Reality bites for Blues

Anton Walkes. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey mull over permanent stay for loanee

Steve Cotterill believes the world will see Pompey's own reality TV show on New Year's Day.

The Blues boss is facing a major struggle to even field a side for the televised tea-time clash at Watford, with injuries, suspensions and contractual issues decimating his already threadbare squad.

Michael Brown and Richard Hughes will definitely miss out – unless a late agreement can be reached over their contracts – and Dave Kitson serves a one-match ban after collecting his fifth booking of the campaign in the 3-3 draw at Leeds.

Meanwhile, Jamie Ashdown tweaked a knee at Elland Road and Joel Ward took a painful knock in the back, making them major doubts for the trip to Vicarage Road.

Liam Lawrence will be available again as his permanent deal is set to be confirmed.

But even his return will leave Cotterill with just 13 regular first-teamers to choose from – in front of the live TV cameras.

Youngsters Pete Gregory and Ellis Martin could be drafted on to the bench to take the number of substitutes to four.

It's still unclear whether Pompey owner Balram Chainrai will be at Watford to see at first hand the extent of Pompey's current selection predicament.

But Cotterill must be secretly hoping the chairman will at least be watching on TV to see the evidence for himself.

Cotterill said: 'Wait until January 1 now.

'I wouldn't have a clue what team I am going to be able to play at Watford but it will be fantastic because the whole world will be able to see it on Sky.

'I'm worried about having to put a team out.

'We've gone into the Leeds game and got a great result with no Michael Brown, while Hughesie was playing his first game in three months.

'Wardy is a young boy who has played right-back, left-back and then central midfield, while Liam Lawrence couldn't play because of the loan situation. We also had Kitson, (Carl) Dickinson and (Hayden) Mullins on four bookings, and Kitson then gets booked in the 92nd minute.'

Asked if either Brown or Hughes could yet be available for the New Year's Day clash if contract negotiations are successful, Cotterill admitted he was unsure.

And while the manager is desperate to be able to use both players, he is in a difficult position with a matter that is effectively out of his hands.

He said: 'I honestly don't know the answer to that.

'It's a very difficult question when you've got a clause in your contract.

'I've had that chat with them and it's very difficult for them to look me in the eye as well.

'I have a good relationship with these players – absolutely unbelievable relationship.

'Even when I leave them out, they are alright.

'They are a special bunch.'