Now for Burgess and Doyle’s biggest fight – winning promotion

Up for the battle: Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle in action against Leyton Orient this season Picture: Joe Pepler
Up for the battle: Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle in action against Leyton Orient this season Picture: Joe Pepler
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It has to be promotion – and nothing must derail such ambition.

The sentence has been delivered, the dressing room offenders punished through a fine to be handed over to the Academy and Pompey in the Community.

‘The matter is now resolved’, concluded today’s club statement, accompanied by lengthy apologies from Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle.

As Paul Cook often utters: ‘Just keep going’.

The half-time brawl against Stevenage on Saturday left Burgess requiring stitches in a head wound and Doyle teetering on a disciplining far more severe than money ripped from his hand.

Regardless, Cook requires both to get Pompey out of League Two.

And that factor should override all notions of moral indignation and any righteous outcries. Selfish, but crucial.

The duo’s aggressive behaviour was appalling, violence between team-mates can never be glibly justified, particularly to the disturbing extent that a number of stitches were necessary.

Clearly, Cook and his coaching staff felt strongly about what unfolded, hence immediately removing the perpetrators from his team, running the risk of wrecking his game plan.

As it turned out, a goalless draw subsequently succumbed to a 2-1 defeat to the Boro. Primarily, an outcome caused almost exclusively by the recklessness of two senior players.

Yet jettisoning one or both of the pair permanently from his playing squad would represent hammering on the self-destruct button for Cook.

Pompey must win promotion this season, Cook must win promotion this season. The Fratton faithful are relying on it, Cook’s tenancy in the Blues hot seat depends on it.

Irrespective of their crimes, a Pompey line-up this year deprived of Burgess and Doyle would be a worryingly weaker one.

Instigating a sacking or their transfer-listing may prompt standing applause among some. Certainly, it would satisfy calls to stamp out ill-placed passion among players often criticised for demonstrating a lack of it.

Yet would Cook still be lauded for such a hard-line stance at the season’s end should the Blues, minus the erring duo, have once again failed to depart the bottom division of the Football League?

This is Doyle, the skipper, the driving force, the natural leader and reigning holder of The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season trophy.

Those who witnessed the abject first half against Wycombe earlier this month without his presence will testify with persuasive words why he is presently irreplaceable.

Pompey’s squad may contain a vast array of midfielders, spanning a broad range and differing strengths, yet none can satisfactorily replace Michael Doyle.

Burgess is perceived by Cook as his chief defender, brilliance often blighted by irritating turbulence. Nonetheless he continues to prove a class act in the current divisional surroundings.

Comfortable on the ball, powerful in the air, the all-round defensive package he delivers to a Cook-designed Blues side is truly priceless.

There is a plausible reason why the 25-year-old attracts the occasional admiring glance from clubs interested in tempting him away from Fratton Park.

In the desire to right heat-of-the-moment wrongs, Cook has agonised whether to sacrifice two key components of a side he believes can earn that long-awaited promotion.

Similarly, he has weighed up if a shell-shocked dressing room can effectively function should they remain.

Today Pompey fans were made aware of his decision.

Now Burgess and Doyle must live up to their responsibilities – and get this club out of League Two.