A Round-up of Argyle News
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Argyle reserves, who included two Polish trialists in the team, drew 2-2 with Cardiff City at Tiverton tonight. The goals were scored by Bojan Djordjic and Chris Zebroski. Argyle: McCormick, Summerfield, Laird.S, McKeever, Kendall, Kazmierczak, Buzsaky, Djordjic, Grzelak, Zebroski, Reid. Subs - Bond, Reski, Watts
Rufus Brevett completed his loan move to Leicester City yesterday afternoon and admitted that he felt like a lottery winner. He said: "I'm absolutely delighted. I feel like I have won the lottery. I have been lucky enough to play for Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and West Ham and the set-up at Leicester is as good, if not better, than those clubs. It's going to be a joy going into training every day. When Leicester first came in for me they got knocked back and I thought it was dead. The manager didn't want me going to another Championship club. But, to be fair to them, they have stuck at it and sorted something out, which I'm very pleased about. I have had a good time in Plymouth, outside of the football. The best thing about the place is the Bed restaurant on the Barbican. I have met some great people, including Bojan and Akos, and I will keep in touch with them." As for his opinion of Pulis, Brevett added: "I have got nothing good to say about him and nothing bad to say about him because I don't know the bloke. That's the relationship we had. That's football. I have been in the game for a long time and that's how it goes sometimes. I think I should have been playing but, in the end, he has done me a favour because I have joined a big club in Leicester." There were reports last month which claimed Brevett had been offered a £60,000 pay-off to leave Argyle, but he strenuously denied that had been the case. He said: "If Argyle had come to me and offered £60,000 I would have taken £50,000 and told them to keep the rest. I spoke to Michael Dunford about those reports and he didn't know where they came from. If they didn't come from me and they didn't come from the club, where did they come from? It was a load of rubbish."
Defensive cover is Tony Pulis' current priority. He said: "We do need cover at the back, and we'll bring a couple of players in if we can. The centre of defence is a priority, and we're hoping to land another Elliott Ward. We're up and down the country looking for something to drop for us." Paul Connolly will be suspended for Saturday's game with Brighton, following his red card at Derby game. Pulis said: "Our recent success has been largely due to a settled back four, along with the two in centre midfield, Lilian Nalis and Paul Wotton. We could play Capaldi at left-back, which is a nice option as he plays there for Northern Ireland." The arrival of Vincent Pericard has removed a similar problem occurring at the other end of the pitch. "Nick Chadwick and Micky Evans have played all season, so Vincent's arrival gives them both a chance to have a breather," said Pulis. "I'll play it as I see it; if I think one player is right for a particular game, he'll play." Pericard picked up a knock in the Derby game but Pulis remains confident that he will be fit for the match with Brighton. Romain Larrieu is also struggling after picking up a slight back strain. "Romain's hurt his back a bit, and Vincent will miss training for a couple of days after he sustained a knock early in the game - he got caught on his ankle," said Pulis. "I still expect them both to be available for Saturday."
Argyle have offered professional contracts to three of their young apprentices. Scott Laird, Chris Zebroski and Reuben Reid have all been offered a one-year deal for next season. Tony Pulis said: "I've been impressed with Rueben. I think he's got a lot of potential. He's got to put a lot more effort into his game, but he's certainly got the talent to become a player. Zebroski has done well and we're pleased with him. He's a good kid and he's got good pace. It's good to have two young strikers of that ability in the squad. We've had Laird training with us a couple of times. Again, he's one we think, given the work and the time, might have a chance. It's good news for us, in that respect." Tony Pulis said: "We're looking at the youth policy and how we can make improvements but it takes time. My priority has been the first team and keeping us in the Championship but the youth team is a massive area for us and we have to utilise it as much as possible." All three may well be given the opportunity to further impress Pulis in Tuesday night's reserve team against Cardiff City. "I'll sit down with reserve team manager, Geoff Crudgington, and work out the team for tomorrow," said Pulis. "We have to look after ourselves because we have three Championship matches next week."
