Appleton rues the Pompey ones who got away

Pompey manager Michael Appleton is growing increasingly frustrated. Picture: Robin Jones
Pompey manager Michael Appleton is growing increasingly frustrated. Picture: Robin Jones
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey v Plymouth: pre-match talking points

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They are 18 players Michael Appleton has targeted to dramatically overhaul his squad.

Free agents the Blues boss is convinced would have already been signed by now and relishing the start of pre-season training.

As it is, none have arrived and that situation will not alter until members of the existing squad depart Fratton Park.

While others in League One wheel and deal in the free-transfer market ahead of its July 1 unveiling, Appleton continues to run into brick walls.

Pompey’s manager insists he has already missed out on at least five players who, following talks, have instead opted to go elsewhere rather than wait for that Fratton Park contract.

The truth is, nobody can provide a definitive answer to when the Blues can start recruiting again because of their financial woes – not even Appleton.

Pompey administrator Trevor Birch revealed last week that the club would have to ship out at least two players before they could even look at making signings.

But, even with no transfer budget, Appleton is adamant that free of the constraints of administration and Football League monitoring, he would have all 18 on board by now.

Instead – 15 days before the players report back on July 5 – there has yet to be a new face brought in.

There have been links, of course, – Izale McLeod and Billy Paynter are just two and neither have publicly joined any other club at this moment in time.

Regardless, yesterday morning, yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening, Pompey’s boss was holding yet more talks with players he is desperate to recruit.

All in the hope tomorrow really does arrive.

Appleton said: ‘I am missing out on players and just hope people understand the situation. I have got my hands tied and there is nothing really I can do.

‘I am working hard, speaking to players and agents all the time but people must realise it is very difficult considering the way the club is.

‘I know in an ideal world I would have had my squad signed up by now – done by a distance.

‘That means 18 of them because that is how many I want.

‘That’s not saying it to get attention, I genuinely believe that – definitely, 100 per cent. They would have been 18 players on a free – I’m not talking about transfer fees, either.

‘These are guys out of contract who could have been snapped up.

‘Instead we have lost out on a lot of players so far. I would say four or five at least – but hopefully we can start getting a few out of the building to change it very soon.

‘It is a really, really, really frustrating time for me at the minute.

‘I would like to be getting out there and getting players. It’s not happening, though. There are other teams in the division getting players, so it is a bit worrying. Look at Preston – Graham Westley has already signed 12.

‘I am still meeting players and had meetings yesterday.

‘Players are there hanging on and hanging on and hanging because Pompey are an attractive club for a lot of players out there – Championship players as well.

‘That is all I can do, keep trying to convince them to wait – and it’s difficult.’

On Monday, Pompey creditors will decide whether to accept Portpin’s CVA proposals.

If agreed, the club can take giant strides towards coming out of administration at least a month later.

The Pompey Supporters’ Trust are also expected to lodge a bid before then as an alternative in the battle to take ownership of the club.

And Appleton is hopeful whoever emerges in control will finally be able to release his recruitment shackles.

He added: ‘Once the football club comes out of administration I think there will be a number of players who would be desperate to join us.

‘There are some lined up and I get conversations and phone calls from agents just wanting to know what the situation is all the time.

‘They want to know whether everything is okay, which they are entitled to.

‘However, it is the same conversation over and over and over again.

‘I don’t know when we can sign players.

‘Everyone wants the same answer and it is one even I can’t give at the moment, which is so frustrating for all of us.’