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Argyle drew 0-0 at Aldershot. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Bhasera, Blanchard, Bignot, Walton, Feeney, Hourihane, Atkinson, Chadwick, Hemmings. Subs – Young, Soukouna (not used - Larrieu, Williams, Sutherland). Attendance - 3,886.
Warren Feeney is excited by the prospect of playing two games in only three days. He said: "I love the Christmas and New Year period. There is a buzz, and you get the fans coming out. At the end of the day, we get paid to play games and you have just got to get on with it. I, for one, would rather play than train, but you have got to be sensible as well. We have got to get over the first game at Aldershot, and then recover and get ready for Torquay. But our focus has been on three points today. Then, after that, we will look at Torquay." Carl Fletcher has no fears about the energy levels of his players going into games against Aldershot and Torquay. He said: "They are all professional athletes, and we have been careful to make sure they get their rest and are fully recovered. We have always had one eye on this weekend. Two games in three days is tough in anyone's book. We have tweaked training a little bit with those games in mind and the tough one we had at Bristol Rovers. We have done as much as we can on detail so that once the players go out against Aldershot they are ready and feel comfortable in what they have to do."
Argyle have not got large amounts of cash to spend in the January transfer window, Carl Fletcher has insisted, but he did not rule out spending some money on strengthening his squad. He said: "I have heard numerous times people saying we have got a load of money to spend, which isn't the case. Obviously, we have got a new owner in, but if you start throwing money around willy-nilly then the football club is going to end up the way it was six months ago, which isn't good. You have to be very shrewd and calculated in the people you bring in. Everything has got to be right. You have to do your homework on the players and make sure finances are right. There are lots of key things that need to be in place, and be spot on, for any kind of player movement to take place." Asked whether there was any money available to be spent on transfer fees, Fletcher replied: "That's something that will be discussed internally. Everything has to be weighed up. This football club was probably not run properly for a long period of time, and we saw what the consequences of that were. I think it's important the football club is run to its means, and run properly from the financial side. You would have to look at every aspect and make sure we have got all the key points ticked, and everything is right for the football club. At the end of the day, the final say will come down to Mr Brent."
Paul Bignot is set to continue at centre-back for Argyle when they play at Aldershot tomorrow. Carl Fletcher said: "Paul is a good defender. He has played there before, a little while ago for Newport, so he has got a little bit of experience. I thought him and Max coped fairly well. It's pleasing, from our point of view, he can play two positions." Meanwhile, Fletcher continues to be sidelined by the groin injury he suffered in Argyle's defeat at Stourbridge in a FA Cup.
Argyle dropped to the bottom of the table in League Two on goal difference, despite their victory over Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day. Carl Fletcher said: "It was a big result for us against Bristol Rovers, especially with Dagenham winning as well. We moved down a place, but the bigger picture is that it has brought a lot more teams into the mix. The more teams that are in the mix the better it is for us, but, at the end of the day, we have got to go out there and do what we have to do. As long as we concentrate on what we do then everything else will take care of itself." Aldershot are currently 16th in League Two and Fletcher added: "Aldershot like to get the ball down. They have got some good players and they are all fairly comfortable in possession. With every game we play, we have to prepare right and make sure we are 100 per cent on what we want to do."
Warren Feeney believes he and Nick Chadwick can form a successful strike partnership for Argyle, and praised as 'phenomenal' the contribution made by Chadwick, since starting his second spell with the club. Feeney said: "I'm really glad Chadders has come in because he's a pleasure to play with. He takes a lot of the burden up there. I like to play off a target man, and I think what Chadders has done has been phenomenal. I really enjoyed it against Rovers. He has come down here and he's on fire. He's enjoying his football at the minute and that can only be good for everyone at the club." Feeney spent the opening months of the campaign playing in an uncharacteristic role as a target man, but with Chadwick now leading the line, he can concentrate on his strengths. "I want to get in behind defences and get on to things, and Chadders is perfect for me to do for that," said Feeney. "I thought we worked well together against Rovers. We got put in a room together the night before the game, and sometimes people will dismiss it, but all those things help because you get to understand each other more." Feeney admitted he found it difficult to spearhead Argyle's attack earlier in the season, often on his own. He said: "It was hard playing up there, and being the target man wasn't something I wanted to do, but I did it for the team. I'm really buzzing Chadders is here, and it would be great if he can go on to score more goals. He has got three in four games, and that says it all about what he has done. If we, as a team, can play to our strength I'm sure we will pick up more wins." The rapport between Feeney and Chadwick is also there off the pitch. "He's just enjoyable to be with, and the boys have taken to him, and all the new signings as well. There is a good feeling about the group at the minute," Feeney added. Argyle trailed 2-0 at half-time at Bristol Rovers but battled back to take maximum points, with Ashley Hemmings scoring the winning goal in stoppage time. Feeney said: "I thought we felt alright in the first half but, at the end of the day, it's about putting the ball in the net, and they did that. But we came out for the second half and if we had gone on to win by five or six I don't think you could have argued with it because it was phenomenal the way we responded. I think now there is a bit of belief in how good we can be. If we can keep on this run for as long as we can, it can be good for us as a club and also as players personally. It's good for kids to play football, but I think you need as much experience around you as you can get. I know Pursey from Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday, and you know what he's going to give you. Maxie has come in and done a superb job and Ashley has also livened it up."
Jake Cole believes Argyle will go to Aldershot in confident mood on Saturday after their dramatic come from behind win over Bristol Rovers. He said: "We have got Aldershot away next and we will go there on a high, then we've got Torquay at home. Two wins and two draws out of the last four games, it's brilliant. I think we can go to Aldershot and get something and then we have got a home fixture, so I think we're definitely on the right track." Cole said he felt the team deserved their victory at Rovers. He added: "We knew we had to go out and do a job. To win the game was a good feeling, and since I've been here, that's the best feeling I have had. When the whistle went, we were all buzzing and we knew we deserved it. We showed our character, took our chances and stuck together as a team. The manager boosted us and said we were in a similar position last year and we came back to win the game. He said just to get out there and work your socks off and we've done that and I think we really outplayed them in the second half. I don't remember me having a lot to do, apart from one save, which was important." Cole attributed Argyle's four-match unbeaten run to the work Fletcher and the team have done in training. He said: "It's brilliant, with the way the gaffer's been and what we do through the week to prepare for games and with the addition of the few players we have had in. It's a shame Pursey's got a three-match ban, because he's been solid for us and organising it at the back. But we can only look upwards and, as I say, we're definitely on the right track."
Argyle are looking at the possibility of extending Nick Chadwick's stay at Home Park. His current loan deal runs out next week, but Carl Fletcher is already considering keeping Chadwick if a deal can be arranged. "It's definitely something we'll look at," he said. "Nick's come in and done well. I'm pleased for him because he's an older player and he's hungry for the challenge. He's come back and done really well. I have got a good squad of players, a nice healthy squad with competition for places pretty well all over the park, which is nice. But, as a club and as a team, we are always looking to improve, not just on the playing side, and we know those areas. We discuss how we can get better every day, whether that be training, or facilities, or anything else that is going on around the club - 'How can we get better as people, and as a club, and as a team?' We have looked at certain things and we have got certain areas that we want to improve." At the other end of the spectrum, Fletcher said he was unaware of any interest in his squad. He added: "I have had no phone calls whatsoever about any of our players and I will be pleased if it stays that way."
Argyle have re-signed Ollie Chenoweth until the end of the season, to provide cover for Jake Cole and Romain Larrieu. Chenoweth has been playing for Bideford following his release from Argyle at the end of last season and will wear squad number 33.
Ashley Hemmings is looking forward to helping Argyle escape from the relegation zone in the New Year. Hemmings said he appreciated he had joined the club at a bad time but added: "I can see us rising back to the top, to be quite honest. We shouldn't be in this league and I can see big changes happening. We need to keep the team spirit going. If you have positive thinking, then you're going to get positive games. It's excellent for us, going four games unbeaten. I think we are going to get away from relegation. With games like the win against Bristol Rovers, it just shows us what we can do. If we just keep playing how we are doing, we will be all right, definitely." Hemmings was delighted with his goal at the Memorial Stadium, and the support of the travelling fans. He said: "It was a great game. In the first half we weren't the best, but in the second half we played our hearts out. With the goal, I saw their 'keeper come out and he's so tall and I thought, 'where shall I put it'? I saw a little gap and slotted it down there and it hit the back of the net. It was a great feeling, the best feeling I have ever had. The fans were great all game, they believed in us and it was good to get that result." Hemmings said Nick Chadwick was making a big impact on their ability to attack. He said: "He gives us so much support. He holds up everything and flicks the ball on. As soon as I get the ball and cross it into the box, I know he's going to be there. He's got great strength and knows what he's got to do in the box. As soon as I saw him get the ball down and at his feet, I knew it was going to go in, definitely."
