A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Tony Capaldi was an absentee when Argyle's players and management carried out a lap of appreciation after the win against Preston, and Ian Holloway revealed that Capaldi did not take part in it because it was feared there could be an adverse reaction to him from some fans. Holloway said: "Tony got some stick when he went out the other night, which is uncalled for. Someone called him a Judas and I think that's disgusting. People can't call him that. He has played fantastically well for us over the years. This is a business and if he's going to move on, he's going to move on. But you don't call someone a Judas when they have played for four years and have had a lot of success for you. At the minute we are not in the same ball park as some other people who might be wanting his signature when it comes to wages per week. Maybe him and his family feel he might leave, but I have got to move on. He has wanted to be here for the last four years. He has been absolutely outstanding and to be honest with you I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. I haven't worked with too many full-backs better than him in my life, so what can I say? I think he has played for this club with passion and he doesn't deserve to be called a Judas. That's ill-informed people thinking like that." Holloway spent an hour after Saturday's final whistle signing autographs and posing for photos with supporters and was overwhelmed by their response. He said: "It was outstanding. It's a very special place to be. I feel a bit emotional about it now. People waited ages just to shake my hand. I can't get over it. I don't know how many autographs I signed but it was quite a few. It's marvellous. They are such genuine, warm people and we are desperate to do well for them. I thought the lads showed that again today."
Ian Holloway recalled Romain Larrieu for the visit of Preston, and after the game said: "He did ever so well. It was a clean sheet and a decent performance from everybody in the team. It was harsh on Luke McCormick, but he accepted it in the right fashion. And when I brought off Akos he was stretching his hamstring and he accepted it. That's what it's all about. You respect your team-mates."
In the build-up to Saturday's game, Ian Holloway had grumbled about some injustices he felt his team had suffered in their defeat at Preston last December. Back then, the home side were the beneficiaries of contested penalty and offside decisions. It was appropriate, according to Holloway, that there was a reversal of fortune this weekend. Holloway said. "It was a fantastic performance, and I thought we thoroughly deserved it. It was a very tough game, and it's filled me with hope and joy. We're not far away from Preston, wherever they end up. It was a little bit of retribution for what happened up there. I reminded the lads about that. Our penalty today was a bit dubious, but it's swings and roundabouts. Their manager is going to moan about it, but I don't really care. I thought we were better than his team. It's a man's world, and I wasn't very happy when we lost 3-0 up there. Let's see how he likes it."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is already counting down the days to the start of the 2007/08 season. He said: "It was hard for me to set a goal target before the start of the season because it was my first year in this league and I didn't know anything about it. But now I have come this far, I feel double figures are reachable and are a reasonable target. We will see how it works out, but I'm pleased with how it has gone this season. I feel like I have improved steadily and I just can't wait until next season. It was a brilliant team effort today. Ro came in and did well. Marcel has been unbelievable all season at the back and so has Lil in midfield. Everyone from the back to the front has done an unbelievable job this season. If we can keep that spirit and drive going who knows what next season will hold? We can only deal with that when it comes around." Preston dropped from fourth to eighth position in the Championship after the defeat, and Ebanks-Blake added: "We only see the opponents in front of us. We don't really care about their league position. We try to win games and take care of our business, and that's what we have done today." Ebanks-Blake's goal against Preston was his third penalty this season, and came after he was unsuccessful with a spot kick at Burnley on April 3rd. He said: "Obviously, I missed the last one, but I kept a cool head and slotted this one away." Barry Hayles made sure of the points when he slotted home from a very tight angle after a free-kick from Gary Sawyer. Ebanks-Blake said: "It was a good finish from Barry but it was a great ball from Gaz, which people tend to forget. A striker is only as good as the service he gets. Gaz has done well all season and, rightly so, he got his award today." Since Argyle's defeat at Leeds United they have picked up 12 points out of 12. Ebanks-Blake said: "It's going well at the moment after what the gaffer described as the week from hell. We have picked up and kicked on, and that's what we needed to do. We had the confidence in the camp, and we have done it. Probably for a lot of us, we don't want the season to end. But if we can finish on a high like this it can only be good for next season. Hopefully, we will all be fresh for that."
Argyle's youth side lost 2-0 to Yeovil in their final Football League Youth Alliance fixture on Saturday. Chris Souness said: "It was not the result that was disappointing but the fact that it looked like an end-of-season encounter with many players playing well below their standards. If attitude is not right then you are not going to win football matches. I think we have made many steps forward this season with both players and team play but unfortunately we took a step backwards today and the frustrating thing is that we do not have another opportunity to put things right."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake took his goal tally for the season to nine with the penalty that gave Argyle the lead over Preston yesterday. Tim Breacker said of the penalty: "The ball has hit the player's hand. I thought it was harsh, you don't like to see them given, but it's down to the referee and he was right in the spot and better placed to make a judgment than me. I could see nothing wrong with Barry's goal. He has been doing that all season for us and both he and Sylvan are hitting a rich vein of form now and so are the team. Being knocked out of the cup by Watford stung us - and we want to finish the season on a high."
Argyle beat Preston North End 2-0 at Home Park, the goals scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 77 minutes and Barry Hayles (85). Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Seip, Kouo-Doumbe, Sawyer, Buzsaky, Nalis, Norris, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Gallen (not used - McCormick, Timar, Fallon, Djordjic). Attendance - 13,813.
Lilian Nalis was today named as Argyle's player of the season. Gary Sawyer took the young player of the season award
Mathias Kouo-Doumbe knows that Argyle have points to prove against Preston this afternoon. Doumbe, who was in the Argyle side that lost 3-0 at Deepdale back in December, said: "We didn't have a good game there. We made a good start, but then we got surprised three times. But that game was away and this weekend's is at home. We will try to do the best we can to play at a high tempo and to get the right result." Despite their rivals' pressing need for points, Argyle have won their last three games, an achievement which Doumbe is proud of. "We have to give the boys a lot of credit, because these have been difficult games to play in," he added. "All the time the teams we were playing were supposed to want it more than us, but we showed we wanted it more then them. We have showed a lot of character and we want to finish the season well. We want to take as many points as we can, and we have been showing good spirit." Argyle's win over Southend last weekend lifted the club back into the top half of the table, but Doumbe admitted that the team are not entirely satisfied with what they have achieved this season. "For myself and for everybody, I this there is a feeling of disappointment," he said. "In December and January, we did not take as many points as we should have. A big gap was created between the top teams and us, and after that it was difficult to catch up." Doumbe lost his place in the first team to Krisztian Timar in February, but he is now back in favour alongside Marcel Seip in the middle of the defence. "Krisztian did really well with Marcel, especially in the FA Cup, so there was nothing for me to say," Doumbe said. "I had to keep on working hard in training every day, like I do, and wait. I did that, and I got my chance."
Michael Dunford said the club has been pleased with the initial sales of season tickets, but insisted they would not be revealing more detailed figures of how sales had gone until after May 18th - the first of two discount periods. Dunford said: "We have been very pleased by the fans' response to buying season tickets for 2007/8. Given that they've only been on sale for less than two weeks, the response has been very encouraging. But it's early days yet and we'll know more when the first deadline is reached on May 18. But, so far, it's fair to say that sales have been very pleasing."
Argyle won 4-1 at Plymouth Parkway in last nights South Western League game, the goals scored by Tom King, Sam Malsom ,Shane Duggan and Josh Grant. Argyle: Saxton, King, Watts, Moult, White, Gerring, McCrory, Duggan, Malsom, Davis, Smith. Subs -Grant, Hopkinson, Moseley (not used - Sandicombe, Brett)
Ian Holloway is looking for a rousing performance from his team in the final home game of the season on Saturday. He said: "I am hoping for a good performance. I did not like the game at their place. There was an offside goal and a dodgy penalty where the bloke dived like a kipper, like a penguin off a rock." Preston were pushing hard for automatic promotion back then but their form has tailed off in recent weeks, and Holloway added: "It is almost par for the course for them. They are a very strong squad and they will be hoping to get up there. It is really tight and it breaks my heart when I look at the play-offs and see we are just three wins away from it. Good luck to everybody involved but we will be trying to win our games to finish on the most points we have had in this division for 30 odd years. It would be great if we can finish with a win. It would have been nice to start the season with a win as well. It is about performances and the last four, which includes Leeds away, have been very good. That is all you can ask for. We have got nine points out of twelve since Burnley and that is not bad. I said I wanted at least four wins out of the last five. There is no reason why we can't beat Preston at home. I remember the game up there. They started with a fantastic strike, drilled it in from 35 yards. We then had a brilliant move. Hayles crossed it and Tony Capaldi almost scored. It was a fantastic save by Carlo Nash. Hopefully, Saturday will be a sunny day and our fans will be here. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year here and I want to finish on a positive note."
Lee Hodges' contract comes to an end this season, and Argyle have not divulged any information about whether or not he is likely to be offered a new deal. Asked if the uncertainty over contracts was a budget issue, Ian Holloway said: "Yes, it certainly is. It might be worked out on the gates. I've got to sit down and sort things out with the board." Asked if it was unusual for a manager to be kept waiting until the last week of a season before he was told his budget for the following campaign, Holloway added: "No, it's perfectly normal."
Ian Holloway is one of David Nugent's biggest admirers and he admitted that his pace was a big factor in Argyle's defeat at Preston in December. "He is outstanding," said Holloway. "Everybody claimed that they could have bought him, it's amazing. It is all rubbish. He was not going to move from the north and, if he goes somewhere else, he will probably stay up north. If he does not go anywhere, then they have done very well to keep him. It is great to see him play for England. We gave him far too much space in behind us last time and we have worked on that. Last Saturday, we had a high line and all these offside decisions are a 'Get out of Jail Free Card'. You don't play that. What you do is read it, get there first and defend situations. We have been working on that, so, if that all goes wrong on Saturday, you know who to blame." England manager Steve McClaren has already hinted that Nugent's international prospects may be harmed by staying in the Championship. Holloway said: "McClaren is probably under pressure to pick Premiership players. It is all about a balance and a blend. Nugent will have a decision to make on whether he stays at Preston. It won't be to get in the England side. It will be to play at the highest level he can. The closer he gets to the end of his contract, the more Preston will need to sell him. He is shown some loyalty and stayed with Preston. He has not thrown his toys out of the pram like some players do. Full credit to him. I have got a lot of time for the gentleman and he is as good a player as I have seen for a long time. He knows where the net is and he has got a bit of everything, a bit like Dean Ashton has when he is fit."
Peter Halmosi and Krisztian Timar are two games away from completing their loan spells at Home Park. The pair were originally signed with a view to a permanent deal in the summer and while Ian Holloway has remained tight-lipped about the situation, he did admit that financial factors may come into the equation. "It might not be my decision," he said. "Three or four matches ago, it might have been a different decision on Peter. There are an awful lot of things that will come into the equation. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with them and I think they have thoroughly enjoyed being here."
Argyle reserves lost 2-0 at Swansea last night. Geoff Crudgington was pleased with the effort of his side and said: "We lost 2-0 but they did fine. We played some good stuff at times but we got done by one dodgy decision and one very poor decision. We should have converted our chances but, on the whole, I was pleased with them." Rory Fallon will have been especially disappointed by the defeat as he was facing the club he left to join Argyle. Crudgington said: "I made Fallon captain to honour the occasion. He is a professional and he does what he has to do, and his attitude was excellent. Rory and Krisztian Timar were the two experienced players in the side. The only other professionals were Cherno Samba and Ashley Barnes. We were a young team and we deserved a little more out of the game." Ashley Barnes is continuing his progress and Crudgington feels he has the physical attributes to make a successful career. "He has got a fair way to go," said Crudgington. "He is only 17 but he has got qualities that are coming through and he will develop. He has got a chance. He has got to prove that he can do it consistently. He is a big boy for his age and he has a lot of attributes. It is early but he certainly looks promising." Argyle: Sandercombe, King, Laird.J, White, Timar, Moult, Samba, Duggan, Fallon, Barnes, Watts. Subs - Saxton, Smith, Hopkinson, Malsom, McCrory
Dan Gosling believes England can win the European Under-17 Championship finals next month. He said: "I think we have got a good chance of winning the tournament. We have got a good team. Most of the lads are from top Premiership clubs and we all work hard as well. I think Spain will probably be up there, but we have got a good chance too. I think Holland will be the strongest in our group. Some of the lads have said Belgium and Iceland are alright, but we should qualify for the semi-finals. I really can't wait to get stuck into it."
