A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Ian Holloway looked to Winston Churchill for inspiration after Argyle's defeat at Derby. "What's important in life," he said, "is that success is about moving from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm, as Churchill once said. He was right. My boys should take an awful lot of pride and confidence away from today because we have beaten Derby over two games by one goal; they've got three points and we've got three points. We beat them 3-1 at our place; they beat us 1-0 here. So, by my reckoning, that's 3-2 to us - if that was a European tie, we'd have gone through." Despite a strong first-half Argyle were gradually worn down by a strong Derby side that benefited from the second-half introduction of Arturo Lupoli and Giles Barnes. Holloway said: "I felt their overall strength showed in who they had on the bench and who we had on the bench and that's not to decry my young lads because I think they are going to be very, very good. But to ask them to help me come back from 1-0 down at Derby is a tad too much."Holloway will now look to the transfer-window to try to supplement his squad. He said: "Hopefully something will be breezing in our door that will help us because that's all we need at the moment, but I think our fans should be very optimistic anyway - some of the football we are playing is a joy to watch at times. Today, some of our passing was a little bit tired. There are circumstances for that. Hopefully we can pick ourselves us, dust ourselves down and have a right good go at Southampton. I'd settle for a few players and a few more bums on seats at our ground, because that will help me more than anything - 'Come and support the lads, don't look at what everybody else is doing, we're trying to move forward and I need you with your bums on seats cheering on the boys.' I think they've been absolutely terrific for me so far." Holloway thought his team could have won the match before Bisgaard's strike. "I could see us breaking away, the way it was going," he said. "Derby were getting more and more desperate, pushing more and more bodies forward, and I felt we looked very solid. Unfortunately, we let a goal in. I think that was the only chance they had all game. It looked like we were going to get at least a point. In the first half, probably our best chance was on the breakaway - we won the ball back off them fairly comfortably, their fans got on at them a little bit. The referee was probably their best defender on our probably our best attack - Haylesy rode a little challenge, nicked it to Akos, who was going through. We actually had an attack on, three on three, and the referee pulled us back and penalised us. We didn't make the most of the opportunities of the ball we had in the first half, and I felt that was down to the time of year, how many games we've got for the players I had out there. The game was another game one too many - I felt the players weren't always bright, weren't always sharp, the passing wasn't as good as they normally are. Akos's passing today wasn't quite so sharp as it was, and he's played three games in however many days and he missed all pre-season, so it's times like this when you are tested. This division is very ruthless. They have never let me down. They were terrific at times - their spirit, their challenging, their tackling. I thought the back line looked a lot better than against West Brom, when we were 2-0 with five minutes to go to half-time and we committed suicide by letting two in."
Ian Holloway took a sideswipe at players agents and transfer regulations following Argyle's defeat at Derby. Tony Capaldi has yet to agree a new deal with the club, and Holloway wants to know Capaldi's intentions before January's transfer-window shuts. "I'd think very carefully if I was a player and I was letting my contract run out, because you are talking about your commitment in the tackle," he said. "Paul Wotton jumped and landed the other day and is out for six to eight months - good job he's got a long contract. Look at the Luton game last night - Heikkinen's out of contract and he's broken a leg. All these agents thinks it's great to let your contact run out - well, I can assure you that, if you are Heikkinen with a broken leg, it ain't very good. He could be out of a job in the summer. That's all I'd like to say to all these agents: would you like your career hanging on a thread? I wouldn't. They should leave some of these players alone. I'll get Capaldi to sort it out before the window closes. I don't know his mind; I don't know what his agent's been doing. I think his last three performances have been spot on, which is no mean feat." Holloway believes the powers that be are wrong to let players over the age of 24 move between clubs for no remuneration at the end of their contracts. He said: "I think it's an absolute mad rule. Why should a player walk out of our club for nothing at the end of the season? We've helped develop him, he's played for us, so why should he leave our 'company' for nothing if you've got a good asset? How can he walk down the road and walk into another 'company' for nothing? I think things ought to change. I think UEFA and FIFA have got it all wrong. They should have copied what we do: anybody who is not wanted by their club, who is offered less money, can go for nothing; anybody who is appreciated, gets offered the same or a penny more, you command a transfer fee. That will stop every single agent ringing everybody under the sun and saying: 'By the way - he's out of contract in the summer. It's common sense."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Derby County. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Seip, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Norris, Nalis, Buzsaky, Capaldi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Samba, Dickson, Summerfield (not used - McCormick, Sawyer). Attendance - 25,775.
Argyle face Derby County today and Tim Breacker believes Argyle can upset them. He said: "Derby have had a really good run. They have got some very good players and a good manager. They lost at home to Wolves on Boxing Day and they will be looking to come out fighting and get back amongst it. It will be a difficult place to go and play, but we are aware of that and our record away from home has been good this season. So, there is no reason we can't go there feeling we can get something out of the game. It's a fantastic place to go and play and I'm sure the players will be really looking forward to it. We are going into the game with nothing to lose, and with the confidence that, on our day, we can be a match for anybody." Argyle have conceded 10 goals in their last five games, and Breacker added: "We haven't had a settled back four for a while and sometimes that can cause you problems defensively. When you have got games on Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Monday, like we have got now, and you are working with the same squad of players you are just trying to make sure you tickle them through rather than doing a lot of work in training."
Argyle have been linked with Oldham Athletic striker Chris Porter and Cardiff City midfielder Jeff Whitley
Paul Connolly is set to retain his place in the Argyle team against Derby County today and Tim Breacker said: "Paul hasn't had that many training sessions to get back into the groove of playing. He's almost had to come straight back into the team. In an ideal world, he'd have done his rehab and then had more training sessions and a couple of reserve games. Even then he'd still be rusty, but we haven't got that sort of luxury." Breacker is confident that Connolly can cope with two games in three days over the New Year weekend. "We're hoping so," he added. "There's no reason why not, but we'll have to make sure that we don't overdo it with him. He's come straight back from injury into the first team, so we'll have to assess his situation as we go." Argyle's small squad has made it hard for the team to cope with the injuries sustained lately. "Ideally, with your squad, you'd like to have proper pros to come in in each position, and not young kids or people playing out of position," Breacker said. "Having said that, all the lads who have filled in at right-back, like Marcel, have done well, but we still haven't had a settled back four for a while, and that can cause problems."
Romain Larrieu has overcome serious illness in recent months, and has now forced his way back in to the Argyle first team. Asked how he had felt when told that his opportunity had arrived, Larrieu said: "It was brilliant. I was really, really happy. Ever since I had started my rehabilitation with Maxie, I was trying to get myself ready to play again. I knew I was going to have to be patient because the team was doing well, and so was Luke. It wasn't an easy situation for me, even though I knew that, after what I'd been through in the summer, playing at all this season was going to be achievement. Now I've been given a couple of games, and hopefully I'll get a few more and we'll see where that can take me in terms of reaching my level, because I'm not there yet. But I felt better as the game went on last Saturday, and I felt quite good on Tuesday at Cardiff. I've been injured long-term in the past. From the day of your injury until you play your first game, every day you dream about that game. You want the perfect comeback, but it wasn't at all for me - especially the second goal." Larrieu was at fault for West Brom's equaliser last Saturday, when he sliced Tony Capaldi's back-pass. "I don't think the ball bobbled," Larrieu said. "I messed it up. Maybe I should have moved and given myself a better angle to kick the ball, but I didn't. I cleared the ball about 30 yards to the wrong player. He still had a lot to do to score from there, and I was disappointed that I couldn't push it round the post, but the guy who had put pressure on me in the first place was still there. I tried to push it over the bar, but I couldn't. You have to get back on your feet and challenge again. How we did not score in the second half, I don't know. That would have got me out of it, but I still enjoyed myself. I had a great reception from the fans. That was brilliant, and that got me through when I conceded that goal." The target today for Larrieu and his team-mates is a clean-sheet at Derby - and a win. "We defended well in both games, but each time our focus switched off a little bit we paid the price," Larrieu said. "We really need to get on top of that, because we are wasting too many points."
Paul Connolly has been given the go-ahead to play for Argyle at Derby tomorrow. After making a surprise comeback from a torn hamstring in the draw at Cardiff City he trained with the rest of the Argyle squad yesterday and is expected to start against the Rams. Connolly said: "I had been working hard for four weeks since the Luton game with Maxie and my hamstring felt so strong that we both decided that if selected I would be okay. To just get thrown in by the gaffer was a good vote of confidence in me from him and, to be fair, I was quite happy he took me off when he did. There was no point risking it. I have got loads of games coming up, so there was no point in taking any chances. I'm really happy with the way things have gone. The tear was quite a big one at the top of my hamstring, so it was a serious injury. I have done well to come back so soon, and it was just nice to be out there on Boxing Day. Even if I had only played the first half I would have been happy. There was a great atmosphere and I really enjoyed the game. I just tried to play my way into it. It was a good game to play in and it must have been great to watch, but I think the boys were gutted about the result because it was there to be won by us. The first half was textbook for an away side and the goal we scored was absolutely unbelievable. I don't know how many passes were involved but it was so good to watch. It was like the Brazil goal they always show on TV from the 1970 World Cup. We went in at half-time and thought 'same again' but they changed their style of play. They went direct and started banging it and we had five minutes of madness. But then Chuck (Norris) popped up with another great goal. He was on fire, and I think it just showed the character in the squad. It would have been easy to cave in at 2-1 down, especially with the crowd being so hostile, but we came back to 2-2 and we still looked threatening in the last 10-15 minutes." Connolly added: "We have got Derby tomorrow and then Southampton at home on New Year's Day so they are a couple of good games, but we have got to start taking three points as opposed to one."
Akos Buzsaky has been given the chance he has craved for - to play for Argyle in a central midfield role, and Tim Breacker has been impressed by his form over Christmas, and hopes it will continue into the New Year. Breacker said: "I think it's a position he likes. He has made that known, and he has been prepared to try to do the other side of it, although that's not natural to him. We know, naturally, he can score goals and create for others but, as for all the players, when you are defending everyone has got to defend. It's all about balance. Let's say in our midfield we have got Tony Capaldi on the left side and Chuck Norris on the right. They have got that mentality where they will do both sides of the game, so maybe we can afford to have someone like Akos in there, who can go and create and unlock a door if you like as a balance in our overall structure. To be fair, Akos has had a little bit of criticism and he has taken it on board, which is all you can ask. Ian is very honest and up front with the players and lets them know what he expects, even if it is not their natural game. Then if they can produce something fantastic, like Akos can on his day, that will add to us." Buzsaky himself said: "I've always played in central midfield in the rest of my career, and when Bobby Williamson signed me I was with Wottsy in the middle. Then Tony Pulis took over and he put me on the right side. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't my real position. This year I missed all of pre-season because of injury, and when I was fit Lee Hodges got injured after he had been playing well on the left side, so I played about ten games on the left of the midfield. My real position is in the middle, I know that, so I have really enjoyed the last two games." Ian Holloway has found fault with some of Buzsaky's displays, but remains an admirer of players with flair, and he has put his faith in the Hungarian in the last two fixtures. "Everybody speaks about me like I cannot play for the team and I cannot defend," Buzsaky added. "I just want to prove to everybody that I am not the sort of player who only thinks about going forward. I think I have proved that I can defend in the last two games. I tried to do my best, and I think I worked well with Lilian. Until these two games, I have never had the chance to play in the middle. I could not prove that the criticism was not right. I was always playing out wide, and it is a different job. I hope the people who said I couldn't defend have changed their minds." Argyle go to Pride Park with plenty of confidence after their efforts at Cardiff on Tuesday. "We played very well in the first half, but then we let in two goals in five minutes," Buzsaky said. "A draw is still not a bad result in Cardiff, but we should have won the game. We should have won both of the last two games and we didn't, but football is like that. The team is getting better. We are creating chances and we are scoring goals, so we have to try and get clean-sheets because we are sure we are going to score. We are going to Derby now and they are third in the table, but we are not afraid of them."
Argyle will be without injured quartet Nick Chadwick, Bojan Djordjic, Lee Hodges and Paul Wotton for the trip to Derby tomorrow. Hodges, though, is close to making a comeback from his medial knee ligament injury and Paul Maxwell said: "Hodgie is coming on really well. We have tried to push him on and we will see where he is at the start of next week. We have got a couple of dates in mind, but he's not far away."Chadwick, though, could still be another three weeks away from a return to action because of his persistent groin problem
Paul Connolly has admitted the opening of the transfer window cannot come soon enough for Argyle. He said: "Football is full of injuries and if you look at other clubs they have probably got more than us. It's just that as soon as we get an injury, I think we feel it because our squad is so small. Obviously, it's up to the gaffer to try to improve that in January. Hopefully, he will bring a couple of players in. I think all the boys want him to. To be fair, I think we are only two or three players away from being where we want to be. We just want a few new faces so we can get going again and kick on in January." It is believed Ian Holloway already has one player lined up for a move to Home Park next week, with the possibility of a couple more to follow. Holloway admitted it would not be easy to do business during the transfer window, especially as some of the clubs in the Championship have much more financial clout than Argyle. He said: "We will all be scrapping for the same sort of players, and the rich will get them. But I know I have had some success in the past in taking people from lower divisions. I'm going to take my time to do it, though, because I'm delighted with the team I have got here already." Holloway was asked after the game against Cardiff how much money he had to spend on new signings. He replied: "I have got £25 left in my pocket after Christmas!" He added: "If I can do some things within our means then I will be looking to do it, but the last thing you ever do is tell anybody how much you have got in your wallet when you are going out shopping. If you do that at the market the bloke is going to have you." Argyle are also waiting to see if they can agree a contract with Tony Capaldi., who confirmed after the game against Cardiff that talks over a contract for him were still taking place
Bojan Djordjic is to have an operation on his fractured cheekbone. Djordjic suffered the injury in the first half of the draw with West Brom on Saturday and did not travel to Cardiff. Paul Maxwell said: "We will see how he is feeling after the op and go from there really. He has got a little displacement in his left cheekbone and they are going to straighten it up a bit. He's a bit battered and bruised but he's alright in himself. Once he has had the op, we will leave it for a few days. Then we will take a look a things. For operations like this, they tend to go in just above the ear and basically try to realign it really. He caught his nose as well, but that will take care of itself." The time it takes for a player to return to action after a fractured cheekbone can vary quite considerably. Maxwell said: "Some wear a protective mask. Others don't. It just depends. Mickey Evans had an op done and he played three days later, but we will make sure Bojan is okay first and then go from there."