Carl Fletcher was proud of his players after Argyle's come-from-behind win at Bristol Rovers yesterday. He insisted he had not abandoned hope of picking up at least a point against Rovers, even when it was 2-0 at half-time, and said: "You never give up, that's something I believe in, and this club epitomises that really. It's pleasing, from our point of view, that the lads took on board what we said at half-time and went out and did it. We outlined a few things that we probably weren't doing as well as we could do in the first half. Two-nil is never an easy lead and once we got that first goal the momentum was with us. I thought we did pretty well on a difficult pitch. We worked hard and we had a bit of quality to our play here and there. If we can get the ball down and get it in the right areas then we know we can create chances and get goals. I'm really pleased for the lads, not just the ones who played or were subs, but the ones who weren't in the squad but travelled up, because a winning changing room is the best place to be." Fletcher said Warren Feeney had been in 'the right place at the right time' when he applied the finishing touch to a goalbound header from Nick Chadwick, almost on the goal-line. "That's what I want my strikers to do," he said. "If, at the end of the season, they have got 10 goals that add up to about six yards that would be perfect for me. I'm pleased for Feeno because he worked hard, as did everyone. It's just nice that once they go out there and do the right things, they get their rewards." Chadwick's loan from Stockport ends on January 3rd and he has already admitted he wants it to turn into a permanent transfer. Fletcher has been thrilled with his contribution so far, and added: "You know what you are going to get from Chaddy, wherever you play and whatever the conditions, which is great for a manager. He's experienced and fairly strong up there, which is something we haven't had for quite a long time. I'm pleased for him because Chaddy has been playing non-league and you can see he has got the hunger and desire to do well. I think, sometimes, that is missing from players all round the country. He's 29, not a young lad who is desperate for a chance. He's older and realises what a great life being a professional footballer is, and you can see that in his play. That's the kind of players we want at the club, people who will give that extra 10 per cent for themselves and for their team-mates." Ashley Hemmings has now scored twice for Argyle since arriving from Wolves and Fletcher was impressed by the way he converted the winning goal against Rovers. He said: "He had a lot of time to think about it in a one-versus-one, and their goalie is a big size and fills that goal up, so all credit to him. I'm just really pleased for everyone involved, including my staff, who work their socks off. It's only our second away win of the season, and the changing room was buzzing afterwards. Hopefully, we can keep it going."
Ashley Hemmings has revealed how he kept his composure to score Argyle's winner at Bristol Rovers yesterday. He said: "The first thing that was going through my head was 'Get it in the back of the net'. I saw the defender coming close and the 'keeper coming out but the thought in my head was 'Hit the back of the net and it will be alright'. When I saw him running out, he looked seven foot tall and took over the whole of the goal. I was thinking 'Where can I put it?' I saw a little gap and I thought I'd slot it in there. He was big, but he was taking ages to get down." The goal came in front of the travelling Argyle fans, and Hemmings added: "That was the best thing of all. There's nothing better than scoring the last goal to come back from 2-0 down."
In Argyle's current four game unbeaten run, Nick Chadwick has been on the scoresheet three times, and he was delighted after yesterdays win. "We made it difficult for ourselves," he said. "The penalty was a bit cheap, we were on the back foot then. But it was great character from the boys. A great save from Jake in the second half kept us in it. At 2-2 we were still going for the win away from home. And we deserved it. There was no thought at all of settling for a point. We had all the momentum. We were always wary of the sucker punch at the other end, but anyone who was at the game could see there was only one team going to win it. I know that's been said before, but we deserved that. I'm made up for everyone." After such a turnaround, the question was, what did Carl Fletcher do or say to rejuvenate Argyle at half-time? Chadwick said: "What could he say? He said 'it's gone. Those two goals have gone. We've got to go and get an early goal.' The experienced players and the gaffer all said that if we got the next goal the game wasn't over. And when we got it so early on we had the belief we were going to get something out of them game. Credit to everyone, that's what we did. For Argyle's first, Chadwick headed down Ashley Hemmings corner for Warren Feeney to prod home from close range. Chadwick was full of praise for his strike partner, with whom he completed ninety minutes for the first time. "We've worked on a couple of corners," he said. "I took it upon myself to go and head the ball. We needed to try and take things by the scruff of the neck and make things happen for us. I got the header on target and Feeno was there, that's what he's all about. It was a great striker's goal. Feeno was different class today." Chadwick's goal came with only eleven minutes remaining, and he said: "My complaint at half time was that we played in nice areas but didn't get the ball into the box. When the ball comes in I fancy myself to make a chance or to. The ball fell to me in the box, and I needed to get a good left foot shot on target. That's what happened. I'm very happy with it. I'm confident that when I'm playing I'll score goals. I always have done. Ten for the season now, ten by Christmas, I'm happy with that. If I'm getting chances I'm happy. If I'm getting into the right areas and getting on the end of things I'm happy. I won't score every week, but the momentum's there now. That's ten goals. If I can keep getting on the end of things, keep getting myself chances and keep nicking the odd goal, I'm happy. Four unbeaten, two wins, two draws. Solid enough since I've come back, and I'm delighted for everyone. It's been a tough season or two for this club, and slowly but surely we're turning it around, We're only four games in, we're not getting carried away, but let's get to Aldershot and see where we go from there."
Argyle won 3-2 at Bristol Rovers, the goals scored by Warren Feeney after 52 minutes, Nick Chadwick (79) and Ashley Hemmings (90). Argyle: Cole, Berry, Bhasera, Blanchard, Bignot, Walton, Feeney, Hourihane, Atkinson, Chadwick, Hemmings. Subs – Young (not used - Larrieu, Williams, Soukouna, Sutherland) Attendance - 8,090.
Carl Fletcher has admitted he is privileged and honoured to be the manager of Argyle. He said: "There are probably so many managers who are out of work that would give their right arm to be where I am at the minute. I'm very privileged and very honoured, and I don't take anything for granted. We really want to do well for the club, and for ourselves. We do that through the hard work and the effort we are putting in each and every day. I can't wait to get into work in the morning. We go in the office and sit down and try to sort stuff out. We all have our input here and there. We plan what we are doing and which way we are going to go for the team we are playing against next, and what we are going to do in training. I really enjoy it." The past three months have been a learning process for Fletcher, who at 31 is the second-youngest manager in the Football League. He said: "I think you always have to stay on top of things, to make life easier for yourself. Also, you try to do things the right way but, with the best will in the world, it still doesn't always mean you are going to get a result on the Saturday. But I probably kind of knew that from playing anyway. I have learned to stay more level-headed with everything, and try not to hit the ups and downs so much. If you don't do that, you will probably end up ill and in hospital! I just try not to get carried away with good performances and results, and not get too down with bad results." Fletcher added: "I would just like to thank the fans for their support during a tough year. It's a long road to get the wheels turning properly again, and there are still so many things that need to be addressed within the club to make it better than what it has been. But we are doing everything we can to make sure we have a successful 2012."