Ian Holloway is anxious to boost Argyle's income, but selling the club's best young players is not part of his strategy. Crowd figures at Home Park have not been a help to Holloway's playing budget, but he has no plans to part with any of his top assets in order to bring money into the club, as he has had to when was in charge of Bristol Rovers. Holloway said: "I don't want to do that here. Not at all. Normally you stack them and rack them and, if you get the chance to sell one of the ones you don't want, you take it. I was brought up Bill Dodgin and Bobby Campbell years and years ago, and they used say to me: 'Sell your bad players when they're playing well, and buy your good players when they're playing badly.' That makes a lot of sense to me. That's what I want to do." There has to be a chance, though, that sooner or later Argyle will receive a big-money bid for one of their young players. Holloway is adamant that Dan Gosling would be well advised to stay with the club for now, however. "The last thing I want to do is let him go before he has reached his full potential with us," he said. "We have a duty of care with young Dan Gosling. We have to make sure that he can handle whatever happens to him in the future, and he certainly has not played that well yet to get anybody to buy him for the sort of money that he could be worth eventually, if he keeps his feet on the ground and if he keeps going. I don't think we should be making too big a song and a dance about Dan playing for England's Under-17 side. Hardly any of the players he's playing with have played League football yet. I think they're all pretty jealous of him, because he actually has."
Gary Penrice recently took time out from his normal duties of finding players to offer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake some advice. Ian Holloway admitted that Penrice has been too busy searching for potential transfer targets to spend much time with the Argyle forwards. He did, however, spend an hour with Ebanks-Blake last Friday. "He had an hour talk with Sylvan and went through a video with him on Friday," said Holloway. "They talked about his movement in his box and there was a definite improvement on Saturday where he got across the front man and scored, got across the front with a header and missed. He got his studs on another one in the second half. He is one for the future and he has had a half decent season already with eight goals." Penrice was appointed with the search for targets at the top of his agenda. "His main intention was to get me some targets that I need to bring here to help us," said Holloway. "He had six months sat on his backside in the garden and that is not good for a chief scout. He was not allowed to go and watch other games because it would have been deemed a breach of contract. It was obviously important that he did nothing wrong and we did nothing wrong." Holloway originally intended to watch some of these targets in recent weeks but three defeats on the road at the start of April forced him to abandon that plan. He said: "Gary has reported most of his targets to me but, after the week from hell, I did not want to leave my team. That week really hurt us because I would have probably been off watching targets that might be available, might be in our price range and might improve us. It is an unbelievable division. How Derby have managed to write off £25m debts and spend all that money is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, we have not had any of the failure money. You get £30m for failing when you come out of the Premiership. That is one hell of a target to look at. Even if we get there and we are rubbish, we get a huge kitty to do whatever we want with. It is a massive thing to aim at."
Hasney Aljofree has returned to Home Park after a one-month loan to Oldham Athletic, after suffering a foot injury
Ian Holloway hopes Bojan Djordjic can still play some part in the final two games of the season. Holloway said: "We tried to let him assess himself on Friday but, to be honest, the training ground was rock hard. After he trained, he struggled to walk back so, obviously, it's a little bit sore. Those Achilles problems can be a little bit niggly but, hopefully, he will be able to be involved in the last two games." Lee Hodges is still sidelined by the hamstring injury he suffered against Burnley
Ian Holloway has been delighted with the positive response from supporters to his comments over falling attendances at Home Park this season. He said: "I have inherited a group of supporters who have been absolutely magnificent to me. The last thing I want to do is wind all of them up, but what I would like to do is share with them how I really feel about it." Holloway repeated his plea for supporters to tell the club what they thought would improve the gates at Home Park. He said: "If there is any bridge we can build to make it easier for people to come to Argyle please let us know, please. Because then what more can I do? The only area of the football club that gets a light shone on it week in week out is where? It's the football team. But there is a huge organisation behind that. We are the pinnacle and if we are winning everything is hunky-dory. But it isn't really. It seems to be, but it isn't. There are still improvements you can make. There are still ways of getting better. There are still other ideas. What can we do to get to our fans? I have been to school assemblies and everything, trying to blow the trumpet for the Argyle. To everybody who has come this season I thank you so much. And to the ones who haven't, what can I do to convince you? What can we do as a football club, if it isn't me and it isn't the team? Please tell me what it is. I will guarantee you one thing. We will try to do it. We won't take it personally. We will take it in a constructive light. Whatever it is, we will have a look at it. Obviously, we can't please everybody all of the time, but we will have a right good go. If we put the wishes and the wants of the fans on the backburner then, I'm sorry, we are failing in what we are trying to do. But I have never known anything like the goodwill at this football club. I have never been at one like it and I'm trying to make everybody feel part of it. The last thing I want to do is make people think I'm not happy. I'm more than happy with what we are trying to do. Remember, I'm the one who has mentioned getting to the Premiership when everybody else has blatantly said we have got no chance."
Barry Hayles believes the future is bright for Argyle, and is convinced Ian Holloway can assemble a squad capable of challenging for promotion to the Premiership next season. Hayles scored the winning goal against Southend to take his tally for the season to 13, and after the game said: "We have got a lot of decent young players and they are maturing as well, so the future is looking good. The gaffer has got a plan to get in the Premiership and, hopefully, next season we can build a squad to get us there." Hayles scored after he was set up by a precise pass from Kevin Gallen, who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes. Hayles said: "The gaffer changed the formation slightly because he felt me and Sylv were playing too far up and one of us needed to drop off. Kevin came on and played in the hole. For my goal, we swapped passes and he put me through." Hayles added: "We could have just gone through the motions in those games, having nothing to play for. But the gaffer has told us 'We can't sit back, we have got to push on'. Hopefully, we can spoil Preston's party next week. I think we owe them one. They beat us 3-0 at their place in December so we have got a point to prove."
Argyle are set to play Torquay United in a pre-season testimonial match for Kevin Hill at Plainmoor on Saturday, July 14th
Argyle won 6-0 against Wadebridge Town in the South Western League on Saturday, the goals scored by Toby Davis, Dan Smith (2), Sam Malsom, Josh Grant and an own goal. Mike Pejic said: "The first half was a very good performance as we worked the ball quite well and consistently throughout the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately, once again, we started the second half poorly allowing the other side to gain confidence and they had a couple of chances in that period. Pleasingly we kept our heads and started to get hold of the ball and worked it around quite well. That, as much as anything, is pleasing as it is always difficult to get back into your performance level so I was pleased that we picked it up again. Once we had done that we started to control the game again, continuing to create chances." Argyle: Saxton, King, Watts, Duggan, Hodgkinson, White, McCrory, Hopkinson, Malsom, Davis, Smith. Subs - Grant, Moseley
Ian Holloway revealed that Paul Maxwell has been out and about today, but he remains one of Argyle's biggest fitness doubts for the last two games of the season. "Maxi has been injured," said Holloway. "Claire has stepped up and helped us with Maxi overseeing things. He is in this morning and it is nice to see him on his feet again. My physio is definitely not quite as fit as everyone else."
Rory Fallon is suffering because of the outstanding form of his team-mates, and Ian Holloway has some sympathy for him. Holloway said: "It is an occupational hazard. If you have got a team that is winning, then you stick with it. There is nothing wrong with him and he is a different option. In certain games, I have not needed that option or somebody else has kept him out. He was bought for the future. He has been given the rest of this year and two years more and that is what it is all about." Fallon has also suffered from the backlash created by, what Holloway is describing as, the 'week from hell'. Holloway said: "We had the week from hell, as I am calling it, with the travelling and the goals that went in our net. He was involved in the worst one of the week from hell. It was nowhere near the best performance of his life and we have also done some fitness testing, and Rory needs to catch up with where Rory needs to be." Fallon may have the chance to put himself back in the frame when Argyle visit Swansea for a reserve game on Wednesday. Holloway added: "I deliberately weakened the reserve team to have a look at some of the lads coming up for contract negotiation. There are one or two who need to play and it may be Ashley Barnes and Rory."
Ian Holloway hailed the professionalism and passion shown by his team in their win over Southend United yesterday. "It was a fantastic performance in an end-of-season game where Southend were fighting for their lives," he said. "We could not dominate any more than we did. They are going to have a little spell in any game. We have to respect our opponents, and my team kept going, did the right things and looked on top. I thought we were the better team by a million miles." Peter Clarke was credited with the Southend goal after seemingly bundling Luke McCormick into the net. Holloway, however, insisted that the ball flew straight in from the free-kick and McCormick was clearly impeded by the Southend attackers. Holloway said: "It was a fluke. From where we were, it went straight in. I watched it on the monitor. They battered the 'keeper out of the way - absolutely battered him - which looked like a free-kick. I liked the way we started the game. We had a real bright passage of play and our goal probably did not help us, to be honest. It was nice and sunny and we tried a few back-heels and what have you. To be fair to Southend, their lives did depend on that and they gave it everything. We knew it was going to be like that, but we owe it to everybody to try and finish as high up the table as we can. That is 61 points we have got now and we have played with a lot of pride and a lot of passion. We have done all season. If I get one more point that is the best I have done with any team, ever, at this level. I have been proud of what we have been trying to do, and very proud of some of the football we have played. We created some wonderful chances out there." Despite the quality of the performance, Holloway felt his two strikers could have exploited the space a little better. He said: "My front two did not quite realize where the space was sometimes. If either of them came off the defender and got it to feet, they could turn. In the end I got the message across, especially when Kevin Gallen came on for the last couple of minutes. That little piece of interplay undid them because they defended very well. Sometimes you don't realize what is going on when you are out there, particularly if you are a young fella. I needed one striker staying on the backline and the other one coming to feet and turning, because they were not getting tight. Barry Hayles managed to do that a couple of times in the second half. Once he turned, there were gaps to play through them. We have got lots to improve on and work with. I want to progress next season. You have got to be brave at this level and I need our fans to really get behind us, like they did today." Holloway was not overly impressed with referee Paul Armstrong, and added: "I don't know what it is about us or me. I know I shout and bawl, and jump around on the line but, for crying out loud, I see my players get booted and fouled, I see Hayles trying to get hold of it and the centre-half is coming over the back of him, and it is play-on. It goes up the other end and my defenders are doing exactly the same thing, and we get blown up against." With season-ticket sales the theme of the week, Holloway was full of praise for the Green Army. Holloway said: "The Green Army were absolutely terrific. I thoroughly enjoyed it apart from one comment. At least it was only one because there are quite a few on that terrace who are not very happy sometimes. I have had one today and I thought I was the opposition manager for a minute. My players don't need that. When we are not trying and we are not very good, and we are bottom of the league, then you can scream at them. We are a Championship side and, when you look at they way we have cut our cloth, I think it is absolutely gorgeous. We have got so much coming through. It is very pleasing for me. When it comes to season-ticket sales, we only need fans to bring one mate along. That is all we need. I did not have a go at our fans. I am just asking them where they are. I have had some wonderful letters in reply but all I am concerned about is getting crowds. It was 11,000 today. Can I build for the future on 11,000? I don't know. We will have to wait and see."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake continued his excellent recent form with the opening goal in the win over Southend and Ian Holloway is delighted with his progress. "I thought he was very unlucky and he could have had a hat-trick today," said Holloway. "He looks bright, sharp, fit and everything is going his way. He is only 21 and still wet behind the ears in the Championship. He has not got much experience. With the greatest respect, playing in Manchester United's reserves can kill you if you stay in it that long, and you can't see a way through to the first team. He has done ever so well. He is a real handful."