Skill is only one component of a Championship footballer. Physical strength and determination, courage and commitment plus the willingness to go beyond the pain barrier are all crucial parts of the mix. At Cardiff City, Hasney Aljofree displayed all of those qualities as he helped Argyle gain a point. The Argyle cause was not helped by a temporary Aljofree absence as the defender was off the field, receiving attention to an ankle injury. Aljofree was still limping when he was and sent back on, but there was no time for any recuperation. Cardiff striker Steve Thompson was on the charge, in search of a goal which would have completed a hat-trick. Aljofree's hobble had to be turned into a sprint, and it was. Thompson's raid was halted by a well-timed tackle from Aljofree, who cleared the danger despite taking another blow to the ankle he had injured moments earlier. Aljofree's nose, a regular target for assaults, also took another battering, but despite all the bumps and bruises - and worse - he got through the game and helped Argyle earn their point. After the game, he said: "The ball hit me flush on the nose in the first half. It doesn't look too pretty again. In the second half, Tony Capaldi accidentally stood on my ankle. I've got a big gash down there. I carried on because it was just a kick, really, but I was a bit worried when I hurt it the second time as I tackled Thompson. He stood on my ankle again, and I was in agony. I didn't think I'd done any serious damage, but I'm in a bit of pain now." Asked how he had managed to make it back to the penalty area to tackle Thompson, Aljofree replied: "I think it was just adrenalin. That's football, at the end of the day. You have to take the knocks. We'll see how it is at the end of the week, and I hope it's not too serious." Aljofree's assessment of the draw against Cardiff was: "It was two points lost, not one gained. In the first half we absolutely dominated the game. We had the better of them all over the park. We knew they were going to come at us because they were at home, but we never really envisaged going 2-1 behind in the way we did. Chuck has come up with another goal and he did really well, but we've come in after the game really disappointed. We should have won that." The quality of the first goal, when Norris finished off an attack which featured a host of quick passes, deserved a big reward. "It was a great move, and that's what the gaffer is all about," Aljofree added. "He wants us to play with freedom and express ourselves, and that goal typified what he wants us to play like. Even away from home, he wants us to cut teams open, and I think we did that." Argyle regrouped after the shock of two goals in five minutes from Thompson, and hit back to level the score. "What you saw there was us sticking together - and we believed we could have got a third goal," Aljofree said. "We've done it before, but it wasn't to be." Argyle's failure to stop the opposition scoring lately has seen them slip into the bottom half of the Championship. They have won only two of their last 11 games. "If we can get a clean-sheet, I can see us winning games, but the problem is just getting those clean-sheets," Aljofree added. "I can't put my finger on it. Either we're losing concentration for a couple of minutes, or we're not getting the rub of the green, or the linesman's not doing his job. Whatever it is, it has to stop. We know we can score goals, but we also know we've got to cut out our little errors in defence - and we need a bit of luck. Then we'll get the wins we need."
Ian Holloway experienced a bitter-sweet afternoon at Ninian Park yesterday, as Argyle drew with Cardiff. "That's probably the best goal we've scored all season," said Holloway, about Norris's opener. "It was a lovely move, nice and bright and crisp, and a fantastic finish. "I was delighted with that, just a bit disappointed with the start of the second half. It's probably concentration, I suppose. I expect them to be a bit better than that, but I have to give Cardiff some credit. He must have warmed a few ear 'oles at half-time. I expected them to come out sharp in the second half but I didn't expect them to get two goals. We are struggling to keep our sheets clean; we have got to sort out our laundrette. It's a little bit annoying, but we're still evolving and developing. That's two draws with Cardiff, home and away, and I would have taken that at the start of the year, particularly after being three down at Home Park. Last Saturday set us up for a decent Christmas period. We are back to being exciting again. I thought we played some decent stuff and that the confidence is coming back a bit. It can hit you a little bit, when you are very young and have got some young kids sat on the bench - as a senior player, you look around you and you think 'Hang on a minute, are we really going for this?' I think some of our young players are very, very good - I'll have them, all day long, stood next to me in the trenches. I'm really excited about trying to develop them and evolve a team that's got fantastic character in its core - it's like a streak of gold going through it." Despite his satisfaction, Holloway did not rule out playing the transfer-market when the window opens in January, and he does not expect to be on his own. "It will all shake down now," he said. "I think the people who are towards the bottom who have got some money will throw money at it and - hold on - it's all change. I prefer it when it was very gradual, like it always was in the English divisions. You know there's a window coming at the end of the season and you are all calmly working towards it. It's going to be like a bring and buy sale - we will all be scrapping for the same type of player and the rich will get them and the poor won't get them. But I know I've had some success in the past, taking people from lower divisions. I'm going to take my time because I'm delighted with the team I've got. If I can do what I can, within my means, during the transfer window, I shall be looking to do it, but the last thing you do is tell anyone how much money you've got in your wallet when you go shopping - if you did that at a market, blokes would have you." Holloway welcomed back Paul Connolly after injury, although the right-back was substituted midway through the second half as a precaution. "It was a risk," said Holloway, "and I thought we played very well on Saturday. I just felt we needed him. I knew I couldn't play him the whole game because of his hamstring, but, touch wood, he's got through the game. I'm delighted to have him back, because we have missed him. I have got to be careful with him, a gradual integration back into it, because he's never had a hamstring before." Holloway also paid tribute to David Norris. "Fantastic," he said. "He's got loads of things in his locker. He was our best player last year, apparently, by a million miles. I'm delighted he stayed. Onwards and upwards."
David Norris was delighted with his contribution to yesterdays draw, and with the nature of his opening goal, in particular. "The first one was a brilliant team move," he said. "There were a good few passes and a lot of movement. Tony played it in to Barry and he cushioned it brilliantly for me. I managed to get a good connection and it was nice to see it go in - left foot as well. I would like to see it again on video. I just remember players switching in all different directions and we caused them a lot of problems like that." Hayles was also the provider for Argyle's second goal, and Norris added: "Barry cushioned it off to me again. The ball took a deflection and ballooned up into the air, and I tried it to smash it towards the goal and it has gone in at the near post. We won on the same day last year and it is weird how it seems to work out. It is a good ground for me and long may that continue." Despite scoring two goals, Norris was disappointed that Argyle did not turn their first-half domination into a victory. He said: "We feel like it was two points dropped to be honest. It was a bit of a scrappy game but I felt we were comfortable, and then we had a mad five minutes, similar to the other day. We started the second-half a bit sloppy but, other than that, I did not think they threatened too much and we should have come away with the three points. We knew they would come out strong but they were under pressure from their fans. If we could start well, we thought that would put pressure on them and the game-plan worked well in the first-half." Cardiff scored twice in the opening minutes of the second-half but both goals looked very close to being offside. Norris, however, revealed that questioning the decisions of Premiership referee Peter Walton was not an advisable approach. He said: "We would like to look at it again to see if it was offside but you could not really talk to the officials today. The referee seemed a little bit card-happy. Barry was just asking a question and he got a yellow card. We will want to see it on the video but it was still a bit of a sloppy goal to concede." The return of Paul Connolly was a welcome sight for Norris, as the pair immediately settled into their usual partnership on Argyle's right-flank. Norris said: "We tend to have a good relationship and we know where each other is, so it is nice to have him back. He has a good run and I am sure that will stand him in good stead for the next few games." Norris admitted that Argyle's small squad is being stretched to the limit. He said: "There are injuries and I think a few boys have got a touch of illness as well. Hasney took a few knocks today and I am sure he will get himself in an ice bath and try to recover. Injuries and suspensions are going to affect us with our small squad, so we need to be lucky in that way." Despite that, Norris feels that Argyle's form in the last two games has been more reminiscent of their performances early in the season. "We have been back to the way we should be in the last two games," said Norris. "The five games before that we were not playing to how we were in the games prior to that. We have been a bit more disciplined, our shape has been better and we have been playing some more attacking football." Next up for Argyle is a trip to Derby County and Norris can't wait. He said: "Derby are doing well but any game in this division is winnable, although it will be tough."
Ian Holloway reiterated his call for a Christmas break in the Championship after describing the Boxing Day draw at Cardiff as 'a bit of a Christmassy game.' He said: "It was a little bit 'Do we want to be here or do we want to be at home with our families?' I know where I would rather be, personally, but there you go - such is life. I've said it loads and loads of times - the last place I want to be on Boxing Day is at a football ground, I can assure you. It's absolute madness. We should all be ready for New Year's Day. I think we should play on the last Saturday before Christmas, then we all shut down until New Year's day. The expense of it all is absolutely horrendous, and you can't do much on Christmas Day, away. I think it's ridiculous."
Argyle drew 2-2 at Cardiff City, both goals coming from David Norris, after 34 and 59 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Seip, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Norris, Nalis, Buzsaky, Capaldi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Samba (not used - McCormick, Sawyer, Summerfield, Dickson). Attendance - 17,299.
Ian Holloway hailed his team's performance after yesterday's draw with West Brom. "Apart from two minutes of madness, I thought it was a terrific performance," he said. "I felt that was as good as we have been for eight or nine weeks. I thought we were bright and lively, and we looked menacing. I think there was a positive feel around the ground because everybody knew we were playing West Brom, rather than Luton or Hull. We were expected to win those games and people did not think that way today. West Brom won 5-0 last week. I thoroughly enjoyed being here and it was the most exciting game I have seen in a long time, and I was very pleased with the spirit of our boys, even after conceding two goals." Argyle created the better chances in the second-half, although the best opportunity to win the game fell to Kevin Phillips after poor control from Barry Hayles, but Romain Larrieu came to the rescue. It was the bit of luck Holloway felt his team deserved, especially after the loss at Preston last weekend when everything seemed to go against his team. "I thought we did well last week but certain things don't go your way," said Holloway. "Today, poor old Barry Hayles had one come off his shin and put them through but Romain Larrieu made a terrific save. If we had lost that game, it would have been total travesty and an injustice. My team looked like they had believe, organization and we were more positive, no matter what was thrown at us. We dropped two points because, chance for chance, we created much the better opportunities." Despite his disappointment with conceding two quick goals at the end of the first-half, Holloway was delighted with his team. Cherno Samba was singled out for praise after he came on for Bojan Djordic on 22 minutes. Holloway said: "Even now, I am struggling to believe that we came in for half-time at 2-2. That is football at this level and I am delighted that we are at this level because there is some fantastic football that we are going to be involved in. I felt like we looked a threat and they were far too critical of themselves at half-time. I still think we were the better team and I would rather have what we have got than what they have. People have got to understand what a privilege it is to be involved at this level. Look at the strength they had on the bench and I had Cherno Samba, who is a centre-forward and has never played left-wing in his life. I felt I still needed an attacking-minded player out there, and he is neat and tidy with the ball. He has gone on there and done one hell of a job. The kid has come flying out of nowhere and that was as good as he has done for us, so I am delighted." Akos Buzsaky was another man picked out by Holloway after the game. "I thought Akos Buzsaky deserved some praise today," said Holloway. "He looked disciplined in his play and determined in what he did. His passing could be more than that. There were a couple of balls he could have put through, and he needs to believe in himself. We have been hit with injuries and we know we can't compete with West Brom financially but I am very proud of who we are and how we go about things. The major problem I have got is that my players don't actually believe they are as good as they are. I believe they are a lot better than they think. We need to concentrate and focus, and I have to keep drip-feeding them. We have got young lads coming through and I believe we are getting better all the time. Some people have been critical of the last few performances but I just think we are missing that little bit extra." Romain Larrieu made his first appearance of the season with Holloway feeling that he needed a bit more experience between the sticks. Holloway said: "It was just for a bit more experience and the big man has made some great saves at the end. I think Luke McCormick has been absolutely excellent this season and I like to reward people that do well for me, but we have let in three goals in the last two away games. I just felt that I need all my squad up to speed. Romain has had a tough year and I have to say that Luke did not thoroughly deserve to be dropped, but it is character building. For the equalizer, he was moving one way and the ball went the other way, and Kevin Phillips is a good player. He has moved for a lot of money in his career and he has hit that from 35 yards out, and that is the way it goes. We all know that Romain would normally palm that away but everybody got behind him and he got us a point in the end." Next up for Argyle is a trip to Cardiff on Boxing Day, and Holloway admitted that it would be difficult to field a solid team in the absence of Paul Wotton. "I will struggle to get a real solid, workmanlike team without Wotton," he said. "Away from home, we have got to be resolute and the last two away games have shot us in the foot. We conceded early goals, both of which were against the run of play."
