Piquionne targeted as Rovers offset loss of Sharp

Frederic Piquionne
Frederic Piquionne
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DONCASTER Rovers manager Dean Saunders wants West Ham United striker Frederic Piquionne to become his latest short-term acquisition.

It is now over four months since the former Liverpool and Wales striker took charge at the Keepmoat Stadium, heralding a major change in the club’s transfer policy.

The appointment of agent Willie McKay as a ‘transfer consultant’ has not only raised eyebrows in the game but also opened the door for a string of foreign players to move to the Championship club.

If Piquionne today agrees to move on loan to Rovers, he will become the 15th short-term arrival in a spell of just 21 league games under Saunders.

Rovers chairman John Ryan is still banking on the influx of talent to keep the club in the Championship but while they may no longer sit bottom of the table, they are still five points adrift of safety – one point worse than when Saunders took charge – after collecting 23 points from a possible 63.

Piquionne, 33, was linked with a host of top clubs including Sunderland, Wolves and Celtic during the New Year transfer window.

However, after failing to secure a permanent move, he is now willing to move north on loan in an attempt to revive his career.

The one-time French international cost the Hammers £1m from French club Lyon two summers ago after a season on loan at Portsmouth, where he scored 11 goals in all competitions, including two against Birmingham City in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

He then scored the first goal in a 2–0 win over Tottenham to help send Portsmouth into the final for the second time in three seasons.

He scored nine goals last season and was a regular fixture in the side as the Londoners failed to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

He has made 21 appearances this season but has not started a game since New Year’s Eve. The arrival of both Ricardo Vaz Te from Barnsley and Nicky Maynard from Bristol City last week will limit further his first-team opportunities.

Saunders travelled to London for talks with Piquionne yesterday and McKay confirmed the club’s intention to wrap up a deal.

“We are talking to West Ham about taking Piquionne on loan,” said McKay.

“Dean is keen to get a new striker in and, hopefully, we can do a deal.

“He is a player I know a lot about having followed him when he was in France with St Etienne, Monaco and Lyon.”

Former Liverpool striker El-Hadji Diouf has extended his stay until the end of the season – which is regarded as a major coup amid interest from clubs in America and Russia – and Rovers recently acquired the services of Burkina Faso international striker Habib Bamogo and Mali international striker Mamadou Bagayoko.

Both, however, are still coming to terms with the demands of English football.

James Hayter remains at the club and fellow striker Chris Brown, who has not yet played under Saunders due to a knee problem, is also back in training.

Despite his existing attacking options, Saunders feels another striker is still needed to fill the gap created by the £2m sale of Billy Sharp to Southampton.

Sharp had scored nine goals in his last 16 appearances but Rovers had a gentlemen’s agreement and did not stand in the way of his departure once a rival club had offered over £1.8m.

The emergency loan window has now re-opened to Football League clubs so Piquionne could sign today and make his debut this weekend against Crystal Palace.

French winger Fabien Robert is also waiting to make his debut against Palace after moving on loan from FC Lorient last week.

The 14 players who have previously arrived on short-term deals since mid-September comprise four strikers (Diouf, Bamogo, Bagayoko and Marc-Antoine Fortune), three goalkeepers (David Button, Carl Ikeme and Chris Kirkland), four defenders (Pascal Chimbonda, Habib Beye, Herita Ilunga and Lamine Diatte), and three midfielders (Herold Goulon, Damien Plessis and Robert).

Chairman Ryan, recently rocked by the resignation of vice-chairman Dick Watson, his son Andrew and daughter Sarah Kell, and multi-millionaire Terry Bramall, who owns Bramall Construction, plans to make a major announcement before the next home match.

The man who has steered the club out of non-league football will speak to members of Rovers’ corporate 100Club and deliver a Valentine Day’s message ahead of Blackpool’s visit on February 14.

He plans to make an important announcement to the club’s business associates regarding the direction of the club following the departure of major shareholders Bramall and Watson, who owned approximately two-thirds of the club.