Argyle beat Southend United 2-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 6 minutes and Barry Hayles (90). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Seip, Sawyer, Buzsaky, Nalis, Norris, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Gosling, Timar, Gallen (not used - Larrieu, Fallon). Attendance - 11,097.
Lilian Nalis has revealed it took only 'one minute' for him to accept the offer of a new contract with Argyle. He said: "I had a chat with Ollie about two or three weeks ago and he told me he was happy with me. He just needed to wait until the club was settled and he knew what he was going to do for next season. At this time of year, there are board meetings taking place and, for me, it was just wait and see. I had some clubs in France ring me and make me offers, but I was waiting for Argyle to come and then I took a decision." Nalis agreed his new contract after a brief conversation with Michael Dunford on Thursday afternoon. Nalis said: "It only took one minute. I heard what I was looking to hear and that was it. Michael told me about another year and we shook hands on that. It was simple. I don't like things when they are complicated." Nalis is one of the leading contenders for Argyle's player-of-the-year honours and believes the club are on the up. He added: "I have enjoyed my time since I have been here. The club has changed manager but we are still going forward and I think Ollie is going to carry on doing that. For me, when you feel good in a place there is no point going somewhere else and trying to prove yourself. I would rather stay here and show people I can do even better." Nalis is one of the club's senior professional at 35, but is certainly one of the fittest players as well. "Physically, I haven't got any problems," he said. "I feel great, but I think it's down to a bit of everything. It's the enjoyment I'm getting from playing, the hard work we have been doing which makes you feel good, and the spirit in the dressing room. My age is just a number. That's what I feel is important." Nalis is always one of the first players to arrive at Home Park each day as he makes sure he is in peak physical condition. He said: "I'm in the gym every morning, just to try to make sure my muscles are ready for everything. When you get older you need to work on that more than you did before, but I know my body now and what I need to do. I also try to look after myself when it comes to diet. When you play football, you just want to be on the pitch and enjoy yourself. The most important thing for me is enjoyment."
Lilian Nalis agreed to a one-year extension to his contract because he believes that Argyle are going places. The midfielder turned down offers from elsewhere, including a move back to France, to commit himself to Home Park until the end of next season. He said: "Since I have been here, I have enjoyed every minute. It is a great club and everyone should be proud of what we have achieved. For me, agreeing another year is great. I had a few other opportunities - going back to France was one - but this is really good for me." Nalis was not concerned that the deal was only agreed upon with a few weeks of the current season remaining. "It was not worrying," he said. "I know, at my age, how these things go. I'd spoken to Ian and he said he was really happy with how my season had gone, so I was happy." Nalis has scored four goals in his 39 appearances as Argyle have enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in their history. However, he believes that things are going to get even better. "We have had a really good season," he added, "and one of the reasons I was happy to sign is that I believe that we can achieve an even better position next season." Ian Holloway said: "Lilian has been outstanding this year, and I always want to keep our better players. He's good enough to have had other choices, and he's chosen us."
Romain Larrieu is in the running for a recall to the Argyle starting line-up, and Ian Holloway said: "I am thinking very seriously about it and the first person to know about it will be the goalkeeper who played last week if I decide to leave him out when he has done very well. It is all about next season and planning my squad. Mr McCormick has done very well and I have not made my mind up yet. I have looked at Gillingham and I wanted to see Romain in training for the last few weeks of the season. I wanted to tell him about the personal development folders we have put together. I need to assess him and tell him what I want him to do for next season. Whether I put him in on Saturday, I am not sure. I have some very good reports with the odd mediocre performance. He has got some games under his belt and he looks like the animal he was before. I have not seen much of him and playing in reserve football down here is not the best scenario I have to say. Mr Penrice has watched him and sent some of our other scouts to watch him as well. I have never had goalkeepers of this calibre. I have always had one goalie far superior to everybody else in the squad but what I have got here is two quality goalies. One of them is up and coming and the other senior one has had some problems I would not wish on anybody. He has come through it and I need to make him feel part of it again. Everything about him needs to be geared towards next season because I am going to need the absolute maximum from everybody I have got." Whoever is between the sticks, Holloway is looking for Argyle to build on their last two performances. "I am looking for the same as last week," he said. "We have had two good performances and we want to try and finish off the season in a positive fashion. We need to come out of the traps flying and show people that we are not on holiday just yet. Hopefully, I am not just judged on the last three games. The lads will be trying but the teams we are playing will be fighting for their lives. Preston will be fighting to go up. Southend will be desperate not to go down and they have got one of the best strikers in the division in Freddy Eastwood. He is the envy of the League. It is not going to be easy but I do think we are progressing. I think we had a lull after the Watford game and also a lull building up to that Cup game. Other teams have had it and so have we. I did not expect it and no-one meant it, but that's life." Bojan Djordjic is unlikely to feature against Southend. Holloway said: "Bojan has picked up a knock and did not train. He had his foot in a bucket of ice, so I don't know what that is."
Gordon Bennett and Mike Pejic have now been in charge of Argyle's Youth department for a couple of months and are making good progress. Ian Holloway never doubted this and he revealed that Bennett has also impressed the Argyle board with his ideas for the future. "I have had a meeting with the chairman and the board, and so has Gordon," said Holloway. "I think they are very pleased with what our new employees are proposing and what they want to do. Hopefully, they were as impressed as I knew I would be. From what I have been told, we are in a far better position than when I first arrived. I am looking at the overall foundations for this club. My job is the football side of this club and that is where I am focused."
Ian Holloway has compared his first year in charge at Argyle to that of a new landlord moving into a pub. He said: "If you take over a new pub and the same clientele are coming in, you might get a few come through who are very positive but that will only go so far. If I don't redecorate things, revamp things, maybe bring in a new barmaid, bring some new initiatives or take it forward, will people really want to come? I don't think so. Unfortunately, some of us picked up this pub a few years ago. I was not here but the ones that were are quite rightly very proud of their pub. However, that is not going to get us to the Promised Land. I might have to rearrange the optics a little and they are supporting me with it. The board are obviously having to hear what I am saying and they are supporting me better than anyone has ever done in the past, and I thank them for that. They make me feel solid and secure in what I am doing. I will do my job and that is to push towards building a team to get us in the Premiership. That takes money, time, focus, togetherness, support and support needs to come. Confidence needs to be built."
Barry Hayles may be set to finish the season as Argyle's leading scorer but he is convinced Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is one for the future. Hayles said: "Sylv took a bit of time to settle in because he wasn't fully fit but now everybody is seeing what he's all about. A lot of people tell me we do play in a similar way, and I have seen that myself. We like to get the ball to our feet and to use our body strength. That's one of the keys to holding the ball up. Mark Hughes is a good example. He used his body strength to the maximum. It's good Sylv is showing what he can do now. I heard a few moans and groans at the start of the season and people saying 'He's not trying' but now he's fit. He's playing regularly at a very competitive level and I think he's doing really well at the moment. I have been out injured this season, and so has he, so it has been hard to forge a partnership but it's definitely getting there." Argyle play their penultimate home match of the season tomorrow and Hayles wants to continue the current winning run. He said "I told the lads in the huddle before the game at Luton 'I know the sun is shining, but we have got to maintain the bit of form we have had recently'. I know it sounds bad but I said to them 'We have got to put them down by taking the three points'. The boys took it all on board and we were the better side." Hayles knows Southend defender Efe Sodje and talked to him on the phone earlier this week. Hayles said: "I told him not to expect any favours from us. We have got to go into that game and look to get the three points."
Ian Holloway has made an impassioned plea to the Green Army to show their support for his ambition to take Argyle into the Premiership. He said: "I can do anything when I believe in it and I get the support of people. I can make an Eskimo believe he needs a fridge. But I'm sat at home now thinking 'Hang on a minute Mr Chairman, I don't know where the fans have gone'. If they don't come back then my dream isn't ever going to happen, and that would be a crying shame because I don't think we are far off. We might be too far off for some people, but I don't want them anyway. Call yourself an Argyle fan? Well, you aren't an Argyle fan because you aren't bothered. You are waiting for us to do something for you. That isn't right. That isn't the way around it happens." Holloway is mystified why the average home attendance in 2006/07 has dropped even compared to last season's 13,776, and believes Argyle have played far more attractive football than they did under Tony Pulis. Holloway said: "This is entertainment and I'm trying to entertain. Have I still got the same amount of people who watched Tony Pulis's team? No I haven't. How can that be? I can't understand that for the life of me. We don't grind out 1-0 wins. We might let three in away from home but I still try to attack, to entertain and to win the game. So why aren't they getting behind me then? What more do I need to do? Buy Thierry Henry and Michael Owen maybe? Would that liven people up? I don't know. Well if they are waiting for me to say I'm definitely going to bring Scott Sinclair back before they buy a season ticket next year, I think that's the wrong way around. I might not be able to bring him back now. Aston Villa might want him on loan. He's not my material, is he? All I can say is that I brought in a young kid who responded well to me and to my club and, my God, he was exciting. So what more do they need me to do to buy a season ticket for next year? If the jury is still out on me, I don't know what more I can do. Seriously. I may as well just pack up my little bag of tricks and go back to Bristol. I could sit there and have a look at my garden and see how that looks. If people don't believe what I'm trying to do, and aren't going to bother to help me, why should I bother? I'm not saying the fans haven't helped me. They have been absolutely magnificent, but there aren't enough of them. Where are they all? Where are the ones who watched Tony Pulis's team? Why aren't they here? I can't understand it. Just tell us. Tell us if it's the season ticket prices. See if we can do something about it. Tell us what you want. Come to us. Have some fresh ideas. Help us, but come along. We will try to do things. We need to get together to achieve things. Where are all the people who came to the Watford game? Where are you? Maybe you can't afford it every week but maybe you can afford a few home games, which will help. But where are the people who came to watch Tony Pulis's team? Am I that boring? Is it not good football? Are you expecting to be top of the league? Well if you are, don't bother coming. But if you are optimistic you can help me get there then please come. If you can't afford it, tell us and we will try other things because we are nothing without you. We are nothing without the Green Army and I'm nothing without them."
Lilian Nalis has agreed to a one-year contract extension
Romain Larrieu could be in line to start Saturday's game with Southend United after being recalled from his loan spell at Gillingham. Tim Breacker said: "We've opted to recall Ro as we wanted him to be part of the squad for the final three games. We feel that it would be good for Ro and for the club for him to be back with us again. We also want to have a good look at him, although that doesn't automatically mean he will be playing on Saturday. Nor is it any reflection on Luke who has been excellent. But Luke, like Ro, is aware that there are two very good goalkeepers fighting for one position. Gillingham were aware that Ro was not going to be with them for the whole season, but just until they were safe from relegation, which they now are. Ro has been a credit to Argyle at Gillingham, not just in how well he's played, but in terms of character and how he has conducted himself."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Bristol City in last nights reserve fixture, the goal scored by Ashley Barnes. Argyle: Clapham, King, Laird.J, Timar, Watts, Samba, Gosling, Moult, Djordjic, Fallon, Barnes. Subs (not used - Sandercombe, Smith, Hopkinson, Duggan, Gerring)
Romain Larrieu has been recalled from his loan spell at Gillingham
Ian Holloway has spoken out to urge fans to buy season-tickets and help him to bring better days to Home Park. Holloway said: "I'm determined to get us where I want to get. We've got to look at the optimism in the area, we've got to look the passion in the area, and actually start to think that maybe, if we do this and do that, we could have a team. Why shouldn't we have a team? I won't be able to do it on my own. I certainly can't keep this enthusiasm going, and reality might set in if we don't sell more season-tickets than we did last year, if we don't get bigger gates." Argyle's average attendance has dropped this season, and Holloway added: "Apparently, our gates have dropped by 2,000 every single match this year on average. It doesn't do the chairman any good. The chairman is an accountant who is very, very good at what he does, and that is worrying for a business. What we need to do is try to move forward. We have all got our responsibilities. I've got a responsibility as a manager to push for that, the players have got responsibility to improve and look after their side of it, the board have got a responsibility to try to move the budget forward, and the fans have a responsibility to get off their backsides and come and watch us on a regular basis. If we can do that - if there are ways we can pull it all together - by hook or by crook, we deserve it. We need to get this for the lads and young ladies of this area, we have a duty to show them the best. I honestly know that these aren't hollow words - I believe that they can happen - but we need to be like the Pied Piper and get marching on. Look how far we've come - we are comfortably safe - but I want to try to push where it's not comfortable. I want to get up with the big boys. Why can't we do that? I want what we had against Watford every week - I really do - and I am not going to stop until I get that. Come on the South West - that's how I feel. Come on the Green Army!"
