Pompey’s Baker staking his alternative claim

Pompey midfielder Carl Baker  Picture: Shaun Boggust
Pompey midfielder Carl Baker Picture: Shaun Boggust
Luke McGee. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Kenny Jackett’s hunt for a central midfielder has prompted him to cast his eye in the direction of Stuart O’Keefe.

In the meantime, an unlikely figure is evolving into a genuine candidate for Pompey’s engine room.

The wide areas have a lot of competition, so it will be interesting whether Carl can bring his presence in the centre of midfield and, in particular, his range of passing

Kenny Jackett

Carl Baker has been switched from his accustomed position on the right of the attacking three during the Blues’ past two friendlies.

Certainly, the veteran has impressed in those displays against Bournemouth and Crawley, offering Jackett another option in the centre of midfield.

Baker was an influential figure in Pompey’s title-winning side, scoring nine times in 46 appearances and demonstrating talent with either foot.

Now Jackett has ushered him inside for an alternative role ahead of Saturday’s League One opener against Rochdale.

O’Keefe remains in the sights as Pompey strive to secure him on a season-long loan from Cardiff.

Meanwhile, Baker is strongly staking his own claim.

Jackett said: ‘Carl has to evolve, there are a high number of wide men at the club.

‘If you think about it, there’s Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith, Milan Lalkovic and Jamal Lowe.

‘Gareth Evans can also play there – and we have brought Nathan Thompson in as a utility player who can play full-back, so that could happen.

‘The wide areas have a lot of competition, so it will be interesting whether Carl can bring his presence in the centre of midfield and, in particular, his range of passing.

‘Carl is an experienced player, a very, very good professional. He has a good range of passing, both short and long, and possesses the attributes I feel can play in the centre of midfield.

‘I know the majority of his time in his career he’s been slightly wider and had something of a goalscoring role. But he’s a good passer, reads the game quite well and, in the two games so far, has linked up quite well with Danny Rose.

‘He’s told me he played central for MK Dons against Sheffield Wednesday (April 2016) and they got a clean sheet. Overall, though, it has not been his position too many times.’

Baker has played himself into contention ahead of Adam May and Ben Close during the pre-season programme.

May had initially been Jackett’s preference, but Pompey’s boss has been impressed with Baker’s contribution since lining up against Bournemouth.

He added: ‘It’s early days, Carl is keen and enthusiastic to do it so we’ll see how he carries on.

‘We’ve needed some experience in there, we want to be strong through the spine of the team and then athletic on the outside and I have been pleased with his two games.

‘He was very good against Bournemouth and, as the game went on against Crawley, he grew and had a very good second half.

‘Carl has the body strength to receive the ball with back to goal and has the technique. It’s not that different playing slightly right to central, it’s something I think that as you get older can be an advantage for the team and also your own career.’