Hughes calls on City to build on fine start

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The Independent Football

That tomorrow is likely to see Michael Brown make his Portsmouth debut as Joleon Lescott enjoys a second Manchester City appearance alongside the likes of Carlos Tevez and Robinho says it all about the directions the two clubs are travelling.

Brown was linked with a move to the Championship with former club Sheffield United earlier in a summer that has seen City spend £120m on six major signings, but Fratton Park offered the City manager Mark Hughes the starkest possible indication about where his problems were last season.

Having won 2-0 at Blackburn on the opening day, a victory tomorrow would equal last season's total of away wins and one of the most miserable of 12 away defeats came in the 2-0 loss on the south coast on Valentine's Day this year.

For Hughes, the memory says it all about what he has assembled at Eastlands since the end of last season, and although his new team have failed to find their real rhythm in attack, they have kept clean sheets in their three matches so far this season.

''Robinho got some criticism after that game but it could have been directed at any one of us,'' he said. ''We're looking for a marked improvement and our results against Portsmouth were indicative of our game really.

''There were few low points last year that spring readily to mind and beating Portsmouth 6-0 and losing 2-0 away, summed up our season. We were very good at home and poor on the road and we've made good strides in that direction and we're encouraged more than we were last year.

''It's key to whether we're going to have a good season or not and we've come through those games without conceding goals. If we have the defensive platform we have at the moment, given our attacking threat we've got a real chance to pick up more wins than we did last year. We've made a good start and we want that to continue.''

Hughes was unconcerned that Uefa president Michel Platini's proposal that clubs competing in European competition will be expected to break even and although there was a hint that he felt the suggestions were aimed at other clubs, he maintains that City's situation is preferable to other clubs who are heavily in debt.

''It seems he was talking about it being better to borrow money and service the debt rather than having somebody with a real desire to build the club from within and make it prosper,'' Hughes added. ''Who is to say who is right or wrong?

''We are trying to drive the turnover to a different level anyway, so in three years' time, if we are successful then we might be in a situation where our turnover is as big as some of the so-called bigger teams.''

Worlds apart: Value of the teams at Fratton Park


D James (£1.2m)

A Vanden Borre (loan)

A Mokoena (free)

Y Kaboul (£5m)

N Belhadj (£4.4m)

M Brown (£1m)

H Mullins (£2m)

J Utaka (£7m)

N Kranjcar (£3.5m)

T Smith (£2m)

F Piquionne (loan)

Total cost: £26.1m

Manchester City:

S Given (£7m)

M Richards (youth)

J Lescott (£24m)

K Touré (£16m)

W Bridge (£12m)

S Wright-Phillips (£9m)

G Barry (£12m)

S Ireland (youth)

Robinho (£32.5m)

C Tevez (£25.5m)

E Adebayor (£25m)

Total cost: £163m