Barry Hayles has admitted the lack of a killer instinct has cost Argyle the chance of a play-off spot this season. He said: "The season has kind of faded out a bit, to be honest. We had a great start but we couldn't maintain it. Maybe the FA Cup affected our league form, but I still think progress has been made. New faces have come in and only had a short time to settle in but, overall, they have done well. It bodes well for next season. I think we have drawn 16 games now and I would say at least 10 of them we should have won. That's another 20 points in the bank, but that has been our Achilles heel this season, to be honest. We have got ourselves in good positions but not killed off teams. That nearly happened against Luton on Saturday. We had a great first half but we didn't maintain that and they nearly got a point out of it.
That has been our season, but we have got to learn from this and, hopefully, those draws can be wins next year." Hayles is set to finish as Argyle's top scorer this season but revealed he was still short of his target. He said: "Fifteen goals-plus in any season is a good return for a striker. Twelve is falling short in my eyes. So I have got three games to try to get to the magic 15-mark. I will do my best to do that. I think if you set yourself a decent total to aim for, you keep going and stay motivated. If you don't, you just go through the motions." Hayles admitted the timing of his broken toe, which he suffered on February 3rd, had not been good. He said: "We were on a good run and I was finding the back of the net quite frequently. It came at a bad time for me, and for the club as well because we were still there or thereabouts with a chance of making the play-offs." Hayles has been Argyle's acting captain since the injury suffered by Paul Wotton in December, and he added: "In my first season at Bristol Rovers the captain had an injury and I stepped in. We ended up making the play-offs. When I took over this time I thought 'Maybe the same thing will happen', but it didn't work out that way. I thoroughly enjoy being captain and it's a privilege to come to a club like this and be given the chance."
David Norris has set his sights on getting at least 10 goals next season. He said: "If I can get one or two more goals before the end of the season I will be very pleased. It's one thing I do try to work on, but I can work on it a lot more as well. Hopefully, I can get double figures next season. I have been pleased with my return this year, but it's credit to the boys who have put me in scoring positions, and the work on the training ground." Norris gave Argyle the lead at Luton with a header after a pinpoint cross from Peter Halmosi. Norris said: "To be honest, I can't remember scoring with a header before. It was a great ball in from Peter, with great pace on it. The boys gave me stick, saying I had my eyes shut and stuff like that, but it was a good connection and it went away from the 'keeper. I was very pleased." Argyle held a 2-0 lead at half-time, but Luton were given hope when Stephen O'Leary scored in the 51st minute. Norris added: "At half-time we knew the next goal was going to be all-important. Once we conceded we knew it would give them a lift so it was a matter of holding tight for the next 10 minutes and that maybe affected our game going forward. But we dug in and I think there were some brilliant performances, at the back particularly, and we got the result."
Claire Turner is continuing to deputise for Paul Maxwell on matchdays because of his back trouble. Maxwell is treating the injured players at Home Park during the week, but has not been in the dug-out for the last five matches. "It has been an absolute pain - literally," he said. "I have got a prolapsed disc in my back, which hasn't been too clever. It's nearly 10 weeks now, which has been a bit annoying, to say the least. I had an epidural last Wednesday which will hopefully get me through until the end of the season and then we will see where we go from there. I have taken a bit of stick from the players about it. For the first six or seven weeks, I could hardly walk, let alone run. But over the past fortnight it has got a lot better."
Argyle will cover the Mayflower terrace with temporary seating if they fail to gain permission to retain standing accommodation at the stadium next season. Michael Dunford said: "We've had an acknowledgement to our letter saying that they will make a decision at the earliest opportunity. We believe that will be this month. Within the next couple of weeks we hope to hear a decision. I can't speculate what it's going to be. I think it will be a close-call, and if the terracing is closed we'll have to make alternative arrangements. We've written to the 900 Mayflower terrace season-ticket holders to explain the situation, should the terracing be closed. If we can't have the terracing, there will have to be some form of seating put in there. Whether that can be installed in time for next season remains to be seen. It's up in the air because of the phase two development, which may or may not start during next season." Argyle put next year's season-tickets on sale to members yesterday, and Dunford was eager to stress the extent to which the club rely on their season-ticket holders. "It's absolutely vital," he added. "I can't over-emphasise how important it is for our regular season-ticket holders and more besides to come along and get behind the Greens. We've got to go to another level very quickly. Twelve of the teams in our division have average home crowds of over 20,000 people. Our bread and butter is the number of people who come through turnstiles for home games. That's what is critical."
Barry Hayles believes Argyle are a match for anyone in the Championship when they are on their game. He said: "It was difficult to come to Luton - they are rock bottom - so we prepared to start well, which we did. We were justified to get the three points. We've got this negative factor in our game which the manager has tried to stamp out of us. It's all about belief. We have got a good squad of players, and, if we do the right things, we can score goals and beat teams." Hayles was involved in Argyle's opener, after four minutes, when David Norris headed home Péter Halmosi's cross. He said: "I flicked on the ball to Peter; Peter put a great ball in; and Chuck came in at the far post. It was a great header, top corner, and a brilliant start for us." Halmosi scored the second and Hayles added: "He's found his fitness now. When he came here, he'd had a month away from football, but now he's found his feet and he's showing what he can do. He's a good player for the team now." Argyle came under pressure when Luton pulled a goal back just after the interval, but Hayles rallied his troops to steer the team to three points. He said: "Luton had a few free-kicks and corners that created a few problems, and that's where their goal came from. We've got a fairly young squad, and if I can help them and improve their game, then I'm pleased to do that." Hayles was substituted in the 71st minute shortly after being booked and Ian Holloway said: "He had a wasp in his head because Coyne was stamping all over his feet. The linesman should have seen it. Barry shoved him out of the way and said 'What are you doing?' and he gets a yellow card." Holloway admitted the booking was a factor in his decision to take Hayles off. "Plus the fact he had played four games in 10 days and he's 34, but he was strong and back to his self," he said. Holloway had some words of consolation for Luton, who are destined for relegation. He said: "Whatever happens to them, I'm sure some of their young players will be fantastic, particularly Leon Barnett. I have just told him 'Keep your chin up, you are going to be a very good player'. You can't buy experience. You need to earn it, and that's why I'm pleased with some of my young ones. They have done ever so well this season in the Championship, which is a hard standard to play in."
Argyle's youth side lost 5-1 to Swindon on Saturday, the goal scored by Toby Davis. Chris Souness said: "In some ways there were a lot of good aspects to the game and believe it or not we can take positives from this defeat. The goal epitomised Toby Davis's attitude and enthuiasm which was consistent for the whole 90 minutes. The performance was disappointing to me as a coach as the weaknesses that appeared in the game were the same problems that we addressed so well last week. Winning can sometimes paper over cracks and this defeat can possibly be the biggest learning curve for this group of lads."
Dan Gosling will miss Argyle's final match of the season at Hull as he has been selected by England for the finals of the Under-17 European Championships. He said: "I can't quite believe it, really. I've got to keep it going through the rest of the season, carry it into next season and keep progressing even more." Gosling played in the qualifying matches against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Azerbaijan last month, and he added: "The manager said he was pleased with what I did in my last game, so hopefully I'll start the first game and cement a place for the next few games - I want to play every one, but so does everyone else. They are a good bunch of lads and good coaches. All the training sessions are different from what I'm used to and the players play different, so I take advice from them." The top two sides from each European Championship group will qualify for this summer's World Cup finals in Korea, while the sides finishing in third position will have a play-off to decide who will take the final spot. "It's a realistic target," said Gosling. "I think we'd be disappointed if we didn't finish in the top two in our group."
Argyle beat Penryn Athletic 4-1 in the South Western League on Saturday, the goals scored by Sam Malsom (2), Jake Moult and Dan Smith. Argyle: Sandercombe, King, Watts, Moult, Kendall, Laird.J, Smith, Hopkinson, Malsom, Joyce, McCrory. Subs - Hodgkinson, Mason.J, Grant (not used - Saxton, Duggan)
Argyle are on course for one of the best finishes in the club's history after beating, and all but relegating, Luton Town yesterday. Ian Holloway said: "I'm very, very pleased. We should have had this amount of points months ago but, to be honest, we've drawn too many games and we had the interference of the cup game. I'm still devastated that Watford were playing Manchester United today. We've never even flirted with going down. We've been safe for a couple of weeks now, where other clubs - big clubs - would bite your hand off. We knew we had to be right in our approach, as we weren't the week before, at Burnley. Strange things can happen in football, but that was as comfortable as we'd been for quite a while. I felt Luton threw everything at us, but I felt we dealt with it in a professional manner. How we were only two up, I don't know, and then, through a misunderstanding from us, when we lost our bearings and Connolly tackled Seip, they scored from a corner. We showed terrific character after that. Some teams could have buckled. Full credit to Luton - they threw everything at us and we managed to cope with everything. That was back to my team. That was how Plymouth Argyle have been all season. We looked solid, competed brilliantly, and got stuck in. What more can I say? One or two choices at times, one or two decisions - in other words, if someone is in a bit of space roll the ball to him, or he's in a better position - will improve with more experience." Holloway was delighted for Peter Halmosi, and added: "I'm very pleased for him. I think he's an absolutely outstanding professional. When the pitches firmed up, we knew he would be an outstanding player, particularly away from home. You can see, with the experience he's got, he's always in the right place. What is nice now is he is getting rewarded for his quality. I think all three of the finishes have been absolutely outstanding. He thoroughly deserves people to see the best of him." There was praise, too, for Akos Buzsaky, and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. "That's as well as I've seen Akos play in an Argyle shirt," said Holloway. "He did his job, won second balls, and passed well. I think he thoroughly enjoyed it. Sylv's a young man who's getting better and better. Some of the things he did today really excited me. Peter's goal was terrific movement, an exciting flick from Ebanks-Blake, he's getting more and more confident. I think's he's starting to show what we knew he was at Manchester United, and that's a big, big ask when he's only just 21 and he hasn't got any previous league experience."
Ian Holloway yesterday launched a fierce attack on the Bosman ruling which he claims is putting players' careers at risk. He said: "I think it's a pile of donkey dung. FIFA should scrap the Bosman ruling and get back to the way it was where anybody who is out of contract should be owned by the club and he should be able to command a fee for them. What they don't realise is that players are risking their livelihoods. If one of them played today and broke their leg, they would be out of a job. It's not a case of them having the freedom of Europe, it's a case of them risking their careers. They should give the clubs power and not the agents and the players. They have got it wrong and the committee that sorted it out should look at it and change it now. They have a duty of care to every player and they have let them down. I don't blame the players, I blame the people at the top and unless they sort it out, I'm never going to be a happy man. If enough people talk about it, something could happen - even a single-celled amoeba could understand it."
Argyle won 2-1 at Luton Town, the goals scored by David Norris after 4 minutes and Peter Halmosi (40). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Seip, Sawyer, Buzsaky, Nalis, Norris, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Gallen, Sinclair (not used - Timar, Fallon, Djordjic). Attendance - 7,601.
