Pompey midfielder: Starlets need experienced head to aid progress

Pompey's midfield starlets need an experienced head to help them flourish.

Monday, 5th March 2018, 5:00 am
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

That is the verdict of Stuart O’Keefe, who has sympathy for Ben Close and Adam May in the ongoing absence of a senior figure alongside.

With injury and unavailability wrecking Kenny Jackett’s first-team plans, central midfield options have dwindled.

The promising pair have been entrusted in the Blues’ engine room for the past two matches, resulting in three points from a possible six.

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Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler

Yet sidelined O’Keefe is convinced Pompey’s displays since the turn of the year have been hampered by a lack of midfield experience.

And the Cardiff City loanee is hoping the likes of himself, Nathan Thompson, Danny Rose, Brett Pitman and Gareth Evans can soon return to lend a timely hand.

He said: ‘The team needs an experienced head in there, especially with Rosie going out at the same time as me. It’s a big hit for us.

‘Ben Close has played with Danny, while Ben and Adam May have played with me but the pair of them have not been together much – and in this league you come up against experienced boys.

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘You saw that against Blackpool, who had Jay Spearing and Jimmy Ryan, who have played a lot of football.

‘We are missing that a little bit.

‘It’s not just me, there’s Gareth Evans, Brett Pitman, Danny Rose and Nathan Thompson. It’s a big five to be missing from any team in this league at one stage.

‘It would be good to get back as soon as possible and have a little bit of experience and a bit of bite because I feel we have been lacking in that area.

‘Ben and Adam are both good players but it’s obviously hard for them to play together as youngsters, especially with a club this size.

‘It’s not easy. They have not had a lot of football so it takes its toll when coming up against an experienced pro with 300 or 400 games, especially if the team is not on the best run of form or confidence isn’t high.

‘It’s just a shame results may be affected or performance but we will get through it.

‘This is no-one’s fault, that’s just football. Maybe we need a little leadership and organisation but the young lads can learn from it for the future.’

O’Keefe has made 19 appearances and scored twice since joining on a season-long loan in August.

And 10 of those starts have been in partnership with the developing Close in the centre of the Blues’ midfield.

He added: ‘Ben has done himself no harm at all and kicked on.

‘But it is hard. Playing three games a week, sometimes in poor weather, it takes it toll on everyone let alone someone with not much football in their career.

‘He is very technical and initially when he came in was working alongside an experienced pro.

‘He’s got a very bright future.’