Ben Close hoping catch up with Sunderland owner Stewart Donald will be after another Portsmouth victory

When Ben Close went up to the Royal Box to collect his Checkatrade Trophy winner’s medal at Wembley, he spotted a familiar face.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 10:00 am

Following Pompey’s penalty shootout triumph over Sunderland, the midfielder had a swift catch up with Stewart Donald.

The pair had worked together two years prior at Eastleigh. Close was on loan from the Blues, while Donald owned the club.

The Oxfordshire businessman sold the Spitfires last summer to lead a consortium to purchase Sunderland off Ellis Short.

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Ben Close celebrates with the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley. Picture: Joe Pepler

During that time, Close has established himself as a first-team regular at Fratton Park.

Pompey travel to the Stadium of Light for a League One promotion showdown against the Black Cats on Saturday.

Kenny Jackett’s side sit third in the table – a place and two points above Sunderland.

It’ll mean another reunion for Close and Donald on Wearside.

Sunderland owner Stewart Donald. Picture: Richard Sellers/ PA

And the Blues academy graduate is aiming for a similar scenario as at Wembley.

Close said: ‘Funnily enough, I saw Stewart as we were collecting our medals.

‘It wasn't awkward but maybe it would have been better to have saw him before the game.

‘When we were getting our medals, I shook his hand, said hello and asked how he was doing.

‘He did the same because obviously I worked with him at Eastleigh. He’s a good character.

‘He's going to be doing what we’re trying to do and that’s get promoted.

‘It is a funny game football because of the amount of people you come across at one stage of your career and then come across them again later.

‘Obviously, I was at Eastleigh a couple of years ago. Stewart was at Wembley, Richard Hill (former Eastleigh director of football) was there and Paul Reid, who I actually played with, is also at Sunderland now as academy manager.

‘Hopefully we can have similar story at the Stadium of Light.

‘Hopefully we can beat them and then speak to them after the game and it’ll be me who’s the happy one.

‘We’ll all be very excited for the game and very determined to win.’

Close admitted he hasn’t been in close contact with Donald throughout the season.

But with the Black Cats owner trying to lead the club back to the Championship, the Southsea ace is confident Donald will do a good job.

‘I haven’t spoken to Stewart during the season,’ Close added.

‘We weren’t that close but in terms of when you come across each other in the game, you say hello and hopefully your side wins.

‘A lot of Stewart’s work at Eastleigh was in the background.

‘I’ve heard good things about him, he’s very enthusiastic about football and I’m sure he’ll do a good job at Sunderland.’