Nick Chadwick and his wife, Steph, are looking forward to spending their first Christmas Day with five-month-old daughter Ola. But Chadwick insists his main focus would be the three games facing Argyle, starting against Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day. He said: "It's a busy time of year for professional footballers, but you still get into the festive spirit. I have got a little girl, Ola, who is five months old, so it will be nice to spend our first Christmas Day with her. My main focus is on the games we have got coming up, but it's a lovely time of year." Chadwick plans on enjoying roast turkey tomorrow, in moderation, before leaving the family behind and travelling to Bristol. He said: "It's personal preference really. One or two of the lads might have what they would normally eat on the day before a game. I will sit down at two o'clockish and have a dinner of turkey and vegetables, but probably not the size of some people's. It's all in moderation. Then, in the evening, we will set off for Bristol and get our game heads on. It could actually work to our advantage playing away from home as it gets us away from all the Christmas celebrations and we can concentrate on football." Chadwick has thoroughly enjoyed his return to Home Park, and hopes his loan spell, which ends on January 3rd, will lead to a permanent transfer. He said: "The response from the fans I have met has been great. I can't thank them enough. I always did have a good rapport with the fans. It was just unfortunate things turned a little bit sour last time because I was injured so often. It has been great to come back to the club, and to the area, and for people to remember what I'm all about and appreciate that, it's very nice. I spoke to the manager the other day and told him I wanted to stay here. Things are going great for me since I have come back, so I have just got to wait and see. I know the club are speaking to Stockport and I can't see there being too many issues, although you never know when it comes to football. As far as I'm concerned, hopefully something will get sorted out and we will go from there." Chadwick scored a late equaliser when Argyle drew 1-1 with Hereford United last Saturday, which stretched their unbeaten run to three matches. "We have got to be positive about that," he said. "We were coming off the back of some awful results and have put three unbeaten games together. The fact we came from behind against Hereford shows the character that is starting to build in the dressing room. We could have easily gone on and won that game. Our confidence is growing and we feel we can go to places like Bristol Rovers and do ourselves justice and come back with some points."
Onismor Bhasera and Paul Bignot are both available to Carl Fletcher for the game against Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day after serving suspensions but Darren Purse starts a three-match ban, after his red card last Saturday. Fletcher said: "Last week we were down to the last few numbers with injuries and suspensions, but this week we have got a few extra. It's nice to have a headache as to who do you play? Obviously, some people will play, some people won't. And some people won't be involved at all. But I think everyone in the squad really works hard for the team, and for Argyle, every day in training. It's that whole squad that will help us achieve anything this season." With Purse ruled out, there will be more responsibility on the shoulders of Maxime Blanchard and Fletcher said: "He has gone out there and done his job, and he has kind of gone under the radar, which, for me, shows he's doing things the right way. We appreciate what Max has done, and we know what he can do. We wouldn't have signed him and played him if we didn't think he was capable. He has been more than up to the task of going out there and performing. He has done very well for the team. Max is one of those who just gets on with his job and does it to the best of his ability every time he plays. They are vital types of players that you need in a squad." Bristol Rovers are in 18th position in the table after a poor run of results, which has put pressure on manager Paul Buckle, but Fletcher is expecting a very difficult encounter. He said: "The manager is new there this season and brought a lot of players in. We know, whenever you go up to the Memorial Stadium, it's going to be a tough game. You have to be ready to do the ugly stuff first. If you win that battle, you can then play your own game."
Carl Fletcher wants to keep Nick Chadwick at Argyle beyond the end of his current loan spell, and has confirmed talks are taking place with Stockport County about that. The manager would not comment on whether he was keen on a permanent move for the striker, but said: "There have been discussions with Stockport and we would like him to stay. He's an experienced player and has come in and done well for the team." Meanwhile, the Argyle squad will not train on Christmas Day, ahead of their Boxing Day clash at Bristol Rovers. Instead, they will spend time with their families before travelling to Bristol later in the day. Fletcher said: "We have had a lot of days in, and I think it's about a little bit of give and take. I don't feel the players should be in training on Christmas Day, then going home for a couple of hours and then travelling. They need to spend a bit of time with their families."
Ladjie Soukouna could replace the suspended Darren Purse when Argyle play Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day. He has been out of action for the last two months because of injury, but is nearing a return to full fitness, and Carl Fletcher said: "We have a few ideas of what we might do to replace Darren. Ladjie is working hard to get his fitness back. When we first took over we used Ladjie in midfield. We were a bit concerned about him playing at centre-back when he couldn't speak English that well. That has improved with learning, which is credit to him, and with Max being there it kind of solves the problem anyway because he's French as well. Ladjie can play in midfield, at centre-back and at left-back. Versatile people like that are worth their weight in gold. When Ladjie is fully fit, I think he's good enough to play wherever we want him to." Fletcher stated it was too soon to tell whether Curtis Nelson or Simon Walton would be fit for the trip to Rovers. Walton was substituted in the second half against Hereford because of a hamstring problem which first flared up at Bradford City. Argyle considered whether to appeal against the dismissal of Purse, but, after careful consideration, they decided not to. Fletcher added: "Had we done so and not been successful, we would have run the risk of Darren getting an extra game ban. He has apologised to everyone and we move on. Like I always say when there is an injury or a suspension, it's a chance for someone else to step into the team and put in a good performance."
The Argyle team made a Christmas trip to Derriford Hospital yesterday. Carl Fletcher, Romain Larrieu and the whole first-team squad and backroom staff visited children's and maternity wards at the hospital, chatting with patients and their parents and meeting hard-working hospital staff. They also distributed goody bags and chocolates for which the players had paid. Larrieu said: "It was a pleasure to visit the hospital and the players thoroughly enjoyed meeting the children and their families, as well as the hospital staff. If our visit brought a little bit of cheer into their lives at this time of the year, we feel privileged that we have been able to do that. We hope that everyone we met has a happy and peaceful Christmas."
James Brent has insisted no decisions have been made yet on the make-up of the new board of directors at Argyle. Brent has had talks with, among others, former Argyle director Peter Jones and Professor David Wheeler, the Dean of Business at the University of Plymouth. He has also spoken to business associates of his in London. Brent said: "I'm very keen not to put a deadline on it because you can end up rushing decisions. There have been talks with a number of local and non-local people. I have got a lot of respect for Peter Jones. He has contributed a lot to the club while I have been involved, but I have made no firm commitments to anyone at this stage." Brent is aiming to have five non-executive directors, including himself. Meanwhile, the Argyle owner confirmed there had been considerable interest in the vacancy caused by the departure of Peter Ridsdale. "I have had a number of people put their hats in the ring, as you could probably guess," he said. "But, as I have mentioned before, I do feel we need professional help with finding the best possible person."
Argyle must try to build on their three-game unbeaten run, according to Carl Fletcher. He said: "You have got to start somewhere. We have said all along we are not suddenly going to win 10 games in a row. It would be great if we did, but you have got to build your consistency slowly and grind out results. You have got to get results when you are not playing well, and take the opportunities to win games when they come along." Argyle have still only kept one clean sheet all season, but have tightened up defensively recently. Fletcher added: "The more clean sheets you can keep the more games you are going to win. It's one of the things we are trying to address." Meanwhile, Ladjie Soukouna returned to Argyle's squad for the game against Hereford after an injury lay-off. Soukouna was an unused substitute, with Fletcher admitting he had been reluctant to call upon him. "Ladjie had only done two training sessions so he was not fully fit," he said. "I put him on the bench but I didn't really want to use him. It seems funny, one week we are talking about how many extra players we have got, and competition for places, and people not actually being in the squad. Then, within a couple of days, it's back round to the way it was before. These things happen in football, and you just get on with it."
Argyle have decided not to appeal against the dismissal of Darren Purse in the draw against Hereford United last Saturday, meaning he will be suspended for the next three matches. An Argyle spokesman said: "After careful consideration of all the facts and having carefully viewed the incident, we have decided not to appeal against Darren's dismissal. He will, therefore, serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect."
