No time for rest for Pompey midfielder in a hurry
No time to lose, Ben Close is stepping up his pursuit of regular first-team football.
And he has sacrificed his close-season rest and recuperation to ensure that head start.
The 20-year-old has been honing his fitness since mid-May in anticipation of the crucial 2017-18 campaign.
There was a week off following the end of Pompey’s season, yet since then a determined Close has put in the hard yards.
The midfielder has been a fixture in the gym, while also has fitness plans during a week’s holiday in Crete.
For the Fratton youngster, it is whatever means necessary to boost first-team chances, particularly with a new manager in Kenny Jackett now present.
He said: ‘After the season finished I had a week off completely and did nothing.
‘Then it has been a case of slowly building up again with a couple of gym sessions, then a couple of running sessions, followed by increased work in the gym.
‘From now on it’s going to be hard work again.
‘Some players would go about it differently but in my case I am still a young player and need to go back fit and ready to impress the new manager.
‘Pre-season doesn’t start until the end of this month but it isn’t the time to get fit.
‘You must enter pre-season with a little bit of fitness, ready to cope with it.
‘Pre-season is a demanding time of the year, it’s hard work, every day is difficult and you have to be prepared.
‘Players know their own body, you understand over the years how to manage yourself in the off season. I am still learning that.
‘I want a little bit of a head start and have been given a programme from the physios to follow.
‘It won’t just be me, other players are doing the same, it’s just important to find a balance.
‘It’s about not working too hard in the off season – but doing enough so that you come back ready to play in pre-season.’
This summer has also seen Close sign a new one-year deal with the Blues, with a 12-month option.
Last season represented one of frustration for the home-grown talent who struggled for first-team opportunities.
He was given four cup outings under Paul Cook, although was named in just one League Two squad as an unused substitute. During the second half of the campaign he chalked up 11 appearances in a loan spell at Eastleigh, where he impressed.
Meanwhile, there was his role as captain in the Blues reserves’ progress to the semi-finals of the Premier League Cup before elimination by Swansea’s under-23s.
Yet focus for Close in the forthcoming campaign must be fixed on Pompey’s first team as he seeks to establish himself.
He has made 27 appearances since a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy appearance at Yeovil in September 2014.
There is also Jackett to impress, following his arrival as Cook’s replacement earlier this month.
Close has been one five players to this summer pledge themselves to Fratton Park by penning fresh deals.
But the real work towards the future has long been in progress for a player approaching a decade on the books of Pompey.
He added: ‘The training has been tough but it’s enjoyable seeing yourself getting that fitness back up again.
‘There are different kind of runs to take up.
‘Some are treadmill runs, some runs on grass, some are slower and longer runs taking more time, others are high intensity and more sprinting.
‘I’ve used Roko and a local gym near Fratton Park to keep up my fitness.
‘I’m also off to Crete on holiday for a week and will be training out there.
‘There is a gym and beaches, although it will be nice to get away and hopefully see some sun!’