Small continues not to be beautiful for wilting Pompey

John Utaka found his goalscoring form before departing for Montpellier
John Utaka found his goalscoring form before departing for Montpellier
Pompey's Brett Pitman scores a penalty in the Blues' 1-1 draw against Walsall at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler/Digital South.

Picture gallery: Pompey 1 Walsall 1

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A month ago they were the smallest squad in the Football League.

A month later, they are still the smallest squad in the Football League.

That is the startling statistic which has infuriated players and fans alike following a barren transfer window.

In the 31 days of January, Pompey failed to bring in a single player as a permanent signing.

Just as worrying, they are one of only three Championship clubs to have drawn blanks – Watford and Coventry being the others.

In the meantime, Steve Cotterill has been forced to watch his rivals skip by armed with heavy shopping baskets in a bid to improve their league placing.

Among them are Scunthorpe – a club second from bottom with an average attendance of 5,586.

They managed to bring in six permanent recruits during the transfer window, in addition to three new faces arriving on loan.

Admittedly, Jonathan Forte was sold to Southampton, while Martyn Woolford joined Bristol City to help fund the spree.

Not that such an approach did Pompey much good, who similarly cashed in on Matt Ritchie and John Utaka during the same period.

Today, that money remains in the Fratton Park coffers having failed to be spent on a host of targets.

Another side below the Blues in the Championship table are Crystal Palace, who came out of administration just two months before Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir’s official return.

They were able to snap up four permanent deals, including Dean Moxey (Derby), Alex Marrow (Blackburn) and Jermaine Easter (MK Dons) for cash deals.

In addition, former Spurs striker Steffen Iversen arrived on a free transfer.

No-one left Selhurst Park during that time, while James Vaughan – who bagged a hat-trick against Pompey earlier in the season – rejoined on loan from Everton.

Another club in relegation trouble are Sheffield United, who granted new manager Mickey Adams permission to deal in the transfer market.

He responded by splashing out on Neill Collins from Leeds and Irish duo Seamus Connelly and David McAllister, supplemented by four loan arrivals.

As for Pompey, Greg Halford, Ritchie de Laet and Jonathan Hogg all arrived from the Premier League until the end of the season.

Yet that hasn’t been enough for a manager desperate for permanent recruits to bolster his paper-thin squad, which numbers just 19 at present.

Cotterill said: ‘I was hopeful of three or four but that obviously hasn’t come to fruition.

‘We don’t bring anyone in anyway. So not bringing anyone in in January has been no different to me in December, November, October, September, August and all the way back to when I came here in June.

‘But we need permanent signings.

‘It’s just the situation that the club is in.

‘Until maybe the end of the season, for the life of me I can’t see it being straightened out because it’s all dictated to by finances.

‘There’s not a thing I can about that.

‘That’s why we try to take the lads away (to Gran Canaria) because it’s the only thing I’ve got to help with morale. It’s the cheapest thing I’ve got.

‘At QPR, the bench was the most luxurious we have had – there were six of them there.

‘My God, I didn’t know where to look when I went into the changing room.’

Others busy in the transfer window include Hull, who saw seven players arrive, four of them on permanent deals – the highest profile being £1.2m recruit Matty Fryatt, left.

On the flip side, six departed, among them familiar faces Ian Ashbee (Preston), Jimmy Bullard (Ipswich) and Kevin Kilbane (Huddersfield).

Still, at least the emergency loan window opens on Monday.

Pompey fans, though, shouldn’t hold their breath.