Argyle drew 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion at Home Park, the goals scored by Barry Hayles after 23 minutes and Lilian Nalis (40). Argyle: Larrieu, Kouo-Doumbe, Seip, Aljofree, Capaldi, Norris, Nalis, Buzsaky, Djordjic, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Samba (not used - McCormick, Summerfield, Gosling, Sawyer). Attendance - 15,172.
Paul Maxwell has no doubts that Paul Wotton will make a full recovery from his knee injury. Maxwell said: "Even now, he wants to be at Home Park all the time, which means I can keep an eye on him totally. He has had a home programme to do, to try to relax and let the knee settle down. The knee is reacting really well at the moment and, long-term, it's going to be a bonus for me because he's going to want to be back quicker than he possibly should be. I'm fairly aggressive in the way I treat things anyway so, hopefully, putting our two heads together we will get through it. The main thing, though, is to make sure it's safe. Yes, it's great to put timescales on it, but we have got to make sure it never happens again. We are going to let the medial ligament heal naturally. That's still intact. There is just a tear in there. That should heal tight and support the knee again, but the cruciate needs repairing." Dr Williams, the surgeon who will operate on Wotton, has operated on several footballers, as well as former England Rugby Union captain Lawrence Dallaglio. Maxwell said: "I think he has got an involvement with Chelsea as well, so he's going to be performing the operation. It's nothing against the surgeons down here. With the football background he has, the conclusion was that we were going to use him. The surgeons in the South West have been different class any other time I have needed them. Patrick Loxsdale and people like that have been fantastic for us. It's just this one time, because certain players had been done before by Andy Williams, we decided to use him. He's going to give us a date but, hopefully, it will be mid-January, somewhere around the 15th probably. Then it will just be a slow progress from there to get him back playing. Surgeons are different about the way they approach things and, in this case, it has been decided we are going to let the medial ligament take care of itself. Wottsie is doing a small programme at the moment to try to get the knee back into certain kinds of movement. It's mainly to keep the quads, and particularly the hamstrings, as strong as possible pre-op, so they are not too weak afterwards."
Ian Holloway was critical of Akos Buzsaky after his performance against Preston, but hinted that the Hungarian could still be involved against West Brom today. Holloway said: "That was then. This is now. I don't ever hold grudges. Ask Bojan. He thought he was dead and buried. I don't do things like that. I have got some very talented players and Akos is one of them. Hopefully, he will play within the constraints of what I need the team to do. I love talented players but they need to play for the team, and put the team first. Last week will not harm his chances. But if he did that on a regular basis then it would severely harm his chances of playing for Ian Holloway. If Akos gets something wrong I tell him. And I told the Press because it was so obvious it was a joke."
Lilian Nalis is well used to English football's hectic Christmas schedule. "I enjoy this time of year," Nalis said. "We get to play in front of big crowds and we have big games to play. Sometimes the quality is a bit low because of all the games in a row, but even so I've always really enjoyed it." When Nalis was playing in France and Italy, he had the benefit of time off in the festive period. "We used to have about a week away from training," he said. "You could have a nice Christmas with the family. We'd stop training on maybe the 20th of December and start again on the 27th or 28th, for a game on the 6th or 7th of January." Argyle today face West Brom, and Nalis added. "They're a big team and they were in the Premier League last season. We just have to make sure we're at it from the first minute. They have good players, and we need to be ready for them." Nalis is having to adjust to life without Paul Wotton alongside him. "He's a great man and a great player," Nalis said. "He's a figurehead here, but what has happened to him will give a chance to another player now. It's up to us to deal with it, and we just want him to be proud of us."
Ian Holloway is concentrating on the task of winning football matches, and is refusing to be distracted by any discussion about Argyle's financial prospects. It was reported yesterday that the approach to the Argyle board from potential investors looks set to be rejected. Holloway was not tempted to discuss the pros and cons of the offer. "It's all talk, and I don't ever listen to talk," he said. "What a crock of crap. That's all it is, as far as I'm concerned." Holloway indicated his support for the board when he added: "I'm doing my job for the people I want to do my job for, until I know any different. I don't want to get caught up in any drama. I've had more than enough of that stress in the last five years. I don't think any manager anywhere in the world has had to cope with the stress and drama I had in five years at QPR. It holds you in good stead. I'm not suddenly going to start thinking about outside influences who want to be inside influences. I don't want to get caught up in all of that, but unfortunately it's happening again. It seems to follow me around, and I wish it wouldn't. Whatever happens will happen, and I'm going to go along with it. You won't catch me getting caught in a storm. Ten years as a manager has taught me all of that, thank you very much. I'm more than happy to be here and working with the situation I've inherited."
Ian Holloway is preparing for the transfer window when it opens on January 1st. He said: "I have got a few irons in the fire, but I will talk about them when I have got them."
Paul Wotton is setting no targets on when he will be back playing after his knee injury. Wotton, who is set to have an operation in mid-January, said: "It would be silly of me to say I will be back for such and such a game, or such and such a date. If I do that, I'm putting myself under pressure and if I don't make that target then I will be disappointed. I will be back when I'm back." Wotton was making his 430th appearance for Argyle against Hull when he fell heavily and had to be stretchered off. He said: "I just jumped for a header like I have done a million times and when I landed something gave way in the knee. I just remember thinking 'I have done something bad' and then Maxie came on. There was no heavy collision or anything like that. I just landed a bit awkwardly and I knew straight away something had happened. Initially, I was in a lot of pain, but then it settled down. For a split second, I thought about trying to play on, but Maxie said I had to go off. It's part of football, unfortunately. It's heartbreaking, and all the rest of it, but there is no other way of looking at it. If I want to play again I have got to get it fixed and go through the rehab, which isn't a problem. There is only one option open to me. I have been very fortunate in my career not to have suffered any serious injuries and maybe it has all come in one hit. I will stay positive." Although in a knee brace, Wotton has been given some exercises by Maxwell to keep his quads and especially his hamstrings as strong as possible before the ACL operation. That will ensure they are not too weak following the surgery and, therefore, aid his rehabilitation. Wotton did some work with Maxwell yesterday and said: "I have come in for a couple of days, just to be around the lads and be part of the banter. There is only so much sitting at home you can do." Wotton has been overwhelmed by the messages of 'good luck' he has received. He said: "I have had so many emails and cards. People have been stopping me in the street, and stopping my mum and dad, to pass on their best wishes. My phone has been absolutely red hot with calls from ex-managers, ex-coaches, ex-players. It's great to know you are appreciated. I would just like to thank all the fans for their support. It really has cheered me up no end. I will send replies to everyone - I have got a while to do that so it shouldn't be a problem!" Wotton will be in the commentary box for the home game against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow, and added: "I'm not too bad watching games. It's not like I have got a groin tweak, where on the Friday I might think 'I might have a chance here'. I know I'm out for the season. There is no point moaning about it and saying 'I can't watch the game because I'm going to get upset'. It's just the way it is. I'm looking forward to the game tomorrow."
Argyle's South Western League fixture against Millbrook tonight has been called off due to a frozen pitch
Ian Holloway has already picked his team to face West Brom tomorrow. He said: "The team is picked for Saturday. I know it and they know it. Injuries are exactly the same. I am trying to pick the team to beat West Brom and it is probably the best scout reports I have ever read. They play precise, one and two touch football with Premiership players everywhere. Everything looks great, happy Christmas. My wife asked me why I was going white. That is what we are up against. Koumas, Kamara, Hartson, brilliant and it is a wonderful privilege to be in this division. We need teamwork, togetherness, a bit of flair in the right places, to be brave and go for it. This is our patch, so let us show what it is all about. It will be a great performance and a great result if we do it, but there is no reason why we can't." Holloway admits that Paul Wotton's absence is a big loss but it will give someone else the opportunity to stake a claim for a regular starting place. "I have said all along that he is a managers' player because he organises and he leads," said Holloway. "He is a very strong person and you would want someone like him next to you in the trenches. You could trust him with your water and he will be first one shouting out charge. It will give someone else an opportunity and, if I have not got like for like, I may need to bring in someone. You need 11 captains on the pitch and the higher you go, the more people talk. When I was in the Premiership, people tell you the next pass as the ball is rolling to you because they have already seen it. We have all got to be more vocal and everybody has got to step up to the plate, but you can't replace someone with someone else, who is not of the same character." Argyle will be looking for a run of consistent results over the festive period after successive 3-0 away defeats. Holloway said: "It is about getting a run of results. We are probably three or four points away from where we want to be, which is a little bit annoying. We are doing very well. If you had offered us 33 points from 23 games at the start of the season, I am sure there would have been quite a few takers with the upheaval we have had. Last Saturday's team was picked on the fact we were up against a team that had let in three goals the previous week. I thought we were a bit too open and we got goals against us at the wrong time. Unfortunately, it has happened in two away games in a row. The good thing is that we have already got some great away points in the bag that everybody was shocked we got, apart from me. We now need to get on a run of games at home."
Argyle are facing a difficult Christmas without the regular use of the training pitch at Harper's Park. Torrential rain at the start of the month and freezing conditions in recent days has rendered the pitch unplayable, and Ian Holloway is becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation. He said: "The biggest problem I have got at the moment is that I have not been able to use my training ground on three or four occasions in the last two weeks. I have had to use one half on the pitch. There is a big line of trees blocking the sun and I would like to chop them down. This is a Championship club and I need grass. I am going to have to sort that out. I need to find a grass pitch in Plymouth that will thaw out by 11.30 in the morning."
Argyle will face four games in the space of ten days with a severely injury depleted squad. Paul Wotton, Paul Connolly, Nick Chadwick and Lee Hodges are all out, and Ian Holloway said: "It will stretch us to the max but bring it on - let's see what we can do. It is a great test. When you looked at the fixtures for December, you knew it would be a tough test. I would rather spend Boxing Day with my family. If we cancelled that, I think we would have a great big crowd this Saturday, and everybody could enjoy their turkey by a lovely fire. There is a huge cost for all these people to watch games, added to the cost of Christmas. We have all got to deal with it and we will be up for it."
Ian Holloway has confirmed that Paul Connolly has still not recovered from his hamstring injury. He said: "Paul Connolly won't be fit for the West Brom game and will probably miss Cardiff, too. It's a blow, but we just can't afford to risk rushing him back too early. We've got four, hard games coming up in the next 10 days and given our problems with injuries and not having the biggest squad anyway, it would have been good if Paul had been fit. We'd hoped that he would have been fit for Saturday, but it's no use crying about it, we'll just have to battle on. Hopefully, we'll have Paul back for the last two matches, but Saturday and, unfortunately, Boxing Day is too soon for him." Holloway admitted that the FA's embargo on signing players, even on loan, is doubly frustrating for a club of Argyle's resources. "Yes, I will be looking to strengthen the squad, but I can't do that until the transfer window opens up in January," said Holloway. "It's frustrating, as just two or three weeks ago we had pretty much a fully-fit squad. Then, we lose Connolly and also Ebanks-Blake, Nick pick up injuries and so suddenly I've hardly any strikers, too. We've also got players who are close to four yellow cards, so that's another consideration. Wottsie obviously is a massive miss for us, but that's football for you - what can you do? You just have to get on with it. I knew when I took in the summer that money would be tight as the board were buying the ground, which they've now done. But, to have to cope at one of the busiest times of the season with injuries and not being able to do anything about is in terms of bringing in players, is not helpful. The injuries have exposed our inexperience in certain areas, so I'll be hoping to do something about fixing that in the New Year. All the same, I'm looking forward to West Brom coming down on Saturday and picking a team to take them on. It's great for the club and the city of Plymouth, that teams of the stature of West Brom are coming to Home Park for a league game."
Argyle's fourth round FA Youth Cup tie at Crystal Palace will be played on Tuesday, January 16th
Argyle are drawing up a shortlist of candidates for the new post of head of youth development, although Michael Dunford has revealed it will not be until next year before an appointment is made. He said: "We are in the midst of trying to identify a successor to Stuart and that process will be continuing for the next couple of weeks. I don't think there will be any formal announcement until the early part of 2007. "We have identified a number of people who are suitable to be considered for the position and are drawing up a shortlist. We, as a club, have to look to develop our own young talent, which has been the case over the last few years. We are seeing the rewards of that now. There has to be a plan where the first team squad consists of a number of home-grown players. That is the remit of any thriving youth department."
Argyle today announced the completion of the purchase of the Home Park freehold. The £2.7m deal with Plymouth City Council sees the Club become sole owner of the ground. Paul Stapleton said: "This is an important day in the history of Plymouth Argyle. For the first time since there has been an Argyle team playing at Home Park, we can truly say that it is now our ground. Prior to 2001, the club had a peppercorn rent on the site. When the current lease was signed in August of that year, this changed to a turnover-based rent that also increased should the club move to a higher division. In the Third Division, this was not an onerous commitment but, as we have made such massive strides up the Football League - and our ambition is to continue that progression - it was obvious that the purchase of the freehold made immense sense. Buying Home Park is inextricably linked to the Phase II development of the ground and is an important first step towards achieving that objective. We now expect to be able to push forward with this project." Stapleton paid tribute to the Council, who had previously been the Club's landlords. "Since the Council agreed to sell the freehold to the Club, Phill Gill and I have been working assiduously to complete the deal on behalf of the board of directors and, more importantly, our loyal fans" he said. "We thank Plymouth City Council for their part in the latest stage of the Pilgrims' progress. The directors are very ambitious for the Club and we are working on a wider plan to secure its long term future by building the finest facilities infrastructure whilst also ensuring that the manager has funds available to build a playing squad capable of competing at the highest level. While we have been working on buying Home Park, we have also been planning for the on-field future with Ian Holloway. The team continues to make great strides in the Coca-Cola Championship and the manager's requirements will be addressed during next month's transfer-window." Tudor Evans, leader of Plymouth City Council said: "We are big Argyle supporters in the Council. Plymouth Argyle is a club with ambition and we are a city with ambition as well. Teamwork between the Council and the club has helped seal the deal. This means everything is in place for them to get on with making the four sides of the stadium become a reality not just a dream. We will be cheering them on enthusiastically."
