Portsmouth midfielder determined to tackle an improvement

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Ben Close is maturing, his game evolving – and tackling clout intensifying.

The midfielder has identified the necessity to enhance his combative skills to align with a natural ability to pass the ball intelligently.

Ben Close - Outstanding second half - 8

Ben Close - Outstanding second half - 8

As a consequence, the 22-year-old is pushing to improve on the tackling nature of his displays in Pompey’s engine room.

By Close’s own admission, his all-round game still has room to develop during an ongoing blossoming in regular first-team football.

On Saturday the Blues head to Rochdale seeking to increase their unbeaten nine-match start to the League One campaign which leaves them second.

Close will be hoping to retain his midfield spot, fending off the challenge of Ben Thompson for a while longer.

And he’s hoping adding a fresh dimension can aid his cause.

The Fratton youngster said: ‘Tackling is part of the game I need to do more of and improve, although there are other parts of my game to develop as well.

‘You watch players tackle, see how they are doing it, observe top-class players – and try to also bring that into your game.

‘Some players are naturally good at it. You can improve on all parts of the game, some more than others, and I’m just trying to improve everything as much as I can.

‘Maybe I’m not as natural at tackling compared to someone like Tom Naylor, you get different players like that.

‘Naturally some are good at tackling, naturally not so good, naturally good at heading, naturally not so good, and you get technical players, too. You need a real blend in teams to be successful.

‘I would like to think it’s an aspect I am improving at. It’s obviously not where I want it to be – but if I want to push on I need to get better with it.

‘How I become a better player is to bring more parts to my game and also learn from other players.

‘Although, I suppose the best form of defending is intercepting and reading the game well enough so you don’t have to put in that last-ditch tackle or go to ground.’

The mild-mannered Close is not a player who amasses bookings.

Although, he was punished for dissent in the recent 2-1 victory at Peterborough – a matter he is not particularly proud of.

He added: ‘I was booked for dissent at Peterborough. It was frustrating, you obviously can’t do it but the ref was driving us mad.

‘Oli Hawkins was being fouled a lot and not getting anything, they were winning soft free-kicks which weren’t really fouls, and Matt Clarke was clearly fouled in our box.

‘I shouldn’t have done it, but it’s hard to keep it under control sometimes.’

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