Burgess: Why Close is flourishing for Pompey

Ben Close scored his maiden Fratton Park goal in the Boxing Day win against AFC Wimbledon Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close scored his maiden Fratton Park goal in the Boxing Day win against AFC Wimbledon Picture: Joe Pepler
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Kenny Jackett’s faith has prompted Ben Close to flourish at Pompey.

That is the verdict of Christian Burgess, who has this season watched the midfielder blossom in the glare of regular first-team football.

Ben’s technically very good and was like that when we played Reading and Derby in the Capital One Cup during the first season I was here

Christian Burgess

Close will make his 50th Blues appearance in tomorrow’s visit of Northampton to Fratton Park.

In modern football, it represents a rare feat for somebody born on Portsea Island to reach such a landmark.

Nonetheless, it’s rich reward for the 21-year-old who didn’t make a league appearance for Paul Cook’s title-winners last term.

Burgess has watched Close’s progress since his own Fratton Park arrival in June 2015.

And he believes Jackett’s commitment to handing the youngster sustained first-team involvement has brought out his talent.

The central defender said: ‘Ben has always been a good player. It’s very much down to the chance he’s got and with it comes confidence.

‘He’s technically very good and was like that when we played Reading and Derby in the Capital One Cup during the first season I was here.

‘He’s a very good player, but hasn’t managed to get momentum in the side. Now his confidence is up and you have seen what he has to offer.

‘Ben has struggled a little bit with injuries at the wrong times, so as long as he stays fit he should be able to continue shining.

‘In every position you want the manager to back you and give you that run of games.

‘It’s only going to increase your confidence and ensure you are comfortable being there, knowing the players around you.

‘As a defender, I want Ben to get on the ball, I want him to control passages of play and control the game because he has the ability and technique to get it and spread the ball, spread the play.

‘The responsibility is on him to do that – as well as Danny Rose – and go and get involved. He has now scored two important goals, which is an added bonus.

‘As long as he can keep fit and stay out there, he will learn and improve. He has taken his chance so, touch wood, should improve as the season goes on.’

On Boxing Day, Close recorded his maiden Fratton Park goal when he drove in the opener against AFC Wimbledon.

Jackett’s men went on to win 2-1 to maintain their play-off interest, situated seventh in League One.

Close had to barge past Adam May and Stuart O’Keefe to find a way into the starting XI and has now amassed 22 appearances this term.

And for Burgess, credit to the ex-Eastleigh loanee for emerging from such a competitive area.

He added: ‘Centre midfield is always a very hard position in terms of competition.

‘There are so many players out there who specialise in that role, never mind players who can also play there from different positions.

‘It’s a very competitive place to nail down, so I’m happy that he has – and hopefully he can continue to grow in there.’