Rocha: Bring it on

Ricardo Rocha has welcomed the competition for places in Pompey's defence
Ricardo Rocha has welcomed the competition for places in Pompey's defence
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gaffer: Pompey defender needs to return to centre-back

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Ricardo Rocha is ready to battle for his place in Pompey’s starting XI.

And the Portuguese centre-back believes competition among the Blues’ defensive options will bring out his best to propel him into Steve Cotterill’s plans.

The 32-year-old rejoined Pompey in September last year to seal a protracted return to the club.

But after missing out on pre-season, a succession of niggling injuries blighted his early form before he regained his sharpness during an excellent defensive run that saw Pompey go 636 minutes without conceding a goal.

While Rocha believes he will benefit from a pre-season this time around, he knows he still faces stiff competition for a place in central defence, with Greg Halford, Aaron Mokoena and Jason Pearce also gunning for selection.

But the defender is relishing the challenge ahead.

Rocha said: ‘It just makes everyone work harder.

‘There is a lot of competition – particularly in defence, where we have more players.

‘It’s good because the players who aren’t playing are working hard to get a place and the players who are playing know that if they make mistakes or are not playing well, there is someone there to come in and take their place.

‘I think it’s a healthy pressure.

‘Everyone wants to do their best for the club and everyone wants to improve as a player. Everyone works towards that.

‘You can never relax. If you’re not playing well, why should you play?

‘If there is someone behind you working hard, you know they can take your place.’

Central defence is one of the few spots in the squad where Cotterill has genuine competition.

But there could still be at least one more addition in the position, with the Blues boss looking to add a versatile defender to the ranks as well as bolstering his midfield and strike force.

Rocha said: ‘At other clubs the competition is fierce for every place and I’m sure that will happen here.

‘The gaffer is looking to bring in more players in every position.

‘He wants there to be a fight for every place in the team.

‘Then he will have a decision to make. It won’t be easy for him but if he sees his team working hard he will be able to pick the best ones to play.’

Rocha, meanwhile, still believes he has something to prove, despite being highly-rated by fans as the calming influence at the back.

And with pre-season behind him, he is feeling sharper and fitter than at any other time in his Blues career.

He said: ‘Pre-season is always important for us and this year I’ve had the opportunity to do it.

‘I think I can prove something this season.

‘With pre-season behind me, I can show that my levels will be higher and I can play even better than I did last season. That’s what I want, personally.’