View from up North: Close is key - as is adding to Pompey's midfield options

The News have this week welcomed Fratton Park season-ticket-holder and work-placement student Dan Statham onto the sports desk.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 26th May 2018, 4:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:52 am
Key man Ben Close
Key man Ben Close

Our temporary new arrival sits in the North Stand and is not short of an opinion or two with regards his hometown club.

Today, he tackles Pompey's midfield problems since the turn of the year - and what he believes was the reason why the Blues missed out on promotion.

Here's what Dan had to day in our new feature: My view from up North...

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Last season's promotion push sadly dwindled out in April.

So as Rotherham and Shrewsbury prepare to do battle for promotion into the Championship at Wembley tomorrow, Pompey are preparing for next season in League One.

For most Blues fans, an eighth-placed finish and toying with the play-offs represented a good first season back in English football's third tier.

Many of the Fratton Faithful could be forgiven for cursing what could have been, though, as Pompey headed into January with a strong position in the table.

Most observers identified the lack of a strong, experienced midfield signing in the January transfer window to replace injured duo Danny Rose and Stuart O'Keefe as one of the contributing factors towards the side's faltering form after the turn of the year.

And It seemed obvious that the Blues would reinforce their threadbare options in that department.

Yet the only moves made involved loan spells for defender Sylvain Deslandes, forward-thinking Connor Ronan and goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.

A transfer window, therefore, which caused widespread criticism among the Pompey massive.

Until O'Keefe's return in April, manager Kenny Jackett was constantly chopping and changing his options, looking for the answer to his midfield headache.

Anton Walkes, Nathan Thompson, Dion Donohue, Gareth Evans, Ronan, Ben Close and Adam May all had spells in the Blues engine room.

Close was an ever-present this season, featuring in 45 games and scoring twice.

The Pompey academy product impressed as he nailed down a place in the team, and comfortably made the step up in grade after his loan spell in the National League with Eastleigh.

But it was getting someone to complement the youngster where the issue lay.

Next season I would be happy to see a partnership between Rose and Close develop, with a potential back-up plan involving a return for O'Keefe or even a move for Nothampton loanee Matt Grimes.

There needs to be far more ability in the back-up options.

And I would personally focus on signing at least one or two League One quality central midfielders to join up with Close, May and Rose.

Close's progress is paramount, though.

If he drops out of the team, all of the development we witnessed throughout this season could disappear, risking ruining one of Pompey's brighter prospects.

He has also proved himself to be quite adept at playing in League, and with further improvement likely, the youngster could be a key player for the Blues for years to come.

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