David Norris declared his determination to work hard on improving his finishing skills, after the frustrating defeat at Derby. He said: "It was very much like Burnley away, although I think today we played a bit better. We had a lot of chances, myself included, and it was disappointing. We are creating chances and we must have had ten decent attempts on goal. They only had two or three. We just need to find that finishing touch. I'm disappointed I didn't score. Finishing is the one thing that, if I could get it right in my game, it would make me a better player. Everything seems to fall for my left foot, but I just want to get a clean strike away. I've been a bit unlucky, but I know it's something I need to work on. I'm getting in there, but I just need to work on my finishing. I'm linking with the forwards and they're finding me, that's the pleasing part of it, but I've got to apply the finishing touch." Argyle were unable to respond to Adam Bolder's header at the start of the game and Norris added: "We were disappointed to concede a goal so early. We always say we want a good start to set the tone, but we didn't manage it. We probably could have cleared the ball, as well. The boys worked hard. We worked our socks off, but it was just the finishing which cost us." Argyle were not helped by referee Kevin Wright - whilst there were no complaints about his decision to send off Paul Connolly, some strange decisions baffled both teams. "I don't think anyone was too happy with the referee," Norris said. "It wasn't one of his best games. He was very nit-picky, he kept stopping and starting the game." Argyle now turn their attention to preparing for next Saturday's home game against Brighton. "We should be safe after another two or three wins," Norris added. "We're getting there, and if we could take our chances we could finish the season as a top-half team. Even if we make ourselves safe, believe me, this gaffer won't let us rest on our laurels. We know what we've got to do, and the higher we finish the better it will be for our confidence next season."
Rufus Brevett is talking to Leicester City with a view to joining them on loan. Michael Dunford said: "We have given permission to Rufus to talk to Leicester about the possibility of joining them on an emergency loan basis."
Tony Pulis admitted his players had been caught cold at Pride Park yesterday but felt they showed enough to have beaten Derby. "We're disappointed we didn't start," he said. "They caught us cold. It was a good header on the back post. Give credit to the kid - it was a good header. Especially in the second half, I thought there was only one team that was going to score goals. Derby hit the bar from a corner and had a few scrambles, but we had good opportunities. Even when we were down to 10 men, I thought we could get something out of the game - which we would have deserved. You need that piece of good fortune and Chuck kept hitting the middle of the goalkeeper's chest. Derby might say the 'keeper's played well, but if he'd missed one of those chances, he needs locking up. Everything was at him." Pulis drew parallels with the recent visit to Turf Moor, when Argyle lost by a similar margin. He said: "It was very similar to the Burnley game, where we've gone away, played well and should have got something but didn't. I don't mind getting beaten if we are beaten by the better team: Derby have been better than us, but I don't think they were today. We've had a go today. Even when we had ten men, everybody kept going and kept chasing, and kept trying for that goal which would have given us a point, which I think we deserved. I'm pleased with the effort and commitment which was there." Pulis had no arguments with Paul Connolly's dismissal following two yellow cards for challenges on Tommy Smith. "Two bookable offences and the kid should go," said Pulis. "He's a young lad; he's down brilliantly for us, absolutely brilliant, and he will learn from it. Obviously I'm disappointed he's been reckless with both challenges but there will be no retributions. The lad Holmes dived in the second half - he should be booked for that. If people cheat, they should be booked. Whether it's the PFA, the LMA, or whatever, they have got to stop things like that. There have definitely got to be things put in place where you stop that. Most of our players jump up and get on with things, and I've always had that as a manager, right through my career." Pulis was also delighted with the form of Vincent Péricard. "I thought he was dangerous all the time," he said. "He was a handful. I don't think Derby could relax all game. He's that type of player - an explosive player who will do things out of nothing."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Derby County. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Wotton, Aljofree, Barness, Norris, Hodges, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Chadwick. Subs – Buzsaky, Evans (not used - McCormick, Djordjic, Summerfield). Attendance - 25,170.
