Forgotten Portsmouth midfielder Ben Close issued challenge

Ben Close has been challenged to break back into the Pompey fray.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 6:00 am
Ben Close. Picture: Simon Davies

The Southsea midfielder has been down the pecking order for the majority of the season.

In total, he’s played 15 times but made only a solitary start in League One.

Since recovering from a hamstring injury earlier this month, Close hasn't been included in a match-day squad.

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January loan arrivals George Byers (Swansea) and Harvey White (Tottenham) have served as options on the bench.

They have provided back-up Tom Naylor and Andy Cannon, who remain Kenny Jackett's preferred midfield duo.

However, with 18 games remaining in Pompey's promotion push, Joe Gallen insists there's still time for Close to thrust his way back into Jackett’s plans.

The Blues’ assistant boss said: ‘Ben Close is back and available for selection.

‘We have a lot of options but Ben is a consistent player for us and aiming to get back into the team.

‘Ben will be looking to start rather than even being a substitute - and so he should.

‘As always, he's got to be professional and be ready when he gets his chance. Andy Cannon has performed very well and he and Tom Naylor have made that position their own.

‘George Byers played very well at Bristol Rovers and looks a very good technical, forward-passing player.

‘Harvey White's come in and hasn't let anyone down. He's got a good left foot and can make a difference so we have got some competition.

‘It brings out the best in every then it's up to the manager to pick the two or three players he thinks are right.

‘Ben will be disappointed because he played a lot of games and made a lot of starts in the past three years.

‘There is still time for him to push his way through and into the team.

‘He needs to build his way up, which he is doing, wait for his chance and then grab it.’

Close is out of contract at the end of the season, although Pompey hold the option of an additional 12 months.

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