TWELVE months ago he was a bright hope frustrated by a lack of opportunities.
Now Ben Close has 20-plus appearances in Pompey’s midfield at League One level and a new contract under his belt.
Life is good for the Southsea lad – but he has ambitions for it to get a lot, lot better.
Close has emerged as a significant player in Kenny Jackett’s plans after failing to pick up a single minute of league action under former boss Paul Cook last term.
The 21-year-old also grabbed his maiden league goal in the 3-2 win at Blackpool last month.
He believes he’s got more of those in his locker as he targets continuing his rise with his home-town club.
Close said: ‘Players have to set themselves goals for the future and look for a standard where they want to reach.
‘If it’s the case (playing in the Championship) with this club that’d be ideal.
‘You want to reach the top and that’s the target you set for yourself. That’s the only target you should set.
‘This club looks like it’s only going in one direction.
‘I’d like to score a few more goals, too.
‘I scored 10 or 11 when I was a second-year scholar.
‘It’s a different kettle of fish where I am now, obviously. But that has to be what I’m aiming for.
‘Midfielders have to be aiming for that kind of high standard and we need to be chipping in with goals as well.’
Close is pleased he and the other emerging players at the club have quashed any notion they couldn’t make the grade at League One.
He said: ‘I think a few of the lads have answered the question.
‘Brandon (Haunstrup) has done well, Adam May had a run earlier in the season and Conor(Chaplin) scores when he plays.
‘You need that balance between young players and senior players with the experience.
‘Fair play to the gaffer, he’s giving young players a chance this season.’
Close currently finds himself vying with May, Danny Rose and Stuart O’Keefe for a holding-midfield berth.
He feels the quartet are showing brains can win over brawn in the midfield battleground.
Close added: ‘The other lads are helping me. They are providing good competition for places.
‘Whenever one of us has come out, another has stepped in and done really well.
‘We’re all pretty similar in the way we play the game.
‘We can all play together. As a combination, I can play with any one of them and they can play with anyone.
‘That’s good for the team when injuries and suspensions do happen.
‘Some managers like having someone big in there.
‘Some people want players to grab the game by the scruff of the neck with their physicality.
‘It’s not always necessary, though. You need to read the game well and you have to be sharp over short distances.
‘If you can get hold of the game with the ball and have good players around you then you can do it that way as well.’