Midfielder aiming to better the great Portsmouth sides

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BEN CLOSE spoke of Pompey’s determination to better the great sides in the club’s history and continue their unbeaten league run.

The Blues aim to make it 10 unbeaten League One games as they travel to Spotland to take on Rochdale.

Pompey midfielder Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler

Avoiding defeat against Keith Hill’s outfit would see Kenny Jackett’s troops eclipse the starts made by Paul Cook’s side who reached the play-offs in the 2015-16 season and Harry Redknapp’s Division One title winners in the 2002-03 campaign.

Jackett has stated there hasn’t been particular attention paid to the league run his side are currently on.

But Close explained Pompey’s form is a source of pride and there is a hunger to keep that going.

There’s still a distance to travel to match Bob Jackson’s all-conquering side, who sat at the summit of English football when winning the Division One title in the 1948-49 season.

They went 13 league games without defeat at the start of that historic campaign.

Close underlined the desire to maintain the run which has seen the Blues assume a strong position in the early-season table.

He said: ‘It’s something we definitely look at - and something we take pride in.

‘We should be proud of ourselves for taking it to nine games and we need to take it as far as we can.

‘The day that loss comes, which it inevitably will, we’ll be gutted about it.

‘Hopefully, it’s not for a long time, and, as players and staff, we’re aiming to delay it for as long as possible.

‘Doing that would be a big statement about this team.

‘We’re confident and excited for the games to come and want to take it as far as possible.’

Close knows all about both of the teams Pompey are aiming to surpass this weekend.

He played 14 games in the Cook side that finished sixth, before losing to Plymouth in the play-offs two years ago.

And the Southsea man was a youngster when Redknapp’s men stormed to the Division One crown in record-breaking fashion 15 years ago.

Close has recollections of the impact the team who reached the Premier League had on the city, and knows the significance of bettering their start.

He added: ‘I was young but I remember the game against Rotherham (when Pompey won the title).

‘I have a clear memory of that and it being high scoring.

‘I remember that and getting promoted like that is what we’re trying to do.

‘We’re a league lower, of course, but the unbeaten run is a good stat to have and we want to take that as far as possible.

‘I would have been six or seven at the time.

‘I can’t remember the run at the time but I can remember the feeling around the club when we went up.’