Liam Walker has been told by Guy Whittingham to change his game if he wants a Pompey future.
The Blues boss has invited the midfielder back for pre-season training, which starts on June 27.
However, Walker, who was on a month-to-month deal this season, has been challenged to convince the manager he warrants a new contract.
A total of 10 players have signed for Pompey during the last few weeks but the 25-year-old’s return has been put on the backburner.
Whittingham rates Walker, who totalled 28 appearances and scored two goals in his maiden season in English football.
But he remains concerned over the players’ physicality and ability to tackle in what will be a combative League Two next year. As a result, Pompey’s manager believes the Gibralta international needs to change if he is to have any part in his Fratton squad.
‘I have invited Liam back for pre-season – I want him to prove he is capable of living up to the physical needs of that league,’ said Whittingham.
‘I think, mentally, he has to come back and be prepared to put his foot into places.
‘He sees himself as a footballer – and he is a decent footballer – but that is not enough at this level.
‘We saw it in League One, he didn’t win any 70/30 tackles let alone 50/50s, so he has to make sure he is prepared to put his foot in. I just want him to go into tackles.
‘He is like a first-year pro, really. Although he had those seasons in Spain, they certainly don’t get stuck in as physically as they do here.
‘Energy-wise, he can run around the pitch fine. But, physically, your body has to stand up to a bit of bruising.
‘I think he understands where he is and he does need to get a bit more physical.
‘I just want to see him again this summer and then judge whether to give him a contract.’
It was under Whittingham that Walker enjoyed his longest run in the Pompey side. In February and March, he made eight successive starts – before losing his place to Shaun Cooper.
The midfielder’s campaign saw him net a stunning free-kick against Scunthorpe and a penalty against Carlisle. He also conjured up an assist for James Keane’s memorable goal in the 3-2 home defeat to Colchester.
Yet the Blues’ coaching staff have long been concerned over his physicality.
The door remains open for a return, though, as Whittingham continues to finalise his squad.
‘I don’t think it is so much as him getting stronger physically in terms of his body,’ added Whittingham.
‘It is more of a mental thing because when he goes into challenges it looks like he might not win the ball.
‘Look at Johnny Ertl. Personally, I don’t think Liam is any weaker but mentally Johnny is prepared to put his foot in. It is down to him.’