PAUL COOK believes a renewed football passion has invigorated Enda Stevens’ game at Pompey.
And that hunger has led to the manager highlighting the left-back as one of his team’s stand-out performers this season.
Stevens goes into today’s meeting with Northampton as the Blues squad’s only ever-present player in league fixtures.
The 25-year-old has shone after his arrival last summer on a two-year deal, following his release from Aston Villa.
Stevens made just nine appearances in his time at Villa Park, which included loan spells at Notts County, Northampton and Doncaster.
Cook feels that led to the player losing his way and his drive for football.
But he believes the Irishman is now benefitting from the appreciation being shown for his ability at Pompey.
And being made to feel wanted has seen him shine in his new surroundings.
‘Enda’s had a tremendous season,’ said Cook.
‘He should be on anyone’s list for player of the year.
‘I know Michael Doyle and Ben Davies are at the fore for everyone.
‘But, for me, I think we had a problem position when we came in.
‘We don’t have a problem position any more, though.
‘Young Brandon Haunstrup behind him is an excellent player.
‘We’re delighted with both of them in that area.
‘You have to find a home. Enda was at Villa on good money and got loaned out here and there.
‘I’m not sure your appetite for the game is right when you’re getting that.
‘Now he’s moved down here with his missus and has settled well in the area.
‘He’s a very popular lad with the players and he’s a great lad – if maybe a little too nice at times on the pitch.
‘He’s been a fantastic addition to the club.
‘He’s a good player with a good engine and a good appetite for the game. He’s doing well.
‘You want him to get that appetite for the game and I think he’s found it.’
The identity of The News/Sports Mail Pompey player of the season will be revealed today ahead of the final-day clash with champions Northampton.
There were just 16 votes separating first and second place in the race for the prestigious trophy.
Cook feels Stevens should be in the running for recognition – but the same could be said for a host of his players this term.
He said: ‘There’s been that many players who have performed this season.
‘If you look at the centre-halves, Burgess and Clarke have been excellent.
‘The full-backs, both of them. I think Danny Hollands has been terrific.
‘Gareth Evans has had a good first season.
‘They all have little blips in football. That’s the game, but they have been superb.’