A change of position will present Paul Wotton with no worries at Pride Park this afternoon. He said: "It's up to the gaffer. If I play there, I get on with it. If he asks me to play left-wing, I get on with it. It's not alien to me, playing at the back. We haven't got the biggest squad in the world so everybody has to muck in and do what they're asked to do." Wotton is confident that Argyle can beat Derby despite the absence of central defenders Mat Doumbe and Elliott Ward. "I think there is enough quality here," he said. "It isn't a case of novices coming in and playing in unfamiliar positions. We've been working hard on the training ground to cope with any eventuality, and it's time to put it to the test on Saturday." Derby's current form is poor but Wotton is expecting nothing other than a hard task. He said: "They're struggling at the moment, but they've got some real quality players. They've got five or six very good Championship players and we know it's going to be a very tough game, but we'll be going there in a positive frame of mind after a decent run of results. We've had a good run lately, and we're determined to keep that going. We'll aim to keep their crowd quiet and put them on the back foot. They haven't had a good run of late, and it's up to us to make sure that doesn't change against us." Wotton missed a second-half penalty at Pride Park last season, slipping during his run-up, but that will have no impact if he is asked to take another spot-kick this afternoon. "I forgot about that two minutes after the game," he said, "so it isn't something that will be playing on my mind, that's for sure."
Mathias Doumbe has called on the FA to review the disciplinary system for players receiving yellow cards. He said: "I'm really disappointed to miss out tomorrow. If I had waited another two weeks the yellow cards go away. I wanted to play in all of the games this season, but it's okay. I have got to keep working and get ready for Brighton at home. I think they should take away the yellows halfway through the season, not 10 games before the end. I didn't have many yellows and I was happy within myself so it's a bit of a shame." Not only are Argyle without Doumbe tomorrow, but his centre-back partner for the last three months, Elliott Ward, has returned to West Ham United. Doumbe enjoyed playing alongside Ward and felt their styles of play complemented each other. He said: "Elliott came here and had a great personality. He settled in the dressing room really well. Everybody liked him as a player and as a person and it was sad to see him go. Our relationship was really good on the pitch, and outside as well. I'm a bit faster than him but he's very strong. I think it was a good combination." Despite the enforced changes, Doumbe is convinced Argyle can secure at least a draw against Derby. He said: "Confidence is really high. We have got a strong personality in the team and if we do the right game there, like we have been doing, there's no reason why we can't come back with a good result." Doumbe believes a top 12 finish in the Championship is a realistic aim for Argyle. He said: "I'm sure the gaffer wants to finish in the first half of the table and I would like that as well. Everybody in the dressing room wants to push really hard until the end of the season so that can be a target for us. The gaffer has adjusted us and given us a good strength defensively, working hard as a team. I think that was the main job. When you start from a good position like that defensively, you start to play well. At the start of the season, we didn't play that well, but you can see now it's getting better and better."
Paul Stapleton believes Argyle remain on course for 'the Promised Land of the Premiership' after the club posted record profits. The accounts for the year ending May 2005 are published on Friday and show that the club's first season in the Championship realised a profit of £1.1m - the fourth year in a row that the club have posted a plus-figure. "The Promised Land of the Premiership is there and we can see from what we have done this season, with the right appointments in the rights areas, we can get there," said Stapleton. "We're building a platform to go forward, providing a period of stability so we can go on pushing towards, first, the play-off area, and then the Premiership." Stapleton paid tribute to the club's fans, whose support has been vital to the progress on and off the field. "It's the highest ever profit achieved by Plymouth Argyle," he said. "It's also the fourth year of profits, and it is mainly due to the fact that our fans came and supported us in our first year back in the Championship after an absence of so many years. The average attendance of 16,600 was the highest since 1960. If we had that every year, there is no reason why we shouldn't be towards the top of the Championship. The game against Leicester epitomised last season for me: we had more than 18,000 fans turn up for an end-of-season 0-0 draw. That sort of gate was 4,000 above expectations and that doesn't half make a great deal of difference to the finances of the football club. I'm really, really pleased we had such a fantastic year's results. The fans' support is vitally important to this club. We've got the Superstore and sponsorship deals, but we haven't really got anything else that compares to our gate income. We are the custodians of the finances of this football club and we make decisions based on the amount of available cash to enable managers to go out and buy players like Akos Buzsaky, and to increase the wages budget, which we did at the start of this season, to be able to compete with other teams in this league. We increased the wages budget by £1m. We knew very well that the average