Paul Wotton has been praised for the hard work he has put in as he recovers from a cruciate knee ligament operation. Paul Maxwell said: "Wottsie is flying. He's doing, really, really well at the moment. He saw the surgeon a couple of weeks ago and he was extremely happy with the knee. He's battering away at the weights and we started doing some running last Friday. He had a couple of days off over the weekend to see how it settled down and we began again on Monday. Wottsie's absolutely buzzing with that. That's 10 weeks since the operation and he has started running. Now he's doing that, it's just a normal rehab programme. To get his feet on the floor and pounding again was a blessing. We will build that up gradually and take it from there." Neither Maxwell nor Wotton have set a date for when the Argyle captain could make a playing comeback. Maxwell said: "We have got certain ideas in our heads, but we won't put anything on it until we get closer to the time. But I'm really, really happy with it, and so is the surgeon. Wotts has been in that gym for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon - every day. Full credit to him. There are only one or two I have ever come across that will work like him. It's a massive plus for me, and for the surgeon as well, when you have got a player who is prepared to do that." Nick Chadwick is training with Wotton as he recovers from a groin operation last month, and should be fit for the start of pre-season training in July. Maxwell said: "Chadders is doing well. As there is no great rush now, we just took it steady for the first couple of weeks. He had staples in there through the wound and that has all healed up nicely. We are just building him up slowly now and, hopefully, getting him ready for the start of pre-season. He should be raring to go. I have got him and Wottsie in the gym at the moment and, to be honest, there are not many who will work as hard as those two."
Lee Hodges is ruled out of the game at Luton today with the torn hamstring he suffered at Burnley 11 days ago, while Kevin Gallen has travelled, but is a doubt. "He gets sciatica problems, which can lead to hamstring problems and all sorts of other things," Ian Holloway said. "It can go into your knees, your calves and even your Achilles tendons. He's a lot better than he was, but when you're running around on those pitches out there it's not the best." The hard training pitches at Harper's Park and this week's warm weather have combined to make life difficult for Holloway. "I want to keep going forward and I'm sure the players do as well, but it's becoming more and more difficult," he added. "The more the sun shines and the more bobbly the pitch gets, the more it looks like holiday time and the more angry I get with them." Holloway's team selection today will be influenced by what he has seen during training this week and by how many games his players have played in the past fortnight, as well as by the opposition. "I'm having a look at what Luton have got, and I'm having a look at how tired our lads are," he said. "Some of them played all four games last week. I'm going to need a balanced team, and I'm probably going to need an experienced team to go there and deal with the situation."
The future of Argyle's seven second-year apprentices will be resolved shortly. Decisions on whether to offer them professional contracts will be made once Ian Holloway has had a meeting with Gordon Bennett and Mike Pejic. The seven are Tim Sandercombe, Paul Kendall, Jamie Laird, Mark Petnehazi, Dan Smith, Martin Watts and Anthony Mason. Holloway said: "I will talk to Gordon Bennett and Mike Pejic about it. They have had enough time to settle in. I will be having a meeting with them soon."
When asked whether having a full pre-season in charge will make a difference to his preparations next season, Ian Holloway said: "I am hoping it will make a huge difference to me and my staff. We know where we are, we know what we have got in front of us and we know what the players can do. We have got to try and improve if we possibly can. It won't be easy. Certain players are in contract, certain players are out of contract and we want to bring in certain other players. It is about which market you are in. Are we in the market to buy some? Are we in the market to borrow some or are we in the market to pick people up on free transfers. Not many teams now let their players go out of contract. Unfortunately, that has happened to us with Tony Capaldi. Hopefully, I will now have a little bit longer to plan for the players who will be out of contract this time next year. I will not let them go out of contract. I will offer them new contracts, probably this summer. There will also be some I won't be offering new terms to and they will move on. There will be some big decisions and I will tell the players that they have had a year to prove to me what they are all about, and I have had a year to assess them. I am very happy with my chairman and we have got a lot of planning to do, a lot of work to do and I am very excited about the prospect of taking this group of players forward. We have moved forward this year. We have got new facilities here and new players, and we need to do the same thing again. It will be even tougher next year. There will be teams coming down with a huge wedge of failure money. Failing in the top flight pads you out for this division and they will be throwing money at the better players. Hopefully, I can be as chirpy as I normally am and talk people into coming to Plymouth. I have done it quite successfully so far. Certain people have failed but maybe they are not committed as me or they don't believe in the Green Army as much as I do. At the end of the day, the proof will be in the pudding. Hopefully, I can attract some more good players to help this lot move forward."
Argyle travel to Luton today and Ian Holloway has revealed that Joe Kinnear's thoughts still rankled with the longer serving members of his squad. He said: "There are an awful lot of things their ex-manager said when we came up with them a few years ago and it still smarts with some of my players. Kinnear said 'we are bumpkins and we are no good'. Well, we beat them then and it would be nice to beat them now. On a professional note, it is about us and the points that matters. There are no vendettas with me. I was not even here at the time." Luton are currently bottom of the Championship and defeat to Argyle could send them down to League One. However, Holloway has stated all season that anybody can beat anybody in this division. He said: "This level is still proving that anybody can beat anybody. There have been far too few teams that have been totally consistent. There have been some unbelievably strange results. Birmingham can hardly win a game and Preston can hardly win a game, and who would have expected that? Teams and squads are very similar and certainly not like Manchester United or Chelsea, who can both almost guarantee to win every week. This is a very interesting and very tough division, and we are nowhere near one of the favourites to get into the play-offs. We are Plymouth and people who don't know Argyle, the spirit we have got and the place that it is treat it with contempt. Referees hardly ever give us a decision against the bigger clubs. That is just life and it is a long, hard season." Holloway did admit, however, that he is already looking forward to next season and considered missing the Luton trip to do some scouting. He decided against this out of fairness to the other clubs in the relegation fight. Holloway said: "I have been looking toward next season for the last two or three weeks and I was even contemplating going to see other teams in the last four games. I don't want to do that this Saturday because I feel that would be very detrimental to the other people in the relegation battle. It is important that we take on Luton and try to get a good result because we are on course to beat one of our targets, which was to finish with more points than last year. We only need one win from the last four games to do that. Every week, I see squads with players that are being paid an awful lot more than we are paying, and my players have hardly ever let me down. This lot very rarely lack motivation. They are a very honest, hardworking bunch."
Kevin Gallen is Argyle's main injury doubt for tomorrow's trip to Luton. Ian Holloway admitted it was touch and go whether he would be fit, and is also unsure on the general fitness of his some of his squad. "We have got one or two situations," he said. "Kevin Gallen has trained and I will have to assess whether he has had any reaction to that. I will also have to decide whether four games in nine days was too much for some of my players. We are going to need an experienced, strong, physical side against Luton to overcome their onslaught. I am asking my players to try and win their last four games because we deserve to get over 60 points at least."
Romain Larrieu has had his loan spell with Gillingham extended for another week despite snapping a tendon in a finger. Paul Maxwell said: "Romain ruptured a tendon at the end of his little finger. He didn't play for Gillingham on Saturday, but he did on Monday and he seems quite happy to play on right through the rest of the season now. We have got him in to see a specialist next Monday, but really that's for Romain to see what the script is rather than have anything done. He will probably keep the splint on throughout the summer and, hopefully, it will heal on its own. It's the sort of injury you see in basketball a lot. It's a small, little splint and he's quite comfortable with it in his glove. I have no doubt he will play whenever he's needed between now and the end of the season."
Ian Holloway is busy planning for next season, and has had talks with Paul Stapleton about his budget for the 2007/08 season. Holloway said: "I have told the chairman what I think and he's going to talk to the board. I spoke to him yesterday and I will have another couple of meetings with him. We have got some people who are out of contract now, and we have got some people who will be out of contract this time next season. Do we want another Capaldi type situation, if I can use that phrase? In other words, one of your better, more senior players leaving on a free transfer. I will have to look at it. I might try to talk some of the ones who are out of contract in 2008 into signing a longer one now. That might leave some other people who are out of contract at the end of next season with their noses put out of joint, but if they don't like it they might have a choice to move. Whatever it takes, I will try to move this club forward, by hook or by crook." Argyle are currently 13th in the Championship, one position higher than they finished in 2005/06 and Holloway said: "Sometimes to even stand still in this division you have to pay more money. If you have had a decent season and you haven't flirted with relegation at all, your out of contract players are looking at it and expecting a bit more money. The longer we stay in the Championship the more we are proving we are that type of material. I want to push on towards the top and that normally takes a lot of cash, as the previous manager was shouting about all the time. But it also takes a bit of heart and soul, and belief and fight, which we have shown in abundance all season. Maybe I need to freshen things up a little bit. Maybe some people have been here a little bit too long. Maybe they need to have a new challenge, as one or two of them have already said themselves in the papers."
Scott Sinclair wants to end his loan stay with Argyle on a winning note at Luton Town tomorrow. He said: "Luton are fighting for their lives to stay in the Championship. I'm looking forward to it. It's my last game and, hopefully, I will start. If not, I will be cheering the team on from the bench. Beating Leicester has given everyone a lift and, hopefully, we can go to Luton and come away with a victory." Sinclair was given a rousing reception by the supporters after the final whistle against Leicester, which was much appreciated by him. He said: "It was really good. I just wanted to say 'thanks' to the fans for supporting me, as well as the team throughout the season. Hopefully, I can go back to Chelsea and maybe break into the first team. If not, I will be looking to go back out on loan next season and, hopefully, it will be here. I have learned so much. I have gained a lot of experience which I can use as a stepping stone to the first team at Chelsea. It has been one of the highlights of my career so far. The manager gave me the chance to play here and it meant I could show what I could do in the Championship. Obviously, I have known Ollie since I was 10 at Bristol Rovers. He had faith in me, brought me here and I thank him for that." Sinclair's time at Home Park has also seen the emergence of Dan Gosling and Gary Sawyer. Sinclair added: "The manager has given them their chance and that's the great thing about Ollie. He's not afraid to do that. Dan, Gary and Summers are all good players." Gosling earned a call-up to the England under-17 squad, and that has taken some of the media attention away from Sinclair. "That has been a good thing," he said. "It wasn't just on me, or just on him. It was on both of us. It helped take a bit of pressure off me because, obviously, we are a similar age."
Ian Holloway is facing up to the reality that dwindling crowds at Home Park this season might have a negative impact on his plans to strengthen the squad and launch a push for a promotion place next season. "I haven't had the information yet," he said. "I'm sure the budget will go on what the crowds are, and the chairman keeps telling me he's bitterly disappointed with the crowds." Holloway believes that his team have been good to watch this season and at times he has seemed baffled by the fact that crowds have not been bigger. "Maybe the fans think we're rubbish," he said. "I don't think we are. Maybe they've had enough of me. Maybe they've had enough of thinking we can't compete at this level, or maybe they're fed up because they haven't heard anything about phase whatever. I don't know what it is, but I can't try any harder or do any more to get more bums in seats. If I could, I'd pay the fans a lot more in wages, and hopefully they'd come and watch us then. I know it's expensive to bring your family to a football match these days, and we are very spoilt for sport in this area. Having watched the basketball and the rugby, I know there are some strong teams in this area and they're all doing very well, but I'm being positive and I hope I can encourage people to try and spend that little bit more on us. We're competing at this level with everyone else, and there aren't many teams at the top who haven't had a pot of Premiership money to spend, or who don't have massively wealthy owners, or who haven't sold players for lots of money. Whatever it takes, we're going to try and compete, but I know it will take thousands and thousands more fans to come and watch us. Hopefully, in my impish style, I will do all I can to bring people into this ground. If they want me to be like the Pied Piper and whistle a different tune, I'll do it. I'll do whatever it takes, but I couldn't be happier in the area and I couldn't be happier with the overall atmosphere around the place."
For Luke McCormick, Monday was a good day after a week to forget away from Home Park. "It has been a hard week for the lads and they have come in for some criticism, which has been very fair," he said. "We haven't been anywhere near our best, so it was nice to end a disappointing week with a win and a clean-sheet. A few more performances like that won't go amiss. The gaffer asked a few questions of us and hopefully we answered them with the performance and with scoring three goals. Now we can concentrate on the games we have left." The first of Argyle's final four fixtures is at Luton Town on Saturday. "We're looking for a big finish to the season, not just because of what has happened recently, but for the fans," McCormick added. "They've been brilliant all season, so we all want to repay them with a few more victories. Luton will be fighting for their lives, they will need nothing but a win, but we want to go there and perform ourselves. We can definitely get a result. The play-offs might have gone, but we just have to go into every game now and try and get three points and finish as high as possible."
