The edge Enda Stevens found at Portsmouth after Aston Villa release that ensured he returned to the Premier League with Sheffield United
Former Pompey boss Paul Cook revealed Enda Stevens had to become more ruthless during his journey back to the Premier League.
The left-back moved to Fratton Park after a frustrating few years after crossing the Irish Sea.
Stevens joined Aston Villa from Shamrock Rovers in 2012, but was limited to just nine appearances and had loan spells at Notts County, Doncaster and Northampton.
After departing Villa Park three years later, the Dublin-born defender was handed a lifeline at Fratton Park - although it meant dropping to the bottom tier of the Football League.
He certainly took his opportunity with both hands and became a fans’ favourite. Stevens scored one goal in 99 appearances and played a key role in the Blues claiming League Two title in 2017, as well as being named The News/ Sports Mail Player of the Season.
Stevens helped the Blades to promotion back into Premier League last season and remains a regular starter as Chris Wilder’s side chase European football.
And Cook, who brought the attacking full-back to PO4, believes adding aggression to Stevens’ game was why he enjoyed a return to the upper echelons of English football.
The Wigan manager told The 42: ‘Enda is such a lovely lad and to be honest, being such a lovely lad was probably one of the things that was stopping him from going on in football.
‘He needed to develop a ruthless nature, a ruthless style, an aggressive style.
‘That’s not kicking people or doing stupid things on the pitch. That’s aggression in his play.
‘’That’s getting forward quicker, that’s crossing the ball with more anger in the cross, little bits of devilment in his game. They call it an edge in football and Enda was playing without an edge.’
After his career took a knock at Villa, Cook admitted Stevens could have completely given up on football.
Instead, he’s regularly rubbing shoulders with the world’s best in the Premier League and for the Republic of Ireland.
Cook added: ‘There comes a time when lads need to stand up and take responsibility for their own careers.
‘Talent alone will get you nowhere. Enda came over and got his big move from Shamrock Rovers.
‘It didn’t work, he could have finished up and said it wasn’t to be but sometimes having that little bit of hurt is good for a lad’s hunger.
‘There was a realisation with Enda when he was at Portsmouth about what he needed to do to start his career again.’