attendance would not keep up, but we did not expect it to drop off as much, which has been a bit of a shock to the system. Obviously, I always budget for a reduction, but not as significant as it has been, and I am hoping that our fans will come between now and the end of the season to push the average back up. We are in the Championship now, we knew we had to increase wages by at least £1m and we will need to increase it again if we can, to go forward. We've tended to punch above our weight with wages over the past four seasons against our position in the league - our team-spirit has generally epitomised what has been going on at Plymouth Argyle and seen us through - but, to progress, we know we have to be matching wages of clubs in the Championship." As well as providing resources for squad-strengthening, the profit enabled the club to come through a change of manager during the current season. "With a change of manager, come additional costs," said Stapleton. "The new manager doesn't necessarily like all the players that are here and wants his own players in - whether they are permanent transfers or loan signings, there is usually a cost attached to it, as well as the cost of paying up people's contracts. It's just as well that we had this solid platform achieved last year, to enable us to get through this year. It's an on-going process. This year has been much harder. It wouldn't surprise me if we have to use some of that profit and declare a controlled loss. As an accountant, I understand that. The money is being spent for the progress of this football club. We're spending money this year on consultancy for the new stadium, and it is a good job we had the surplus from last year to enable us to be able to do that." Stapleton is convinced that under Tony Pulis, Argyle can continue the progress that he has seen since he took over as chairman in the autumn of 2001, and they can do it without plunging the club into the spiral of debt that is seen at many clubs. "The manager is ambitious, the board is ambitious, and we've always said we'd try and do things on solid foundations," he said. "The balance-sheet of this football club when we took over was in an adverse position of about £1.3m - now it's £2m in the black, so we have turned around the fortunes of the football club significantly. Since the time that the boardroom changes took place in 2001 there has been year on year progress in the league position. If we finish higher than 17th in the Championship this year, we will have continued growth in that respect. I think we have shown this year, particularly since Tony Pulis has arrived, that we are attracting better players; the team has improved; the quality of the football has improved; and, if the fans can see progress on and off the pitch, hopefully they will come with us and we can keep going until we reach the Promised Land."
If Paul Wotton plays in central defence at Derby County tomorrow either Lee Hodges or Akos Buzsaky will replace him in midfield. Tony Pulis said: "We'll either bring Akos back in and move Chuck inside, or we'll put Lee in there and keep it solid like it has been. That's the decision we'll have to make. Akos would give us more going forward, Lee would do what Paul does in that respect." Aljofree played at left-back last Saturday against Coventry City, but Anthony Barness should to fit to reclaim his place in that position. "Anthony has trained today," Pulis added, "so we hope we don't get any reaction. If we don't, he'll go straight back in. Hasney and Paul will fill in as centre-backs. It's a new partnership but they have played together many times I believe, so, hopefully, it will not take too much time to get them together. The only time I have seen Paul play there is when my teams have played against Plymouth. But he has been very, very good since I joined the football club and I'm sure he will cope with it and give it 110 per cent, which he always does." Chris Zebroski has been ruled out of tomorrow's squad by a knee injury, so Reuben Reid has been called up. Pulis said: "Zebroski is out. He will not travel, which is a disappointment, but it might open the door for Reuben." Argyle are 14th in the Championship, eight points clear of Derby, and have played one match fewer. Pulis said: "They are a club averaging 26,000 every home game and have a wage bill three or four times higher than ours, so it's a big surprise to me to see where they are. I thought they would be decent this season, but they are in a dogfight at the wrong end of the table. I don't know Terry Westley that well, but I know it will be a tough game for us, especially without the partnership at the back which has been very good for us over the last few months." Pulis revealed that Mat Doumbe would not travel to Derby with the rest of the Argyle squad and will instead stay in Plymouth. He said: "I have spoken to Mattie. He will do some work today and then have a nice weekend off - and he deserves it."
It is looking increasingly unlikely that Argyle will be able to sign a defender on loan before Saturday's game at Derby. Tony Pulis said: "Obviously we're trying to get players in, but it has been very difficult. There are loads of irons in loads of fires, but I honestly don't know whether anything is going to drop for us." Pulis does not have much first- hand knowledge of Paul Wotton's ability as a defender, but he said: "If Paul is called upon to play at centre-half for a game, I'm sure he'll roll up his sleeves and get on with it. I've not seen Paul play at centre-half apart from at Wolves, where we put him in as a sweeper, but I don't think you can really call it until the team plays and you see how they do. These things happen, though, and it gives other people their opportunity."
