OLI HAWKINS believes he can forge a powerful career as a defender.
And Pompey’s versatile summer arrival outlined a conviction he’s as good as any defender in League One.
Hawkins has impressed since being shifted from attack to the back line for Kenny Jackett’s men.
Despite being signed as a striker, the 25-year-old believes he could now have a future in his new role.
The former Dagenham & Redbridge talent stated he feels at home as a defender, and has the potential to be a success there.
Hawkins said: ‘I’ve always thought my career would be as a centre-forward and I’d be a target man.
‘But I knew I could play centre-half, having played there a couple of times previously. The management team have seen I can play there and seem to like me there.
‘I’m happy with the decision and happy to play there.
‘I went into it with confidence because I’m dominant in the air and I’m still quite quick. I knew I could do it.
‘I felt a bit nervous for the first five minutes, but as soon as I won the first tackle and the first header I felt like this could be for me.
‘Ever since then I’ve thought that I’m as good as any other centre-half in this league.
‘I feel I can push on and be the best.
‘I 100-per-cent believe that if I stayed in the position and worked at it I could become an established centre-half.
‘You never know what could happen – as a centre-half or centre-forward.’
Hawkins’ record as a defender more than stands up to inspection, with the Blues winning six of the seven full games he’s operated there.
His performances alongside Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess have belied his relative inexperience in the position.
The former non-league man feels one area for improvement, however, is his threat from set-pieces.
At 6ft 5in, Hawkins knows he has to cause more problems for opponents from dead-ball situations.
He added: ‘In this league you need to have better movement inside the box. It’s something I need to work on.
‘Teams are more organised at the back, so I can’t just stand there and head it.
‘So it’s something I definitely want to work on this season. I can be a threat and score goals when I go up there – so that’s what I’m going to look to do.
‘It’s still early days for me here and I’m looking to settle into the team.
‘It’s been a whirlwind. I came here as a centre-forward, got injured and then cracked my head open.
‘There’s been a few goals along the way and now I’m playing centre-half, so it’s been different.
‘But I’m excited and want to do as well as I can for the club.
‘I’m happy with my stats, but we have two great centre-halves in Burge and Clarkey.
‘All I can do if I’m used there is try as hard as I can to be as good as them.’