Why Ben Close is denied a deserved warm Portsmouth homecoming as wretched Doncaster misfortune continues

There will be no happy homecoming for Ben Close, no warm reception the like which greeted Conor Chaplin and Craig MacGillivray this season.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 3:30 pm

The 25-year-old won’t even be present at Fratton Park on Saturday for unquestionably the fixture he targeted following his summer switch to Doncaster Rovers.

Instead the midfielder is recovering after yesterday undergoing an operation in an injury-plagued maiden campaign at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Close’s latest set-back entails going under the surgeon’s knife to lengthen the muscle in one of his legs. Potentially, he may not feature again this term.

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Since the Fratton lad departed the south coast in June following the expiry of his contract amid unattractive terms to remain, he has played 14 times for Doncaster.

Although he has not been involved since forced off at half-time at Burton in November – approaching two-and-a-half months ago.

Hampered by hamstring and knee issues, Close has been forced to watch from the sidelines as Rovers plummet towards League Two.

The bottom side are seven points adrift of safety, with three wins from their last 17 fixtures. Their destiny appears inevitable.

Ben Close, seen with fellow home-grown Pompey player Conor Chaplin, will not be returning to Fratton Park with Doncaster on Saturday. Picture: Joe Pepler

Close wanted a change of scenery to boost his career, how he needed one too after becoming a little stale at the club he passionately supports.

Having witnessed home-grown contemporaries Chaplin and Adam Webster, plus close friend Matt Clarke, sparkle elsewhere, he was tempted to seek a fresh challenge.

After 190 games and 18 goals, few could have begrudged Close, who characteristically parted with dignified words and respect for the club, fans and hierarchy he left behind.

As ever with Close, it was all so very minimal of fuss, in the nicest possible way, of course.

Ben Close has made 14 appearances in an injury-hampered season for Doncaster since his summer switch. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

Traditionally one of Pompey’s lowest-paid players, he signed a three-year Doncaster deal, earned a wage increase and even targeted buying a new car to celebrate.

Undoubtedly, he had his critics. Not among team-mates, mind, who recognised Close’s talent on the ball and clever play, a performer so widely admired in the dressing room.

Not all fans were convinced, however, disapproving the lack of tackling bite so often held in high regard among midfielders.

Certainly Close’s subtleties with the ball was not a great fit in a Kenny Jackett midfield, eventually strangling his progress.

Still, Doncaster boss Richie Wellens lured him with talk of becoming a pivotal figure in a team employing a passing game, an attractive trait the club has followed for a number of years.

Now the manager who signed him has gone, sacked in December after six months at the helm, and Close remains injured.

The former Priory Park student will get his emotional Fratton Park reunion one day – and deservedly so. One of the game’s most down-to-earth an respectful footballers.

Yet not on Saturday. And, most likely, not even next season.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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