Tony Pulis has warned his players they still have a lot to prove to him. Argyle have moved clear of relegation after an excellent recent run of results but Pulis said: "The hard work has been done but there are still a lot of points to play for. I think the next six to eight weeks will be a massive test for the players in respect of what they can deliver. I will be watching and looking very closely at the motivational values they have in themselves. I want to win every game from now until the end of the season. I don't want it to just peter out. We haven't crossed that line of safety yet but once we do, and I'm sure we will, I think it's very important the players continue to put the effort and commitment in. Everybody is still under the microscope, from the senior pros to the younger ones. I'm still learning about this football club and it's alright getting yourselves up for the big games, but I don't want to be wasting too energy trying to cultivate a winning culture. I want one to be in place if possible and we will see how people react from now until the end of the season. A lot of clubs tend to fade away and it will be interesting to see how this group of players respond. That's important for me."
Tony Pulis has confirmed that Argyle are set to return to Austria for their pre-season tour in the summer. He said: "We are just putting the finishing touches to our pre-season tour in July, which will be to Austria. I have been there before with Stoke and it's a fantastic country. The pitches are usually first class and the place is just over a 1,000-feet above sea level, which helps the training. The players can play golf or do a bit of fishing while we are there. We are going to start our pre-season training at the end of June. My pre-season is always the same. It's five weeks and three days and we work backwards from the first game of the season. It's set in stone and I have done it at every club I have been at. It's a tough pre-season but it's one I think the players will enjoy. We work very hard on the physical side of it, but also on the development of the team within the shape and the pattern I want to use. We will do fitness tests at the end of this season, and also at the beginning of next season. We are going to work in association with Marjons to use their scientific facilities to help us gauge everybody's fitness, not only their physical fitness but their physical strength. At Marjons, they have got machines which can test the strength of the players' upper and lower bodies, which is important."
Despite the recent interruptions to his Argyle career due to injuries, Akos Buzsaky is not dispirited. He said: "I'm 100 per cent fit now. I had a long and strange injury, which was very uncomfortable. I am glad to get through it, and to be honest I am not angry to be on the bench. I am very happy because the team have gone on a very good run. We have had some good results and we are in the middle of the table. We are not fighting against relegation at the moment. That is the most important thing for the club and therefore for me as well. Of course, I want to play, and I will work to get back my place in the team, but it is not easy. After such a long injury, you have to take your time. Football is like this. Sometimes up, sometimes down, but I am not disappointed. I have been very happy when I have got on as a substitute, and I hope I will get more time on the pitch. Everybody wants to play, but only 11 players can be on the pitch. It's not a problem." While he was injured, being a spectator gave Buzsaky a change in perspective. "From outside, it is different," he said. "Everybody has their own ideas what to do with the ball. Sometimes they are different to what you would do, but that is normal." Tony Pulis understands Buzsaky's value to the squad, but has warned that there is no guarantee of a first-team place for anybody. "Sometimes you get this as a player, where you lose your place through injury," he said. "There was no way in a million years Akos would have lost his place on performances, but the team have pushed on. Other people have come in and filled the slots, and they have done exceptionally well. We've only lost two games in 13, so it's difficult at the moment to put Akos into a team that is doing so well. It can't be done without moving Chuck or Lilian or whoever out of the team. Akos has been very unfortunate in that respect, but his attitude in training has been has been first-class. He has really worked hard and he's just waiting for his chance again." Buzsaky is not the only talented attacking midfielder trying to find room in the side. Bojan Djordjic has also been restricted to substitute appearances in recent weeks. "We've achieved success through being a team," Pulis added, "and it's been important to get individuals to understand that. Akos and Bojan have seen that teamwork grow over the last three or four months. They've seen how important it is for the team to be a team."
