Portsmouth midfielder Ben Close's plea to EFL with fears over Wembley visit in Leasing.com Trophy final with Salford City

Ben Close has called on the EFL to rescue Pompey’s Wembley visit.

Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 12:27 pm

The Blues midfielder believes his side’s return to the home of football should be postponed until it’s safe for fans to return to watching football.

Close fears the Leasing.com Trophy final with Salford City could turn into a huge anticlimax, with football set to go behind closed doors.

The EFL’s chairman, Rick Parry, last week wrote to its members outlining a plan to complete the season in 56 days, with fixtures played without watching fans amid the coronavirus crisis.

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That could mean playing at Wembley with no supporters and wrecking a memorable day out for the Pompey faithful.

That prospect now hangs in the balance, but Close believes the best course of action would be to push the game back to a day when it can be the kind of celebration fitting for a final.

Close said: ‘It would be a massive blow (to be played with no fans present).

Ben Close at Wembley last year

‘I just can’t see it being played behind closed doors. I’d rather it be delayed until next season, 100 per cent.

‘There’s no rush to play the game, so hopefully they can fit that in when things are back to normal and fans are back in stadiums.

‘Being able to get to Wembley is a big thing in any player’s career.

‘So to do it and then actually play in front of no fans would be really disappointing.

‘I just really hope they don’t rush the fixture back into this season and they do it when we can have fans again.

‘We want to see 50,000-plus Pompey fans follow us to Wembley. That would be a really big thing for the club.’

The EFL are facing an unprecedented challenge to complete the season with the UK still in lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Despite holding the view of pushing the final back so it could accommodate fans, Close admitted the complexities of that task and trying to manage the football calendar may force the league’s hand over when to stage the final.

He added: ‘You’d hope commonsense would prevail, but I guess it just depends on how they put these fixtures in.

‘They may have no choice but to rush it back. I don’t know how they will work it.

‘But from a player and fan’s points of view hopefully they can do that.

‘Hopefully they can see it’s a big occasion and they realise they need that occasion with the fans, and you can’t have a cup final without fans.

‘That’s just the way we’re viewing it.

‘Wembley is a massive occasion and I can’t imagine how it’d feel for the winning team to walk up the steps and lift the trophy in front of no fans. It would be bizarre.’