Ian Holloway wants Tony Capaldi's contract resolved, one way or another, before the end of the January transfer window. Holloway said: "He has given me some more figures and we will have a look at them. I want it decided sooner rather than later. When the January transfer window opens I will not be keeping people who aren't going to re-sign. I might have to bring in someone else who is committed to us. I don't want to have someone here who I can't keep happy. That's just the way it is." Meanwhile, Holloway has revealed that Bojan Djordjic was not included in the squad against Preston for 'tactical' reasons. "It was a tactical decision not to include Bojan," he said. "I picked a team that I thought would do well against Preston. "Obviously, it didn't work out that way and I will have to think about things for this weekend. I don't think Bojan was too happy because he has scored three in five, but in the last two games he was taken off. Players like that go in and out of form, but I will consider him for this Saturday because he's an attack-minded player and we are at home."
The Argyle board of directors are considering an offer of significant financial investment from a group of wealthy supporters, according to reports. Stapleton received a written offer of help prior to a board meeting at Home Park last Wednesday. The approach has come from a group of Argyle fans who are believed to be willing to contribute an initial investment of £5 million in the club, and who wish to initiate a share issue to raise further funds. The group of potential investors, most of whom are believed to reside in the London area, have so far declined to explain their strategy for taking the club forward. They have indicated their desire to wait for a reply from the Home Park board, as a courtesy to Stapleton and his colleagues, before they submit their proposals to public scrutiny. When the board was asked for a public response to the approach from the potential investors, a club spokesman said: "It has always been a policy of the club never to comment on financial matters until the appropriate time, and that remains this case in this situation." Earlier this year the club agreed a deal with Plymouth City Council which was meant to see the ownership of the Home Park freehold pass from the local authority to the club, but this transaction has not yet taken place. It is believed that the club are trying to finalise a loan of £3 million from a merchant bank to complete the freehold purchase, and that taking out a further and larger loan is being considered to pay for the second phase of the stadium redevelopment, using the freehold as security. It is understood that the group of potential investors views investing in the team as a bigger priority than the freehold deal and the replacement of the grandstand
Ian Holloway admitted Argyle missed the presence of Paul Wotton at Preston. When it was put to Holloway that Argyle had missed Wotton's leadership and motivation, he replied: "It probably looks that way. It's quite ironic. I have said it before, you are only ever appreciated in football when you are not there. Nobody would have wanted Paul Wotton to be out, particularly me, but there you go. It's back to the drawing board on Monday." Wotton will let his knee settle down over Christmas and New Year and it is thought the operation to repair the torn ACL could take place in mid-January
Ian Holloway attacked the new offside rules after Argyle lost at Preston. "I hope Santa wasn't watching because that linesman will not be getting any Christmas presents from anyone, particularly Santa," he said. "That was at least three yards offside. Preston were laughing. I got a bit annoyed at their goalkeeper on the bench because he was laughing, it was so far offside." Holloway believes that Ian Ormerod got away with his indiscretion because match officials are failing to interpret FIFA's latest directives on the offside law which distinguish between active and inactive players. "The rules are useless because people are manipulating them, if they are clever," said Holloway. "Nugent stayed offside most of the time and went the opposite way to Brett Ormerod, who ran along the line. If the ball goes on the angle, he's no longer offside. People are gaining an unfair advantage. Let's just go back. Offside is offside, thank you very much." However, Holloway was also critical of his own defence for pushing up too far. He said: "I told my team not to leave any grass in behind them for Preston's two strikers because they are very good. If in any doubt whatsoever, they should make the ball be played in front - and, time and time again, we tried to play offside. I don't want them to play offside. They have to defend the ball these days. The last thing my lot need to do on a pitch as big as that with two strikers who make great runs, probably Premiership runs, is give them grass to run into - that's like playing a high line against Thierry Henry. It's absolute madness." Holloway cited a save by Carlo Nash of Tony Capaldi's close-range volley as the defining moment in the game. "What a fantastic save," he said. "If that had gone in at that moment in time, who knows what confidence my lot would have gained?" Because of injury, Argyle had four central defenders start the game, and Holloway said: "We have got to go back to the drawing-board, but, in fairness, I've got four centre-halves playing at the back at the moment. I felt it showed late on. The options that I've got aren't quite what I would want now that we are slightly depleted. If there was no completely useless transfer-window that nobody really needs, we could wheel and deal." Holloway also felt Paul McKenna toppled over too easily under challenge from Hayles to win the second-half penalty from which Graham Alexander completed the scoring. "McKenna's a strong boy," said Holloway. "He had a great run and he went down like an Elton John song - and I should know that because he's going to be playing at our ground soon - like a candle in the wind. But it was a great run before that so I am taking nothing away from Preston. I think Paul Simpson's got a solid, talented, well-organised group who ripped the heart out of my team today in that 90 minutes. We have got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and do it again."
Argyle lose 3-0 at Preston North End. Argyle: McCormick, Sawyer, Seip, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Norris, Nalis, Summerfield, Capaldi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Buzsaky, Samba (not used - Larrieu, Barness, Gosling). Attendance - 13,171.
If Barry Hayles takes over from Paul Wotton as Argyle captain for the rest of the season, he is well aware what a hard act he has to follow. "Paul's a great leader, and he's done the job very well for many years now," Hayles said. "He will be rightly missed because he's very vocal, as well as being a very good player. When we're all charging around, sometimes the team needs somebody to tell people to get there and do that. You need an organiser on the pitch, and Wottsy does that for us." Hayles know that Preston will be tough opponents, even though they have not won for four games. "They're a strong side, and they're one of the favourites to make the play-offs or the top two," he said. "But hopefully their good run is over, and we can catch them at the right time. We've had our bad patch, and hopefully that's behind us." Argyle have won two of their last three fixtures, and have rediscovered the knack of gaining points when not playing at their best. "That's a great habit to have, and our away form is not too bad," Hayles added. "If we can maintain that, then we'll be pushing for a play-off spot, definitely." Hayles is Argyle's top scorer but he has not added to his tally for five games. He found the net in stoppage time in last weekend's win over Hull, but his effort was wrongly ruled out for offside. "I was shocked by that," he said. "I've not scored in recent games, and I was very frustrated not to get on the scoresheet again. Being a striker, scoring goals is what you get paid for, so hopefully I can put that right at Preston."
Stuart Gibson ends his reign as Argyle youth team manager today confident that in Ian Holloway the club have a manager who appreciates the importance of developing young talent. "I'm proud of all we've achieved in the past five or so seasons, and I mean 'we' as it has been a team effort," he said. "Every one of the Centre of Excellence coaches have been brilliant, working hard behind the scenes and played their part in the emergence of the players who have broken through into the first-team. None more so than youth development officer and chief scout John James. Whoever takes over from me - and I hope my succeessor is chosen carefully - is lucky to have a bloke like Ian Holloway as a manager. Ian has been supportive and appreciative and I know that he is a great believer in giving youth a chance. I am going to miss a lot of people here, too many to mention. I've learned a lot from my time at Argyle, which I will be able to take to my new job. Equally, I believe that I have left the youth department in a better position than when I arrived in March 2001."
Ian Holloway wants to avoid a repeat of the last away game, when Argyle lost to Birmingham City, when they take on Preston at tomorrow. Akos Buzsaky and Bojan Djordjic both started the match at St Andrews, but that is unlikely to be the case against Preston. Holloway said: "It's another big test, but they are five points ahead of us - that's all - so there are three points to play for. We have got to go there and be solid, solid, solid and then we can be more open at the end if we are still in the game - unlike what I did against Birmingham. We should have been 2-0 up maybe, but then we went 3-0 down, so the character of that team wasn't strong enough. Maybe I need to keep some of the more attack-minded players on the bench and use them later on in the game because it's probably going to be a bit of a 4-4-2 battle. I will be trying to pick a team with the right sort of balance." Holloway believes Preston manager Paul Simpson has one of the strongest squads in the Championship. " would say they have at least 24 senior players, whereas we have got eight young fellas who are learning the game," he said. "At the moment, we have got to be the youngest squad in the Championship, so I'm delighted with it. You name me anybody else who has played a 16-year-old. And I didn't do it to be flash, or 'Look at all the injuries we have got'. I did it because I felt he would give us the best balance of the subs I had, and he proved that in the first half. It's about getting the ingredients right. People might have thought that was a strange thing to do, putting him on before Akos, but I didn't. And it worked. You have got to be 0-0 and give yourself a chance of winning, if you can, because it's hard to score two goals. And I guarantee you it will be hard to score two at Preston." Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has stood out in training this week according to Holloway, who said: "He hasn't any reaction so we are all very pleased with that. He looks very sharp. His confidence will be a lot better. He got us a great goal last Saturday and young strikers normally go up and down depending on whether they have scored or not. He has been bubbling all week, to be honest." Hasney Aljofree was absent from training yesterday after attending the funeral of a close friend who died in Manchester in late October. That was with the approval of Holloway, who said: "Some managers wouldn't have done that but I couldn't give a monkeys really. I think these life issues are absolutely vital."
Paul Wotton has travelled to London to see a knee specialist. Ian Holloway has sent him up to the capital for an opinion on the operation required because it has not been carried out in the South West before. "It is a pretty upsetting situation where he has had to travel up to London," said Holloway. "We have looked at people here and how we are going to do it and nobody in this area has actually done one yet, although they would be well capable. He has gone up to see someone up in London." The departure of Argyle's second physio, Ian Leigh, has left Paul Maxwell as the only physio at the club and, as a result, Wotton has been taken up to London by his father. Holloway said: "We have not got a second physio here at the moment, so he has had to travel up to London with his Dad. His Dad had to take the day off work and they have gone up there today. I would have liked Maxi to have been with him but that would have meant that we could not train the rest of the team. The structure is not quite right yet. It is not our fault that Ian left. I am not really happy about my captain having to travel up to London on his own with his Dad. He is going to do a conference call with Maxi once he gets there because opinions are varied on how you do this. Do you repair the medial before the cruciate? Some do and some don't. We are going to give him the best of the best without a shadow of a doubt. We will make the decisions and he is going to trust us." Holloway also has to make a decision on who will captain the side and also revealed that Wotton has already been missed in training, and Holloway was forced into issuing some stern words after today's session. He said: "I will have to make a decision on the captaincy before Saturday but I have got some very good senior professionals here. I noticed a difference in training today and I have to stamp on that. I missed my captain out on the training ground today. I had to say one or two things to a group of people that I should not have to say. Anybody who has got a dog will understand. When you train a puppy, you need to get a great role model. You need a house-trained dog to show the puppy good habits. A misbehaving dog will give the puppy bad habits. I have got to make sure that everything is as professional as it has always been and Paul Wotton has been huge in that. I just wanted to nip something in the bud."
Paul Connolly is making a good recovery from a torn hamstring and Paul Maxwell believes there is a chance he could be fit for the visit of West Brom on December 23rd. Maxwell said: "Considering he had a tear in his hamstring, he's doing really well. He has healed fantastically. We are down to doing some decent running. We haven't done any sprint work yet but, hopefully, we can start that soon. The West Brom game might come a little bit too soon for him. I would hate for him to go in for one game and then miss four or five. It was a fairly major disruption in the hamstring and if I could get him back for next week I would be over the moon." Lee Hodges is also making progress after the recurrence of a knee injury. Maxwell said: "We have had it scanned and there is some inflammation in and around the joint in his knee. He has had a couple of problems in there before and it's just aggravated around the medial ligament. He will probably be at least another fortnight." Meanwhile, striker Nick Chadwick is unlikely to play again before the New Year because of a persistent groin problem. Maxwell said: "We are going to rehab the groin and try to get it stronger. Fair play to Chadders, he has kept playing with it, but he has caught it a couple of times in training and it has come to the stage where we need to do something about it. He's doing a lot of strength work at the moment, but it could take another four weeks."
