Michael Appleton has insisted the axing of Tal Ben Haim from his first-team plans is purely for footballing reasons.
The Israel international has become the first casualty of the new regime under the Pompey boss.
His continued absence has sparked suggestions Appleton has been instructed not to play him due to the size of his contract, after Pompey’s owners – Convers Sports Initiatives – went into administration.
It is reported Ben Haim, who was ruled out of the Burnley game with a hip injury, signed a four-year deal worth £36,000-a-week at Fratton Park in August 2009.
The 29-year-old had played every Championship match this season before being dropped to the bench for the visit of Leicester.
That was Appleton’s second match in charge.
Since then, the defender has failed to make the past two Blues squads.
But the Pompey manager is adamant there is nothing sinister about the exclusion of the former Chelsea defender.
New loan signing Joe Mattock is currently blocking Ben Haim’s path to the left-back role.
And Appleton insists his preference for playing the West Brom man is the only reason behind Ben Haim’s continued absence.
He said: ‘Rumours of Tal not playing because of his wages are a load of rubbish. I had to pick a squad for the Coventry game and he, unfortunately, couldn’t get himself in the squad.
‘If he works hard enough and concentrates really hard on playing for the football club, then he might find himself back in.
‘He actually picked up an injury in training on Friday and got a little bit of a knock on his hip.
‘So that was taken out of my hands anyway for the trip to Burnley.
‘Nobody has told me I cannot play him, not at all. It is all down to me.’
Another who has found himself out of Pompey’s squad in recent weeks is Kanu.
The last time the veteran striker even featured in a match was back in October.
That was as a 75th-minute substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Ipswich.
Marko Futacs replaced Kanu on the bench against Coventry and Burnley.
Once again, though, Appleton has dismissed the notion the Nigerian’s absence has been influenced by wages.
And he has urged both players to work hard to get back into his Blues squad.
Appleton added: ‘King (Kanu) is the same as Tal. He knows we’ve got a squad now and there are players desperate to be successful.
‘I want to improve that. I want competition for places and King is in a position similar to Tal.
‘He needs to work hard, get his head down and try to get back into it.’