Let's focus on a safer future

The drivers' dispute might be over, but at what cost?

CLIVE SMITH: The dressing-up corner is now no longer safe from the PC brigade

If anyone expected Pompey's post-administration era to be easy, another sharp reminder reared its head this week.

I overheard a Norwich-based journalist surveying the Blues' squad at Carrow Road at the weekend questioning quite how the opposition had the kind of star names on their team sheet, considering the financial turmoil that has been suffered.

It was the kind of case that even Scooby Doo might have shrugged off as too easy.

If Shaggy had bothered with a quick check on the back of the programme, those meddling kids would have been unmasking the janitor in no time at all.

While the wannabe detective hinted that Pompey had somehow pulled a fast one in fielding some excellent players, Steve Cotterill knows only too well that the strategy is a high-risk policy designed to get the very best side he can on the budget restrictions that are now in place at the club.

And those restrictions could yet see both Michael Brown and Richard Hughes – both of whom are closing in on their appearance limit before triggering a new contract – sitting in the stands on matchdays between now and the end of the season.

Pompey will not allow those new contracts to be activated on the previously-agreed salaries.

It won't happen. It cannot happen.

Most of us had the general idea that some of the contracts which have been handed out at Fratton Park in recent years beggar belief.

And that is not a swipe at the players or agents whose duty it was to strike the best deal for their own circumstances, as any employee in any profession would.

Just as Lord Sugar will babble on a Wednesday night, genuine business acumen is also about having the discipline to say 'no' if a deal doesn't add up – and put up with the consequences.

On this occasion, no blame can be attached to the current regime.

The buck sits firmly with the previous incumbents of the football club – those who sanctioned these deals that still continue to hang around the club's neck like a millstone, as it attempts to get itself up off its knees.

While it's easy to play the blame game, the bottom line is history cannot be changed.

But the future is where the focus must lie. What's done is done, so time to move on. As harsh as it is on Hughes and Brown – both of whom have given sterling service in some of the club's most difficult times and would be key figures in an assault on the play-offs – they will not be offered fresh terms on anything like the level they had previously earned.

So the choice really sits with them on whether they can find a suitable compromise.

If it can't be found, then so be it.

And if that means the proposed challenge for promotion slumps into a battle to stay in the division, that is the price that must be paid.

Most Pompey fans would love to see a victorious promotion campaign unfold.

But those in charge must ensure it does not become a Pyrrhic victory: one that comes at too great a cost.