Paul Cook insists he believes Kyle Bennett has the makings of a ‘top, top player’.
But the Pompey boss has warned supporters not to expect the 25-year-old to shine in every performance.
The summer recruit from Doncaster Rovers played a key part in the Blues’ 2-1 victory at Bristol Rovers on Saturday, laying on Gareth Evans’ 29th-minute opener.
It was an improved display from Bennett, who so spectacularly announced his Pompey arrival with two goals on his debut against Dagenham & Redbridge.
Some of the Fratton faithful have subsequently criticised the inconsistency of the pacy midfielder.
But Cook has lauded Bennett’s attacking capabilities.
I have belief in him, I have great belief there is a really top, top player in there and our job is to manage him and continually try to get the best out of himPaul Cook
He said: ‘In general, it is flair players who will get criticism, that is the nature of football today.
‘They are the ones we expect to produce. Now, in the clamour of modern-day football, if you are not producing you get dropped.
‘Flair players won’t play well every week, though.
‘With the likes of Kyle Bennett and Gary Roberts, we have proven players. I am not saying they will play well every week but I thought Kyle was excellent on Saturday.
‘If you look at the cross for Evans’ goal and look at the first-half cross for Conor Chaplin’s header, it was sublime. He stood the ball up.
‘He got in good situations, he had shots himself, so there was a lot more productivity from Kyle in terms of what he should be doing, which is in the last third. I have belief in him. I have great belief there is a really top, top player in there and our job is to manage him and continually try to get the best out of him.
‘Now and again he needs a poke, now and again he needs to be livened up. He’s a good kid and one of the things people don’t see is how good they are at a club. Kyle cares and I like that in a player.
‘He is thinking about the game, he wants to do well and that is important for me – their attitude.’
Bennett will retain his place in Pompey’s side for tonight’s visit of Exeter (7.45pm).
He has been a regular in Cook’s team, starting all but the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture at the Grecians.
‘Kyle showed at Oxford, in front of our supporters, when he opened his legs up in the second half it lifts you off your seat,’ added Cook.
‘What we have got to do is keep channelling him to get these performances out of him – and he still has to do well in the team to keep his place.
‘A player has got to be judged over a period of time.
‘If you look at Gareth Evans, he brings energy to us and goals. When he plays poorly there are no goals and no energy.
‘That is an example. You have got to back your players when they don’t play well, it is so important as a manager.
‘If they are good on Friday they haven’t become bad on Sunday.’