Stuart O’Keefe has provided bite and injected leadership – and Pompey’s boss is delighted with the loanee’s ongoing impact.
The 26-year-old has swiftly settled into the Blues’ engine room following a deadline-day arrival from Cardiff.
Before Stuart came I felt we lacked some legs. When at Oxford, I looked around and they were livelier than us, they wanted the ball. I didn’t think we matched them athleticallyKenny Jackett
With 11 appearances and one goal, O’Keefe has been an eye-catching driving force and automatic choice for Kenny Jackett.
What’s more, the midfielder has worn the captain’s armband in the injury absence of Brett Pitman and first-team omission of Gareth Evans.
Certainly, Jackett has been impressed with the recruit who actually faced Pompey in the Carabao Cup this season, before the switch was completed.
The manager said: ‘I like Stuart O’Keefe, he’s a player who has a little bit of everything to his game.
‘There’s a good partnership between him and Ben Close and he’s had a good Pompey career so far. He has a lot to build on.
‘Before he came I felt we lacked some legs. When at Oxford, I looked around and they were livelier than us, they wanted the ball. I didn’t think we matched them athletically.
‘Stuart has good energy and can get around in the games he’s had so far, he’s won a lot of second balls, can track and tackle and keeps the ball moving.
‘In certain games he’s also had quite a high number of shots – Northampton is the one where he really pushed the keeper several times.
‘Generally, since then, getting forward hasn’t been that often, with probably four forward players ahead of him.
‘I have been saying to him “Look, if you can get some shots in and get a goal great, but first and foremost win the midfield because otherwise you won’t get any shots in at all”.
‘With Pitman and Evans out of the team, there have been a few quite close to the captaincy, such as Nathan Thompson and Christian Burgess.
‘For Stuart it’s an opportunity for him, one he has thrived on. He is that type of character and person, thriving on the responsibility.’
On transfer deadline day, O’Keefe was accompanied by Matty Kennedy on a season-long loan from Cardiff.
Yet whereas the Scot is out of contract next summer, O’Keefe has a year remaining on his deal, ensuring any prospective Fratton Park move is likely to involve a fee.
Still, while the duo possesses no future with the Championship club, they have been instrumental in Jackett’s evolving Blues side.
Many of the Fratton faithful would love for them to remain, yet for Jackett there is no rush to thrash out anything on a permanent basis.
Although, that has always been the plan.
Jackett added: ‘It’s too early, we’ve already got them for the season, which is good.
‘Obviously, they were chosen with the potential to stay here, it’s not a case of young developing players going to return to a big club. We are not developing somebody else’s players.
‘They are season-long deals – so it’s down to them doing enough to be able to stay and the fit being right.’