Scott Sinclair hopes to return to Home Park next season. He said: "The fans have been brilliant since I've come here, and I've shown what I can do - so hopefully I can come back and they can keep on supporting us. All the boys played really well against Leicester and it was the icing on the cake to end up winning the game 3-0. I came on trying to score, like I always do, and I said to the fans at the end: 'Thanks for the support and hopefully I can come back next season. I try to take every day as it comes. Hopefully I'll go back to Chelsea, keep working hard and maybe get in their first team, but if that doesn't happen I'll need to go out on loan again." It is likely that clubs with a higher profile than Argyle may be interested in taking Sinclair on loan if the chance arises next term. However, if given the choice, Sinclair has made it clear that he would relish the opportunity to play for Plymouth again. He added: "First-team is what it's all about and if I'm not getting in Chelsea's first team then hopefully I will come back to Argyle, work hard and get into the team again. Hopefully I'll be able to come back here and I can continue to show what I can do. Playing in front of a crowd of 15,000 or more every week is amazing - I've enjoyed every single bit of it and, at my age, I'm eager to be playing in the first team, so we'll just have to see what happens now. Some of my best memories are the goals, particularly the Barnet goal when I ran it all the way. It was one of my first starts when I came to Plymouth so that has to be one of my best memories, as well as the rest of the Cup run." Sinclair's spell in the Westcountry has also given him an appreciation of living in a different part of the country to London, and he expressed his thanks to former Argyle winger Alan Rogers and his wife, Lorraine. They run Plymouth's Swinton Hotel, where he has stayed during his loan spell. He said: "It's so different to London and it's a great place to live. I have to say thanks to Lorraine and Alan for looking after me during the three months. They've been brilliant." Even if a return does not materialise, Sinclair expects Argyle's progress to continue under Ian Holloway, and he points to several of his young team-mates for proof that the future is bright. "There are some great young players here, like Gary Sawyer and Dan Gosling," he added. "If they can keep working hard and progressing, I think they are definitely on the right track - the whole squad is really good."
Bojan Djordjic lost his first-team place after fracturing a cheekbone just before Christmas and has made only two starts since then. His most recent start was at Leeds United last Saturday, after which he said: "It's always hard to judge yourself, I'll let other people decide, but I was really happy with my first half at Leeds. I thought I did well, but I was a little bit tired in the second half. It's always disappointing to be taken off, but you're part of the team and you have to expect it sometimes. But I'm just happy to be back. Sometimes you look and you think everybody else is getting a chance and then you have to take one chance in three or four months. But that's football. It's always been like that. I was just happy to play at Leeds and to show what I'm all about." Of Djordjic's performance, Ian Holloway said: "Bojan, who I'd say is one of our most attack-minded players, worked his socks off against Leeds, so much so that I thought he looked exhausted. I took him off, but let's not forget he'd been out for quite a while. If I can get that fellow to think and work like he did on the right side of midfield, then there's hope for all of us, isn't there?"
Argyle reserves lost 4-0 to Exeter City at Tiverton last night. Argyle: Clapham, King, Kendall, Hodgkinson, Laird.J, Malsom, Moult, Duggan, Smith, Samba, Barnes. Subs – Hopkinson, Joyce (not used - Sandercombe, McCrory, Gerring)
Ian Holloway was delighted to be back at home after Argyle ended a miserable week with a win over Leicester. "We played some nice football," he said. "Everybody was congratulating me at the start of the year but it is all about results at this time of the year. You don't care how you get them but I am still trying to play some decent football, get it down and pass it like we did today. We looked professional and we got what we deserved, and that sometimes does not happen in football." A clean sheet was a big relief for Holloway after conceding nine goals in the previous three games. He said: "We have let in loads of goals and it all started with a situation in the first minute at Ipswich. We were down to ten men and, before you know it, we were 2-0 down. We were terrific in the second half and did not get what we deserved. It was a horrible feeling losing to Burnley like we did but you have to show them some respect. They were right up for it and then they beat Birmingham away, so does that make us absolutely useless? I don't think so, but I was still not happy because the people have travelled there deserved better from those out on the pitch. You have got to come through things. We could not have done more at Leeds, other than put the ball in their net a few more times and we would have totally deserved that. We really did not want three away games in a week. In an ideal world, you do not want Ipswich, Burnley and Leeds away in one week. Air Southwest will have been delighted with that and I know the air hostesses better than I know my wife at the moment." Peter Halmosi scored his first goal for Argyle at Leeds and bagged his second against Leicester. Holloway said: "I have rewarded Peter with another game after Leeds and he has scored again. He was fantastic today and he is getting better all the time. It went well for us and, to be fair, it could have been even more comfortable than it was. Halmosi is a quality player but he has been in the shadow of Scott Sinclair. He has not once moaned. He is a quality footballer and one of the most professional people I have ever worked with. He has not put a foot wrong since he has been here. He was very homesick at first because his family was not here. Now his family is here, he has settled down, looks fitter and he has acclimatized to the English game, particularly away from home where he has been outstanding in his positional sense." Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was another man singled out for praise. "He is 20 years-old and he should be in the shake-up for Young Player of the Year," said Holloway. "Barry Hayles will not be getting Young Player of the Year but Sylvan was bought because he is very similar to Hayles. He is getting fitter and fitter, and he is an absolute danger to any defence at the moment. When he first came here, he was not a danger unless he got a good ball. He is now making a bad ball a good ball. All credit to the young lad and I think he is going to turn out to be an absolute bargain." Despite his obvious delight at the win, Holloway admitted that Leicester could have scored after Argyle's third goal. The manager was also not overly happy with the first half performance from his team. He said: "They changed their shape and threw caution to the wind. It is a very dangerous situation when you have just scored a third goal and have played four games in nine days. Most of the back four have played all of them apart from Matty Doumbe. It has been a big ask. I actually felt we did not do well in the first half. We were not bright enough or sharp enough. I told them a little story about my wife. She made a lovely meal the other week. I said 'thanks very much but I wanted better than that'. After the argument, she admitted it could have tasted better, so I said to the players 'hang on, that was like the meal I had the other day - it looked nice but could have tasted better'. They went out and scored within a minute and that is what some of my players have got in their locker. We are a very good side and we do a lot of things right. We should be further up the table than we are when you look at all the draws we have had but this division is the toughest I have known. People are throwing more money at it and anybody can beat anybody on any given day. That has been proven all season."
Argyle beat Leicester City 3-0 at Home Park, the goals scored by Peter Halmosi after 15 minutes, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (46) and Barry Hayles (62). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Seip, Sawyer, Buzsaky, Nalis, Norris, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Sinclair, Fallon, Gosling (not used - Timar, Djordjic). Attendance - 10,900.
Ian Holloway is aiming to bring about a swift upturn in morale at Home Park. "We've got to pick ourselves up for Leicester," he said. "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for themselves. We've got to give a home performance to cheer our fans up a bit, because our season is dying a death and it's breaking my heart."
Nothing less than victory over Leicester today will do Paul Connolly. He said: "If we put in a performance like we did at Leeds, I'm sure we'll take all three points and we'll start getting back to a respectable position in the League. All the boys have set a target of finishing in the top half of the League. That's what we want to do, and then we can go away on our holidays and relax, and come back refreshed in the summer. There's no reason why we can't do it. If we're ready for it, we'll win. It's up to us to come out all guns blazing." Argyle were denied by Leeds 'keeper Casper Ankergrenon on several occasions on Saturday, in what was a frustrating afternoon. "The boys worked hard for the club, and especially for the fans who have been travelling up and down the country all season," said Connolly: "We let them down massively at Ipswich and at Burnley, but barring the result I think everyone really worked really hard here and I don't think anyone can question us at all here. We put so much work-rate into it, and then Leeds scored right at the end. It just takes the stuffing right out of you, and it's hard not to show your emotions. We were really gutted, and it showed that the boys really do care and they really do want to work hard for the fans. I definitely think today was the proper Plymouth Argyle."
Goals from Joe Mason and Jake Moult gave a young Argyle reserve side a 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers on Friday morning. The fixture was fulfilled by the Under-18 side, so that the game could double up as a Youth Alliance game
Peter Halmosi admitted his first goal in English football was no consolation for Argyle being beaten by Leeds on Saturday. He said: "It was a very good feeling to score - I had promised Akos I would get a goal today. Even though I scored we lost the game, which is very disappointing." Buzsaky added: "We spoke before the game and Peter said if he scored he would run over to me on the bench, which he did." Halmosi continued: "I'm starting to realise what English football is all about, but I can still play better. It's really important when you play in a team to know what the other players think and how they play football. It has taken me time to understand that, but now I'm getting there with that. It was a hard game against Leeds, and it involved a lot of running. I will be trying to rest now before the next one. Every game is different but I will give it my best if I play on Monday." Luke McCormick thought the performance against Leeds was much improved compared to the defeat at Burnley last Tuesday, and he is now hoping the team can return to winning ways against Leicester. McCormick said: "It's a good chance for us to get some points on board, because we haven't had any for three games now. We have worked our socks off this season and got ourselves into a half-decent position in the league. It would be a real shame if we didn't finish the season on a high. Hopefully, we are back in form a little bit and we can give it everything in the last few games." McCormick admitted the players had wanted to repay the supporters after the poor display against Burnley. He added: "I hope the fans will forgive us for last Tuesday, and I can assure them it will never happen again. They have travelled long and far this season and all we can do is thank them. They have come in their numbers again to Leeds and sung their hearts out. That's all we can ask. Unfortunately, we haven't got the result but we tried to return the favour with a half-decent performance."
Argyle have announced that they are keeping the price of a season-ticket the same for a third successive year, and a new Direct Debit payment scheme will enable anyone who buys a ticket to spread the payments over 10 months. Michael Dunford said: "The Board has decided, during the first discount period, prices will be held firm from last year, which is a true vote of thanks to the Green Army who have stayed loyal to us. Last year, we were grateful to our 7,300 season-ticket holders and we hope, with the positive climate surrounding the club, to improve that figure considerably. It is very difficult to make predictions about the exact figure but we certainly hope for considerable growth. The capping of the prices and the introduction of the new ten-month Direct Debit instalment plan will certainly make it easier for the vast majority of our supporters to be able to spread the financial burden of watching Argyle next season. We hope the broad-brush approach to age-limits, coupled with the Direct Debit scheme, will make it easier for a vast number of our supporters. The senior citizens' price will remain the same because they have been very loyal to us. Season-tickets sold in the first discount period will be vital for the board in their budgeting for next season. All I can ask is for supporters in the position to make the purchase early to please do so. We have never before needed you as much as we do now and we need that indication to help us plan for our future success, both on and off the field." As in previous years, fans are also being offered the chance to purchase White or Pilgrim Memberships
Ian Holloway has revealed that Kevin Gallen was not involved against Leeds because of a sciatic problem. He said: "I would probably have started him if he had been fit. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't."