Michael Dunford has explained that kit manufacturers Puma were behind Argyle's switch to a black away strip for next season. He said: "It's a very emotional thing picking a new kit. I have got to say the black was not a universal choice of everybody's but, given the constraints we have under the Puma contract, out of the three Kit B came out on top. The proof will be in how many we sell after the Leicester game, when we have played in it for the first time. It's a leisure item now as much as anything but, as you would expect, we have had supporters saying 'why don't we have orange' or 'why don't we stay with the white'. The answer is that there is a commercial reality to it. We have had the white for two years and it's very rarely that any club would stick with a second choice kit with the same colour for three years. We have retained the traditional Argyle green and white in the new strip as well, so we will wait and see. If we win at Leicester in it, everybody will want to buy it!" Argyle signed a four-year contract with Puma in 2005 and Dunford added: "In fairness, Puma just don't design something to our specification. The designs have to fall within the Puma range for that particular year. The make-up of the colours can vary but the actual design of where the colour falls on the shirt is down to Puma."
Michael Dunford has revealed Argyle did try to sign Elliott Ward on a season-long loan from West Ham United. He said: "We could have extended the loan for the rest of the season in the January transfer window. Tony spoke to Alan Pardew about it, but under the league regulations the problem was once you do that there is no 24-hour recall, and West Ham were insistent on having that. They had that recall clause in place after the 28th day of the agreement. West Ham could have invoked it because they have had a number of injuries and suspensions and they allowed Elliott to stay here, which Tony and everybody at the club was very grateful for. If we had taken him until the end of the season, they wouldn't have had the facility of a recall. They are still involved in the FA Cup and have got an outside chance of a European place so, in their position, we would have done exactly the same as they did, I'm certain. The player was quite happy to stay here until the end of the season but West Ham are his employers. Hopefully, from his point of view, he will go back and be involved in the first team squad at West Ham, but that remains to be seen." Ward was very complimentary about Argyle, and Plymouth in general, and that can only improve the club's pulling power to potential new signings. Dunford admitted that Plymouth's location has deterred many players from signing for Argyle. He said: "We have got to sell Plymouth as a city and Plymouth Argyle as a football club. There is a resistance, purely on the geographical basis, but that has always been here. That's nothing new. Travel is easier now, although we still have problems. When we wanted to fly Jason Jarrett down from Norwich, he had to fly to Edinburgh to get down to Plymouth by plane, so it's not ideal. Elliott enjoyed himself here and I'm certain when he speaks to other players, whether it be at West Ham or wherever his career takes him in the future, he will be complimentary about Plymouth, the club and its supporters. In fact, I read somewhere he said he was going to come back for his holidays in the summer."
Argyle are in 'pole position' to sign Vincent Pericard at the end of the season, according to Michael Dunford, who revealed there was already a gentleman's agreement between the two clubs. Dunford, stressed, however, the final decision on any move would be down to the Pericard himself. He said: "His contract is up in the summer and we have already had discussions with Portsmouth about a deal at the end of the season should Tony decide Vincent is what we want and, equally importantly, if Plymouth is what Vincent wants. But we are in pole position, I think it would be fair to say, if everything goes well. It's all dependent on what the player and the manager want to do. If Tony identifies that he wants Vincent here next season, we have an agreement between the two clubs which we can activate. But it still remains for the player to make the choice whether he feels Plymouth is the right place for his career. He's out-of-contract, he's still 23 in the summer and I'm certain Plymouth might not be his only choice. But we, as a club, have got to convince the player that he's wanted, he's appreciated and I'm certain the supporters could play a big part in that as well. It's lucky we have a good history of keeping French players here. They do tend to take to these surroundings fairly quickly."
Crawley Town goalkeeper Scott Ward is training with Argyle this week. The 24-year-old is the brother of Elliott Ward but Tony Pulis has ruled out making a move to sign him. He said: "The lad's out of contract in the summer and we said he could come and train with us for a couple of days. That's all."
Argyle supporters have chosen next seasons away strip and it will be worn for the first time for the away game at Leicester on April 22nd. Michael Dunford said: "We would like to thank all our fans who cast their votes. Every one of the votes has been counted and we are pleased to announce that Kit B, which contains a significant amount of traditional Argyle green, is the majority choice." The winning kit can be seen here
Tony Pulis has made signing a new centre-back on loan before the weekend his top priority. If he is unsuccessful, Hasney Aljofree and Paul Wotton will probably be Argyle's centre-back pairing at Derby. Pulis also confirmed he had been interested in signing Charlton Athletic striker Kevin Lisbie on loan, before signing Vincent Pericard. Pulis said: "There are loads of irons in loads of fires but whether we get anything to drop for us I honestly don't know. Paul has done really well in midfield. We have been really pleased with him in there. But everybody, and I mean everybody, has got to understand the team is more important than the individual. If Paul is called upon to play there for a game I'm sure he will roll his sleeves up and get on with it." Pulis added: "We spoke to Lisbie and Charlton Athletic about his situation at the same time as Pericard. We have got Pericard here and we are very happy with that. The priority now is looking for someone who can play at the heart of the defence."
