Kenny Jackett: Why I dropped Ben Close from Portsmouth's play-off campaign

Kenny Jackett has revealed why Ben Close was omitted from his play-off plans.

Thursday, 13th August 2020, 7:00 am
Ben Close was surprisingly omitted from Pompey's play-off semi-final squad for both legs against Oxford United. Picture: Joe Pepler

And Pompey’s boss has been impressed by the midfielder’s response since the Blues’ return to action.

Close made 44 appearances last season – yet was a notable absentee from the 20-man squad for Pompey’s play-off semi-final against Oxford United.

It represented a shock exclusion of a player who has been a cornerstone of Jackett’s side in the last three campaigns.

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But he has backed Close to bounce back from his disappointment.

Jackett told The News: ‘We had one central-midfield player on the bench in Tom Naylor for the play-offs, then I selected other players in other positions.

‘Ben would have been disappointed to have been left out and every player would want to play. We had a fully-fit squad at that particular time, but numbers are fewer now.

‘Ben has come back and trained very well during the first week or so.

‘He’s capable of fighting back and, if you’re looking at his games over the past few years, there have been a high amount for him.

‘That’s been good and he’ll want to continue that and keep improving.

‘As he’s getting into his mid-twenties, he’s just coming into the best time of his career.

‘It wasn’t as much as about leaving Ben out of the play-off games. It was that I thought McGeehan and Morris were the right players or the players in form at that particular time.

‘It wasn’t just about leaving Ben out, but it was selecting other people.’

Close has now amassed 162 appearances and 17 goals since emerging from Pompey’s Academy.

The 24-year-old’s existing Blues deal is scheduled to expire in the summer of 2021, although the club do possess an option.

Despite Close’s play-off omission, he has been a fixture in the side since Jackett’s arrival in June 2017.

Before then, he had been on loan at Eastleigh as he struggled for game time under managerial predecessor Paul Cook.

Still, he has flourished under Jackett’s tutelage, coupled with a regular first-team presence.

And Pompey’s boss is adamant the local lad can continue to step up his game during his Fratton Park career.

He added: ‘Ben will keep improving and he will improve again this season, definitely.

‘He’s played a lot for Pompey over the past few years and has the capability to keep improving every year because he has that type of attitude.’

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