Appleton fears he may have to again wield squad axe

Luke Rodgers scores against Crawley earlier in the season
Luke Rodgers scores against Crawley earlier in the season

Michael Appleton has warned he will have to be ruthless once again if the shackles are not removed from his squad size.

And this time it may involve axing one of his injured players.

The on-going takeover situation ensures Pompey remain in administration, while adhering to a 20-player squad restriction.

At present, the Blues have reached that limit – but among them exist three players currently sidelined by injury.

They consist of Josh Thompson (ankle), Luke Rodgers (thigh) and Darel Russell (hamstring).

The trio are expected to remain unavailable for a week at the very minimum.

The likelihood is it could be considerably longer.

Appleton is loath to lose any of the three – who have made 19 appearances between them so far during the campaign – but, effectively, they are taking up precious spots.

The Blues boss is aware it is a decision which may be forced upon him in the near future in the interests of the club.

Back in August it was mutually agreed to cancel the contract of Kieran Djilali just two weeks into a month-long deal over the need to bring in other players.

In addition, regular central-defender Kevin Long was surprisingly sacrificed last month after picking up an injury, with Appleton declining to extend his loan.

It is a ‘horrible’ scenario Appleton does not even want to contemplate at present.

But he realises if squad restrictions continue for another week he may well be forced to act on those monthly contracts.

The boss said: ‘Ask me what I am going to do about the injured players in a week’s time.

‘It is not right to let players go, it shouldn’t be happening.

‘People cannot really judge you because what else can you do?

‘If you are forced into a corner you have got to come out fighting and the only way you can come out fighting is upsetting one or two people.

‘I don’t want to be put into that position and that is why the people running the football club can help.

‘It depends if takeover stuff gets sorted out. I understand there is a process but during that we still might be able to get a bit of help and still might be able to sign players.

‘All I am saying is I don’t want to be put into that position – but I might have to.

It’s horrible, morally it isn’t right, I know that. The situation is difficult but I feel like I have been doing that every single week since the season started.’

Such are the limitations of the 20-man squad, Appleton can’t even consider promoting one of his younger players.

The number juggling is an on-going headache for the Blues boss.

And he longs for the day when he can focus on other managerial aspects.

He added: ‘When you have got this 20-player ruling you find yourself getting obsessed with it. You keep staring at your squad on a board.

‘I can fine-tune it, look at who might be available and ask if I have to sacrifice someone to bring him in. That’s a real horrible part of it.

‘An example would be driving home on Saturday after Scunthorpe. I should be thinking “great result, bit of a relief there”.

‘But I am thinking “can I do that, can I afford to do that if he’s not fit, is Gabor going to be fine?”’