'As a coach he was really good, as a person he was even better' - Ben Close's emotional tribute to Portsmouth great Alan McLoughlin

Fratton Park fell silent to pay its respects – and among those players participating was somebody who credits his career to Alan McLoughlin.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 5:00 pm
Ben Close and his Pompey team-mates pay tribute to Alan McLoughlin ahead of Sunday's match against Accrington. Picture: Joe Pepler

Sunday was an emotional occasion for Ben Close as the club delivered its tribute to the man who served as a classy player, youth-team coach and first-team coach.

The outpouring of admiration was touching, a player whose talents left an indelible mark on Swindon, the Republic of Ireland and, of course, Pompey.

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Kitman Kev McCormack had a shirt printed in honour, bearing McLoughlin’s name and favoured number four, and hung it in the home dressing room before the Accrington encounter.

Close has made 190 appearances for his home-town club – and he believes his former Academy coach played a pivotal role.

He told The News: ‘Macca is a massive loss – and I’m sure everyone who knew him would agree.

‘He’s hugely respected in the game. I'm just really grateful he came into my life and was able to help me. I was one of the lucky ones to have worked with him.

Pompey kitman Kev McCormack produced his own tribute to Alan McLoughlin before Sunday's visit of Accrington

‘Macca came into Pompey when I was a 15-year-old, he took the under-16s and just really propelled me forward.

‘The years before that I was scraping through getting contracts, not really being a key player. That season it all changed.

‘He took me under his wing, being a central midfielder he really tried to help me develop. He made me captain, made me a key player in that team, and earned me a scholarship.

‘I’m really grateful for the help he gave me, for the knowledge of the game he gave me. The longer I got to know him and more clips I saw of him as a footballer, I really started to understand and respect what he did in the game.

‘Sunday was emotional. It was a tough week in terms of that loss and a great touch to see his shirt in the dressing room and then at the start of the game on the pitch.

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‘Unfortunately, we couldn’t use that to really inspire us.’

Pompey lost 1-0 to Accrington on Sunday, ending their challenge for the League One play-off qualification.

Their season is now over – yet the immense affection for McLoughlin will never end.

Close added: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed every moment with him, as a coach he was really good, as a person he was even better.

‘He made me a central midfielder and kept me there, which I was grateful for, then I worked with him again at reserve level and we had a bit of time together at first-team level as well.

‘Macca remains a legend at Pompey, Swindon and the Republic of Ireland.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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