Ben Close return boosts Pompey

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
  • Close started the final three matches of last season under caretaker boss Gary Waddock
  • He signed a new two-year deal with Pompey in August

Ben Close is back on Pompey’s playing radar once again.

And the Blues are hopeful of finally being able to utilise the Fratton youngster’s talents in a campaign hampered by injury.

Brandon Haunstrup. Picture: Joe Pepler

Brandon Haunstrup. Picture: Joe Pepler

The 19-year-old come off the bench to feature for 30 minutes during the reserves’ 4-2 victory over Crawley on Tuesday afternoon.

It represented a welcome return to match action for the midfielder who has also spent time out with a hamstring problem this season.

Close has made three appearances for Paul Cook this season, all in the form of starts in the Capital One Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

However, he has still to make a match-day XI in the league, albeit largely influenced by his injury niggles.

The one thing with Ben is he is certainly in our thoughts because he’s such a good midfield player

Ian Foster

But for first-team coach Ian Foster, the home-grown talent’s midweek appearance was an important one.

He said: ‘Ben has been out with a thigh injury and he’s a good player. I love watching Ben Close.

‘He has lovely close control, is very aggressive with his passing and is tenacious out of possession as well.

‘He gets a lot of regains and then passes it simple, which is a wonderful habit and we are pleased he came through Tuesday’s match.

‘I spoke to him afterwards and he’s fine, he’s happy, he’s been training now fully for a week so we can step him up and if we can get another couple of games like that one it would be great for him.

‘Ben will continue training, continue working hard and we will see if we can get him match minutes here or whether or not the manager can get him match minutes elsewhere, that’s not my decision.

‘The one thing with Ben is he is certainly in our thoughts because he’s such a good midfield player.’

Close’s outing would also see fellow Academy product Brandon Haunstrup handed the captaincy.

And according to Foster, that decision also had a significance.

He added: ‘I gave it to Brandon because he probably lacks leadership qualities.

‘He is very, very quiet, very unassuming, so I gave him that responsibility so he would have to get after his team-mates. He would have to open his mouth and organise people and I thought he did it quite well.

‘He’s a lovely kid and probably needs to be a little bit more aggressive at times towards his team-mates.

‘Whether he is captain or not that is something he has to take on board when you are a defender, you have to be vocal.

‘He is also learning off Enda (Stevens) because Enda is a wonderful left-back who plays with an awful lot of energy and is very good in one-v-one situations both offensively and defensively.

‘Brandon is improving all the time, he is looking at Enda’s game, taking a lot from it, and has improved dramatically since we came to the football club.

‘Yes he has deficiencies in his game and knows it, but he is out in the afternoon working hard to get better and improve.

‘He is very, very close to the first-team. If Enda came out Brandon would go in, it wouldn’t be square pegs in round holes, it would be a straight change.’