Oli Hawkins striking duties officially on hold - as Portsmouth return him to centre-half role

Oli Hawkins was handed his first start of the season against Norwich under-21s - and surprisingly it came at centre-half. Picture: Joe Pepler
Oli Hawkins was handed his first start of the season against Norwich under-21s - and surprisingly it came at centre-half. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Pompey have removed Oli Hawkins’ striking responsibilities in a bid to resolve their central-defensive problems. 

Kenny Jackett has identified the 26-year-old for a centre-half role for the foreseeable future as he seeks to bolster the Blues’ defensive options.

Hawkins was handed a first start of an injury-hampered campaign during the Leasing.com Trophy visit of Norwich under-21s at the weekend.

Asked to partner Sean Raggett in the centre of defence, it was the culmination of two weeks of training ground work focused on re-introducing him to the role.

Hawkins previously served as a makeshift centre-half on occasions during the 2017-18 campaign, before restored to favoured striking duty.

Now, with the Blues struggling to fill the position since Matt Clarke's departure and Jack Whatmough’s injury, they have once more turned to the former Dagenham & Redbridge man.

Jackett said: ‘With Ellis Harrison, Ryan Williams and Marcus Harness coming in, I think it has strengthened our front line to add to what we already have.

‘Obviously Oli has outstanding aerial ability and also quite good composure on the ball, he can pass.

‘As we saw two years ago, he possesses the capabilities to do it, definitely, and he’s not a player I would like to give up on, I do think there is a place for him.

‘I was pleased with him on Saturday, I have been pleased with him when I’ve played him there before and it has been as an emergency.

‘It will be interesting now if he can have a period where he concentrates on being centre-half and training there, it will be interesting how he develops.

‘At the moment we are giving him a go. In the last couple of weeks since he’s been back from injury, all of his training has been as a centre-back in addition to last Saturday’s game. We will see how he develops there, that’s the plan.

‘What’s the future for Oli? We will see how he develops at centre-back.

‘I do think there’s a role for him, we have to make sure we keep working with him, because he is a talented player and has the ability to do it.

‘We will keep working with him and assess it on the way.’

Hawkins started nine matches at centre-half during the 2017-18 campaign, his first at Fratton Park.

Last term he was employed solely as a striker, scoring 10 times in 48 appearances, including the winning penalty in the Checkatrade Trophy final.

Jackett added: ‘He’s had some really good games there and helped us out and played well on Saturday, he is positive to it.

'We’ll carry on and won't make a final decision whether that’s his future – we’ll see how he develops there.’