Jason Pearce is slowly being pulled out of Pompey’s grasp.
Yet the ever-optimistic Michael Appleton still retains hope he can hang on to a player he believes can continue to blossom.
In truth, Appleton is fighting a losing battle.
Ipswich are resolute in the pursuit of the 24-year-old who himself has admitted he wants to remain at Fratton Park.
Considering Pompey’s current financial climate, it matters little what the manager or player thinks with such a potential transfer windfall at stake.
After all, there is a £1.6m HMRC tax bill to pay, unpaid wages for January and a winding-up hearing looming.
Ultimately, Pearce’s future will be decided before 11pm tonight when the January window closes.
For Appleton, he represents a prized asset he would dearly love to build a side around.
Since arriving from Bournemouth in the summer, the central defender has made 26 appearances and emerged as an early contender for the Blues’ player of the season.
Not a bad return in his maiden Championship campaign.
And Appleton would relish continuing to work with the ex-Cherries captain.
He said: ‘Pearcey is doing fantastically well and long may that continue.
‘The biggest asset he’s got is that he is a left-sided centre half and there aren’t many out there. Obviously that attracts a lot of people.
‘He’s an aggressive boy, he has an infectious attitude about him. Him and Joel Ward are like the Chuckle Brothers when they are together.
‘The thing about Pearcey is he’s got a lot of ability and will get better and better.
‘He enjoys a tackle, he enjoys defending, he’s a solid, solid, solid defender – and reliable.
‘The lad takes as much pleasure heading the ball clear and getting to the front post and making sure he stops a front man scoring as he did netting that goal on Saturday, I can guarantee.
‘I think he can be better at playing the ball forward more instead of playing rush stuff and playing to his full-back.
‘And while Pearcey is a man marker who likes to mark, sometimes he gets a little bit too tight and gets rolled and pinned.
‘But his big strength is that he’s a leader, he wants to win and I want to build the club around him.
‘I just hope I can continue to work with him over the coming months.’
Having initially arrived as a back-up defender, Pearce has established himself as an essential first-teamer.
After missing the first three matches of the campaign through suspension from his Bournemouth days, he has gone on to become a regular.
The 24-year-old has now started the past 26 matches.
His most recent appearance at Peterborough on Saturday was also marked with a goal – his second for the club.
That could yet prove to be his final Blues match.
For Appleton, there is still so much more to come from Pearce.
The question is where.
He added: ‘There are certain things in his game he knows are a real weakness.
‘We are working on them day in, day out on the training field.
‘He is trying to improve and get better.
‘That’s the biggest thing; people like Jason Pearce, you can’t get them off the training field.
‘You have to literally drag him off because he wants to do more and more.
‘I really want to keep working with him and, hopefully, that will be the case.’