NOEL HUNT has a massive part to play at Pompey this season.
Paul Cook underlined he believes the striker will prove a hugely-important part of his squad as the campaign progresses.
And the Blues boss has told how he feels the hitman’s fire is being fuelled as he waits for his chance to make an impact.
Hunt has been restricted to six substitute appearances totalling 79 minutes since arriving from Southend last month.
The 33-year-old is likely to miss out on a place in the starting XI against Wycombe today.
But Cook knows there is a big role for Hunt moving forward – and fully expects him to make an impression on the season.
He said: ‘Noel is getting to know us well, and I’d suggest Noel is okay with the situation. That’s why he’s such a good professional.
‘It’s not a case of making Noel unhappy. It’s a case of trying to make others happy.
‘We’d speak to Noel. It’s not something we’d just do (tweak selection). We’d speak to him about it.
‘We’re not trying to be clever, but he’s getting sharper by the minute.
‘We’re not disappointing him. I feel we’re fuelling him.
‘Noel has a massive part to play for us this year.
‘If we were going into a more pressurised situation, for example, Noel would be on the pitch.’
Hunt may not be picking up starts for Pompey, but he is making his mark at the club.
Cook explained how his experience is being felt as he works with the other strikers.
And the former Reading man has been leading by example as he keeps himself in shape at the Blues’ Roko training base.
The manager is delighted he’s got a professional with Hunt’s nous who can influence the young players in Pompey’s squad positively.
‘Noel’s working that hard in training that you have to respect his commitment,’ added Cook.
‘He’s in the gym all the time, he’s in early and leaves late. He’s a credit to himself, he really is.
‘Noel seems to have found a right, good appetite for the game.
‘Noel left here Tuesday at 4pm and was in at 8.30am. He was working here that time.
‘He’s great with Michael Smith, Curtis Main and Conor Chaplin. He’s absolutely brilliant with him.
‘He talks to him all the time. That’s what football is all about.
‘He’ll probably play Monday and that’ll be down to him not us.
‘We wouldn’t try to belittle him and force him play. It’ll be Noel wanting to play.
‘When you are putting him on for the last five or 10 minutes at Exeter he shows game management.
‘You know he’s going to make a better decision than most. He’s an asset and is top class how he conducts himself. He’s exactly what you want.’