Close call is special moment for stand-in Pompey skipper

Ben Close was handed the captains armband for the Checkatrade Trophy game with Bristol Rovers at Fratton Park last night Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close was handed the captains armband for the Checkatrade Trophy game with Bristol Rovers at Fratton Park last night Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Ben Close led Pompey to Checkatrade Trophy victory over Bristol Rovers and admitted: it felt amazing to be given the captain’s armband.

The 20-year-old skippered a much-changed Blues side to a 1-0 win over The Gas in a game watched by just 1,200 people – a post-war record low at Fratton Park.

But while the tie – settled by Kal Naismith’s late strike – failed to capture the imagination of the masses, for homegrown talent Close it proved an occasion to cherish.

The midfielder has captained the Blues once before – in the same competition last season at Exeter.

On that occasion Paul Cook elected to name a young side comprising a number of Academy youngsters.

Last night, however, Close was given the nod in a line-up of only senior players.

He said: ‘It felt amazing to be given the captain’s armband. It happened to me last year in the Trophy as well at Exeter in the first round.

‘And when the gaffer told me last night it felt just as good.

‘To be wearing the armband at any age at Portsmouth Football Club is pretty special, so to be doing it at my age is a great feeling and I’d like to thank the gaffer for that.’

Close admitted that it came as something of a surprise to be handed the captaincy ahead of the likes of Kyle Bennett and Drew Talbot.

But the youngster insisted he would not be forgetting the ‘great feeling’ in a hurry.

He added: ‘Getting it last year was special, but that came in a very young team.

‘This year was completely different, with very experienced and senior players out there.

‘It was a bit of a surprise getting the armband but a great feeling again – and one I won’t forget that in hurry.’

– JEFF MARSHMAN