Underrated and easy target - but Oli Hawkins deserves respect for Portsmouth contribution

Last week, Aimee Morris, received unprovoked Twitter abuse from a Pompey fan.

Sunday, 12th July 2020, 12:00 pm
Oli Hawkins final Pompey touch was scoring a penalty in the play-off semi-final elimination at Oxford United. Picture: Robin Jones/Getty Images

Her partner, Oli Hawkins, had 24 hours earlier successfully netted a penalty in the Kassam Stadium shoot-out which would eliminate the Blues from the League One play-offs.

Of course, the towering striker’s previous spot-kick was the Checkatrade Trophy final winner at Wembley in March 2019.

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It’s unlikely Aimee received incomprehensibly unpleasant social media treatment in the aftermath of Pompey claiming such silverware for the first time in their history.

Nonetheless, Hawkins always represented an easy target for criticism during his time at Pompey.

Of course, his return of 18 goals from 96 appearances was incomparable to Brett Pitman’s remarkable tally of 42 from 99 outings.

Then again, so is every Pompey striker’s record during the last 22 years, apart from Yakubu.

Hawkins was no natural goalscorer, his game instead revolved around other attributes, alternative striking strengths.

His work-rate, selflessness and willingness to operate as a team player was well-respected among Blues playing colleagues, who recognised and applauded his worth.

According to several team-mates, Hawkins was a reliable foil, excelling at holding the ball up and delivering a pass, rather than over elaborating to the point of losing possession or delaying play to render a colleague’s run into space wasted.

Such appreciation was not always shared by those in the stands. Often the most vocally criticised among Pompey’s players, social media could be even more vicious.

Perhaps it was snobbery based on his non-league background? Maybe it was his awkward build and striking style? It could simply be that some did not rate him as a performer.

Regardless, unquestionably his first-team presence did encourage a more direct mode of football, as team-mates sought to utilise Hawkins as an easy outlet when under pressure.

What mustn’t be overlooked, however, is his pivotal presence during Pompey’s outstanding first half of the 2018-19 campaign, foundations which should have yielded promotion to the Championship.

The former Dagenham & Redbridge man was a regular in Jackett’s side which topped the League One table for three-and-a-half months, weighing in with six goals in eight matches at one stage.

Also a frequent source of assists, he suffered injury on New Year’s Day during a 2-1 victory over Wimbledon which maintained the Blues’ position at the summit.

He returned a month and eight games later to a side which had sunk to third spot in his absence – and never climbed any higher for the remainder of the campaign.

Then there were those spells in defence as Jackett attempted to convert Hawkins into a centre-half, an experiment eventually scrapped following this season’s 2-2 draw with Peterborough in December.

In total, he started 16 Blues matches as a central defender, inevitably impacting on his games for goals ratio when viewed as a striker.

Curiously, the 28-year-old started just 16 matches after his Wembley heroics – of which nine were in his favoured striking role.

Ultimately, a back injury collected while on pre-season in Dublin, followed by injuries to both feet, wrecked availability during a final campaign which finished without a goal.

Yet history should be kind on a likeable down-to-earth professional who established himself as a popular player in the Pompey dressing room.

Hawkins was an honest competitor who gave his all whenever called upon in League One – the level the Blues continue to find themselves.

His penalty also earned silverware at Wembley on a memorable day for the Fratton family.

It’s just a shame some who no doubt cheered his contribution on that occasion now feel the need to abuse Hawkins’ own family.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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