Stuart Gibson finishes a five-year stint at Home Park this weekend and feels he has achieved much over his time with the club. He said: "We've done remarkably well. The club has gained two promotions at first-team level and we've had to raise the ante, and set out a training and technical plan to meet the needs of the first team. Not for old Division Three, or League Two as it is today, but for the Championship and in the long run the Premiership. To do that, with the resources we've got, is quite remarkable. The sole target is producing players for the first team, not winning youth team leagues." Asked if he felt that the number of graduates of his department to the senior side was a credit to the youth scheme, Gibson said: "Definitely. It has to be, and I hope others see that. I've never been one to stand on a soap-box and blow my trumpet. My peers can judge that, but I know that I'm leaving it in a better state than when I came in. We're producing more players for the first team than when I came in. We've produced six youth internationals. I'm very, very proud of my record." Argyle's search for suitable candidates for their youth scheme takes them beyond the Westcountry. The Republic of Ireland and Hungary are two countries which have already provided players. "We've established our Irish links through hard work, plain and simple," Gibson said. "John James took the initiative. We could see what we had coming through and where we were lacking, and we had to do something about it. We've been over there, we've made friends and contacts and it has just blossomed from there. You've got to go on your gut-feelings. You've got to look after people and we've done that, and people want to work for us now. We have to thank John James, in the first instance, for that. We've done our homework and we know how Ireland works. We're very pleased with the scouting network we've set up there." Argyle's links with Hungary arrived via a different route following Akos Buzsaky's move to Argyle from Porto. Gibson has made several trips to Hungary and hopes that Argyle's links with Grund FC will continue after his departure to Norway. "We've just had a visit from Akos Snr," Gibson said. "We had a meeting while he was here. Everybody automatically thought that they'll go with me to Norway, but that isn't the case at all. It's of benefit to both Argyle and to Grund to keep that contact going. It's something that I've encouraged Akos Snr to do." Norway could be the next overseas source of Argyle talent. "I've said to our chairman that I'll be looking to work together with Argyle when I'm with my new club in Norway," Gibson added. "I don't see why we can't have a triangle between the three of us. The world is too small and the game is too big to be narrow-minded. We need to have as many fingers in as many pies as possible. I'd like to be the eyes and the ears for Plymouth Argyle in Scandinavia."
Ian Holloway is planning more trips to check out potential new signings with the transfer window fast approaching. "I will be going out and watching game after game after game," he said. "I have got my staff here who can take the training. Last week, I was out there on Friday - that's all. So I'm more confident that we can sort things out. I need to go and have the final say on anybody. I have got loads of targets and I will be trying to cast my eye over as many of them as I possibly can. Whether we can afford all of them or not I don't know, but I shall be talking to the board of directors and we will be trying to do the right thing to take the club forward."
Argyle will play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the FA Youth Cup fourth round after the London club beat Stoke City. No date has yet been confirmed for the match, but it must be played by January 20th
Ian Holloway has promised to keep Paul Wotton actively involved with the team during his long injury lay-off. "It's going to be hard for him," said Holloway. "He's fed up with talking to me, I think. You just don't know what to say. He will be fine. He will get through it. Once they have found out exactly what it is, we can see where we are going from there but, obviously, he knows it's a very serious one. The biggest thing is the time factor. I will keep his mind going, no problem. He's doing one of his coaching badges, so I will give him things to do and games to watch. He's a smashing lad, but it's down to him at the end of the day. He has got to remain positive. He was only telling me on Friday how much he was enjoying his football, which was great, but you never know what is around the corner in life, whoever you are. When it's right, I will be involving him and keeping him as active as possible. As human beings, we are a little bit above other species because we think and your thought process can be very dangerous at times. If you have got too much time to think you can put two and two together and come up with 168. That's what I will not be allowing him to do." After Wotton was stretchered off against Hull, Barry Hayles took over as captain. But whether the striker continues in that role remains to be seen. Holloway said: "I haven't given that any thought whatsoever. I think that's totally irrelevant at the moment."
Dan Gosling's performance against Hull earned some very high praise Ian Holloway. "He's a very good young lad, and I like everything about him," Holloway said. "When he hasn't got the ball, he wants to win it back. He's always concentrating, and it looks to me like he could play absolutely anywhere. When he has time and space, he can pick out a pass. He has goals in him as well, and he's very mature for a lad of his age and very strong. He's lethal in the tackle; fair but fearless. The physical side of the game could have passed him by, but he responded to what I said at half-time and I thought he was absolutely magnificent in the second half. We needed to get a lot tighter in the second half and Gosling got stuck in time and time again, and showed a lot of quality. I thought he was probably the biggest difference in the second half, because he got close to their full-back, got his tackles in, crunched one of them in half and it sort of set the stall for us. For a young kid of that age, I thought he was fantastic." Gosling was sent on as Paul Wotton's replacement in preference to Akos Buzsaky, and Holloway added: "The reason I brought Gosling on instead of Buzsaky was balance. He's a defensive-minded midfielder, and Akos is another attacker. I thought we were getting stripped a bit by Hull and it looked like they might score, although they didn't have many clear-cut chances. People might have wondered what I was doing, not bringing Akos on, but I knew I wanted to use him somewhere else later on." Gosling played his part in attack as well as defence - particularly with a pass to Cherno Samba which led to an offside goal by Barry Hayles which should have been allowed to stand. "The timing of that pass was fantastic," Holloway said. "Gosling could have panicked and shot, but he just slotted it. There was another one later on, when he just lobbed it over the top. The first time he tried that pass it didn't get there, and a normal young fellow would have been affected by that, but he calmly composed himself. He lobbed it down the line with his left foot, which is not his better foot, and we nearly scored from that as well, so his contribution was fantastic. Holloway balanced his enthusiasm with some realism, however. He added: "Whether I can rely on him every week, who knows at that age?" Gosling became the fourth-youngest player to represent Argyle's first team in League football and was happy to play his part, but was sad about the circumstances which led to his debut. "It was really unfortunate for Wottsy, and I hope he recovers soon," Gosling said. "It was very unfortunate for the team as well." Gosling had been on the bench for the first time the previous weekend, but was not sent into action. Asked if he had been surprised to find himself on the team-sheet, he said: "Yes, I was. It was a big surprise. I was bit nervous, sitting on the bench, but I got my chance this Saturday and I thought I did OK. Being sent on instead of Akos spurred me on. The gaffer said I was more defensive-minded than Akos. The gaffer told me to enjoy it, express myself, don't worry about mistakes, and just do what I can. I started off a bit nervous and I didn't know what I was doing, really, but as it went on I thought I did all right." Argyle included seven players aged 23 or under in their squad against Hull, and Holloway said: "I can't see Plymouth have ever had a younger side than that and won a Championship game. I have got a couple of old stagers in it, but we are doing very nicely, thank you very much. I don't see too many young players in the rest of the Championship, to be honest with you. But, at the end of the day, if you have too many of them you can be a big trouble, so we have got to be careful with the balance. It has been difficult to try to get it strong. But as the game went on I felt fine and I think the gaffer saw that. He kept me on for a bit longer and I'm pleased with that because the more minutes I get the fitter I will get and the better I will be." The hamstring problem has meant Ebanks-Blake has not been able to train with his team-mates as much as he would have liked. He said: "I'm trying to train where I can and work as hard as I can. The physio and the doctor are trying to contain it and get some strength in there. I'm just trying to do as well as I can, but it's not a nice injury." Ebanks-Blake scored against Hull when he received a pass from Lilian Nalis and spun away from the centre-back to fire low past goalkeeper Boaz Myhill from 18 yards. He said: "It was a good ball in from Lil. I turned the defender and just got my shot away and hoped for the best. Sometimes the keeper is in the right place and sometimes they go in, like it did. I was pleased. It was just instinct really."
Argyle have tabled their second and final offer of a new contract to Tony Capaldi and Ian Holloway has warned that he could be sold during the transfer window unless an agreement can be reached. Holloway said: "We have put our final offer to him, but I have yet to talk to him about it. He has got to talk to his agent, who is a very nice man and who is doing the best he can for his client. We have made one offer and they have come back with a response of what they want. We can't offer them what they want, but we will offer what I think is as much as we can go to. Hopefully, I can try to convince him that that's right. If not, I will have to try to do something in the window." Holloway suggested that he rated Capaldi more highly than Tony Pulis had. "If I had been here last season, I would have looked at all the ones who were out of contract in June 2007 and tried to sort one or two of them out," he said. "It would have been a lot easier for me but, obviously, certain people didn't rate them as highly as I do. So what can I do? You have got your dice and it's how I roll them." Holloway insisted he had not had any inquiries about Capaldi. He said: "I haven't had one phone call about any one of our players, which does surprise me. However, I'd imagine somebody would come in for him and offer a pre-contract agreement." Holloway believes the widespread involvement of agents makes it difficult to complete some deals with players. He said: "All these agents sit there and say: 'You ought to let your contract run out, I can get you deals here, there and everywhere.' They are ringing every Tom, Dick and Harry and unsettling all sorts of players. Are they any good to them? I would say a lot of them are not. It's about you and about your life and what suits you and your family, and only you know best. We are trying to offer Tony a new deal and I would like him to stay. But I have got to make sure the deals we are giving out are based on how well people have done for us and if we can afford it. At the end of the day, we might not be able to afford the money that the likes of Wolves might be paying, but I would still rather have the quality and the commitment we have got. I will have that all day long, and I thank every one of the players from the bottom of my heart for what they have given me so far." Meanwhile, Holloway has denied a national newspaper story linking him with Bournemouth striker James Hayter. He said: "It's absolute poppycock. I don't know how they would know what we are doing down here." Capaldi's situation and a hamstring injury to Paul Connolly might lead to a re-assessment of Anthony Barness's situation, but Holloway said: "I haven't really thought about it yet, but I'll have to utilise whoever I've got here. I was anticipating Anthony maybe moving on in January, but we'll have to take a fresh look at that now."
Argyle's reserves' game against Exeter City, which was due to have been played this afternoon, having been brought forward from April, has been postponed. The pitch at Tiverton is waterlogged
Ian Holloway has hit out at the football red-tape which prevents him bringing in players to augment his injury hit first-team squad. Asked about Paul Connolly, Lee Hodges and Nick Chadwick yesterday, he said: "They're still injured. I'm not interested in them. If they're not involved in my training, I just don't want to talk to them. I leave them to Maxie and I haven't asked him about their availability yet. These rules are absolutely pathetic. A lot of people can't afford huge squads these days, even in the Premiership. I don't think there was anything wrong with our system before. I thought that made sense, but some complete lunatics somewhere else in the world don't. What happens if we get down to only seven fit players? It's not right."
Des Bulpin has joined manager Ian Holloway in paying tribute to Paul Wotton. Bulpin said: "I find it very upsetting that Paul Wotton has a serious knee injury and, hopefully, the results of the scan will not be as bad as expected. On a personal note, since arriving in pre-season as first-team coach, Paul has skippered the side and led the team magnificently. As a coach, when you are working with the players everyday, having a captain as inspirational and as diligent in training as he is, sets a high standard and makes my job easier. Let us hope that he returns as soon as possible and I am sure that I echo the feelings of everyone at the club and all the supporters in wishing him a speedy recovery."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was Argyle's goalscorer against Hull City after returning to action from a hamstring injury. Ian Holloway had not expected him to last so long in the match as he was some way short of full fitness. Holloway said: "The game was crying out for it, and what a fantastic goal it was. But that kid will get better and better and better. I have got no doubts about it. What he has got is raw because he hasn't played enough. He's having to learn in the Championship, which is almost impossible unless you are absolutely top, top, top draw because you don't have the confidence when things don't go right. He hasn't got that yet, but he will be building that over and over again. But, I have got to say, that was a fighting, battling, snarling type performance from the whole team. We dug out a win, even with a couple of foreigners playing. That's no disrespect to them because they are now trying to toe my line, and I will have it all day long where they go in and out of confidence, but I can get them working how I want. I wasn't sure whether I could do that, but now I know I can. I'm delighted with them." Djordjic started against Hull, but Holloway sent on Buzsaky as a 53rd minute substitute for him on the left-side of midfield. "Akos lives and breathes football, but he must not get so down when things don't go right," said Holloway. "He took so long getting back from a free-kick which he hit over the bar. Sort your life out. It's always the next thing you do in life that's important. If you get something wrong you have got to bounce straight back and get it right. That's what you have to do, particularly at this level, and I'm delighted for our lot. To get a result with who I have got available is absolutely magnificent."
Paul Wotton will not play again this season after suffering a serious knee injury on Saturday. He will find out the full extent of the damage to his left knee when he has a MRI scan later today. Argyle club doctor Paul Giles said: "The clincial diagnosis is that Paul has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. He has also got some tenderness down the inside of his knee and while it's possible he may have ruptured his medial collateral ligament, we think it's more likely to be a partial tear. We will know more tonight when he has a MRI scan at the Nuffield Hospital. Often when you get injuries like this there is cartilage damage as well. If there is in this case, then that would be done first. If you have got all three, a ruptured ACL, a partially-torn MCL and cartilage damage, the course of action is to tidy up the cartilage first. You then put a brace on the knee for six weeks to let the medial collateral ligament heal up naturally. After that, you repair the ACL. It's not a hugely painful injury but the knee is very unstable so it has been put in a brace to stop any movement. Paul Maxwell and myself will sit down with our club surgeon Patrick Loxsdale after the MRI scan and decide what needs to be done. One of the things to decide is whether to get the ACL repair done locally or further afield, but that's one for the future at the moment." Even after the MRI scan is done, it will be impossible to predict exactly how long Wotton will be sidelined for, but there is no reason why he should not make a full recovery in time. Giles added: "I would say an average timescale for a straightforward ACL is probably in the region of nine months. Some people have been back within six months, but that is an exception. Michael Owen did his in June and he's just doing some light training now. That's six months on from when he did it and it could be another three months for rehabilitation. If you go back even 10-15 years, this was a potentially career-ending injury. But nowadays the vast majority of people have a full recovery and get back playing."
