Here at Shoot! we are determined to keep an eye on the up-and-comers across all divisions and have already given you the low down on the likes of Tottenham’s Marcus Edwards and Man United’s Angel Gomes. This week it is the turn of Portsmouth’s Ben Close!
At just 20-years-old, Ben Close has already captained Portsmouth’s first-team and is well on his way to establishing himself in the professional world of football.
Despite finding starts hard to come by in the league, with the ever present captain Michael Doyle and summer recruit Danny Rose comfortably occupying the two spots in the centre of midfield, the Checkatrade Trophy and FA Cup have provided Close with opportunities to shine and make his mark on first-team manager Paul Cook.
After impressing for the academy, the Portsmouth-born talent signed professional terms with the club in January 2014, aged just 17. The following season saw Close make his debut for the side in a 3-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win away at Yeovil, before going on to make his first league appearance two weeks later in what was a comfortable 3-0 victory over Dagenham and Redbridge.
His nine appearances that campaign set the youngster up well for the following year and Cook’s first season in charge of the Blues. Evidently impressing the new manager, Close went on the make 14 appearances in all competitions that year, frequently featuring following Nigel Atangana’s departure to Leyton Orient in January 2016.
Now into his third season with Portsmouth’s first-team, Close has proved that he is clearly an old head on young shoulders as performances of maturity have helped avoid defeat against the likes of Reading under-21s and League One side Bristol Rovers.
It was this game against the Gas that Close was handed the captaincy, despite the likes of Kyle Bennett, Milan Lalkovic and Tom Davies, all senior players, in the starting line-up. A performance of maturity against Darrell Clarke’s side lead to heaps of praise from manager Cook, with Close himself admitting that he was honoured to wear the armband.
Speaking to the club, he said: “It’s difficult to put into words what it means – especially at my age.
“I can only thank the gaffer for putting his trust in me to wear the armband. It’s the second time now and it felt as good as it did on the first occasion.
“The team we had out included a lot of experienced players, so I was surprised when I heard and it’s a moment I won’t forget.’
However, it was not the first time that Close had been given the privilege, also captaining the side that made the trip to Exeter in last season’s competition. Although, it appears that this meant a great deal more due to the number of first-team regulars on show.