Darren Purse admitted he had been stupid to get sent-off in the closing stages of Argyle's draw with Hereford United on Saturday. He said: "It was just stupid. I should never have got involved in the tackle. I thought it was a foul on Conor beforehand and the referee hasn't given it. I have come out of my hole to make a tackle that I maybe shouldn't have done. There was no intent or malice, or anything like that. I think their lad has gone down quite easy, and he screamed and shouted for something I didn't catch him with. But, at the end of the day, when you make tackles like that it gives the referee the opportunity to do what he has done. The disappointing thing from my point of view is I'm going to be missing for three games now. We are on a half-decent little run now, going into a busy Christmas period which could define our season. I'm not saying it's going to make or break it, but it's an important part of the season for the team. I just can't believe I have been sent-off. My disciplinary record over the last three of four years has been really good. I haven't had a suspension, and now I go and do this. I'm just gutted." Purse thought his red card was a sign of the times in football. He said: "If you look at the way the game has changed over the last 15-20 years, that would never have been a sending-off when I first started playing. But the game has changed and you have got to evolve as players. If you are going to make tackles, you have got to win the ball. Nowadays, there are players who will go down and scream as though they have been shot to get people sent-off, but that's football and you have got to adapt." Purse had been having a good game for Argyle before the red card, and he added: "You have got to take it on the chin. You can't change what has gone on in the past. It's done, you have made a mistake and it's about living with that mistake. Hopefully, it won't be too costly." Argyle are now unbeaten in their last three games, picking up five points in the process. Purse said: "I think we probably edged it on the chances created. We showed a great bit of character to come back into the game. After they scored their goal, we had some of our best passages of play. We are just going to sleep at vital times at the minute. Their goal came from a throw-in in an area which shouldn't have been too dangerous a situation. We have gone to sleep and let them in, and two or three passes later it's in the back of our net. When we haven't got the ball, we need to get our shape early. That's something we need to learn from – and quickly." Feeney was very lively after he was sent on as a 58th minute replacement for Craig Sutherland. Purse added: "Feeno did well when he came on. He had two or three good chances. The keeper pulled off a great save from his header. On another day, that goes in and we end up winning the game 2-1." Argyle have picked up only nine points from their 10 home league games this season, and Purse knows they must improve on that record to move up the table. He said: "With the way things have gone since I have been here, we have got a lot of confidence in the squad and we are looking to win our home games."
Argyle are considering whether to appeal against the dismissal of Darren Purse at the end of the game with Hereford United on Saturday. Carl Fletcher did not believe Purse should have been dismissed, and did not rule out an appeal. However, should they take that course of action, the club would run the risk of the ban being extended to four games. The FA could increase the punishment if they felt the appeal was without any merit. Fletcher spoke to the referee after the game, and reviewed the dismissal on video, before carrying out his post-match press conference. He said: "I'm not sure if it's a sending-off, if I'm going to be honest, but the referee seems to think it is." Asked whether an appeal would be made, Fletcher replied; "We will see. I will have to talk to people about it. If you appeal it, there is the possibility of getting another game added. We will have a look at it again in detail." Argyle have now had nine players sent-off this season, including six in their last eight games. Fletcher said: "He has tried to get the ball but the lad has just got there a little bit quicker than him. Even the referee said to me he knows Darren Purse and knows he's a nice fella. And I was like, 'well you know he's not going to do a bad tackle then, so why send him off?' Mistimed tackles are the worst looking ones because you think you are going to get the ball and you try to win it. If you don't get it then you are invariably going to bring someone down." Hereford had Michael Townsend sent-off for a second bookable offence in the 86th minute, having first been shown a first yellow card in the 63rd minute for pulling back Warren Feeney. Fletcher thought Townsend should have been sent-off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, and said: "I asked the referee about it and he didn't think that Feeney was going to shoot." The topic of poor refereeing decisions has featured regularly in Fletcher's post-match press conferences over recent times and he believes the answer is for former players to be encouraged to take up the job. He said: "It's a massive problem. Any game you go to, the referee always comes up. It's very rare you don't talk about them. You probably see 90 per cent of interviews are about the referee. Who am I to say, but it's something that desperately needs to be looked at. I don't know why they don't try to push ex-pros through and get them to be referees. If you had an ex-pro, I'm sure they wouldn't have to retire at 47. They would have been fit their whole life and I'm sure they could go on for a fair few years after that. It's just that you know when it's a bad tackle and when it's a mistimed one. And you know when people are trying to do things that are a little bit naughty, and when honest people have made a mistake." Argyle are unbeaten in their last three games, but Fletcher admitted the performance had been below-par. He said: "At times in the first half we were okay, and at times we weren't. In the second half we weren't and then we were, so it was up and down. After going a goal behind, we came back well and possibly could have won it. But in terms of what we are looking at, and what we want, it wasn't fully there." Nick Chadwick equalised for Argyle with a penalty in the 81st minute, after Warren Feeney was fouled. Simon Walton usually takes spot kicks, but had been substituted earlier in the half because of a hamstring injury. Fletcher added: "It was nice for Chaddy. He's a striker and it's another goal for him. When Feeno came on, he obviously won the penalty and had a couple of chances, and showed a good energy and a willingness to really work hard to try to get a chance for the team."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Hereford United at Home Park, the goal scored by Nick Chadwick after 81 minutes. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, Walton, Hourihane, Atkinson, Sutherland, Chadwick, Hemmings. Subs – Young, Feeney (not used - Larrieu, Soukouna, Daley) Attendance - 6,531.
Carl Fletcher has called on Argyle fans to come out and support his side as they approach the busy festive period. "Christmas time can be a big time of the season and moulds how the rest of the season could be," he said. "I think the FA try and make the Christmas fixtures as close as possible. It is a good time for the fans and the club at Christmas because the gates are a little bit higher, with local derbies that bring more people through the turnstiles. We are looking forward to them." The visit of Hereford to Home Park is the third game in a row where Argyle have faced a team in the lower part pf the table, but Fletcher is not attaching too much significance to that. He said: "If it was first versus 21st, if you beat them you still get three points. I can understand people saying, in the grand scheme of things with them being around us, the old adage of a six-pointer so to speak. But, every game we play, we just want to win, whether it's top of the table or bottom of the table, it doesn't have any reflection on the way we do things. We have got targets that we have set out for ourselves. We know what we want. In all the divisions, apart from the Premier League, it is all very tight and anyone can beat anyone. In terms of mapping out where everyone is going to be, come end of the season, I don't think you can really tell. But, with them being closer to us, it would be nice if we could get the right result."
Argyle can build a team for years to come around Conor Hourihane, according to Carl Fletcher. He said: "I think from the first day we took over we never questioned Conor's ability on the ball. But his improvement has been fantastic for us, and he's one of those players we don't really need to say anything to. He just gets on with it and we know what we are going to get out of him every day. Those are the players you want at this football club for years and years, and you kind of build teams around them. He's a good player, there is no doubt about that. He's still only 20 so he has got a big future in the game. He keeps his feet on the ground and he works hard every day. He's good to have around the place." Hourihane was at Sunderland before moving to Ipswich Town 2010, but did not play first team football for either club. Fletcher added: "When he first came in, he had never played competitive football, so to speak. He had been at Sunderland and then Ipswich and played reserve team football, but that's almost a non-contact game sometimes. It took him time to adjust. It was pleasing he recognised it himself as well. Not only that, he took the next step to do something about it, which is a big thing for a person in any walk of life, whatever job you do. If you see something you aren't good at, and you realise what it is and then you are actually willing to change it, I think it speaks volumes about the person."
Carl Fletcher has admitted he is not afraid to ask for advice as he continues to learn his role as manager of Argyle, and his former boss at Bournemouth, Sean O'Driscoll, is one of those he has turned to. Fletcher said: "I have known Sean since I was about 10, I think. I had him all through my youth football at Bournemouth, and then in the first team. He's someone that I asked just to give us another set of eyes, really, to look at it from a different point of view. I'm one of those people that if I don't know then I will ask a question. If you're not sure, and don't ask, you don't want to learn. Me, Ro and Nance all want to learn and try to get better every day. We will do whatever we need to do to achieve that. If that means someone coming to watch a game, to tell us what their thoughts are on it, then fine. It's not a case of them saying something and we are going to suddenly change everything all around. It's just nice to have another opinion, and it's nice to have an opinion you actually respect. There are enough people out there who want to give you their opinion, but you are only going to listen to those that you respect." Asked whether there was any chance of a permanent role for O'Driscoll at Argyle, Fletcher replied: "No," then added: "While he's not in a job, it's really nice he's helping me out." Meanwhile, Fletcher thought the visit of Argyle's squad to St Luke's Hospice on Wednesday put football into perspective. He said: "Everyone in the squad went to St Luke's Hospice and I think it's good to go to places like that, for people in the community. It's good for our players because it puts everything in perspective, really. Sometimes players, staff, fans and media get carried away with football, and take everything so seriously. It's 100 miles an hour, good things and bad things, and you are up and down like a yo-yo. But it's nice to see another side to life. Maybe some things aren't always that important, and it's nice to have that perspective. At the end of the day, when we are all old and grey and we haven't got football any more, there is a lot more to life."
