Striker’s future role is in the balance

Oli Hawkins
Oli Hawkins
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OLI HAWKINS could have a future as a Pompey defender.

Blues assistant manager Joe Gallen admitted he’s not sure where the 25-year-old’s best position lies.

Gallen praised the impact of the player at both ends of the pitch since his arrival from Dagenham & Redbridge.

Hawkins was again employed as a defender in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Blackpool, after helping his team to a clean sheet at the back against Charlton in the Checkatrade Trophy.

The versatile talent was moved there from an attacking role in the FA Cup loss to Luton at the start of the month.

Although signed as a striker, Gallen explained he couldn’t be certain where Hawkins would end up playing moving forward.

He said: ‘Oli’s gone from centre-forward to centre-half and I can’t underline how well he’s done to do that.

‘I’ve got to say he’s been fantastic for us. He really has looked excellent as a centre-half.

‘Oli’s done really well up front. He would have liked to have scored more goals and probably could’ve scored more goals.

‘There were big chances against Bristol Rovers when one went the wrong side of the post. There was a good chance against Scunthorpe at 1-0 down from a cross from Jamal (Lowe).

‘He would tell you he’d liked to have scored more goals.

‘But I’ve seen other players who have gone on to have great careers and play in the Premier League not start anywhere near as well as what Oli’s done.

‘Let’s see what happens now. I don’t really know what the plans are in terms of moving forward.

‘It looks to me like he can play centre-half – and it looks to me like he can play centre-forward.

‘He was bought as a centre-forward, but I’m starting to think he’s both. I’d say it’s better to be able to play in two positions than one!

‘We’re looking at different permutations at the back.

‘Kenny thought we’d look big, strong and aggressive against Blackpool. I think there’s something in it.’

Hawkins has bagged four Pompey goals to date – with those efforts coming in his first nine outings. There’s been no further goals in his past six outings, but Gallen feels it’s a return Hawkins should be content with.

He added: ‘I think, initially, when you sign for a team from a lower level, the buzz of it all gives an initial burst of energy. Then there’s a levelling off period.

‘I think going between the two positions can have an effect, too.

‘At Millwall we signed Steve Morison from Stevenage for around £100,000. It took him a long time to get four goals, and I mean well over half a season.

‘Now Oli has got four goals in his first nine games. So it’s a big jump to make.

‘To go from the Conference to League One, and to go from Dagenham to this club are huge jumps. I think Oli has done fantastically.’