KENNY JACKETT believes Oli Hawkins has demonstrated he can handle League One football.
Yet Pompey’s boss remains open-minded over which position best suits the non-league recruit.
I will be open-minded on Oli’s position and using him where I feel I need toKenny Jackett
The former Dagenham & Redbridge man has exhibited his versatility during his short time at Fratton Park, seamlessly switching between centre-forward and central defender.
Although carving out a career as a striker, Hawkins has now started four Blues matches at centre-half – each yielding victories.
Having lined up against Charlton and Blackpool, he is again in the frame to retain defensive duties in tomorrow’s visit of Southend.
Certainly Jackett has been impressed by the versatile 25-year-old’s performances at League One level.
Yet he is unsure which is his most effective position.
He said: ‘Oli is a variable player who can play centre-half or centre-forward when needed.
‘He is new to the pro game, came out of non-league reasonably late at 25 and probably with not that many people after him or, funnily enough, not that many options, so we were pleased to secure his services.
‘It’s a big step up for him, it’s a move that he wanted and he is working really hard to establish himself as a Football League player.
‘I would suggest so far in the few months he has been here he has done that, he looks capable at League One level at both centre-forward and centre-half.
‘At the moment he is happy to stay flexible and I do see a positive contribution from him so far, which is the main thing.
‘I will be open-minded on his position and using him where I feel I need to.
‘He’s a player I had seen play in both positions last year, I wasn’t necessarily going in blind.
‘Dagenham have a very experienced manager in John Still and, in my dealings with John over the transfer, he said it was an option for Oli to play at the back.
‘He has made a good fist of it so far and played well in both positions.
‘Part of him at centre-forward is you want his power at set-pieces and winning it in both boxes.
‘That option’s obviously still there as central defender.’
Hawkins has totalled 15 appearances since arriving on transfer deadline day for an undisclosed fee.
His versatility has enabled Jackett to move Matt Clarke to left-back in attempts to resolve that problem position.
And Pompey’s boss acknowledges it is rare to find a player capable of performing both as a striker and central defender.
He added: ‘Gareth Evans can play right-back or right midfield, but with centre-half and centre-forward there are big differences in terms of flexibility and variability.
‘I haven’t come across many who can play from one end to the other.
‘You get players who can operate on either wing, or at full-back or central midfielders who can move around, but Oli has played well in both positions.
‘And every game he’s played at the back we have won, quite an interesting stat!’