Michael Appleton fears player burn-out as Pompey’s fixture list hots up.
The anticipated January transfer deadline day exodus failed to emerge as Ipswich targets Joel Ward, Stephen Henderson and Jason Pearce all remained at Fratton Park.
But Ryan Williams’ departure to Fulham and former loanee Joe Mattock moving to Brighton until the end of the season leaves the Blues boss with a squad of just 18.
What’s more, he’s unsure whether he will be able to recruit players when the emergency loan window opens on February 8.
With six games in 22 days approaching, it is a massive ask from players who have lifted the club into 16th spot in the Championship table.
At least some of Pompey’s prized assets remain. However, on Tuesday only 11 first-team players could train.
And Appleton believes the smallest squad in the Football League face plenty more testing times ahead.
He said: ‘There are a lot of games coming up and it is going to be tough for the players.
‘We’ve got a small squad and, on top of that, will have to cope with injuries, suspensions or whatever else is thrown at us.
‘If I am given the opportunity, there are going to be a lot of changes over the summer.
‘I want to make sure the squad is much bigger than what is it now.
‘Working with 17-18 players is not ideal and I wouldn’t advise it to anyone – coach or manager.
‘You have got to be working along the lines of 25-26 if you want to be serious contenders and be successful and get out of this league.
‘The risk with a small squad is it is okay having the spirit but at the end of the day there is going to be an opportunity where sometimes you might not be able to put 11 players on the field.
‘That is where you have got to get the balancing act right because we don’t want to continue to have to ask youth-team players or very young players to constantly come in or be on the bench.
‘That will happen naturally because that is the type of person I am and that’s the way I want to take the club forward.
‘But, at the minute, we are in a situation where it is a little bit difficult to start asking 16-17 year-olds to come into the first-team squad and if they have to come on to the field of play do it to the best of their abilities.
‘I hope one day I get the opportunity where I have to tell four or five players they are not playing because they haven’t played well enough rather than one.’
In theory, Pompey could do business during the emergency loan window.
Then again, finances will inevitably come into it.
Appleton added: ‘We will have to weigh up the situation with the Football League, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t have an idea of players I could bring in on loan.
‘At the end of the day, you have got to have targets whether you are in financial trouble or not.’