REVEALED: League One's out-of-contract numbers - and the impact on promotion bids of Portsmouth, Sunderland, Oxford, Charlton and Ipswich
There are those Pompey players potentially facing their final fortnight at Fratton Park.
Mind you, the situation is hardly unique across football, particularly for those clubs which reside below the Championship.
In fact, of the six play-off candidates, Sunderland, Charlton and Oxford United have more players than Pompey whose deals are reaching the end.
Elsewhere, at Paul Cook’s Ipswich, there are a mighty 20, albeit with club options on the majority of a squad which also consists of an under-23 group.
Nonetheless, accusations remain that Pompey’s promotion ambition has been bodychecked by failure to have all their players tied up for deals beyond this season.
The oft-used criticism points the finger as those players being disillusioned, demoralised and disheartened over the uncertainty.
It may be the case to an extent, yet the scenario is the same elsewhere in League One, including those still chasing promotion.
Take Sunderland as an example, who have 17 players with expiring contracts. Regardless, they currently sit third in League One – with five more points than the Blues.
In fact, that tally includes pivotal first-team performers Lee Burge, Grant Leadbitter, Luke O’Nien, Max Power, Josh Scowen, Charlie Wyke and Aiden McGeady.
Chris Maguire (38 games), Callum McFadzean (32), Denver Hume (22) and Conor McLaughlin (27) have also featured regularly this term.
Although they have stuttered of late, until the start of this month they had racked up a remarkable streak of 10 wins and four draws in a 14-game spell.
Meanwhile, Karl Robinson’s Oxford are presently fifth – despite having 13 players soon to be out of contract.
They include first-team regulars Josh Ruffels, Anthony Forde, Alex Gorrin, James Henry and Mark Sykes.
As for Charlton, two points behind Pompey and whose unbeaten run of 10 games was ended by Peterborough on Saturday, they have 13 contracts expiring.
These include regulars Ben Amos, Jake Forster-Caskey, Ben Watson, Darren Pratley and 14-goal Chuks Aneke.
Looking at Pompey, Duncan Turnbull has already departed – leaving the 10.
These are Jordy Hiwula, Tom Naylor, Andy Cannon, Bryn Morris, Craig MacGillivray, Whatmough, Ben Close, Ryan Williams, Haji Mnoga and Charlie Daniels.
Naylor had actually been ruled out of Saturday’s clash with Bristol Rovers with a hamstring problem, only for the morning of the game to surprisingly declare himself fit.
The skipper went on to feature for the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 victory – so much for players having downed tools.
Of the other play-off rivals, Lincoln have four out of contract, with Blackpool sitting at eight.
Analysing the remainder of League One, other clubs include Doncaster (12), MK Dons (11), Plymouth (13), Burton (14), Shrewsbury (13), Northampton (nine), Swindon (18), Wigan (17), Bristol Rovers (11) and Gillingham (nine).
Although newly-promoted Hull (six) and second-placed Peterborough (six) have the lowest return of out-of-contract players.
Incidentally, the issue of players’ contracts expiring hardly hindered Paul Cook’s men in 2016-17.
In fact, eight of those who featured in the remarkable finale of 10 wins from the last 12 fixtures performed such heroics in the knowledge their deals ended that summer.
Certainly the motivation and commitment of Michael Doyle, Gareth Evans, Jack Whatmough, Kyle Bennett, Enda Stevens, Noel Hunt, Amine Linganzi and Stanley Aborah didn’t dim during the season’s crunch time.
They won the League Two in the final 32 minutes of the campaign.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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