Robbie Williams is the favourite to take over from the suspended Onismor Bhasera when Argyle play Hereford United tomorrow. Williams has not played since he was sent-off in the FA Cup draw with Stourbridge on November 12th. Carl Fletcher said: "With more players coming in, people have been left out of the team and left out of the squad. It's something we hadn't dealt with before. Me and Willo have had a chat, face to face, and we spoke honestly with each other. He has done well in every training session he has been involved in, but that's what I would expect from Willo because he's an experienced pro and a good pro." Darren Purse will be fit to play tomorrow, after recovering from the head injury he suffered against Bradford. Although Argyle have picked up four points in their last two matches, Fletcher denied that his team selection for the visit of Hereford would be easy. He said: "I don't think it's ever straightforward. We always look at the opposition to see whether changes are needed, in terms of the way we play or certain personnel, that will help us and affect the game. Every game is important to us, but with Hereford being close to us in the table it would be helpful if we could get the right result."
Craig Sutherland is very familiar with Hereford United top scorer Tom Barkhuizen. Both strikers are out on loan from Blackpool, before which both played for Blackpool at Sheffield Wednesday in a Carling Cup tie in August. "He came on and hit the crossbar actually," Sutherland said. "He's a good player and quick. He's kind of in the same boat as me, just looking to get a little bit more experience. It will be good to see him again because I haven't seen him in a while, and it will be good to play against him. He has got a couple of not bad goals this season, which is good for him. Hopefully, we can stop him scoring this weekend. We trained every day together at Blackpool because we haven't got a big squad, and no reserves." Sutherland believes he will benefit from the loan spell away from Bloomfield Road. He said: "It's important to be playing every week because you don't realise how hard it is to stay match fit without playing. There is not much you can do to keep yourself in that shape. I have been involved a little bit at Blackpool and, hopefully, me coming out here is going to help me get back in the squad." Sutherland has started the last three league games for Argyle, and added: "I'm enjoying myself. It's a good club, a good bunch of guys and good facilities. And I think we are getting better. Every day in training, it just seems morale is going up. It's getting better and better. We didn't play particularly well against Torquay but, since then, we have got a couple of players in that I think we needed, and we have kind of got the ball rolling now." One of the new recruits was Nick Chadwick, who has partnered Sutherland in attack in each of the last two games. Sutherland said: "It makes things a lot easier when you have got a big guy like that who can grind it out, get in the box and win headers and flick balls on. Even defending at corners, and things like that, it's important to have as many big guys as possible." Sutherland has yet to open his goalscoring account for Argyle, but getting off the mark tomorrow would be perfect timing as it is his 23rd birthday. He said: "That would be a nice little present for myself. As a striker I need to score some goals. I'm looking to get one this weekend, for sure."
The Cornish Pirates have officially confirmed they will not be playing at Home Park next season. Pirates' chairman Dickie Evans said: "The Cornish Pirates will not have a base available in 2012-13 to allow them to be promoted should they win the Championship this season. A temporary facility such as Home Park can only be used on a short term basis while the main base is not available. It cannot be used to replace a proposed facility. In summary, the Pirates will definitely be playing at the Mennaye next season and almost certainly be moving to Truro for the following season, whichever league we are involved in, including the Championship."
Maxime Blanchard has become the latest French recruit at Argyle and hopes to match the success of many of his predecessors. He said: "I know a few French players have been here but I don't know a lot about them. If they were successful, hopefully I will be too. That's the objective." Blanchard has been impressed by the stadiums, and the level of support, he has experienced in English football. He said: "When I arrived at Tranmere, the football was quite different from France. You can't say it's better or worse than France, but it's different. But, in terms of facilities and stadiums, it's better in England. When you compare the third division in France and the third division in England, which is League One, the stadiums are unbelievable. Last season we played at Southampton, Charlton and Huddersfield. And the fans in England are unbelievable, especially here in Plymouth. The team were in the Championship two years ago, and are now near the bottom of the table in League Two, and there are still a lot of people coming here and making good noise. That's fantastic. Apart from one or two clubs, that doesn't happen in the third division in France, not the whole league like here."
Simon Walton believes there is a mood of optimism at Home Park at last, after all the club's recent problems. He said: "We said before the game against Northampton that our mini-season started now. We did well before that, with the resources we had, to stay in touch and give ourselves a chance. We have started off our mini-season, so to speak, with four points, which is good, and we have got a home game on Saturday we will be aiming to win. The attitude and spirit has been good all season, but if we can keep performing like we have done over the last couple of weeks then we will be all right. I have every confidence that come 2012 we won't be in that bottom two. You can't take anything away from the lads who have been here all season. They have worked their socks off and deserve credit. But we all know we needed that bit of experience. The lads who have come in have done really well. They have blended into the team, and the spirit we have got. Like I say, the lads who have been here all season have been a credit to themselves and, hopefully, we will start to get the rewards now." Walton thought Argyle did well to stand up to an aerial onslaught from Bradford last weekend, who relied heavily on the presence of 6ft 4in striker James Hanson. "We can take a lot of heart from the performance we put in, and the way we ground it out," Walton added. "We have just got to take the positives into the next game."
Peter Ridsdale sees no reason why Argyle should be relegated this season and has complete faith in James Brent and Carl Fletcher to lead the club to safety. He said: "Relegation would not be catastrophic because James, being a successful businessman, did a plan based on the club staying in League Two and another one if it went into the Conference when he bought Argyle. My personal opinion is there is absolutely no reason why this football club should get relegated this season. Last year you could smell relegation, probably even before we went into administration, frankly. But this season I see no reason whatsoever why this team cannot stay in League Two. I think it has got the right manager. Carl has been outstanding since he was appointed. He has been a breath of fresh air and his work ethic is second to none. And the players we have brought in over the last few weeks, with whatever other activity takes place in January, are far better than the current league position. I have seen a lot of teams over the last few weeks, and there is absolutely no way Argyle are a bottom two team in League Two. It's in their own hands and I believe they will survive." Meanwhile, Brent is working on assembling a new board of directors after his buyout of the club. Ridsdale has no doubts better times are ahead for Argyle, and added: "What this club has got now is a real chance to rebuild itself. This is a wonderful football club, and it's a big football club that is currently going through a difficult time in its history. It has got an owner who passionately cares, and it has got the right owner. People moan and groan about how long the administration process took, but my view is whatever we went through, the fact is we got the right solution. If it took a couple of months longer than it should have done, that's better than having got an earlier wrong solution." Ridsdale believes it is important mistakes of the past are not repeated, and that Argyle put all their attention to matters on the pitch, and do not get distracted by other issues. He said: "My words to Paul Stapleton at the time were 'this doesn't feel like a football club any more'. Somehow it had started thinking about World Cup bids, and other things, and had stopped remembering it was a football club. And if it's a successful football club then everything else will fall into place. So as long as everybody connected with its future remembers this is a football club, it has got a real chance of rebuilding and getting back up the League. And I think James is the man to do that." Ridsdale hopes to see Argyle re-establish its links with the city, and further afield across the south west. He said: "I know James very strongly believes it has got to be a community club. By that, I think it means extending out into all parts of the community, not just certain parts. I think its relationship with the business community, at the moment, is not strong enough. I don't see the business community supporting Argyle sufficiently, partly perhaps because the club's facilities don't easily lend themselves to doing that, and I know James has got plans for that. Every successful football club is an integral part of its whole community. I think Argyle had become detached from that recently, and the fact James has already said one of his primary aims is to correct that is fantastic. But I think it also requires the community itself to embrace the football club."
Peter Ridsdale is proud of the part he played in Argyle's battle to stay alive. He said: "I'm not going to say 'hey presto, Peter Ridsdale saved Plymouth Argyle'. The fact is the staff, the players and the supporters all rallied around. And without a buyer in James Brent there would have been no saviour. What the club did require, however, was a figurehead at Home Park on a daily basis, somebody to keep the staff together and keep the morale high, and who understood football. To that extent, therefore, I would like to think people would see my time at Argyle as both necessary and successful. It was a team effort, but in every team you need a leader, and I would like to think I played that part." Ridsdale admitted living away from his family, who are based in Lancashire, had been one of the most difficult parts of his time with the club. He said: "I absolutely knew that I couldn't go back home, or take another job, until Argyle were saved. It had been made clear to me by the administrators that unless somebody played the role that I was playing they would have closed the club down. There are very few jobs where you feel locked in like that. So being away from home and knowing you couldn't leave until the job was done, and not knowing how long that would take, was a pressure I have never experienced before."
