Michael Appleton has admitted Kelvin Etuhu’s Pompey future is in the hands of the Football League.
The former Manchester City midfielder has impressed since arriving as a free agent last month.
Appleton had thought he had signed the 23-year-old on a deal until the end of the season, with an option for another 12 months.
However, the Football League insisted the deal must be a month-by-month arrangement.
It means their approval is required each month to extend Etuhu’s stay.
His initial deal is up on February 20 – the same day as Pompey’s winding-up court hearing.
And Appleton is desperate for the go-ahead to keep him at Fratton Park.
He said: ‘Apparently Kelvin is for an initial month – and that was due to the Football League more than us. Kelvin himself would have liked to have signed a proper deal until the end of the season and so would we.
‘But due to where we are with the Football League and what we can and can’t do, we have to submit it month-by-month and they assess it month-by-month.
‘I can only go by what I am being told.
‘I can’t see there being a problem.
‘He’s here at the minute – he has been around the club for three months – and I don’t think we are breaking rules.
‘I don’t think we are gaining any advantage whatsoever.
‘We lost a player in Hermann Hreidarsson to Coventry and replaced him with someone like Kelvin, who certainly isn’t getting any more in terms of finance.
‘He is very dynamic, quick, strong and has played a lot of football in wide areas.
‘Whether he plays there or centrally I think you have a seen a glimpse of what he’s going to bring to the football club.
‘We want to keep him as long as we can.’
Appleton currently possesses just 17 senior players in his squad.
He can ill-afford the possibility of being blocked from retaining Etuhu.
Yet the Football League are maintaining close scrutiny on club finances during these worrying times.
Even with the departure of Ryan Williams, league chiefs have refused to give the green light to a replacement.
For the smallest squad in the Football League, it’s going to be another gruelling battle.
Appleton added: ‘This is a part of the season where you need to look after your players, especially one with such a small squad and the age of which they are.
‘In February and March you have got to be really careful with the players and make sure you have got eagle eyes.
‘That is a time where you need to look after them and make sure they don’t blow up – like last season.’