett added: ‘Despite Tom being on the wrong side, he turns the ball well on to his right foot and tries to pass it.
‘We are working and encouraging him to pass the ball and keep it on the floor – and he is capable in that area.
‘There is always something good about having a left-footer there and for Matt Clarke it is natural on his left foot.
‘Sometimes a right-footer can look awkward but it is about the quality of the player as well and – as a centre-back department – there are four centre-halves we are working with.
‘I like all four centre-backs, they have done well and had good pre-seasons.’