Argyle's youth team won 4-0 at Falmouth Town in the South Western League on Saturday, the goals scored by Toby Davis, Ben Joyce and Anthony Mason (2). Stuart Gibson said: "I changed things today to freshen the squad up after Wednesday's game and to give one or two players an opportunity. For me, my best player today was Damian McCrory, who was playing in his second position of left-back. I thought he was outstanding as the boy is still only 16 and he tackled, headed, covered his team-mates, had excellent distribution and still found time to get forward." Argyle: Clapham, King, White, Laird.J, McCrory, Petnehazi, Hopkinson, Duggan, Byrne, Davis, Malsom. Subs - Joyce, Mason (not used - Smith)
Ian Holloway was delighted with the spirit of his team after a battling victory over Hull City yesterday. The win was marred by a serious injury to Paul Wotton, who has stretchered off in the first half with cruciate and medial ligament damage to his left knee. Holloway was visibly upset about the injury but went on to praise his team for their attitude after a difficult first period. "It was a fighting, battling, snarling type performance and we dug it out," said Holloway. "We have played a lot better than that and got nothing at this ground. The lads were a bit edgy and the balance was not quite right but they stuck in and battled for their new manager. We did not really get to grips with where the space was. They were playing 4-3-3 and Ashbee kept getting in the way of our strikers." Sylvan Ebanks-Blake won the game with an excellent strike. "I was delighted that it took a special goal to win it and you need that sometimes," said Holloway. "We have had loads and loads of chances in other games and missed them, but we have not really had a goal out of nothing. We have not had any free goals and the game was crying out for it. Sylvan will get better and better. He is raw and he has to learn in the Championship, which is almost impossible unless you are absolutely top, top drawer because you don't have the confidence when it does not go right. He is not fully fit because he broke his leg last year and he has had a torn hamstring, so he is still playing catch-up. A lot of my players are because Akos and Chadwick have not had a pre-season either." Argyle's defending was a great improvement from the defeat at Birmingham last weekend. Holloway said: "We did not play well but we defended a lot better than we did last Saturday. You can't roll anybody over in this division, you just can't. I thought they had the better of us in the first half and too many of my players were having a bad game but the defending was much better. I am delighted we have come out with a win and I thought we deserved it. It was not a pretty game but I am absolutely delighted with some of the performances, particularly from the youngsters. I don't think we have ever had such a young team out there, particularly in the Championship." Holloway made some tactical adjustments at half time with Marcel Seip moving to centre-back from right-back, and Mathias Doumbe going the other way. He said: "In the second half, I swapped Mat with Marcel because we had space and Matty is a great athlete, and I wanted him running the bloke the other way. I thought that worked well." Holloway concluded by paying tribute to the Green Army. He said: "We have spoilt the people here. We have played really well at times and, unfortunately, we have not won here enough. We needed them today and I was trying to wind people up. With the weather like this and the injuries we have got, I am proud of them and glad they have gone away with a win. We now have to try and get some back-to-back wins."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake dedicated yesterday's victory to Paul Wotton after the captain was stretchered off towards the end of the first half following a nasty fall in which he twisted his left knee. An early diagnosis suggests that Wotton has damaged the cruciate and medial ligaments. "We dedicate those three points to Wotts, that is what he would have wanted," said Ebanks-Blake. "He's a strong-minded character, he's got a good mindset, and I'm sure he'll be back from that injury sooner than everyone thinks. I hope we just keep pressing on, winning games, because I know that's what he'd want, and we send out our best to him." Lilian Nalis called Wotton's injury "a nightmare for him, first, and a nightmare for us." He said: "It is the Christmas period and we have got a lot of games coming up, and Wotts is important for the team We wish him all the best to recover as soon as possible, and to take his time, because it is a bad injury so you need to make sure you recover properly. He is going to be fuming. Wottsy doesn't want to sit back and think about not playing football, so it is going to be hard for him. We will try to be there for him all the time." Ian Holloway took up nearly half his post-match Press conference, talking about his injured captain. "I am obviously a little bit down for my skipper," he said. "He is one hell of a man and to get an injury like that is not good news. He is an absolutely integral part of what we do here and he always keeps going. He is one of the best players I have ever worked with in my life, and that includes the ones I have played with. I am putting him up there with all of them. I am hoping someone else can step into the void, and it is one hell of a void, because he is our talker and our organiser. Certain players catch the eye for managers and he is a managers' player, and a players' player. I don't think he has ever played better than he has been playing. He has done what I have asked of him, and he has done it in a slightly different way. He used to bark out orders, but now he encourages first and barks later. He has organised a party at his house tonight for the players and their wives. He has just texted them all and said: 'Cruciate gone, medial gone, but get round here.' That is just him and it is absolutely amazing. He was asking how Dan Gosling did when he came on. I don't care what anybody says, they should build a statue to him one day. We have won games without him and no-one is irreplaceable but I want it out there that this kid is probably the best pro I have worked with."
Argyle's youth team won 1-0 at Hereford United yesterday, the goal scored by Josh Grant. Chris Souness said: "In fairness the conditions and pitch were not the best and consequently the game, as a spectacle, suffered. We overcame a bad start and never looked like conceding a goal with a strong defensive performance in which Ben Gerring was outstanding."
Argyle beat Hull City 1-0 at Home Park, the goal scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 71 minutes. Argyle: McCormick, Seip, Kouo-Doumbe, Sawyer, Capaldi, Summerfield, Wotton, Nalis, Djordjic, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Gosling, Buzsaky, Samba (not used - Larrieu, Reid). Attendance - 12,101.
Ian Holloway has reacted angrily to claims by Oldham Athletic's managing director that Chris Porter is a transfer target for him. He said: "It's very arrogant of Oldham to say I was just watching Chris Porter when there was Varney, Billy Jones and Vaughan on the other team. That's very arrogant of them to say that. I haven't offered anything for Porter. I wouldn't even dream of offering anything at the moment. I was there watching a game, and so were a host of scouts as well. There were more than 20. I have got a list of them at home, and they included Chelsea and Aston Villa." A tall striker is one of the priorities for Holloway when the transfer window opens in January. But he said: "I happened to be sat there. Does that mean I'm definitely going to buy someone? It's absolutely ridiculous. I had a chat with their managing director and I said: 'Yes, I'm here to look at some players' but I think you will find with that game you could kill two or three birds with one stone. I didn't say I was going to buy Porter. I didn't speak about him. The Oldham director was saying how good he was." It was put to Holloway that Oldham could be trying to get an auction going for Porter. He replied: "He might well be, but he's not going to get me in on that. I told him I was looking at Varney on the other side as well. I'm looking at anybody who can score me goals. I have got a list of strikers who are scoring, and probably everybody is looking at them. The difference between looking at somebody and buying somebody is worlds apart."
Lee Hodges is having another scan on his injured knee. Ian Holloway said: "His knee isn't right. It doesn't feel right and it doesn't look right, so we are getting that checked out." Holloway also added that there was no timescale on when Paul Connolly would return from a hamstring injury. "Any sort of hamstring stretch or strain can be as long as it takes, because it's a major muscle," said Holloway. "You have just got to try to get them right because they can recur and then there can be a weakness afterwards. So you have got to be really careful with them. He will be fit when he's fit."
Argyle reserves will play Exeter City in a Combination fixture at Tiverton next Tuesday. The fixture was originally to be played on April 10th
Ian Holloway is expecting a tough game against Hull tomorrow. He said: "They have invested a few million quid in the summer and bought a manager for £400,000 but money guarantees nothing. This division is probably the maddest and the closest it has ever been. Luton beat Preston after we beat them 1-0. We are trying to do our best and we need to win home matches against teams like Hull. That is not belittling them because whoever you face at this standard is one hell of a challenge. We will have to be at our best to beat them. They have got some absolutely terrific players but they have not been winning. They have changed their manager and now have a coach as their manager. It can sometimes give you a lift but I am looking at the confidence of my team compared to their team." Holloway was upset with some poor defending by his team against birmingham but still found plenty of positives to focus on after watching the video. He said: "We have been doing well all year and even when you watch the video of last Saturday, I was delighted with some of it. We should have been 2-0 up before we went 3-0 down in a brief spell that ripped our heart out and squashed it a bit. We came back flying in the second-half and I am very proud of the way we are moving the ball but we do need to defend better. I did not like some of the defensive situations we found ourselves in. I think we can get better than that, we can be stronger than that and we can be in the right places a bit earlier, but we have to remember it was Birmingham City away with a great big crowd and a bit of quality from them cut us open. It was a ball from an Arsenal player to an Arsenal player and all-of-a-sudden it was a goal. It knocked the stuffing out of us and then Mr Upson and Mr McSheffrey scored - need I say more - that is a few million quid there." With David Norris and Paul Connolly unavailable Holloway with some difficult selection choices but he remained typically upbeat. He said: "I have not got my right-hand side for this game but I am delighted with the people I have got to move over there. I will try and get the balance right between defending and attacking. Sylvan has come back into training. He might have to start because he may not be fit enough to be on the bench if that makes sense. You can't have an injured bloke sat on your bench but I will see if he has a reaction from today. Lee Hodges is having a scan because his knee does not feel right and it does not look right and Chadwick is also definitely out. The right-hand side of the team has been functioning very well but I doubt I can have Akos and Bojan both playing in a 4-4-2. I have got Lilian who can come back in. he has had a rest, even though he did not feel he needed one. I think he does every now and then, particularly with Summerfield coming through. I thought Cherno did very well when he came on. He came in from the cold and did well, and I would not worry about starting him at all. I did also like what Akos was doing in that game and it looked like he should play in the middle."
Ian Holloway is back at Home Park after spending the week on the road watching games. He was spotted at Boundary Park watching Oldham Athletic beat Crewe Alexandra and press reports linked Argyle with Chris Porter. Holloway, however, denied making a bid for the striker and insisted he was also casting an eye over Crewe pair, Billy Jones and Luke Varney. Holloway said: "I was watching the game and it is a bit arrogant to assume that I was just watching Chris Porter. There was also Luke Varney and Billy Jones, and all sorts of people to watch. I have not offered anything for Porter and would not dream of offering for him at the moment. I was just watching a game with a whole host of other scouts as well. I had a chat with their managing director and told him that I was there to look at some players but you could kill a few birds with one stone by watching that game. I am looking at anybody who can score me goals. I have a list of strikers who are scoring, and everybody else is probably looking at them as well. I don't buy someone from every game I watch. I see what my mince pies tell me and go from there. The difference between looking at somebody and buying them is a world apart." Holloway also watched Barnsley reserves take on Stoke City reserves, but was left slightly disappointed that the Tykes neglected to field any of their fringe players. "The Barnsley game was a stocking filler while I was up there," he said. "Someone said Barnsley was quite close to Oldham - it wasn't. Unfortunately, it rained so much that they did not have it on the main pitch. I expected Barnsley to play a lot of the team that have had their noses put out of joint by not playing but they didn't. Never mind - I had a nice sandwich up there." All in all, it seems Holloway had a productive week away, although he did admit to now realizing just how isolated we are down in Plymouth. He also took his wife on the trip and treated her to plenty of football on a windy week. "I now realize how far away we are," said Holloway. "It took me four hours to get up to Bristol with that headwind but it was easy coming back. I took my wife with me and treated her to three games in two days. She loved it, absolutely loved it. I really spoilt her with a lot of motorway food."
Tim Breacker has only been at Home Park for a few weeks but he knows the importance of David Norris to the team. He said: "I have been an admirer of his from afar and now seeing him at close hand that has only confirmed my opinion of him. Chuck is a great lad in terms of his attitude and character and a tremendous example to the younger lads at the club. We will definitely miss him tomorrow, but it's only for one game and we will get him back for the Christmas period. I can see why he has been the player-of-the-year winner." Breacker admitted the Argyle players were anxious to bounce back from the disappointment of their heavy defeat at Birmingham. He said: "We had fantastic support up there and the players would have liked to give them something to cheer about. They were disappointed not to. So tomorrow's game can't come soon enough for them and they will be raring to go." Breacker has taken charge of training this week, along with Des Bulpin, while Ian Holloway has been away on a scouting trip. Breacker admitted that planning for tomorrow's game was difficult because of Hulls recent management change. "As we all know, as soon as a new man comes in there can be a very positive initial reaction from the players," he said. "We will be aware of that, but I think it's about what we do on the day that really counts. We will be concentrating on what we need to do."
Argyle have been linked with Oldham Athletic striker Chris Porter in national newspaper reports
Argyle under-18s will play at either Crystal Palace or Stoke City in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. Stuart Gibson, who is leaving to take up a managerial post in Norway later this month, said: "I think the lads will be a little bit disappointed not to have drawn a Premiership club. However, both Palace and Stoke are big clubs in their own right. I am sure the players will see it as a game that they can win and progress through to the next round. Part of my development strategy has been the pre-season tournaments that I have organised, where we have met academy clubs and this game should, therefore, hold no fears for the players." Gibson was thrilled with the result and the performance of his side against Wigan on Wednesday and said: "It's nice to go out on a high note. We have got another two games in the South Western League before I leave and I want to win both of them. To go out on a three-match winning run would be great, but I'm sure Falmouth and Launceston will have something to say about that, which you would expect." Gibson added: "There is a tinge of sadness there that I will not be around when they play in the fourth round but, at the moment, I'm on a high. We are through to the last 32, we have beaten a Premiership club and I'm leaving the youth department in a lot better state than when I came in. I'm also looking forward to my new job." Argyle beat Wigan with goals from Paul Kendall and Anthony Mason. Gibson said: "We were stronger than them in every department and with better finishing, it could have been a four or five-nil scoreline. I know they hit the bar once, but that was through a defensive error. I don't think Tim Sandercombe had a decent save to make. Our strikers were first class and their back four were out on their feet at the end of the game. Mase ran them all over the place. Wigan were a big, strong side but we outfought them and outran them." Kendall only played for Argyle after passing a late fitness test on a swollen ankle and Gibson said: "He couldn't do any more damage to it, so the medical staff gave him the okay, and I think in most people's eyes he was the man-of-the-match. He was a colossus at the back. But if he hadn't played, Ben Tozer would have come in and I wouldn't have had any qualms about that whatsoever." Ian Holloway travelled up to Wigan to watch the game, and he said: "They were absolutely terrific. It was typical Plymouth spirit. Paul Kendall summed it up - he was an absolute colossus up there. He was limping from start to finish but talk about a leader. It was no mean feat. Wigan don't roll over; they are an up-and-at-them team. Their manager is like that and the first-team is like that. We could have won by more in the end. They should have equalized in the first-half but, when they didn't, we went from strength to strength. The first-team could learn from some of their defending. Kendall got his head on everything from set-pieces. It is absolutely vital that you win that first header. I was absolutely delighted with them and with the transfer window closed, we may need to pluck people from here, there and everywhere."
