Hmmm, some selection posers ahead!
The Scunthorpe game tomorrow, after the best part of a week to wrap everyone available in cotton wool leading up to the Millwall game on Boxing Day, starts a run of 5 games in 16 days up to, and including, Hull at home on January 3rd - we then have Brighton in the FA cup on the 8th.
Even before contract wrangles, injuries and suspensions I think that we all know by now that numbers are 'low' to say the least, but hey ho we know our lot so we get on with it.
Whilst we are short on numbers what we have to remember is we do have some of the younger players that 'could' be drafted back into the picture to take up a place on the bench if nothing else?
People like Pete Gregory, who was regularly named on the bench out of necessity earlier in the season, is going to have to be named again surely? Ok these kids might not get a look-in, and are simply making up the numbers, but surely it is better to do this than literally have 2 or 3 on the bench, potentially including the sub keeper!
If Tom Kilbey is now fit, and I do not know if he is, despite his immense lack of experience I would have no hesitation in putting him among the subs, what have we got to lose?
To be honest I think it is 'difficult' to pre-empt what we 'might' be able to do for the upcoming games, as we need to basically go from game to game and then see where we are with injuries and suspensions after each really, right?
Although we already know that Liam Lawrence is definitely going to miss out trip to Leeds on 28th due to the 'conditions of his emergency loan', although his move becomes permanent in time for the Watford game on New Years Day. There is also the fact that Mikey Brown and Richard Hughes have, as it stands, only 1 game each left 'possibly' of their Pompey careers! That is unless their contract wrangles can be ironed out...
As said, we cannot 'really' try to 'guess' what sort of team we can put out against the teams during this Xmas and New Year feast, although we can do some calculated juggling to ensure that some players are available for games that they otherwise would not have been.
As far as tomorrow goes, and not taking Scunthorpe too lightly of course, I do think we have to take some calculated risks with the selection we go for, and that, for me would mean leaving BOTH Brown and Hughes out of the squad, saving them for other game - 'probably' Brown for Millwall and then Hughes for Leeds, or visa versa? Millwall would seem the more 'winnable' game though so putting that bite of Brown in for that, availability of other permitting, should not see us lacking too much from what would normally be out 1st team.
That leaves us a midfielder down on the starting 11 from last week, remembering Hughes was not in the squad anyway, so we then either go with Kanu in a withdrawn attacking/midfield role - as often used already this season - with Hayden Mullins the man to do the leg work for The King and keep it tight.
I think this would be the change I made in midfield. Defensively we have to make one change, but that will be more 'like for like', we get to that later...
Alternatively we bring Lawrence into the middle and draft in Nadir Ciftci to play in Lawrence's wider role?
I would think that something along those lines above is likely, 'saving' Ciftci for another game 'possible' more likely though.
Now for that enforced defensive change...
Had Greg Halford not been suspended, which I believe he is, then I suspect he 'probably' could have moved forward with Carl Dickinson back from his own suspension, then again Joel Ward could have played, and still might, in a midfield area at some point during this hectic schedule. So, Ward and/or Halford playing somewhere in midfield in the games ahead is highly possibly, if not probable.
Of course we also have, if we had to at a push at some point, the 'option' of Aaron Mokoena being pushed into midfield and Ibrahima Sonko coming back into the side in central defence - this is not an ideal situation at all but again is something to be done at a push!
I have not even mentioned The Herminator, although as he continues to return from injury we will still use him sparingly I am sure.
Quite clearly there is going to have to, at some times, be square pegs in round holes, but so long as injuries and suspensions do not bite too hard - and of course you cannot ever factor for these before hand, we just have to hope that the 'season of goodwill' shines on us in this area - we can get through this but juggling the players around for the right games is something we need to do, and I trust Steve Cotterill will do this...
Whatever we do, and we also have to remember there was talk of an 'unnamed player', thought to be key player, struggling for fitness ahead of tomorrow - and who that is also impacts on what team is selected.
Again, whilst not taking Scunthorpe lightly, this has to be viewed as the 'easier' game from that, Millwall, Leeds, Watford and Hull - 'maybe' by the time Hull arrives a loanee might have too, even less likely, but maybe possible, by the time we face Watford - so the selection needs to be based with that in mind, which is why I think it would make most sense to leave out Brown and Hughes tomorrow with the thought of saving them for games against Millwall and Leeds in mind...
Once the Scunny game is out of the way, and we know the injury, suspension and 'availability' score we can plan for Millwall, and we will later in the week when I return with my next instalment of 'championship manager!'
PLAY UP POMPEY!