Pompey boss: Hawkins no longer our flexible friend

Oli Hawkins Picture: Joe Pepler
Oli Hawkins Picture: Joe Pepler
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OLI HAWKINS is no longer Pompey’s flexible friend as he focuses on attacking instincts.

The 26-year-old was converted into a central defender on occasions last season as Kenny Jackett sought to plug injury-fuelled holes.

Hawkins would make nine starts in the unfamiliar role, despite playing his career as a centre-forward. 

However, Jackett has revealed his Dagenham & Redbridge recruit will now be employed solely as a striker.

That leaves Christian Burgess, Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough as his centre-halves – supplemented by Tom Naylor and Anton Walkes.

While Hawkins is now free to concentrate on being effective in the opposition’s penalty area.

Jackett said: ‘I hope not to use Oli in defence, we are strong enough not to this year.

‘It would be good if he could concentrate on being a centre-forward all season and doesn’t have to drop into the back.

‘We have done that all pre-season, we haven’t talked to him about defending, there hasn't been one session where he has played at the back.

‘Every single session has been working as a centre-forward, every single conversation, each coaching assessment, watching his clips – it has all been as a forward.

‘I want to be clear with him that’s he’s a centre-forward.

‘It’s hard to find big centre-forwards like him. I think he has developed well and there is a lot more to come from him, a player I have a lot of time for.

‘Oli did very well in that role (defence) last season. Even so, in terms going forward, moving from one role to the other is pretty tough, but if it’s needed and wins us games you have to be realistic sometimes.

‘However, in an ideal world he can think, work and train as a centre-forward. I think that can benefit him.’

Despite almost a third of last season’s 35 appearances spent in defence for Pompey, including substitute outings, Hawkins still netted eight times.

Jackett added; ‘At the moment we have three what I consider good centre-halves competing in Jack, Christian and Matt.

‘We also have one or two variable players who, I think, can play there.

‘I would like to think we will have a little bit more depth this year and be able to keep Oli up front.’