The Cornish Pirates' planned temporary move to Home Park next season appears unlikely to happen following the delay of a proposed new stadium in Cornwall. The deal was dependant on the Stadium for Cornwall getting built in 2012 but those plans have now been delayed by the current financial problems of Truro City Football Club, who were going to share the stadium with the Pirates. In a statement Pirates' chairman Dickie Evans said: "I am dismayed that factors outside our control mean that the agreed business plan cannot now be achieved, compounded by the news that the stadium will not be delivered for next season. Personally I am distraught and I feel extremely sad that so many good people who have put in so much effort have to handle this news. Without doubt this will greatly affect our plans and I will now take stock over the next week with the key club management staff and the playing force to review options for the future of the Cornish Pirates." Cornwall Council said in a statement: "Unfortunately, Truro City Football Club are not currently in a position to commit to the project, but discussions continue and the impact on the business plan is being considered. The timetable for completion has been extended in order to ensure that the viability of the project is thoroughly reviewed."
Darren Purse is not expected to miss any matches despite being substituted in the draw at Bradford because of blurred vision following a clash of heads with Bantams' striker James Hanson near the end of the first half at Valley Parade. Purse received treatment and soon returned to the action, making an incredible goal-line clearance shortly before half-time. However, he did not return to the pitch at the start of the second half because of blurred vision, and as he had suffered a concussion playing for Yeovil Town in a game last month, it was decided not to take any risks. Carl Fletcher said: "You don't want to risk anything with a head injury. Touch wood, he should be fine for Saturday, but Nelse on came on in a tough game and acquitted himself well considering he has been out for a few days with illness. There were lots of high balls and lots of big players out there, and you have got to do things right, and he did okay." Argyle's defence was put to the test as Bradford battered away at them, and their resistance was finally broken in the 86th minute. Fletcher added: "Looking at it from a football point of view, in terms of getting the ball down and things like that, it wasn't a great game to watch. But I'm really pleased with the way the lads did all the ugly stuff. Overall, the lads have worked their socks off. We can do things better, but it was all about not losing, I think that's the main thing."
Simon Walton has now scored six times for Argyle this season, making him the teams top scorer. He said: "Scoring goals is not a part of my game that has ever been mentioned. It's not something I'm renowned for, but it's the first good run of games I have had for a couple of years. It's nice. Unfortunately, it wasn't the winning goal, but it still felt good." Walton revealed his goal against Bradford was reward for practice on the training ground. He said: "It's a corner we have worked on and it paid dividends. It was good delivery from Will, I think Nelse has just done enough to put off their guy and I got left free. It took an age to come down, and then I smashed it as hard as I could. Fortunately, it went in. Like I said, it's something we have worked on. I think we have looked a bit more dangerous off set-pieces, especially corners, in the last couple of weeks." Argyle looked set for a victory until Bradford equalised in the 86th minute and Walton said: "We defended like lions at times. The goal was unfortunate from where I was stood. Max got their first and it goes flying in the top corner. But we would have taken a point before the game, so we are not too disheartened. Three points would have been lovely, but we are off the bottom of the league so it's a massive psychological barrier we have got over. We will take the positives and, hopefully, get on an unbeaten run and keep it going."
Carl Fletcher was proud of the resilience shown by his side as they drew at Bradford City on Saturday. He said: "I would probably have taken a point before the game. It's obviously disappointing not to have won, being in the lead in the last few minutes, but I can't fault the lads' effort and desire to do well for the team, and for the club. We knew what kind of game it was going to be. It was going to be lots of fights and scraps and battles. It was putting your body on the line, where you were going to get hurt, and I thought the lads did that really well, which is pleasing. We always knew we were going to come under pressure here. They have got a 6ft 4in striker and a 6ft 7in centre-back, and, in terms of height for us, we aren't a big side. You look at us, we aren't a scrapping side. We have actually got footballers in our team. To come here and play on a bad pitch, and compete with all their physical players, I thought the lads did really well." Bradford piled on the pressure as they chased an equaliser and it took a lucky deflection to get the goal. Fletcher said: "Max actually cleared it and it hit the lad's leg and went in. That's football. We can take a lot of positives from the game. We always want to do better, and there are things we can improve on. But, like I say, before the game I think we would have taken a point. They were on the front foot, and putting us under a lot of pressure, but the lads stood solid. They were putting their bodies on the line and doing all the dirty stuff that probably doesn't get noticed. When we play at home, we have got a big pitch and the surface is better. It's good to get the ball down and play well. But when we come away from home we need that desire and hunger to do horrible stuff. It's pleasing the lads have got that in their locker. We would have been delighted with the three points, but it was key that we didn't lose." In a gruelling game, Fletcher was particularly pleased with the endeavours of Simon Walton and Conor Hourihane. He said: "It was a high intensity game with lots of bits and bobs going on, and things were flying everywhere. I thought Walts and Conor did really well. They are footballers and both like the ball at their feet, but you saw another side to them." Onismor Bhasera became the eighth Argyle player to be sent off this season, and Fletcher was not pleased with the referee. He said: "I think Bas made two fouls and he has got sent-off. They were two tackles on a slippery, boggy pitch. The first one, I think he got the ball, but I would have to see them again, to be honest. It's late in the game and there is a lot of passion, pressure and nerves. To make two fouls and get sent-off is disappointing."
Carl Fletcher paid tribute to Simon Walton after his sixth goal of the season took Argyle off the bottom of League 2. Fletcher said: "I've said it before, he's had a tough time in years gone by and he's now getting a little bit of reward for putting in the hard work. I think it's easy, as a manager, to fine a player for not doing what you wanted, get rid of them and discard them to one side, but everyone is different: some people need that, and some need an arm around the shoulder. Rather than show them what they are doing bad all the time, sometimes it's nice to show them what they are doing well. Like any player, you go out and play, and some games are good games and some games are bad games but he just wants to do well and I'm pleased for him, to be honest. He's got the respect of all the lads. We're generally a young bunch and he's the oldest of a young bunch. In terms of playing career, he's fairly well experienced. He knows what football is about and what's going on."
The Press Association initially gave Argyle's goal at Bradford to Craig Sutherland, but there is no doubt that the scorer was actually Simon Walton. He said: "Craig said he didn't touch it. It might have been one of the defenders, but, as far as I understand it, it's only an own goal if it is not on target, and it was going in. Craig said, while we were celebrating, 'It's your goal' so I'll take it." The Bradford equaliser was also not clear. Walton said: "Max has done well. He's cleared the ball on to the geezer's leg. It's not bad defending. He's got in front and kicked the ball against him. How's your luck?" Despite the late equaliser the point saw Argyle move off the bottom of the table, and Walton added: "It's brilliant. Well, maybe not brilliant, obviously we'd rather be a lot higher up, but the way we've come back from previous weeks and from all the adversity we've faced is a credit. We'd have taken the point before the game, and we deserved at least a point. Today, we are disappointed, but not too disappointed."
Argyle will be without Onismor Bhasera for the game against Hereford United on December 17th following his red card yesterday, and are also sweating on the fitness of Darren Purse. Carl Fletcher said: "I think Baz made two fouls today and he's got sent off, two mistimed tackles on a slippery, boggy pitch. It was a tough game; it was late in the game; there was a lot of passion, a lot of pressure, nerves. To make two fouls and get sent off is disappointing. Purse had blurred vision, he had a bang on the head, and he was concussed about four weeks ago, so you can't take a chance with it. It is understandable. You don't want to risk anything with a head injury."
Durrell Berry produced an eye-catching display against Bradford yesterday, a performance only made possible due to Paul Bignot's suspension. "There's competition for places," said Carl Fletcher. "We have never had it before this season because the squad has not been big enough but, if you get that, you have got to do well or someone else is going to take your position. That's what you want. Obviously there are other motivations every time you step out on to the pitch but they know that, if they do they job and do what we want from them, then they stay in the team. It's black and white for them." Another player who has been on the bench lately, Curtis Nelson, also pressed claims for a recall after coming on for the injured Darren Purse. "Nelse came on in a tough game and acquitted himself well, considering he's been out for a few days with illness," said Fletcher. "Lots of high balls and big players - you have got to do things right. Durrell was up against a tough opponent and he never shirked his responsibilities. I know Kyel Reid from West Ham and know what he can do and it was important for Durrell to stick to his task and do his jog properly, which he did. Like everyone did."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Bradford City, the goal scored by Simon Walton after 59 minutes. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Bhasera, Walton, Hourihane, Atkinson, Sutherland, Chadwick, Hemmings. Subs – Nelson, Daley (not used – Larrieu, Feeney, Young Attendance - 10,143.
