Michael Smith is back in Pompey’s first-team reinvigorated from his spell on the sidelines.
That is the verdict of Leam Richardson, who has praised the striker’s response since his Blues omission.
The summer signing was not included in the previous two Pompey squads following a disappointing start to the campaign.
He returned to the side in style last night, bagging a magnificent hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat at Yeovil Town in the Checkatrade Trophy.
And Richardson believes Smith has now put himself in the frame for Saturday’s League Two visit of Crawley.
He said: ‘That is why Michael was brought to the club – you saw it a few times last year.
‘It was great for his confidence and it is our job to put 11 confident players on the pitch. If you do, you win more games than you don’t.
‘The first goal was a header – the delivery was top class.
‘The second he has used his body strength in the box to turn. He made it happen himself – it was top class.
‘And then he finished it with a header.
‘You are managing people and you have to put them out on the pitch confident.
‘If they are having a bad time they sometimes need leaving on the pitch to get them through it.
‘Now and again they need pulling out to relax and watch a few games ready to be thrown back in.
‘That is exactly what has happened with Michael.
‘He’s our number nine, he’ll be back in, he will feature this season.
‘Never dismiss anyone. We have some top players, it’s even hard to get on our bench at the minute. It’s a headache for the manager.
‘Nowadays, 99 per cent of players are confidence players – a lot of people give bravado and a front but then we dig a little deeper.
‘It’s about managing people, managing their egos and managing their disappointment as well.
‘Since being out of the team Michael has probably worked harder, to be honest. He has been a pleasure to work with every single day.’
Smith netted four goals in 16 games during a loan spell at Fratton Park last season.
His form convinced Paul Cook to sign him for an undisclosed fee from Swindon Town in the summer, yet he has struggled initially.
Last night’s showing again sees him vying with Conor Chaplin, Curtis Main and Noel Hunt for Pompey’s striking spots.
And Richardson believes that confidence can be crucial.
He added: ‘He will go from strength-to-strength, any striker who scores a hat-trick will be full of confidence.
‘Hopefully he can use that for the next couple of games.
‘When those lads have got those shirts it is for them to keep and Michael has got his head down and worked tirelessly hard on his fitness and sharpness.’