Ben Close has been backed by Paul Cook to become a ‘smashing player’.
However, the Blues boss believes now is the time to rest the 19-year-old following his first-team exertions.
People go on about Lavery not being here but it was massive losing Danny Hollands as wellPaul Cook
Midfielder Close recently enjoyed his longest tenure in the Blues’ side with six successive starts.
However, since the dismal defeat at Barnet last week, he has failed to be included in the next two Pompey squads.
His absence has coincided with the return to duty of Danny Hollands following six weeks out with a broken leg.
But Cook is adamant this is not the end for Fratton youngster close.
He said: ‘He has played a lot of games quite quickly but people will come in and out of the team, we have got such a good squad.
‘Ben Close is going to be a smashing player and is learning the game.
‘To learn the game you must be playing, you must be in bad situations every now and then.
‘Danny was playing really well before. We felt our team previously with Danny and Caolan Lavery in was a very well-balanced team.
‘People go on about Lavery not being here but it was massive losing Danny Hollands as well.
‘Him and Doyle in the middle of the pitch are very strong.
‘So the likelihood is when we go away from home they will be nice and solid, it’s not a criticism of Ben.
‘When you have got these three games in a week it’s tough on a young lad, it’s more games than Ben has ever played in.
‘He has been excellent, some of the games he has performed in, Bournemouth especially, he has been absolutely outstanding.
‘But we have been playing with a style, then all of a sudden that style might change.
‘When these games get a bit squiffy you need men, that is the reality of it.
‘Ben’s having a rest, it’s as simple as that, you might find one or two others might need it.
‘It is what we must do so they can be fresh to come back in.’
Hollands has picked up impressively where he left off.
Reunited with Michael Doyle in the midfield engine room, the experienced duo are working well together.
Before his injury, Hollands had started 14 successive fixtures, looking a different player to the one which struggled for form last season.
And at present, Cook believes the 30-year-old is a better option than Close.
He added: ‘It’s hard to tell players to be brave and pass and play, then tell them to hook it onto the striker.
‘You are trying to educate them and senior players are more battle-weary, the likes of Doyle and Hollands can go and scrap at our level.
‘Whereas with Ben Close it doesn’t come natural to him and there are times when games will become a little bit more bitty.’