Argyle's youth-team won 2-0 at Wigan Athletic in the third round of the FA Youth Cup last night, Paul Kendall and Anthony Mason scoring the goals. Stuart Gibson said: "I was well pleased. We took the game to them, and we defended magnificently at the start of the second half when we had to." Argyle: Sandercombe, King, Kendall, White, Laird.J, Smith, Gosling, Duggan, Watts, Davis, Mason. Subs - Petnehazi, Hopkinson, Byrne (not used - Tozer, Joyce)
David Norris is 'gutted' at having to miss Argyle's game with Hull City on Saturday. Norris is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season at Birmingham City. He said: "The game against Hull is one we definitely want to win and I'm gutted that I won't be playing. It's vital that we win on Saturday and I'm desperate that I won't be playing a part in it. I'm not happy being a spectator and I will not enjoy just watching, without being able to help. What hurts more is that we've got a lot of hard matches coming up so it is important that we get the three points against them on Saturday. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a must-win match - it's not like it's the end of the season and we need to get the points to stay up - but it's definitely a vital one to win, particularly as we are the home team. It's definitely one the lads, the manager and the fans will be looking to win. But they, given the position they are in, will be equally desperate for the points. So it's the same for both teams in that sense. We want to maintain our place towards the top end of the table just as Hull will not want to lose touch with the teams just above them." Norris also feels Argyle will be looking to put the record straight after last Saturday's defeat. "That was the first time this season we've lost by three clear goals," said Norris. "We're proud of the fact that we're hard to beat - if we do lose it's usually been by the odd goal. We played well against Birmingham at home the previous month and most people agreed that we didn't deserve to lose. It hurt to lose that way, so our target is to get a win on Saturday."
Argyle have some juggling to do with their squad for Saturday's game against Hull City. David Norris and Hasney Aljofree are both unavailable through suspension, whilst there are a number of injury concerns. Paul Connolly and Nick Chadwick are definitely out. Connolly tore his hamstring in the win over Luton Town ten days ago and Des Bulpin fears he may miss most of the festive period. "It could be a long injury," said Bulpin, "he is making good progress but a hamstring injury can keep you out for up to six weeks. Our physio Paul Maxwell will be working as hard as ever to get him fit and we are still hopeful that he will be back in action sooner rather than later. Chadwick is still injured. He has had a niggling groin injury that has been bothering him for a while and he won't be involved on Saturday." Lee Hodges appeared to aggravate a knee injury against Luton but Bulpin revealed that the injury is not as bad as first feared and Hodges may well be among the substitutes for the Hull game. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake may also be available as he has just returned to training after a hamstring injury ruled him out of the Birmingham game. Bulpin said: "Hodges is possibly fit to be on the bench. Sylvan has just returned to training and he is another possibility for the bench but we will have to wait and see."
Argyle's youth team will be doing their best to give Stuart Gibson a farewell present tonight - victory at Wigan Athletic in the third round of the FA Youth Cup. Gibson will leave Argyle at the end of next week to become first-team head coach at Norwegian club Steinkjer FK. "The game is tinged with sadness for me," Gibson said, "but I want to finish on a high note. I owe that to my players. The priority is always getting players in the club's first team. That's always the number one target. Gary Sawyer and Luke Summerfield have made their full debuts this season, and Dan Gosling has made the bench. That's what it's all about but, as far as the Youth Cup is concerned, it's the one game in which you look to find your best permutation and go and do something." Argyle's under-18 team currently play in the South Western League, so this evening's game will present a rare chance for them to take on opposition of their own age. Asked about the benefits of subjecting the young team to the rough and tumble of non-League football, Gibson said: "We needed more regular competitive matches, and that's why we've gone into the South Western League. Now the young boys are playing against men, week in, week out. There's a bit more physical and verbal intimidation. There's more strength, and the boys have responded to it well. To be fair, the opposition have too. I don't think anything has got out of hand, and it's nothing more than we expected. Last Saturday's game was a great example. We had a couple of players out, but those who came in were equally effective. We played against the South Western League champions, and we got a good result." Gibson's attempts to have Wigan's youth team watched by his scouting network have been dashed by the wet weather. He added: "We were going to have them watched last week by an old Argyle favourite, Billy Rafferty, in Carlisle, where he lives, but the game was called off. At the end of the day, though, it's what your own boys do that matter. We try to train against different formations, so we can quickly adjust." As his departure nears, Gibson is proud of his legacy. Asked if he thought the current youth team is the best he has coached, he replied: "Without a doubt. They're the best group of players I've ever worked with. They're very talented, and whoever comes in is going to have some good players to work with."
Ian Holloway has stepped up his search for potential new signings when the transfer window opens. Holloway has not been at Home Park this week. Instead, he is out on the road as he starts to check out targets recommended by Gary Penrice. Holloway said: "Penny has been working hard and has come up with some targets that could help us and we will see what we can do. Until January, if I have got the time, I will be on the road to see some of them. What I don't want is to get in a desperate situation where we are just grabbing something. I think it's quite obvious what we need. We lost Mickey Evans and Pericard at the end of last season, who are both big, strong strikers who can put themselves about. We haven't got that in the side at the moment and we could do with it."
Argyle could introduce a new ticket structure for next season, according to Paul Stapleton. He said: Stapleton admitted: "What I have been surprised about is the massive variances in our crowds. I had thought Leeds would be around 16,000 and Luton would be around 12,000. In the end, with the two gates we got, we were not a million miles away. We are playing West Brom on the Saturday before Christmas and, historically, that has not been very good. But the feeling I'm getting now from talking to people is that it could be a big gate. That's very good because we have got Southampton following on New Year's Day and, historically, that's a really good one. In our board meetings, we are looking at all aspects of our pricing policy. I think next season we may even have to categorise our home games, or whatever we can do. In our first season up in the Championship you could tell people were picking their games to a certain degree, but not as much as now. Now it is very selective. You saw that with the Birmingham game. It was 17,008. Great. I only budgeted 14,500 for that. After Christmas, we have got Southampton, Coventry and Sunderland coming up. People might pick them rather than teams we have played in the recent past, such as Colchester, Barnsley and Southend. It's almost like going to the theatre now in some respects. There are 23 shows and people want to see 12 of them because they are really good. The others are not bad and, if they could afford it, they would come and see them as well. We have to adapt to that." Stapleton, meanwhile, declined to comment on the proposed purchase of the Home Park freehold from Plymouth City Council
Paul Wotton insists that Argyle are still on course to make a push for a play-off place in the Championship. He said: "We're not a million miles away from a play-off spot. If we keep picking up points, then who knows? It would be a great achievement. If we can get a couple of good results back to back, then we're right back in it. There's all to play for." Saturday's defeat at Birmingham City dropped Argyle down to 11th place, and Wotton said: "We could be a bit higher. Whether we should be or not, I don't know. We've played very well in some games and only drawn or lost, but that's what happens in football. We also haven't played so well in other games and have won, but we definitely could be higher in the table and, yes, I think we should be." Birmingham have beaten Argyle twice this season, but Wotton thinks that they have matched the Blues at times in their two encounters. "However good they were last Saturday, I think they were only good after they were 3-0 up," he said. "I know it sounds crazy, but before they scored we were well on top. Then they got three goals in quick succession, and obviously it was game over then. Any team who are 3-0 up are going to gain confidence and start playing. We were chasing shadows from then on to try and get back in the game. The three goals we let in were very poor, from our point of view. I'll hold my hands up, there was only one team in it after that. You have to take the positives from the game, though. Their 'keeper still made some good saves, and for the first quarter of an hour I thought we were fantastic, but it means nothing. Once they were 3-0 up, they relaxed and they controlled the game." Argyle's next game is against Hull City at Home Park. "We want to get back to winning ways on Saturday," Wotton said. "We're at home to Hull, and it's a game we want to get three points from. They're on a bad run, just like Luton were, and we need to make sure they stay on it. There's no room for sentiment, we owe Hull nothing, and we're going to try to get back on track. We're one division below the best division in the world. If you're in it, you're no mugs. There are no easy games in the Championship. Even the teams of lesser ability are strong and they fight hard, and are very fit and organised. We know we need to break down teams like that at home, which we're fully aware of. We did it in our last home game by winning 1-0, and we want to try and carry that on." Against both Luton and Birmingham, Ian Holloway changed Argyle's formation. Asked if he felt the team needed to spend more time working on such patterns of play on the practice pitch, Wotton said: "We work tremendously hard on the training ground, but what people have to understand is that you can't physically stand on the training ground from nine to five. You'd be a physical wreck. It's all about balance and getting that right, and I don't think we can do any more. It's a busy season, but we do have some players with a decent football brain who do take to a switch quite well. I'm sure the gaffer would always want more time to work on things, but unfortunately there isn't always that time."
Argyle's reserve fixture against Bristol Rovers, scheduled for December 12th, has been postponed because Rovers have an FA Cup replay on that date. A new date for the game has not yet been confirmed
Dan Gosling has been described as a player with 'huge potential' by Stuart Gibson. Gosling was called up into the senior squad for the first time for the trip to Birmingham City on Saturday. Gibson said: "I would put him in the Frank Lampard mould. He's a constructive midfield player who likes to get in the box and score goals. He has got huge potential and fantastic character. He has had a wonderful upbringing by his mother, Hazel. He's a great lad and I can't speak highly enough of him." Argyle youth development officer John James spotted Gosling as an 11-year-old playing for Brixham United. He said: "It was on one of my excursions that I do on a regular basis in the Torbay area. I saw Dan playing and he stood out, even at that age. I went and approached his manager and he gave me a good run down on him. From there, we invited him to our centre of excellence at Ivybridge." Gosling travelled with the Argyle first team squad on their pre-season tour to Austria and made a late substitute appearance against Real Madrid. Gibson said: "He has got such a fantastic temperament. He's so level-headed and he's not fazed by anything or anybody. I think the first team squad could see straight away the boy has got class. He has struck a chord with everybody. Even the former manager, who was telling everybody how poor the youth set-up was, was impressed by him. He has got such a mature head on his shoulders and he's working at his game continually. His mum has run him around for many years and I'm so pleased for her that all the time and effort she has put in has given Dan this wonderful opportunity." James was pleased for Gosling that he was in the first team squad on Saturday, even though he was not used as a substitute. He said: "The whole experience of travelling with the first team and being involved at that level has got to be good for the boy. He's a nice, level-headed lad and he wants to listen and learn, which is very important." Gibson added: "He's a leader. You get your shouters, who cajole and push on their team-mates, but Dan is one who leads by example, through his workrate and the way he plays the game."
Ian Holloway admitted his team selection was partly to blame for Argyle's defeat on Saturday. He said: "I was quite shocked with the way we conceded the first goal. Maybe I picked the wrong team. I didn't expect them to go like that. We had a great start. We were nice and bright and could have scored. We pinned them in their half for a bit and then the first time they actually had a little bit of space on our left, they played a ball in and that's the cheapest goal I have ever seen. It's heartbreaking for me, but I did struggle with the balance of the team today. I have got some young players in that team who will have learned a lot from today. Maybe two games in a few days might be too much for them. But whatever I did today, and however I rolled the dice, we seemed to lack a bit of balance here and there." Holloway was impressed by Birmingham, and said: "I have got to give them some credit. They were tight, they were well organised and they were well drilled. Steve Bruce didn't look too happy after 10-15 minutes but, by half-time, there was a big smile on his face because his boys were doing him proud. With their two big boys up front, I thought for the first time we looked a little bit lacking in height. And how simple the game is when you can smack it from the goalie and you just get your eyebrows on it and you are on the attack again." With Birmingham leading 2-0 after half an hour Holloway reshuffled his defence. Doumbe moved to the left-side of central defence and Sawyer, switched to right back. Holloway said: "The other night those two didn't miss a header, did they? But they weren't up against the quality that they were up against today. Good luck to Birmingham, I'm glad we haven't got them again. I don't want to draw them in the FA Cup." Holloway did not take any consolation from the fact that, having trailed 3-0 at half-time, Argyle did not concede any more goals after the break. He said: "I'm in a results business and that was an awful one. The other week, we thought we were a half-decent team and got lots of plaudits, but today we have had a bit of a spanking, to be honest. It's all about being clinical and they didn't miss their chances. The difference between the two teams today, never mind the millions of pounds that have been spent - or borrowed - on strikers, was the two blocks they made in the first 10 minutes. I thought that showed their desire and determination to get bodies in the way of things. Normally my lads have been doing that, but today it was, 'Just go and score', wasn't it?"