Maxime Blanchard does not feel under any extra pressure even though he is only on a short-term contract at Argyle. Blanchard, who has until the middle of January to try to impress Carl Fletcher, said: "You have got to play well anyway, even if you have got a five or 10-year contract. You have to play well for yourself, and for your team. This is the most important thing. The contract is not affecting the way I play. I'm not even thinking about that. It's a paid, long-term trial, which permits me to play in the league competition. That's what I'm here for. I hope we keep winning because it's a great feeling, especially for a player who has been out of contract for a few months." Blanchard played regularly for Tranmere at the start of last season, before he was injured in a game at the start of January. That sidelined him for three months, and when he returned to action it was only as a substitute. He added: "I have still got the scar from the injury. Fortunately, the leg didn't break but the ankle was badly damaged. When I came back, the gaffer just put me on the bench and they didn't offer me another contract at the end of the season. It was a little bit frustrating because I was playing a lot before it happened, but this is football. That's why I'm even happier now to play and win games. It's a great feeling to play football again." Blanchard made his first appearance for Argyle against Northampton in a new centre-back pairing with Darren Purse. He said: "We led 4-0 at half-time, and I couldn't imagine a better debut, to be fair. We have to know each other a little bit more but, for the moment, we are getting along quite well."
Peter Ridsdale's part in saving Argyle over the past year was recognized this week by Carl Fletcher. "I would like to thank Peter for all of his hard work," he said. "He gets a lot of bad Press but was definitely a big part in helping the club survive and we wish him all the best for the future." Before being appointed manager, Fletcher would speak to Ridsdale as captain on behalf of the players for reassurance and to find out what was going on with the sale with the club. He said: "If I'm stuck, I'm not just going to sit there and wait for the problem to go away, I'll stick up my hand and ask a question, and Peter made me feel comfortable throughout the time I have been at the club. He's made me feel that he's only a 'phone call away which is good, as Peter has lots of contacts and a lot of good spirits. He's done a lot of good stuff that people didn't realize, that the administrator should have done or couldn't have been bothered to do. Like I say, it's a great effort from everyone who has played their part in that side of it and Peter definitely played his part."
Ahead of the important six-pointer against Bradford City at Valley Parade tomorrow, Carl Fletcher shrugged off the fact that the Pilgrims have not played for a fortnight. He said: "It makes no odds really. We had the break, so you just get on with it. But if you are going to have a break it's good to end on a good result. Bradford were in the Premier League a few years ago and they have got a big stadium there. I think it's probably the only ground I haven't played at, so it will be a new place for me to go to. We will go up there full of confidence. We know it's going to be a tough game, like every one we play, but we will be prepared for it." The Pilgrims will be without on-loan Blackpool right-back Paul Bignot tomorrow, as he sits out the second of a three-match suspension, but the manager reported that the rest of the squad were fit and available for selection. With the recent influx of new recruits since Argyle came out of administration at the end of October, the Pilgrims' boss now has more options open to him. Fletcher said: "At any football club, you want to feel all your players can go in and do a job. Competition for places is going to bring out the best in people. We haven't had that here for a long time, so it's a good headache to have. If people are doing well, and doing what we want to them to do, then they play."
Bradford are expected to include Dutch former Argyle defender Marcel Seip in their starting line-up. The 29-year-old has been playing out of position at left-back because of an injury to Robbie Threlfall. Seip, the son-in-law of former Argyle chairman Paul Stapleton, was released by the Pilgrims at the end of last season. He signed a three-month contract with Bradford in October and has made nine starts in all competitions. Seip admitted the game against the Pilgrims was one he was relishing, and that it gave Bradford a chance to open up a gap between the two teams. He said: "I have been looking forward to this one. I played there for five years and it's an important game if you look at the league table. We are desperate to win to get the gap to six points. We know where we are and will do what is needed to get away from the bottom." Of Argyle's calamitous recent decline, Seip added: "It has been a mess the last couple of years. They have been taken over now and, hopefully, there is a bit more stability."
Peter Ridsdale's move to Preston has led to speculation that Darren Purse's stay at Home Park could be a short-lived one, even though he has a contract until the end of next season on the table. But Ridsdale fully expects Purse to stay put and become an influential member of the Pilgrims' squad. The former Chairman of Football Operations said: "Darren Purse is the right man at the right time for Plymouth Argyle, which is why we signed him. I sold Darren on Plymouth Argyle because I believed this was the right club for him. He was just what we needed in the dressing room and on the field. If that was right three weeks ago, it's right today. Therefore, I see absolutely no reason – just because I'm moving on – why anything should change on that. I expect Darren to be here this season and next season, which is what the contract opportunity is for him. I don't think my departure affects that."
The Green Taverners have agreed a deal with Argyle, in principle, to continue helping out the staff through its matchday FanFest events. The Taverners will pay to rent Home Park's Pyramid Suite for the events – and also improve the marquee – with Argyle agreeing to spend the proceeds on paying off backdated staff wages. The group will no longer be asking for donations, but the majority of the surplus takings from FanFests will be handed to Argyle as interest-free loans to accelerate the payments to staff. Taverner Mark Russell said: "We are delighted to continue the support they have given to Argyle over the last few months and look forward to a long relationship. The Green Taverners set up to help the community including youth, ladies, disabled team, and local community projects related to the badge of Argyle and remain committed to doing this for years to come. Administration has changed the focus of the GTs to help the staff of Argyle. We remain committed to helping Argyle with the repayment of the staff wages in terms of accelerated payments." A committee of Argyle managers and Taverners members will decide where among staff payments are allocated. All extra cash raised by the group – along with the repayment of loans to the club – will support community-based projects related to the Pilgrims. Argyle owner James Brent said: "On Monday night, Argyle's employees justifiably won The Herald's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Sport in recognition of their selfless support of the club. Argyle remains grateful for the continuing support provided by the Green Taverners for both our staff and club."
Pilgrims' former vice-chairman Peter Jones and Professor David Wheeler, the Dean of Business and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth, are reported to be candidates for Argyle's new board of directors. James Brent is thought to have had talks with both of them in Plymouth on Monday. It is also believed that Brent has approached business contacts from further afield. Argyle's owner said: "We are talking to people who we think could be good directors. It's about getting five people to slot together, like a jigsaw puzzle." Brent will address supporters at an open meeting before Argyle's League Two home game against Burton Albion on Saturday 14th January, and he is expected to present a proposal that will see the club engage more fully with fans than ever before. It could also be an opportunity for Brent to officially name his board of directors. The meeting will start at 10.30am, at a venue still to be confirmed. Brent admitted he hopes to make an announcement about the new board of directors "sooner rather than later" but has not put a time on it. He said: "It would be very tempting to say we would get it done by January 14th, but we're not going to do that. It's about getting the right people." Jones was part of the consortium, led by Paul Stapleton, that bought Argyle from Dan McCauley in 2001. He remained as the club's vice-chairman until February 2005, when he and the late Michael Foot resigned from the board. Jones, who has considerable experience in marketing, has continued to regularly attend Argyle games. Professor Wheeler is chairman of the Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, in addition to his university roles.
In a short statement following the departure of Peter Ridsdale to Preston, the Argyle Fans Trust has said it is keen to play an ongoing role in building a 'united and sustainable future' for the Pilgrims. The statement read: "The Trust acknowledges the role Peter Ridsdale played along with the rest of the staff of the club and the 'Green Army' over the past year, and wishes him well in future. We look forward now to building a united and sustainable future for the club, and the Trust is keen to play its part in making sure that happens."
James Brent has promised to take a measured approach in the search for a successor for Peter Ridsdale, and it could even involve roles for two people. The Pilgrims' owner has hired a firm of recruitment consultants to carry out the 'proper process' of identifying the best possible candidates. He said: "The most important thing is to get this decision right. I don't want to rush into a pre-Christmas appointment and then find we have got issues to deal with, rather than an asset to the club. I think we have got flexibility within the club to look at a variety of roles and, therefore, a wide range of people. I'm a great believer life is all about people, and it's about getting the right person for the job. If the right person for us is a full-time chief executive, then we will get that chief executive. If that's the case, we would also look to appoint a non-executive chairman to provide the appropriate governance. But if the right person for us is an executive chairman, then we will get that executive chairman."