Ian Holloway was delighted with a classy Argyle performance yesterday, if not with the result. "It's very disappointing for us to get back to our game as we did and to lose in the fashion we did with three minutes left," he said. "That looked more like my team. It's bitterly disappointing for the lads to give that effort and end up with nowt, but that's football for you. All I do know is that, if you keep your team-shape as strong as that, keep the ball as well as that, pass the ball the way we did, and play in the areas we did, we can hurt anybody." Both goals came from Leeds' free-kicks sent high into the Argyle area which they failed to deal with, and Holloway added: "I still can't believe that we've lost, but that's life. You've got to be able to win headers in your box. You can talk about the wonderful game, the beautiful game, but we got outdone by two headers. Welcome to my world, the world of the football manager - you think you've got it cracked, everybody's patting you on the back, and then you have weeks like that. You have to give Leeds some credit, they are fighting for their lives, but we didn't deserve that. I've been in football a long a time and no way did we deserve to lose that game. I was very, very shocked in midweek. It was very humiliating for someone who hasn't won for 19 games to thrash you 4-0 - I didn't expect it; I didn't see it coming. It's important that the lads listened. I thought they did, and they didn't get rewarded for it. It just goes to show that this standard is very, very tough. The teams that are down the bottom are all going to fight. It's been like that all season - people have been beating each other right, left and centre." Holloway took further heart from the fact that it was Leeds, and not Argyle, who are fighting to stay in the Championship. He said: "We look like we deserved to have a few more points on the board than the team we were playing against - who would have said that at the start of the season? The thing I am pleased with is that we have 52 points and they have 42. We have got to realise how far we have come in a short space of time, although that doesn't make it any better for me, to have to stand here as the losing manager in a game that I saw us do very well." Holloway paid tribute to goalscorer Peter Halmosi. "Outstanding - totally outstanding," he said. "I thought he was tactically right, positionally right. It was great goal. We knew he was a good player but, unfortunately for him, he's had Scott Sinclair, who's been shining. He's been very patient, very professional. The fellow's a top-class pro and it showed today." David Norris, returning from suspension, was also pivotal to Argyle's display. "We haven't had him for the last two games, and we've let seven in - that sums it up," said Holloway. "The bloke sets the tempo of our closing. He's high energy, high tempo, and he thoroughly deserves all the plaudits he gets. He was our player of the year by a million miles last year and he won't be far away this year. We are not the same team without him in there." Holloway promised that he would lift his players' spirits for the visit of Leicester to Home Park on Monday. "We've got to pick ourselves up for Leicester," he said. "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for themselves - we've got to give a home performance to cheer our fans up a bit because our season is dying a death. It's breaking my heart. That was probably our best performance since Colchester and Watford, in the FA Cup. I believe our league form has been hampered and hindered by that cup competition. We still should be strong enough to refocus on league matches. Today, they did."
Argyle lost 2-1 at Leeds United, the goal scored by Peter Halmosi after 36 minutes. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Sawyer, Djordjic, Nalis, Norris, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Fallon, Sinclair (not used - Buzsaky, Gosling, Capaldi). Attendance - 30,034.
Tim Breacker believes Lee Hodges could be fit again before the end of the season. He said: "Lee has not torn his hamstring so we are hoping he has got a chance of playing again before the end of the season."
Tim Breacker has admitted 'questions will be asked' if Argyle flop again when they play Leeds United. He said: "We have just got to make sure our players give the performance we expect from them, and the supporters expect from them. If they don't, then questions will be asked. Every time you play as a professional footballer you are playing for your future. You might be able to get away with one where you are not quite at it, but any more than that and you have got to start looking over your shoulder. That's the harsh realities of it. It's a cut-throat business and if you're not at 110 per cent supporters will be asking questions, and rightly so. We have had fantastic support away from home this season. It has been tremendous. I saw somewhere that our fans would have to travel 1,900 miles this week to watch us play. I know there will be some doing that and we appreciate that, very much so. The players will definitely be aware of that. They have a responsibility to those supporters and anytime they wear the shirt, 110 per cent effort is the minimum." Leeds are desperate for points but Breacker believes it is as important for Argyle tomorrow as they try to restore some pride. He added: "We are feeling quite lucky in some ways that we have got another chance very quickly to put things right. Obviously, we were very disappointed with the performance against Burnley, not only with losing but with the way we conceded the goals. The overall performance from one through to 11 was not good enough. But, to be fair to the players, I don't think Ian has been able to criticise them in that way all season. We will be saying that to them and telling them exactly why they have done well all season and where we think they went wrong in this particular game. It's a great learning experience for the young boys in the side. If you are not quite at it in any particular game, no matter who your opponent is, they are going to have the better of you. The experienced boys will know that because they will have had that happen to them before." The 4-0 scoreline against Burnley was Argyle's heaviest defeat since they lost 5-1 to Sunderland in March 2005. "The players were very down and very disappointed, but you can't feel sorry for yourself," said Breacker. "You have got to look at why it happened and it can be a very fine dividing line if you are not quite at the right level. To be fair, Burnley obviously were. They were fighting and scrapping for everything as though their lives depended on it. No matter how you do it, you have got to make sure that's what you get out of yourself."
David Norris returns from a two-match suspension against Leeds United tomorrow, and he admitted not being involved against Ipswich and Burnley had been difficult to cope with. Norris said: "When you are fit and you can't play, that's the worst. I like to play as many times as I can as well so it has been very frustrating, but the two games are out of the way now and I'm up for selection tomorrow so we will see what happens. The results have not been the best. I was a little bit surprised, but these things happen and I'm sure the manager will get us back to how we should be playing. It has been a good season. We have been doing really well and we have been right up there in the league pretty much the whole way so far. To let it slip away now and finish in the bottom half of the table would be a massive disappointment. And we have still got to play for the fans. They are paying their money even though we might not be able to do anything. We have also got our own personal pride in wanting to play well and win games." There will be a 30,000-plus attendance at Elland Road tomorrow and Norris is relishing the prospect. He said: "We have not done so well recently but this is something to look forward to. We will have to be right up for this game. We know what to expect. They are fighting for their lives but with a big crowd like that hopefully that will spur us on just as much as them." Norris admitted he was shocked Leeds had struggled near the bottom of the Championship table for most of the season. He said: "They have got some good players and I'm surprised they haven't managed to get out of the bottom three. The longer it has gone on you have thought 'maybe they might go down' but they have given themselves a chance with their results in the last few games. They are in with a shout and we know they will be giving it everything tomorrow." Around 800 Argyle supporters will make the trip to Yorkshire and Norris hopes they will have a lot more to cheer about than they did at Ipswich and Burnley. He said: "We owe them a performance. They have travelled the country all season for us and I think they will be bitterly disappointed with the last couple of games."
Dan Gosling will miss Argyle's last match of the season if he is included in the England under-17s squad for the European Championship finals in Belgium next month
Lee Hodges is not expected to feature in the trip to Leeds because of a hamstring injury sustained in the loss at Burnley. Tim Breacker admitted that Hodges may be in danger of missing the rest of the season if the injury turns out to be serious. "He is looking doubtful with a hamstring injury," said Breacker. "We are not yet sure of the full extent of the injury. We are hoping it is not a full tear because that would mean his season would be over. He has been unlucky with injuries this season and we were hoping to let him have a run, and a chance to be part of the squad again. Obviously Matty Doumbe can't play because of suspension but, other than that, we are ok. The long term injuries we know about. Paul Wotton and Nick Chadwick are going very well, and we are quite happy with their progress. Everybody else is fit." The return of David Norris will be a huge boost, and Breacker added: "If there is ever an example to the other players, especially the younger ones, he is it. Every time he pulls on the shirt he gives 110%. He is David Norris and we know what we are going to get out of him week in, week out. That is why he won all the Player of the Year trophies last season and fans expect that type of commitment. Your touch might not be there or your finishing, or heading, or whatever technical aspects but you still run until your heart bursts, and that is him all over."
Argyle's under-18's won 3-1 at Newquay in the South Western League yesterday, the goals scored by Sam Malsom (2) and Bobby Hopkinson
After the game at Burnley, Ian Holloway was in no mood to make any excuses. "There's nowhere to hide," he said, "but if a few of mine had had a shovel they'd have dug a hole and tried to hide in it. But you can't do that. I don't feel safe in my job. Why should they in theirs? They've got to do a lot of reflecting, haven't they?" Holloway will have had time to do reflect yesterday. His players stayed up north on Tuesday night and caught a flight from Manchester yesterday morning, but the manager travelled back overnight by road from Lancashire, along with club staff. "I'm moving house tomorrow," he said. "I've got to drive to St Albans in a big truck. I don't want to see my players tomorrow anyway, to be honest with you. I'm sure when I wake and I see that scoreline, I'll want to knock a few of them out. I'm not being funny. I thought we were unprofessional all the way round. My lot were an absolute joke." Marcel Seip and Krisztian Timar were singled out for specific criticism. "I don't know why Krisztian didn't come over and mark the big man and let Marcel pick up McVeigh," Holloway said. "I don't know what he's trying to prove. Surely if you've got a bloke who's much taller than you and you aren't winning headers, you've just got to swap over, haven't you? And Krisztian didn't want to get tight to McVeigh, because he's a little tricky flitty-farty fellow. It could have been five or six or seven! I'm embarrassed to think that the people up here think that was an Ian Holloway side. It isn't, but it was and I'll have to take it. I'll have to be big and strong enough to say what I'm going to do about it. I'm going to get better people than that. If they think that was good enough, they can get out."
Lilian Nalis has admitted his disappointment for the fans who travelled to witness the defeat at Burnley. He said: "I think we were all disappointed for the fans. They have travelled a lot and after what they have seen on Tuesday I can see why the manager said what he did. I don't think we deserved anything from the game - it was really bad. We love winning, but in two games we have let in seven goals. We know it's going to be a tough game on Saturday and there needs to be a reaction from the players. After Ipswich, I thought we would get a reaction at Burnley, but it didn't happen." Nalis pinpointed the FA Cup defeat by Watford as the turning point in the team's performances. He said: "We have had a good season up to now. We have never had any pressure from relegation. Now we need to try and grab some points and move up a few places." Nalis said that the team had lost the qualities which had seen them, at one stage, break into the play-offs. He added: "We need to be doing what we were doing at the start of the season - pressing people and getting the shape of the team right. After the quarter-final, it seems as if something has gone. We are a young team and we need to learn something from that. The right way is getting back to basics."
Ian Holloway was unequivocal in the wake of the defeat at Burnley. "That was the worst performance of my football career, I have to say," he said. "I saw a team in claret and blue want it more, chase, harry, tackle, outfight, outwill, outplay, outwit every one of my team - no matter who I put on, no matter what - every single one of them. We have got to get right back to square one. It's like they are on holiday already. It was an absolute disgrace. Everybody's saying nice things about Plymouth, our cup run, how we didn't deserve to lose to Watford. Well, I'm sorry, but it's been absolute rubbish ever since. That was embarrassing. The goalkeeper shanked the ball out of the ground, we missed a penalty - that wasn't a penalty, to be honest - and we got outfought, outmuscled, outbattled in every single area of the pitch. That's really unusual." Holloway even raised the possibility that Argyle may get sucked into the relegation fight, and insisted his players should not feel safe. "Have we got enough points to be safe?" he said. "Because if that's our form at the moment, it's definite relegation fodder. There's nowhere to hide. If a few of mine had a shovel or a spade, they would have dug a hole and tried to hide in it tonight. They can't. I don't feel safe in my job, why should they feel safe in theirs? They have got to do a lot of reflecting, haven't they? It could have been 5-0, it could have been 6-0, it could have been seven, it could have been eight. From how we've been all season, I'm embarrassed. That isn't an Ian Holloway side. If they think that's good enough, they can get out. That's the way it is. That is unacceptable, although, in fairness, they have hardly let me down all season. There's no point in ranting - they know how I feel. I felt it yesterday and the day before - there's an apathy about the place which I can't stand. The transfer-window is shut so I can't do anything about it. All I can do is chop some of this down for next year." Holloway looks set to recall David Norris for Saturday's visit to Leeds after the midfielder's two-game suspension. "Is David Norris a talisman for Plymouth Argyle? Is one player that important?" he said. "He sets the tone for our closing, our pressing, our attacking." Holloway also sympathised with the Argyle supporters who had made the 600-mile round-trip to Lancashire. "I apologise wholeheartedly to all those people," he said. "Our players should pay their tickets and their travel. They owe them for bothering to come all the way up here and watch that crock of rubbish. We have a duty of care to that badge, to play with pride for it, no matter what. Who the hell do we think we are? Correction - who the hell do they think they are?"
Argyle lost 4-0 at Burnley. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Capaldi, Gosling, Nalis, Hodges, Sinclair, Fallon, Hayles. Subs - Buzsaky, Ebanks-Blake, Djordjic (not used - Halmosi, Sawyer). Attendance - 9,793.
