Home-grown boy Ben Close backed to come out firing in battle for Portsmouth first-team place after arrival of Rangers man

Ben Close in action against UCD. Picture: Arnold Byrne
Ben Close in action against UCD. Picture: Arnold Byrne
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Ben Close has been tipped to face the challenge for his first-team place head on.

And Kenny Jackett has backed the midfielder to show the right attitude in the face of Ross McCrorie’s arrival from Rangers.

Jackett feels there’s no reason Close can't build on a powerful finish to last season as he begins his sixth senior campaign at Fratton Park.

McCrorie and Tom Naylor were given the nod against UCD on Wednesday night, with the Pompey boss indicating his starting XI would be similar to the one used on the opening day of the season.

Jackett sees Close as someone who will meet his fight to start in the best possible manner.

He said: ‘We look at every area and try to get it as strong as possible. At this stage of the season I'm trying to looking past the first XI, if I can.

‘I'm trying to get three for two positions, or, in an ideal world, four for two positions. That’s where you want to be.

‘When Ben Thompson went back last season there was lull for a while, but then Closey came through and drove us on.

‘For him he’s a good player and I'm sure he'll be competing for that place on the first day of the season. He's got a good attitude.

‘He did really well over the second half of the season and seemed to benefit from not playing too much over the first half. He was like a fresh player coming in and that was good.

‘I'm sure he's going to build on it now. I'm sure he's going to do that.’

There’s little doubt adding goals gave Close's game another dimension - with eight of his nine finishes arriving after February.

Jackett feels the Southsea talent was able to do so while being aware of his duties to the team.

He added: ‘Ben added some goals and it was pleasing to see a local lad with a good temperament who is a nice footballer do well.

‘He's a footballer I've had a lot of time for since I've been here. I think he's shown good improvement.

‘It was probably a frustrating first half of the season, but he probably benefitted from that while being fresher.

‘Bringing some goals to his game helped (in gaining attention), but he's got a good all-round game.

‘In a 4-2-3-1 the holders really need to promote the front four and let them play.

‘You have to serve them because it’s the front four who do the damage.

‘But Ben has that (goals) in his game in the right system which enables him to get forward.

‘His development over the past two years has been really pleasing.’