Piquionne proving a perk of the high-stakes gamble

Fredric Piquionne drops back, shrugs his broad Gallic shoulders and lets out a huge sigh before mustering the response: “It’s life, no.”

As a laid-back Frenchman he could be talking about anything; the price of a baguette, a ticket on Eurostar, or Nicolas Sarkozy’s private affairs.

As it is, the plight of Portsmouth – one of a number of his former clubs – is the topic of conversation.

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“Portsmouth was great but there was too many problems. Now they are bottom,” he says, neatly summing up the situation for the troubled south coast club.

“I stayed there just one year but had a very good time with the (FA) Cup final.

“It’s a shame for the club because they are a good club, a good team, and it was a nice atmosphere.”

That nice atmosphere has no doubt dissipated at Pompey, a club engulfed in yet more financial turmoil and staring the reality of third-tier football squarely in the face.

Long gone are the days when Doncaster Rovers, Piquionne’s latest employers, endured such hardships.

As Piquionne’s old club started to sink, Rovers were rising to a level few would have envisaged as attainable in their non-league days.

Somewhere along the timeline of mismanagement at Portsmouth there was a crossroads at which the club careered down the wrong path.

Doncaster, arguably, are at such a landmark in their history, having mortgaged their future on the bold transfer policy encouraged by chairman John Ryan and executed by agent Willie McKay.

Piquionne is one of the perks of that high-stakes game – the 33-year-old New Caledonia-born former Martinique and France international joining on a month’s loan from West Ham.

As well as Portsmouth and the Hammers, he includes Nimes, Rennes, St Etienne and such Ligue 1 heavyweights as Monaco and Lyon among his former clubs.

The terms of his current deal with Doncaster – which minimises the amount of training he does and allows him to stay in London and head north before a game – may not sit well with Rovers fans who yearn for a more stable, long-term strategy.

And the fact that he stands in a clique with fellow French speakers El-Hadji Diouf, Herita Ilunga, Mamadou Bagayoko and Pascal Chimbonda at training, away from the English-speaking players in the squad, may hint at a cultural divide in the Keepmoat dressing room.

But smash in many more stunning goals like the one he scored on his debut in the relegation ‘six-pointer’ against Nottingham Forest last week and Rovers fans will not care one jot how he arrived, when he trains or who he talks to, as long as Doncaster stay up.

“I know all the French players. I know them from my time in the French League, places like Rennes and St Etienne,” says Piquionne, who made his home debut in the 1-1 draw with in-form Reading on Tuesday night.

“And the other player, Dioufy, I’ve known for a long time.

“We have some good English players on the team as well and when I saw them against Forest they’re a good team just suffering from a lack of luck.

“They’re very good players, they just need to finish their chances.

“I came because I wasn’t getting game time at West Ham. I come to play and to show I’m fit, that I’m not finished and to play well.

“I am here to play nine games. I will try to do my best to help the team stay in the Championship.

“My fitness is okay. I’d not played for two months from the end of December, I was training well with West Ham, and I played and scored on my first game for Doncaster, so I think I’m in good shape.

“I feel well, I know some players on this team. The gaffer (Dean Saunders) is a good coach and was a good player and a good striker in his time.

“I want to pay him back by scoring some goals.

“He’s a very good coach, he wants the team to play football. That’s good for the striker because when we have the ball we have more chances in a game.”

For his part, Saunders has a gift-wrapped striker he intends to make the most of as Rovers battle against relegation.

“If you’re training flat out, you start getting tired on top of tired,” he said when questioned as to why he is wrapping Piquionne in cotton wool in training.

“When you get players on loan who haven’t been playing, then give them some intense training, then all of a sudden they get injured. So you have to be careful.

“Fred’s unbelievable in the air, and that’s a weapon we’ve got now, we can hit the ball up there and it stays there.”

As for what the future holds beyond a loan deal that expires in the middle of April, Piquionne does not know.

“We will see at the end of the nine games where I go from there. Maybe West Ham call me back if they have a striker injury,” he says.

Saunders will try to keep him if he can.

Piquionne, for all the famous clubs he has played for, is more about the here and now, and what he can do for Doncaster.

Not even the plight of a club like Portsmouth, for whom he played in the FA Cup final, can elicit anything more than a chilled out response from Rovers’ ice-cool striker.