Argyle's reserve-team friendly against Torquay United scheduled for this afternoon has been called off because of a badly waterlogged pitch at Channings Wood Prison
Vincent Pericard has promised that he will get even better after marking his full home debut with a first hat-trick yesterday. He said: "That's what I am a striker for - to score goals. That is what I did today. I think I did my job and I am very happy for that. The first one, I just took my chance; the second one was the same - I just tried to be focused and place it. The third was anticipation and a bit of luck. Obviously my fitness is going to get better; with goals, my confidence is going to improve. I am going to watch the video and correct my mistakes; I don't see why I shouldn't improve. I am very happy to be here because everyone is very happy. The manager is a great man, a great manager. I don't want today to be a one-off. I want to score regularly and help the team win. I don't want to be seen as someone who doesn't care. I hope the fans see someone who is very passionate." When told that the last Argyle player to score three goals in a game was David Friio, Péricard added: "We have got quality players in France, then."
Elliott Ward was pleased to finish his three-month loan spell at Home Park with a victory. "It was an emotional day - the crowd gave me a wonderful reception and we secured a great victory to cap it all off," he said. "I enjoyed the game - it was a great win and takes us above Coventry, and keeps the club moving forward. I've enjoyed every minute of my time here and we keep grinding out results. When I arrived we were fifth from bottom, so it's been a challenge for me and the boys to get out of the situation. I'm very happy with the way things have panned out." Ward is delighted with the progress he has made at Home Park, and hopes to carry on that form and push for a place in the West Ham starting line-up. He said: "A run of games has given me match fitness, and definitely been beneficial to me as a player. West Ham are sixth in the Premiership, so I've just got to keep doing my job and I'll hopefully get my chance. I came here to do my best for Plymouth and if things don't work out at West ham for the rest of the season, I'll be disappointed I didn't stay. All I want to do is play football." The central defensive partnership Ward developed with Mathias Doumbe has been an integral part of Argyle's rise up the table. "Matt Doumbe's a very good player. He's very fast and 100% committed," said Ward. "We've become a hard team to beat, with two solid banks of four and the results show that." Ward admits that Plymouth was not a town he was familiar with, before arriving at Home Park. "When I first heard about Plymouth I thought it was the end of the earth but I've settled in great," said Ward. "It's a lovely town and a bit warmer than London and I would definitely recommend the place to others. I'll be visiting in the summer to enjoy the sunshine - all my family have come down and thoroughly enjoyed the town"
Tony Pulis was keen to acknowledge yesterdays team performance, and not just Vincent Pericards hat-trick. He said: "Everybody will talk about Vincent but it was also an excellent team effort. Vincent took his goals well and everything fell for him today but, to be fair, there were good performances all over the park." The other main talking point at Home Park was the last game of Elliott Ward. "Elliott has done fantastic for the football club - he's brought an assurance to the back four that is beyond his 21 years," said Pulis. "His attitude and demeanour around the place has been first class, and the supporters have really taken to him. I think Alan wants to integrate him into the West Ham set-up for the last three months of the season." The departure of Ward, along with the suspension of Mathias Doumbe, leaves Pulis with a potential defensive headache for next week's trip to Derby County. "We need to try and bring in some defenders for next Saturday's big game at Derby County," he said. After the third game in seven days, Pulis was thrilled with the attitude displayed by his team. "We've had two tough games this week - we didn't get back from Stoke until three o'clock in the morning, so all credit to the lads," he said. Argyle have enjoyed a resurgence since Pulis's arrival back in September, but the manager is adamant that the players are worthy of all the credit. Pulis said: "I've brought in my ideas and the players have adapted to the new principles. The attitude and commitment players has been the central factor. When you join a football there are always changes you want to make. Nine players have left the club and three have come in, so we've had to work hard as a group. The players win games - the coaching can help but it's down to the players. We've got 43 points, and we now need to get over the 50 point mark." Argyle played some quality football in the victory over Coventry, but Pulis is quite happy for people to continue to label him as a 'long-ball manager.' "I was accused of playing the long-ball game at Gillingham but we had little Andy Hessenthaler pulling the strings in midfield," he said. "I want people to think we play the long ball, so they drop off and give us more space to pass the ball."