James Brent is disappointed by Peter Ridsdale's sudden departure from Argyle, coming so soon after their exit from administration, but understands the reasons behind it. "I think it's the right decision for Peter", Argyle's owner said. "It's not a healthy lifestyle to be away from your wife and kids for six days a week. There is just way too much distance between Lancashire and Plymouth to have a family life. So I'm pleased for Peter he has got a job that he loves so close to home. From Argyle's point of view, clearly I'm disappointed about him leaving us, but I totally respect his reasons for doing so. I think he's right to take the decision he has taken." Brent has valued Ridsdale's assistance, not only when he was trying to buy Argyle but also after the sale was completed. "You hear a lot about Peter Ridsdale, but I have spent a lot of time with him and I have found him to be a very good partner. He's very passionate about football and incredibly hard-working. He has been absolutely straight down the line. I have enjoyed working with him and I'm very grateful for what he has done." Brent added: "There is no doubt Peter has made a major contribution to the survival of the club."
Club president Chris Webb says that money will be available to strengthen the club's squad in the January transfer window. "James Brent has confirmed to me that he is committed to giving the manager Carl Fletcher a budget to spend in January to improve the team," he said. "I'm more than confident that Argyle will retain their Football League status this season". Webb also paid tribute to Peter Ridsdale's work at Argyle over the past year. "We had some real ups and downs, but there are two things you cannot take away from Peter. Firstly, if it wasn't for him and what he did last January – when the ex-board were staring like rabbits into the headlights – we wouldn't have a football club now. Secondly, due to his experience, the rebuilding process on the pitch has started with some new signings. So you would have to say his time at the club has been a success. He'll always be a figure that divides football fans whatever club he goes to, but there is no doubt that he has played a key role in helping to save Argyle. James Brent's gone out and employed the UK's top headhunting agency so we expect the new appointment and the new chairman to be of an equally high standard."
Peter Ridsdale will provide advice and support to Argyle player-manager Carl Fletcher and James Brent when it comes to potential signings in the January transfer window. Brent said: "In the immediate term, Peter has agreed to provide Carl and me with help during the January transfer window. He and Carl have done a lot of preparatory work for that already. If Carl identifies someone he wants to sign, Peter will be there to discuss it with him, or can make any introductions that are needed."
The Argyle youth team beat Swindon Town 3-2 at Wanborough, Swindon yesterday, the goals scored by Tyler Harvey, Jared Sims and Matt Lecointe. The second half fight-back over the reigning league champions means that the youth side are now at the top of the Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference table. Argyle: Walton C, Bradley, Richards, Pearce, Harper-Penman, Harvey, Copp, Clarvis, Lecointe, Sims, Vassell. Subs - Watson (not used - Bentley, Vickers, Walton R).
Peter Ridsdale has resigned his position as Chairman of Football Operations to take up the position of Chairman of Football at Preston North End. Speaking of his decision, he said: "Working with Plymouth Argyle through the dark days of administration was the toughest challenge that I have ever had to deal with in football. With the unswerving loyalty of the staff, players and supporters, we were able to keep the club alive and it is now firmly in the hands of the right owner and one who in my opinion will take club forward and rebuild it for future success. Whilst my role at Argyle was always going to be a transitional one, I had expected to remain in Plymouth for a little longer. The opportunity that has arisen is one that I cannot turn down and its challenge and geography allows me to once again return to my family home. I would like to thank everyone in Plymouth - staff, supporters and members of the community - for the warm welcome that they gave me during my time here and wish James Brent and everyone connected with Plymouth Argyle Football Club every best wish for the future." In response, James Brent said: "I would personally like to thank Peter for his contribution to Argyle as there is little doubt that, without his presence here during the period of administration, it is highly likely that this football club would no longer exist. In expressing my disappointment at Peter leaving, I fully understand the reasons why he would wish to take up the offer at Preston North End and I and everyone at Argyle wish him well for the future. Peter leaves us with our grateful thanks and he will always be a welcome visitor here at Home Park. As a result, we will be engaging a recruitment consultant to seek an appropriate replacement following Peter's departure."
At the Herald Sports Personality of the Year awards yesterday evening, the Argyle staff won the Outstanding Contribution to Sport award in recognition of their outstanding efforts to keep the club alive.
Argyle are ready to embark on the busy period leading up to the New Year after last weekend's break from competitive action. The game at Bradford City this Saturday will be the first of five crunch league fixtures between then and the visit of Torquay on January 2nd. The Pilgrims' squad returned to training yesterday after a long weekend off, which saw many of the players spend time with their families. Manager Carl Fletcher said: "There are a lot of players that don't actually come from this area, and with the busy Christmas period coming up it was nice for them to go and see their families. It's a little bit of give and take. We want them 100 per cent every day when they come in here, and they get the rewards for giving us that. It's December now so everything will be coming thick and fast at us. We have got some tough games coming up." Although Argyle did not have a game at the weekend, it was not a complete break for Fletcher or player-coach Romain Larrieu. The manager said: "I went to a game and Ro went to a game, so you are still always working. I don't think you ever stop. Obviously, it was a little bit less hectic because you haven't got a game, but you are always thinking about things."
Carl Fletcher has not ruled out the possibility of adding players to his squad. Having signed Darren Purse, Nick Chadwick, Maxime Blanchard, Ashley Hemmings and Craig Sutherland in the last eight days of the last loan-transfer window, Fletcher is still looking into the possibility of free agents and is also considering players to buy within the January transfer window. "There is always a chance" Fletcher said, "you never stop looking to improve generally. I'm sure if you speak to more experienced managers than myself they will tell you that you can enter a transfer window with 10 targets and not being able to get any of them. So we just try and do our homework and highlight what we want and try to find them."
Argyle are offering a 'Greens to Beat the Blues' ticket for the Pilgrims' three home games in January, allowing entry to the home games against Torquay United, Burton Albion and Crawley Town for an all-in adult price of £45. Tickets for all three games are on sale now - individually, or for the three matches combined - and will remain available until an hour before kick-off of the New Year's match against Torquay on Monday 2nd January. Reduced prices are also available to over 65s (£30) and under 18s (£15).
Darren Purse has said that Peter Ridsdale's presence was an important part of his decision to move to Home Park. "I know Peter very well", he said. "We worked together at Cardiff for four years and, I'm not going to lie, he was a big factor in me coming down here. With Peter being here, I know he will move hell or high water to get the club out of the position we are in. I don't think there is any person better at doing that than Peter Ridsdale. For all the stick he gets, he's very good at what he does. I have got a lot of time for Peter. I think people who have worked for him and been associated with him will speak well of him. He just gets on with what he does, and he does it very well."
Darren Purse wants to continue his playing career for as long as possible, beyond the 18-month contract he is due to sign with Argyle in January. He said: "I do want to go into coaching and management when I finish playing, but I can see myself carrying on until I'm 37 or 38 years of age. I feel really good and I have no injury concerns." Purse is three years younger than Carl Fletcher, who is now focused on being the boss. Purse said: "That's the decision the gaffer has made. I think he really wants to give it a good go at being a manager rather than playing. But I love coming in to train in the morning. When players get to my age, some people say, 'Have a day off here, have a day off there', but I would much rather be on the training pitch than sitting around doing nothing." Purse has played for a lot of managers during his career and has tried to learn from all of them for when he makes the transition. He said: "When you get to my age, 34 or 35, people start saying to you, 'when the opportunity comes, you have got to take it'. But until somebody tells me I'm not good enough, I will carry on playing. When jobs come up, my wife keeps telling me, 'Why don't you apply for it, just to see what it's like', but I want to concentrate on playing. That's what really floats my boat at this moment in time. But I'm always trying to learn from managers I'm playing under, such as how they work on set pieces, systems etc. That's all going on in my head, and something I'm trying to pick up as much as I can for when I do go into management. Hopefully, it will be a long and successful one, but I do want to play for as long as I can."
Yeovil Town winger Abdulai Bell-Baggie has suggested Argyle are interested in signing him. He made the claim on twitter yesterday and is nearing the end of a short-term contract at Yeovil, for whom he has not made any first team appearances.
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