Paul Hart, the Portsmouth manager, admits he would be delighted with a victory in "Timbuktu" if it ended the club's worst ever start to a season. The South Coast team have lost all of their five opening Premier League games and are bottom of the table.
Hart and his men will be looking to end this run against Aston Villa at Villa Park tomorrow. Pompey endured a testing summer following Sulaiman al-Fahim's drawn-out takeover and were forced to sell a number of key players to balance the books.
Hart has been working overtime to construct a team within the past few weeks, signing eight players in the final few days of the transfer window. With his side seemingly poised for a relegation fight, Hart admits he would take three points anywhere to get off the mark. He said yesterday: "Who wants five defeats? If we were playing in Timbuktu, I would be pleased to get a result. Anywhere now will do."
Hart added: "We've got a good spirit around the camp and a desire to put things right. Hopefully, we can get that result and it will settle things down. No other Premiership club has ever started the season with 14 players. No other Premiership club has done all their business within 48 hours of the transfer window's end."
Although Portsmouth are yet to keep a clean sheet this season, Hart has challenged the on-loan striker Frédéric Piquionne to start finding the net at the other end. The French player has not scored for Pompey in the league since his arrival at Fratton Park, although he struck against Hereford in the Carling Cup second round, and Hart feels the player must adjust to the pace and power of the Premier League.
He said: "He's decent in the air but he has to acquire some Premiership toughness. He has to get stronger, mentally and physically. He has to get battle-hardened and that comes with the experience of being out on the pitch. You would hope he will adjust to the Premier League sooner rather than later. He's had a good look at it now and it's going to have to happen quite quickly.
"He's a centre-forward and he's there to score goals," Hart added. "We're all over goalies and defenders when something goes in at the other end, but attackers have a job to do."
Hart admits that Piquionne was always going to face a huge task adjusting from life in the French Ligue 1 to the English top flight. But with the club short on funds, the Portsmouth manager knew it would be tough to recruit a seasoned Premier League player.
He said: "I think he's learning – coming from the French league to the English Premiership is a massive, massive step. It's possible people don't appreciate that. But to bring in someone who is used to the Premiership would cost £15m and that's the trade-off you make."Reuse content