Threadbare Blues hit rock bottom

Christian Burgess

Pompey fans react to Burgess decision

It's official – Pompey have the smallest squad in the Football League.

That is the damning statistic on the eve of the January transfer window.

Steve Cotterill needs no convincing his team desperately needs strengthening next month.

But the wait continues for Blues chairman Balram Chainrai to reveal his spending plans.

In the meantime, Pom-pey have had to make do with a squad which is smaller than 91 of the clubs in the top four divisions.

Remarkably, despite that handicap, they currently sit 13th in the Championship, comfortably clear of releg-ation danger.

At present, there are only 20 players at Fratton Park.

That figure includes loanees Carl Dickinson, Liam Lawrence, Greg Halford and Ibrahima Sonko.

On that basis, league minnows Accrington Stanley, Morecombe, Burton Albion, Stevenage and Dagenham & Redbridge are among the clubs who boast considerably bigger squads.

Locally, Bournemouth (27 players), Southampton (28 players), Brighton (29 players) and Aldershot (25 players) also exceed the Blues' numbers.

As for their Championship peers, Ipswich boast 36 players – the largest in the division – Derby have 34, Swansea number 34, Coventry have 33 and league leaders QPR possess 29.

Bristol City – the Championship club with second smallest squad size – operate with 23 players.

Meanwhile, the only club which comes close to Pompey in the paper-thin stakes are Cheltenham – ironically, Cotterill's ex-stomping ground.

They have 22 players – a factor which has forced them to recruit the likes of Pompey's Marlon Pack on loan.

They are also a League Two outfit with average attendances of 3,027 this season.

Meanwhile, 42 places above, a club which last year served in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final possesses two fewer players.

Granted, Pompey's squad consists of plenty of Premier League experience in the form of Hermann Hreidarsson, Kanu, Hayden Mullins, John Utaka, Dave Kitson and Aaron Mokoena.

It is a line of reasoning trotted out by many a Championship manager when assessing their strengths during forthcoming matches.

But they also have 16 fewer players than Ipswich and 14 less than Derby.

If having just 20 players at his disposal wasn't frustrating enough for Cotterill, he can't even use some of them.

Tom Kilbey has returned from a long-term knee injury to train with the first team.

But he is currently not considered for duty due to a contract which stipulates Millwall receive 50,000 when he makes an appearance.

There is also the little matter of Michael Brown and Richard Hughes' on-going contract situations.

Neither will play for the Blues again unless a compromise can be agreed to avoid the club granting a 12-month extension at Premier League wages.

Let's also not forget Danny Webber is not yet fully fit as he seeks to return from a horror knee ligament injury sustained against Spurs in March.

In addition, Nadir Ciftci, despite his glimpses of promise, is still aged just 18 and still has so much to learn.

Then there is Darryl Flahavan, Jamie Ashdown's number two, and a player currently on a month-to-month contract.

So that's it, 20 players.

Of course, that is not taking into account Billy Goddard, Ellis Martin, Peter Gregory and Perry Ryan, who featured on the tour to America and Canada in the summer.

They are all currently featuring as over-age players in the youth set-up and Cotterill does not consider them ready for the first team yet.

Meanwhile, Tal Ben-Haim, Marlon Pack and Matt Ritchie are all away from Fratton Park on loan.

Still, in two days' time the transfer window will reopen, giving Football League clubs the chance to strengthen.

For Cotterill, it cannot come soon enough.

Yet, there remain nagging doubts the light will not turn to green to strengthen the smallest squad in the entire Football League.

Mr Chainrai, it is over to you.