Brian Howard felt Pompey allowed themselves to be affected by mounting speculation over Michael Appleton’s future as they crashed to defeat against Brentford.
The Blues captain revealed his phone had been ringing constantly with people asking if he knew whether Appleton was heading for Blackpool, with the Pompey boss widely tipped to take over at Bloomfield Road, even though he has denied the rumours.
But while in other walks of life you might simply ask a straight question to your work colleague and even your manager, Howard admitted the matter had not been discussed in the dressing room, with Appleton saying precisely nothing on the rumours that have been circulating.
Howard said: ‘He (Appleton) didn’t say anything about the speculation.
‘It’s not like that in football. Everyone has to play their cards close to their chest but, then again, if he hasn’t heard anything, then what is there to say?
‘It would be a huge blow if he did go.
‘But it definitely affects you.
‘My phone was red hot on Monday night with people asking me what was going on or telling me that it was all a done deal and he was definitely going.
‘With the squad we’ve got and everyone brought in by the gaffer on month-to-month contracts, people start thinking that everyone can be got rid of if he left.
‘Mind you, on that performance, I don’t think he would be taking anyone with him if he did go.’
Howard was also honest enough to admit he was unhappy with his own performance in the past two games but is determined to regain his form.
He said: ‘Since I came to the club, I think my performances have been pretty high.
‘But I’ve dropped off. I’m big enough and ugly enough to admit that and I’ve been in the game long enough to know that I need to sort it out.
‘We’ve set some very high standards for six or seven games and that has gone in the past two games.
‘We need to get back to those standards, otherwise will be in a situation we don’t want to be in.
‘Maybe we have a couple of bad results and the confidence drops.
‘It’s a fragile squad with everything that’s going on, but you can’t make excuses – we’ve got to show more.’
Appleton admitted his side had been wounded but backed his squad to respond in Saturday’s trip to Bury.
He said: ‘I don’t remember either goalkeeper having too much to do in the game, it was one of those games between box to box and not a lot happening.
‘The players are a bit wounded, they are down. They know they could have done better last night but, all the time I have questioned them and asked if they have the fight in the belly to deal with it, they have come up with the answers.’