Midfielder’s ready to fight for Pompey starting spot

Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler
Dave Waterman, right, and his brother Lee following a Great South Run effort in Oakley's name. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143044-319)

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Stuart O’Keefe is relishing the battle as the fight for starting places goes through the gears.

The midfielder is vying for a return to Pompey’s starting line-up to face Southend at Fratton Park tomorrow (3pm).

O’Keefe is aiming to face his former club and aid the Blues’ hopes of moving towards the play-off places after returning from suspension.

The 26-year-old served a one-game ban as his side picked up an impressive win on the road at Blackpool last weekend.

He’s back in contention – along with Nathan Thompson – meaning boss Kenny Jackett has some selection dilemmas to answer going into the clash.

With Pompey’s treatment room beginning to clear, Jackett is hoping the battle for starting berths will intensify over the coming weeks. And that is a challenge O’Keefe is relishing.

He said: ‘A full-strength squad breeds competitiveness

‘For a manager that’s brilliant to have.

‘When people are hungry to play, that’s only going to push people on.

‘The people who are playing are looking over their shoulders and the people who aren’t playing want to play.

‘That can only help and it’s the stage we’re at now.

‘There’s not many injuries and there’s competition for places.

‘Last Saturday showed we have a good squad here and one which can get out of this division.

‘I think you have to (relish the competition).

‘It’s all about the competition.

‘There’s always pressure. You can’t switch off or rest on your laurels.’

Jackett took the decision to bring in Kal Naismith, Gareth Evans and Danny Rose last weekend after a dearth of league football for the trio.

O’Keefe believes they are showing the attitude which needs to be replicated throughout the squad.

Milan Lalkovic (Achilles), Jack Whatmough and Damien McCrory (both knee) remain the only injured players in Pompey’s first-team set-up at present.

‘We’ve still got a couple out but, other than that, we’re pretty much there,’ added O’Keefe.

‘It definitely wasn’t the case five or six weeks ago when we had a lot of injuries.

‘It’s credit to the staff we’re back out on the field where we need to be if we want to be competing.

‘Everyone is going to be needed, no matter what.

‘Fair play to the lads who came in last weekend.

‘It’s hard when you’re not playing. It’s hard to keep your head – but you have to.

‘When you go in there you’re going to be needed.

‘We need to get results and that’s what happened with the boys who went in there.

‘They haven’t played for a while, but they haven’t moaned and their attitudes have been fantastic.

‘That’s only going to help us to get up the league – and out of the league eventually.’