Hasney Aljofree and David Norris both face one-match bans after being booked in Argyle's defeat at Birmingham City. Aljofree was booked in the 75th minute for a tackle on Nicklas Bendtner, having come on as a half-time substitute. Ian Holloway said: "It was so obvious Aljofree should have gone and pressed Bendtner, but he let him turn and run at him and he nearly got sent off on the edge of our box." Then, in the 85th minute, Norris fouled Sebastian Larsson. When told that Aljofree and Norris would be banned for the visit of Hull, Holloway said: "It's getting tougher and tougher isn't it? Thanks for reminding me. That's going to cheer me up on the long journey home." Holloway admitted Paul Connolly and Lee Hodges had not been close to being fit for the game, so they did not travel with the squad. He said: "It's too early to say whether they will be okay for next Saturday. I'm going to have to go home and lick my wounds. I just think we have got to go back to square one. We didn't get our line right, we didn't get up the field and we went too deep. There was a lot of going back to old ways late on." Holloway thought about sending on first-year apprentice Dan Gosling for his debut in the second half, but instead used Lilian Nalis as a 61st minute substitute for Gary Sawyer. Holloway said: "I could have thrown young Gosling on, but with Lilian Nalis sat there I thought that would have been smacking him in the face because he hasn't done a lot wrong." Holloway also confirmed that Nick Chadwick was suffering from a recurrence of an injury from earlier in the season. He said: "His groin has been plaguing him for the last few weeks. He was out the other month with it and then I played him after four weeks on the sidelines against Crystal Palace and he got me the winner." With Chadwick and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake out, Holloway played Barry Hayles as a lone striker and Cherno Samba was used as a a substitute. "I thought Cherno did very well when he came on, so that was a bright light for me," Holloway said.
Luke McCormick admitted that Argyle had only themselves to blame for the defeat at Birmingham City on Saturday. "We can't make too many excuses," he said. "I don't think we were at it today. We didn't defend as well as we can, and we didn't seem to have the hunger and the appetite. When the chips are down, you've got to stand up and be counted, and we didn't do that well enough." Argyle had as many chances as their hosts in the first quarter of the match, but then let in three goals before the interval. "We were delighted by the way we started," McCormick added. "We had chances and we forced them to concede ground. I don't think we've started like that all season, but to see them score from just about their first attack was a real blow. It knocked the stuffing out of us. That performance wasn't like us at all. It gives us a lot to work on in training next week, because we can't afford to defend like that again. We won't achieve anything this season if we play like that too often. The injuries we have had don't help, but at the same time we have to able to adapt. We've got a small squad, but we can't have everyone fit every week of the season." Argyle did not suffer further punishment in the second half. McCormick said: "The manager made sure we knew that he wasn't very happy at half-time, and he just told us to go out there and show a bit of fight, which was exactly what we had to do. We lacked it severely in the first half." Only two defeats in ten away games is a good record, though, and McCormick added: "At the start of the season we'd probably have taken that, but there were probably some away games where we didn't deserve to take any points and yet we've done so. You do have to look at the big picture. Now we've got to do everything we can to make sure we get a good result against Hull next weekend."
Argyle drew 0-0 with Bodmin Town in the South Western League on Saturday
Ian Holloway will be seeking his first FA Cup victory as a manager in over eight years when Argyle travel to Peterborough United next month. He said: "It's more travelling for our fans and players. No one can expect anything in this competition - it's the FA Cup. We have got to go there and be professional. I haven't won a game in the FA Cup as a manager. With my record and the club's recently it does not bode well, but maybe now's the time to put these records to bed."
Argyle have been drawn away to Peterborough United in the third round of the FA Cup
Ian Holloway did not need many words to sum up yesterdays performance. "You have got to earn the right to win games, and today we didn't." he said. "Birmingham's finishing was better than ours; their defending was better than ours; end of story, really." Holloway started with Mathias Kouo-Doumbe at right-back, but juggled his personnel and formation options many times during the game. "I have to say I was quite shocked after the first goal," he said. "Maybe I picked the wrong team - I didn't expect them to go like that. We had a great start; we were bright; we could have scored; pinned them in their half for a bit. Then, the first time that Birmingham actually had a little bit of space, they played the ball in and scored the cheapest goal I have ever seen. It's heartbreaking for me, but I did struggle with balance today. I have got some young players in that team who have learned a lot today. Maybe two games in four days might be too much for them. Whatever I did today, however I rolled it, we seemed to lack a bit of balance. We have done things this year by being solid and tight, and I have got to give Birmingham some credit, I felt they were tight, well organised, well drilled. We're in the results business and that was an awful one. The other week, we thought we were a half-decent team, got lots of plaudits, and today we've had a bit of a spanking, haven't we? If it was even on points, we would have lost today. I felt like I've been hit left, right and centre and I don't know who's hit me. The cornerman said 'Don't worry, they haven't laid a glove on you yet.' I said 'Well, watch the referee, because someone's hitting me'." Holloway was determined to learn from the defeat and take the positive away from St Andrews. He said: "I think we've got to get back to square one. There was a lot of going back to old ways. It's very, very important that everybody goes away from this and gets it right. The encouraging things for me are the way started and the chances we still created. You have still got to realise how far we are trying to come. Cherno Samba did ever so well when he came on, so that was a beaming bright light for me; it's another game for Gary Sawyer - he's experienced playing away in Birmingham with a crowd that's right up for it - and, obviously, Luke Summerfield; and let's not forget 16-year-old Dan Gosling, who was on the bench. My cup is half full, rather than half-empty. Onwards and upwards."
Argyle lose 3-0 at Birmingham City. Argyle: McCormick, Sawyer, Seip, Kouo-Doumbe, Capaldi, Norris, Wotton, Buzsaky, Summerfield, Djordjic, Hayles. Subs - Aljofree, Samba, Nalis (not used - Larrieu, Gosling). Attendance - 22,592.
Argyle youth team striker Sam Malsom has joined Tiverton Town on loan
Ian Holloway has admitted he is 'absolutely delighted' that Bojan Djordjic has made such an impact since his return to the first team. He said: "A lot of supporters like him and he's producing it week in, week out now, and that's what we all want from him. I know he wants it from himself. He has had a difficult time with all the expectation that was heaped upon him when he was 16, going to Manchester United and later Glasgow Rangers. It has not been easy for him but, hopefully, he has listened to what I have said from the heart and away he goes. I'm absolutely delighted for the boy." Djordjic has admitted his exile in the South Western League was a wake-up call to him, and Holloway said: "I took away what he had, and sometimes you don't realise what you have got until it's gone. I wouldn't allow him to train with my squad and even when he scored goals in the South Western League I still turned a blind eye to it. I made him go through it until he came to me and said: 'I want to come back' because it had to be from him, not me. All I ever do is try to tell people how I feel. Whether you are a piano player or a piano carrier, it doesn't matter. I need them all."
Gary Sawyer made his full Argyle debut after waiting for more than two years on Tuesday night. "I am delighted and really happy the gaffer showed the faith in me to give me a start," said Sawyer. "There have been a lot of managers come through the door that I have had to deal with and I am really grateful that he offered me the debut. I had a slight hint the day before but it was not until training on the day of the game that I found out for definite. With a 7.45pm kick-off it is quite a long time to wait but I have been waiting for ages, so I was not going to ruin it through nerves." Sawyer's performance in the air was particularly impressive, especially when you consider that Sawyer is only 6ft. Two years spent in the Conference with Exeter may have contributed to his heading ability. He said: "I am a steady player and I like to feel my way into a game, especially on my debut. I just had to make sure that my first touch, first header was right because it sets you up. I have to thank the Conference. The football they play in that division means the ball is in the air a lot more than this league, so I am very well rehearsed in heading. I would like to think that we don't need a beast. If I could not jump well, then I don't think I could play in that position because you have to be good in the air. I have always enjoyed heading the ball and it is something that I always work on." Sawyer's central defensive partner was Marcel Seip, who is also 6ft, has scored two goals for Argyle from corners, and Sawyer admitted that he would love to get on the score-sheet. He said: "The only thing that could have gone better against Luton would have been me scoring or the team winning by a couple more goals. It would be nice to score but I am not really much good at goal-scoring, but I am just delighted that it went well." Next up for Argyle are Birmingham City and striker Nicklaus Bendtner. "Hopefully, I have done enough to keep my place but it is obviously up to the gaffer," said Sawyer. "He is a big strong lad but they all seem to be like that in this division. The Birmingham game is a massive game. They were in the Premiership last year and I was playing in the Conference and it is such a big gap."
Bojan Djordjic was a substitute when Birmingham City beat Argyle last month, and believes the team have a score to settle after losing to a late header from Radhi Jaid. Djordjic said: "Sometimes those things happen. We played well and we didn't get what we deserved. Some other days, maybe, we will not play that well and get the three points. Birmingham scored from a set piece and it was a free header. You get punished for that, especially against players and teams who have been in the Premiership. It was disappointing, but at least we showed we could match them and we don't have to fear anybody so we will go with good spirits to St Andrews. We have absolutely nothing to lose. We are not going to Old Trafford or to Stamford Bridge. We are going to St Andrews, to a team that is in the play-offs in our league. We are a few points short of them." Djordjic does not believe the fact that Argyle played on Tuesday and Birmingham played the following night will have any impact on the match. He said: "They still have enough time to recover for tomorrow. It's not like they are playing on Saturday and Monday." Argyle moved up to ninth in the table following their victory over Luton, and Djordjic added: "We hadn't won in five games and Luton had lost seven in a row so it was never going to be a nine-goal thriller. For us, the most important thing was to get the three points, and we managed to do that. People are saying why didn't we beat them by more, but it was three points. 1-0 or 5-0, it doesn't really matter to me. Football is all about opinions, and even if we were first, people would find something to complain about. We believe in ourselves and we have got a good team spirit. We understand you are always going to be criticised if you don't get results at home, but we managed to get a win against Luton, and it should be a good game at St Andrews." Djordjic had scored only once in 31 appearances for Argyle before getting the first of his three recent goals at Southend a fortnight ago. When asked whether he had ever scored in three successive matches, he replied: "Only in the South Western League! I have scored three goals in a season, but not three in three games. It's hard to say why. Maybe last season I made the same runs but the ball would come either side of me. I don't know. But I have put a lot of hard work into it since I was exiled to the South Western League." Djordjic also admitted he was getting far more satisfaction out of his football now than before. "I have taken my bar down," he said. "I think it was raised a little too bit high because I expected so much of myself. I wasn't enjoying playing football and loving what I do every day. It doesn't matter if you are playing in front of 10 people and a dog, or 10,000 or 20,000 at Home Park. Just enjoy it. That's the key of it for me."
Luke Summerfield seized a rare first-team chance on Tuesday, and appreciated being able to play his part in the win over Luton. "It was a very enjoyable game," he said. "We needed to win to get back on track, and it was good to be part of it. I thought it was a good performance. I've been waiting patiently for my chance. There's nothing wrong with that, I'm only a young lad and I'm still learning about the game. I was happy with my personal performance, but the most important thing was the win for the team." Asked about the formation used for the game, Summerfield said: "It worked well, and the result speaks for itself. Everyone was happy with it, and we did it justice." Summerfield was watched on Tuesday by father Kevin. "He's only seen me play a few times this year, because of his circumstances," Summerfield said. "He said it was a good game to watch, and he enjoyed seeing me in action at Home Park." Tomorrow Summerfield will be hoping to retain his place in the side when Argyle visit Birmingham City. "It will be a good game to play in," he said. "It will be a big test for all of us, and a good performance and result up there will do us no harm at all. The game down here against Birmingham was a good one, and we played very well. We stuck at them, but we let in a set-piece goal near the end. Hopefully we'll get a better result up there."
Tim Breacker believes Argyle can take a lot of positives from their recent home defeat by Birmingham into the return match at St Andrews. "I wasn't here then, but I have seen some of the highlights, which we have put together to show the players," he said. "That will allow us to concentrate on the positives of how well we did against them. I think the players know how difficult it's going to be tomorrow anyway, but we have got nothing to fear. Our away form has been very good so we can go there and feel we can get something out of the game. It's one of those games where you will be saying to the players: 'We have got to start well. They will be coming at us.' We will see how it goes from there. You have to silence the crowd and the expectation there is going to be high, so you try to use that to your advantage." Mathias Doumbe has returned to training this week after a knee injury, but is unlikely to start tomorrow. Breacker said: "He's fit and back in contention, so it gives us another option in defence. The boys that came in on Tuesday did well for us. Obviously, Ian will be looking at that and we will talk about it. It's a different challenge away from home. On Tuesday, we felt we needed to freshen it up a little bit, both in terms of the system and in utilising the bodies we have got. The only negative for us was that we didn't have as much time as we would have liked to work on the change of shape. As the game was going on, we were adjusting it as we went, and I think that showed in the second half. We had a chance to talk to them at half-time and, after that, we didn't look quite so open. In the first half, when we were attacking we felt we were being countered too easily. To be fair, Luton had a couple of chances they could have scored from. Ian will look at the games we have had away from home and how well we have done on our travels and we will go from there." Birmingham played 24 hours later than Argyle in the week, so fatigue could be a factor for them. Breacker said: "Playing three games in a week is always a bit hard but we have got that extra day's rest and we will be using it to our advantage."
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