Michael Appleton is bracing himself for raids on his star men after news of Pompey’s tax woes emerged.
The Blues boss believes he is facing a fight to keep his squad together after the club were hit with a £1.6m tax bill.
Appleton expects the sides circling his prized assets to pounce in the coming days.
Leicester are said to have joined Ipswich in the chase for Joel Ward and Jason Pearce, and Newcastle have been linked with Stephen Henderson.
Appleton insisted he knew nothing of the latest off-the-field blow, until it was revealed in The News on Saturday.
Now he fears the worst for a squad which is already the smallest in the Football League.
Appleton said: ‘I’ve not been told anything about it (the tax bill). I have not spoken to David (Lampitt) or anyone.
‘The first I heard about it was when one of the staff mentioned it before the game.
‘Someone said it was on the front of the The News.
‘I don’t know anything, so I can’t really comment on it until I’ve spoken to David or John (Redgate).
‘It’s incredible but – if we can – we must just try to forget what we hear and what we see.
‘We’re a football team. We just have to dust ourselves down, get back into the training ground and see what we can do.
‘It does affect you because it makes your job doubly difficult. There’s no hiding from that.
‘I’m expecting that conversation to come now (about selling players), having been told the news.
‘If that’s the case we have to deal with it and we’ll deal with it and then see where we are.
‘I’ve not heard anything (about Leicester’s interest in Ward and Pearce) but they have a few quid and they seem to be in for everyone.
‘It wouldn’t surprise me in any way, shape or form if they did come knocking for them in the coming days.
‘It’s not welcome but I could understand clubs thinking there’s an opportunity to pick up players. We’re in financial difficulties.’
Appleton was left floored by the nature of the last-gasp 3-2 defeat at high-flying Cardiff.
He underlined the ambition for his men over the rest of the season is securing their place in the Championship. With the ongoing financial uncertainty – and just 13 fully fit senior players at present – he believes he will learn much about the squad’s character.
Appleton said: ‘What I would say is we are a strong group of people.
‘We have a tough task but these are the times when you find out quite a lot about your players.
‘I’m certainly going to find out what they’re about over the next couple of months.
‘It’s very simple. We have to stay in this league. End of story.’
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