Jackett eyeing more progress for Pompey’s Young Player of Season

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Anton Walkes is to start against Swindon this afternoon.

Walkes handed Pompey start

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A breakthrough campaign yielding 44 appearances and Pompey’s Young Player of the Season accolade.

Furthermore, Kenny Jackett is convinced the ever-developing Ben Close can maintain his encouraging promise.

Ben didn’t start in the side and Adam May went ahead of him, but Ben’s consistency in training was so high, he forced his way in

Kenny Jackett

The Southsea youngster made four appearances last term and spent time on loan at National League club Eastleigh.

A year on and he was crowned the Blues’ Young Player of the Season at a gala dinner held in Fratton Park’s Victory Lounge on Tuesday night.

Close has unquestionably been the surprise package during the return to League One, impressing with his consistency and use of the ball.

And Jackett is relishing ongoing opportunities to raise the 21-year-old’s performance levels even further.

He said: ‘Ben has done very well, I have been very pleased with him. He’s a very consistent player, a very consistent person.

‘He has good enthusiasm and good quality. This has been his breakthrough year and I fully expect him to go on in future years, build on it and improve again.

‘He’s got it in him and, generally as a player, is on an upward curve.

‘I do feel in seasons to come such as next year and the year after there will also be good progress in Ben to keep improving.

‘He is of the right age to be able to do that and has a good attitude to be able to apply himself into putting this year to good effect.

‘Ben has a good all-round game and a little bit of everything, but you improve through experience and improve through games. Generally you improve through that age, getting stronger and he will be stronger next year.

‘Midfield is a very competitive area, especially in this particular division because you get some powerful teams on poor pitches.

‘Ben copes, although at times we’ve just struggled to get a complement around him.

‘We got into a good little rhythm with Walkes in front of the back four and got some results, then lost Walkes through injury and Close went back there.

‘He is a totally different type of player, perhaps not quite having the power, but maybe a better footballer.’

Such has been Close’s progress under Jackett, he was rewarded with a new deal in December, tying him to the club until the summer of 2020.

The home-grown talent now tallies 71 appearances for the club he grew up supporting.

And with Jackett identifying the need for fresh talent in Pompey’s side, Close has repaid his faith.

He added: ‘We knew we needed to change things around. Quite rightly an older squad was assembled to try to get promotion – and did the job.

‘Coming into this new league, I could see to some degree the process needed to start again, so there would be opportunities for young players.

‘Ben didn’t start in the side and Adam May went ahead of him, but Ben’s consistency in training was so high, he forced his way in.

‘I am pleased to say he has kept his shirt, it has been a good season for him.’