Ian Holloway is still seething over the two major incidents in the weekend loss at Ipswich. He said: "I have looked at both incidents and I think they are wrong. They are drastically wrong and the referee has been inconsistent on both things. He had the best view of the first incident. I have watched it very carefully over time. His first decision was correct because it was not a free kick. The fella kicked it too far and then he dived. The linesman was not in the best place, but, I am wasting my time. Their bloke has conned them and that is the type of thing we want out of football. I have got the raving hump with Walters because Matty Doumbe is now going to be suspended. The referee should have overruled the linesman because he was four stripes off the pitch away from being level with the incident. When you look at the second one - why did he not consult his linesman when he was so far away? I do know what I am talking about because I have had loads of meetings with assessors, so we are going to write off and ask what the assessor felt and we are going to send off a DVD and ask the Football League to have a look. That is all we can do. You can't ask to get rid of a red card because, in my opinion, they will not admit they are wrong. I saw Bristol Rovers gain a penalty on Sunday when the bloke pulled his shirt but was not red carded, and Matty's foul compared to that foul was a world apart."
Tony Capaldi and Dan Gosling have been added to Argyle's squad for tonight's trip to Burnley. Ian Holloway said: "I have got Capaldi and Gosling added. Gosling has come through training, so I am going to have a look at my options. I won't be playing Gary Sawyer at centre back. He will either be left back or left out. I think Sawyer's emergence has put one or two noses out of joint - Aljofree's and Capaldi's. If Tony Capaldi had committed to us, he would have played most of the games and Gary would have probably been on the bench." Burnley have been very busy in the loan market as they try to halt their free-fall down the table. Holloway, however, is far more concerned with his own team as he turns his attention to planning for next season. Holloway said: "I can't believe how busy Burnley have been over the last few weeks and the names they have got. I can't believe the squad they have got and they have not won for 19 games. Something has gone amiss. Maybe it is players flexing their muscles or Cotterill has got too big a squad. Who knows? They were in the top half and they have dropped like a stone, but it is all about us. I don't really care about Steve's problems. I am trying to sort us out and I did not like what I saw on Saturday. We went two goals down very quickly and had the added distraction of a bloke being sent off. We were the better side in the second half and without our goal being disallowed, there was not a lot wrong with my team. We took the game to Ipswich and the last goal spoiled it because 3-0 flatters them. We have got to get back to doing what we do best and I have got to get on with planning for next year. That is what it is all about for me now. These people have got to realise that I am looking at next year." Holloway has promised to rotate his squad with the trip to Leeds on Saturday followed by a home clash with Leicester on Easter Monday. Holloway said: "We have got three games in six days now, so there will have to be changes. I will rotate and I will look at people. Scott Sinclair will be going back soon. He has been a very exciting option and he has shown me how we should attack, and he is 17."
Next season is the new priority for Ian Holloway as Argyle head into the final stages of a long, hard campaign. Holloway has promised to bring back Romain Larrieu from his loan spell at Gillingham in order to assess his form. "Romain Larrieu will be brought back in the next few weeks and he will be thrown into my team," said Holloway. "I have got to assess him because I have not really seen him properly. What I will be doing now is plotting my future and Plymouth's future. These people have got to show me they want to do what I am looking for." Holloway has been very disappointed with Argyle's form of late and he feels it is all a hangover from the decisions he made prior to the FA Cup defeat to Watford. He said: "We have not been as good as we should have been for the last few weeks. We have not been as good as we were against Colchester or against Derby. We have not had the right zest and I think it is all to do with the team I picked against Watford. Certain people were looking at it and trying to see whether they will be here next year. They will soon find out because I am the one that should be looking at it and they have to please me." Holloway has told his players that they are fighting for their long term future at Home Park. He added: "I have been pleased to a point but we are underachieving a tad and I am very, very upset to lose 3-0 at Ipswich. Next year is now more important to me than this year because 52 points should be enough. I have told the board that we are better than that. There are some massive decisions to be made involving the whole squad. The only ones exempt from either the kindness or the wrath of Ian Holloway will be the players on contract until 2009. Anybody else is fighting and playing for their long-term future at Plymouth Argyle, and I think that's exactly how it should be. Week in week out, year in year out, that is it. Are you going to survive and take us forward, or are you going to be chopped? Football isn't about 'lovely jubbly, let's enjoy ourselves'. It's about winning and moving forward. That's what I'm totally determined to do. I'm sick and fed up of being mid-table, just out of the play-offs, in this division as a manager. I need to push on up this table and keep going forward. These players have got to realise that I'm not asking it. I'm demanding it. There is a big difference. And I'm not expecting it. I'm optimistic about it. Words are very important and I'm very careful with my words." Holloway added: "This isn't a threat. I don't want people to read it that way. This is reality. There are a lot of people who have been here a long time. Do they need to move? Would it be better for them to move? Who knows? I have inherited a very honest, hard-working bunch and they have done very well this season. We are at a certain level and I want to move on beyond that. If I haven't got the money, what have I got to do? I don't know. I might have to be very harsh and bring in some new people. If I need to make room for them I will have to do that. Whatever it takes, I'm totally determined to do that to the best of my ability. And my ability so far has proven to be a Championship manager who doesn't get relegated. If I had the funds I'm sure I could be higher than that because my teams over-achieve for the money they are paid. Have a look at my career. That's a fact."
A young Argyle reserve team lost 2-0 to Bristol Rovers last night. Mike Pejic said: "I was very pleased with the way we played towards the end of the first half but very disappointed with the second half performance. It turned into boom boom football with the ball constantly in the air. The ball had a headache by the end of the game. They were a big side and we played to their strengths in the second half."
One of Argyle's better performers last Saturday was Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, and he does not want to leave Burnley tonight with the same sense of disappointment that he and his team-mates felt at Ipswich. "There's no doubt about it," he said. "We're going to pick ourselves up and try to get a result up at Burnley. It's going to be difficult, but that's all we can do. That's what professionals do. What happened on Saturday is history." Ebanks-Blake came out on the wrong side of a controversial decision by the officials at Ipswich. Early in the second half, he charged down an attempted clearance by Jason De Vos and raced away to send a shot into the net. The verdict from referee Jon Moss was no goal, however, because of a handling offence by the striker. Ebanks-Blake admitted that he had handled the ball when he claimed possession from De Vos - but he was puzzled about how he came to be penalised. "I make no bones about it, it was handball," he said, "but the referee did not see it. The linesman did not give it, so therefore it's a goal. The linesman gave the goal, so I don't know how the referee could over-rule him if he didn't see it. I'm not going to lie, it was a handball but, if the referee doesn't see it, it's a goal. I asked him what he'd seen, but he didn't say anything. I'd have had better luck getting blood out of a stone. If my goal had counted, at 2-1 with half an hour to go it could have been a different game. We've still got to be a little better than we were when we were reduced to ten men. We've got to rally together, but when you get decisions like those it really makes the players look they're useless and of no worth. We work hard all week and all our careers to play as high as we can, but what can you do? We were all very disheartened and disappointed."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Tavistock in Saturday's South Western league game, the goal scored by Paul Kendall. Mike Pejic said: "We did all right as the lads took on board one or two things we've been working on. and we had a good 20-minute spell in the first half. There were only one or two points to be made where we could improve. But in the second half, for some reason, they certainly did not reproduce the first-half display or apply what I asked them to do at half time. I was disappointed with that, as it is important for them to respond to what I tell them to do. And the substitutes also need to listen and apply themselves, when they come on. We normally work on spatial awareness, but we failed to do that in the second period and because of that, we had less space in which to work the ball and so, in effect, when in possession, we were pressurising our own players. That was a major disappointment to me as I don't want the players to get involved with what the opposition want to do. We must come up with the answers by making the correct decision at the right time as we are working on all aspects of possession in each third of the pitch." Argyle: Sandercombe, King, Kendall, Hodgkinson, Byrne, Duggan, Moult, McCrory, Malsom, Smith. Subs - Petnehazi, Hopkinson, Joyce(not used - Laird.J, Saxton)
Mathias Kouo-Doumbe admitted that the referee's change-of-mind decision to send him off in the second minute of the defeat at Ipswich had left him speechless. "There was small contact between us, but nothing special," he said. "Because I caught up with Walters, he couldn't strike the ball any more, so he tried to tackle me, get a touch, and beat Luke. The referee said nothing, acted like it was nothing at all, but the linesman apparently saw something and asked him to go and see him. He just decided it was a red card. He didn't say anything. I was speechless. I couldn't believe it. I thought he might give me a yellow card but,when I saw it was red, I didn't know what to do." Kouo-Doumbe will now miss the visits to Burnley and Leeds, but he is optimistic that the club will be able to make a successful appeal against his sending-off. "Hopefully, they have got a good video of the action and everything will be cleared," he added.
Ian Holloway was surprised at Mathias Kouo-Doumbe's sending off at Ipswich yesterday. "I've never seen anything like it in my life, to be honest," he said. "There was a clear indication from the referee that he didn't even think it was a free-kick, so we played on. Then he consults his linesman and it's a red card for somebody being clean through and our last man brought him down. Two things - he doesn't know how quick Matty Doumbe is; and leaning on a shoulder is not a pull-back or a foul or a deliberate stop. Matty would have caught, so he wasn't going to get the ball anyway - he overran it. If the referee is going to lean on his linesman that strongly, it should have been a yellow card - maximum - if it was a foul. But, if you are going to give such a clear indication that it's not, you can't change your mind that much. If you are going to, which he's got his rights to, no problem, off goes Matty Doumbe - second half, the same linesman, the same referee, the referee is relying on his linesman, linesman doesn't flag, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake charges something down, not deliberate handball, goes through and scores, referee says it's handball. So why didn't he rely heavily on his linesman that time? It's a double whammy. I was a very plain and simple family boy in a council house and I think things have got to be simple. If you are going to let a linesman make a decision because he's in a better position, then let him do it in the second half as well when we scored a goal. It doesn't get much more simple than that to me. Why overrule him then? Why couldn't the referee overrule him in the first half? On another day, he might have overruled the first one, so my blokes are all there, and he might have given the second one. So we might have won 1-0. Yet if my aunty had something else, she'd be my uncle." Not all Holloway's wrath was reserved for the officials. "They are part of it, but they are only events, and it's your reaction to the events that give you the outcome," he said. "I didn't like my team for 20 minutes. I thought they moaned too much, they didn't do their jobs too much; if I make excuses for them, I only become good at making excuses. I felt our response for 20 minutes was poor, and, at this standard, you can't afford to be poor for 20 minutes. I am very, very disappointed. We've lost 3-0 and it's hard. My new-found back line had a foreigner in it who can't speak English - a Hungarian who's not used to playing there - and I felt we wobbled a bit for about 20 minutes when they scored two goals. I think we've one or two who I can describe in my own way? I used to love a cartoon when I was a kid that had a fella called Dick Dasterdly. He had a wonderful dog called Mutley and a little fella who was his ideas person who used to go 'We're going to ripbangwhoopdoboom that pigeon' - I've got one or two who went like that. Paul Connolly lost the plot. He couldn't understand what I wanted him to do. I sat him down on the edge of the bath at half-time, and I thought, in the second half, he made a huge difference to us. He understood what I wanted him to do and he almost had a chance to score but he'd run so far and so fast that his legs hadn't calmed down to strike the ball. Once we'd got things sorted out it was a question of 'Can we go on and score?' and, with the chances we created, I would have expected my players to have scored. Once we got a grip on it, we needed a goal. Unfortunately, when we got one, it was disallowed. How my team played in the second half, once we'd calmed them all down to get them to understand what they were up against and what they needed to do, I felt we dominated possession, but we didn't finish off the chances we created. I thought Sylvan was a threat all afternoon, but we just couldn't put the ball in the net." Despite his comments, Holloway admitted that he was struggling to contain his anger. "I could chew this microphone off its stand," he said. "And I could eat the stand, because I am that angry about it, but I don't want my team to make excuses because some of their play was not good enough. I've probably let myself down, but it was a strange old day up in Ipswich."
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