GARY WADDOCK has urged Pompey not to allow ‘important’ Ben Close to leave Fratton Park.
The teenage midfielder has enjoyed an eye-catching end to the season, starting the final three matches.
Largely operating at the base of a diamond, the Academy product has impressed with his composure on the ball and passing ability.
Close is among 11 players out of contract this summer, with no movement anticipated until a new manager is named.
But caretaker manager Waddock is keen for the youngster from Fratton to remain and continue his promising development.
He said: ‘I have given Ben a different role and it suits him because we need to get him on the ball.
‘He’s an intelligent player, he can find and see a pass.
‘The players will give him the ball in tight situations because they know he can handle it and they have been pleased also with his performances.
‘On the training ground they keep saying what a good player he is and I think we have seen that in recent weeks.
‘At Mansfield, in the first half, he completely dictated the game. I know they were down to 10 men but he dictated the game.
‘Now that takes a lot for someone of his age. Imagine in 12-18 months time if he is allowed to continue to do that.
‘Ben is a very mature lad who has done well on the training ground but players are only judged at first-team level. If you are never going to put them in then you are never going to know.
‘The real players turn up when there are 17,000 people in the stands – and he turns up.
‘For me he is an important player for this football club and you have got to take into account his age as well. He could be an asset.’
Life-long Pompey fan Close has been on the Fratton Park books since the age of 10.
After being handed his debut by Andy Awford in September, he has gone on to make nine appearances.
But his ability has really come to the fore in the last three weeks of the campaign.
Waddock added: ‘I don’t like players who make a mistake and then go into their shell, I want to see someone who makes a mistake and then goes “come on, give the ball back to me”. Ben is one of them.
‘He is going to make another mistake by the way but how do you deal with it? Does the player fold? Does the coach or the manager fold?
‘No, you allow him to make another mistake after that, let players express themselves because as they get more experience they will make fewer mistakes.
‘There is bravery in different ways such as being aggressive and making 60/40 challenges but you also have to be brave to get on to the ball in front of 17,000 people and dictate the play. Ben is brave on the ball.’