Paul Cook believes Michael Smith has stopped feeling sorry for himself.
And he has pinpointed the Fratton Park boos against Mansfield as providing the crucial moment of enlightenment.
What these lads do at times is take it personally, it is not personal, our fans just want success, there’s nothing personal about itPaul Cook
The striker will tonight make only his second start in Pompey’s past 15 League Two fixtures.
Smith replaces the suspended Conor Chaplin in attack at Luton (7.45pm), although Cook insists that change had long been predetermined.
The summer recruit has come under fire from some fans over his early-season displays.
But Cook insists the 25-year-old’s belief has been boosted after hearing the team handed similar negative treatment in the recent 4-0 victory over the Stags.
The manager said: ‘What would the reaction have been around the club if Michael Smith had missed the chances Conor has?
‘I am not trying to be critical, these lads aren’t machines.
‘Conor missed a one-versus-one against Notts County, he missed a one-versus-one against Mansfield. Conor is Conor, he will score goals, but they are not machines, they don’t miss deliberately.
‘Michael has been a different lad the last couple of weeks, I think the Mansfield game taught him so much about our club.
‘What these lads do at times is take it personally. It is not personal, our fans just want success, there’s nothing personal about it.
‘That bit of booing has shown Michael that it is not a personal thing, they just want to win – and all of a sudden Michael has joined the rest of us.
‘We’ve had a quiet laugh with him in a nice way – “It’s not just you who gets it Michael, we all do!”
‘That is the culture of our club, we are what we are and I certainly think that has given Michael a message to stop feeling sorry for yourself, come out and be the player that you are.
‘We saw it in his body language for the reserves against Wolves, he looked an athlete, he looked a strong runner. Early on in the season he never looked like that.
‘We have to make sure he takes that into tonight’s game – and he’s a player who will score goals.’
Smith registered his first league goal of the season in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Cheltenham.
But since a September defeat at Blackpool, he has totalled only 19 minutes in the league.
Now Cook is hoping the forward can win over the fans.
He added: ‘It would have been nice if he had got the winner at Cheltenham because that would have been a big turning point for him.
‘Things like that buy you credits with supporters – before then he hadn’t bought himself any credits.
‘Saturday was his first, now we want him to unveil himself as the player we brought to the club.’