Pompey boss contemplating shock player exit

Pompey boss Michael Appleton faces a tough choice. Picture: Robin Jones
Pompey boss Michael Appleton faces a tough choice. Picture: Robin Jones

Michael Appleton is weighing up sacrificing either Kevin Long or Conor Clifford to bring in a new Pompey striker.

The Blues boss has already lined-up a defender he is hopeful will arrive before tomorrow’s visit of Walsall.

That player will replace Paul Connolly, whose loan spell has now ended.

It will take Appleton’s Blues squad up to the maximum of 20 – yet he remains desperate to add another striker.

All those on monthly deals have now signed renewals.

However, the loan spells of Long and Clifford both expire after the Walsall match.

Appleton must then decide whether to let one return to his parent club in order to capture the forward he wants to compete with Izale McLeod and Luke Rodgers.

Long has played five times but the Blues boss is keen to add more experience to the centre of his defence and believes he has enough cover.

Meanwhile, Clifford has been little more than a fringe player, making three substitute appearances.

The window for emergency loans requires any signing to stay for 93 days – rather than the initial month both Long and Clifford arrived for.

And Appleton is therefore agonising over which path to take.

He said: ‘The priority is to have a defender in the building before tomorrow, regardless of whether he can play against Walsall or not.

‘Then we need to reassess again on Sunday or Monday in terms of whether we are happy with the squad and do we need to bring a striker in?

‘They are the sort of questions I will ask myself after the game.

‘If Kevin Long is called back by Burnley or we don’t think it’s right to have another centre half in the building, at least we are in a position where we can do something on Monday or Tuesday.

‘We have been reasonably fortunate Izale and Luke have not picked up injuries.

‘But they pretty much know they are the only two out-and-out strikers in the squad, which I don’t like in terms of competition.

‘Jordan (Obita) would be an asset for us in that central area – his pace will scare people and he has bright movement.

‘But I would still like to add another one over the next seven days. We need to decide whether Kevin or Conor’s loan needs to be renewed.

‘You have got to get the balance right and it’s not nice.

‘But that’s the predicament I find myself in – spinning plates every day.’

The potential arrival of another central defender will see him vie with Long, Gabor Gyepes, Josh Thompson and Johnny Ertl for two starting spots.

Meanwhile, Clifford has found it difficult to break into Pompey’s well-stacked midfield area.

Appleton added: ‘It was an opportunity for Conor to come and be around the first-team set-up – be around the squad and play a bit-part.

‘If he came in and set the world alight then it might be a bit different.

‘But I think he has enjoyed the experience being here.

‘Kevin is a young lad, he has still got loads to learn.

‘He makes mistakes in games sometimes that to the naked eye people might miss.

‘Regardless of whether we renew his loan deal or not, it has been good for all parties.’