BEN CLOSE’s Pompey career is finally ready for lift-off.
That is the verdict of Ian Foster, who is confident the promising midfielder’s injury issues are now behind him.
Close has yet to make a first-team squad this season following the frustration of a hamstring problem.
He was also absent through injury for two of the Blues’ pre-season friendlies, while was sidelined on occasions during Paul Cook’s maiden campaign.
The youngster from Fratton has so far made 23 appearances for the club he supports.
And having appeared for 90 minutes in the reserves’ Premier League Cup win over Southend on Monday night, Foster believes the 20-year-old can now kick on.
Pompey’s first-team coach said: ‘Ben has had a couple soft-tissue injuries, such as to his hamstring.
‘He has been to a couple of specialists to get it looked at and we think we’ve got to the root of the problem and hopefully that will be the last of it.
‘Ben can have a huge impact on the first-team this season.
‘He’s had couple of things during our time here. He gets it going again and all of a sudden breaks down, it’s frustrating for Ben and the staff because we know how good he is.
‘He is such a good kid, we only want him to do well and hopefully he is over the worst of that now and we can keep him fit and strong.
‘The lad has such a wonderful range of passing, while his work out of possession kind of goes unnoticed. He intercepts a lot and his reading of the game is really good.
‘Ben might not get involved in as many tackles as Michael Doyle, for argument’s sake, but he intercepts an awful lot of balls and his reading of the game is very, very good for a young player.
‘Southend was his first 90 minutes for a long time and I think he grew into the game. I was really impressed with his performance.’
Close played as a holding player sat in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 system in Monday’s 2-1 victory.
It was Conor Chaplin who grabbed both Pompey’s goals to progress in the Premier League Cup, striking in each half.
Having appeared only as a substitute this season, the match also represented a rare 90 minutes for the teenager.
And again it was the popular forward who caught the eye of the 240 crowd present at Westleigh Park.
Foster added: ‘Conor was always running in behind and stretching the game, causing defenders problems and giving them something to think about.
‘His attitude and application is infectious, whether there are young players around him or senior players.
‘It typified a Conor Chaplin performance, no matter what level we put him in at – whether first-team, reserves or friendlies – he scores goals.
‘He was in the side for match minutes, we keep a check on everybody’s match fitness.
’That was his first 90 minutes he has played this season. There was an hour at Coventry, including the extra-time, but it was much needed and he will feel great now we have got that into him.’