Argyle beat Coventry City 3-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Vincent Pericard after 13, 41 and 74 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Ward, Aljofree, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Evans, Pericard. Subs - Chadwick, Buzsaky, Djordjic (not used - McCormick, Hodges). Attendance - 12,958.
Elliott Ward plays the last game of his three-month loan spell today against Coventry City. "I've enjoyed myself tremendously at Home Park," he said. "I came here to play games and help the team get out of the relegation battle we were in and we've been doing alright. The fans have been good to me and the lads are a good bunch, although the banter is poor. The gaffer brought me here to make a difference and I hope I've done that, but it's not just me; Matty Doumbe has been superb since I've been here." Despite a difficult start to his Argyle career, the team have improved markedly in the last three months, and are now within reach of safety. "The first two games were disappointing against Reading and Coventry but we've picked up since then," said Ward. "A couple more wins and we should be safe." The 1-1 draw against Wolves was a high-point for Ward, especially as he scored the Argyle goal. He added: "Scoring my first goal against Wolves was a great moment. Chadders helped by taking the goalie out, and I managed to get my head on the ball and it went in. I was particularly delighted as Wolves had started so well - we could have been three down after ten minutes. It was a very difficult game; we were under pressure for most of the game, so it was a good draw." The victories away at Cardiff and at home to Crystal Palace were also highlights for Ward. "Beating Cardiff away on Boxing Day was a great win, as was the victory over Palace at Home Park," he said. "I would now love to go out with a bang, get a good result against Coventry, and hopefully, I'll score the winner."
Tony Pulis is backing collective team spirit, not individual inspiration, to lift Argyle to safety this season. Pulis believes his team will need another 13 points to avoid relegation and that they have the endeavour to achieve that total. Although he remains optimistic of adding to his squad, particularly in defence, Pulis is confident his current players will complete the mission. "I'm not singling any one player out for special praise - the whole team has played their part over recent weeks," said Pulis. "All the defenders, not just Elliott, who has been great for us, have stepped up to the plate for the cause. But then, so has the whole team, in all areas of the park. It's not about individuals - we go forward together at this club."
Romain Larrieu is adamant that Argyle will still to be able to present a strong defensive barrier after the departure of Elliott Ward. Larrieu said: "Elliott has done really well in his time here and he has done everything he can to be part of the team. His performances have been top-drawer, but we have enough ability in the squad to cope with the fact that he won't be around any more. I'm not worried. We will thank Elliott for his contribution, which was a major one, but all the lads know what they need to do. We are much tighter at the back now, which is really good to see. I am in the top position to see that, because I depend so much on everybody else." Argyle have not conceded more than one goal in any game since January 2nd, but also have not scored in their last three matches. "It's a balance," Larrieu said. "If you don't defend well, you feel fragile, but as soon as you start to defend well then it gives confidence to your attack. I am sure we will score tomorrow." Asked if the lack of goals puts extra pressure on the defensive players, Larrieu said: "It can do that, but because we have had a good run over the last ten or 15 games we don't feel that pressure. We know we are able to score, and if we score we are liable to get the points." Today's target is three points against Coventry, who beat Argyle 3-1 in December. "We were so much on top for half an hour," Larrieu added, "but out of nothing we went back to the dressing room 2-1 down. We don't know how we ended up losing that game, but it didn't go for us that day. Now we have the opportunity to put the record straight."
Monday's friendly between Argyle and Torquay United has been moved to Channings Wood prison, near Newton Abbot The game is now a behind-closed-doors match!
Anthony Barness and David Norris are the main injury concerns ahead of the match against Coventry tomorrow. Barness has a slight groin strain, and Norris has yet to fully recover from the knock on the ankle he received against Sheffield United last weekend. Tony Pulis, however, is hoping both will be fit. He said: "Barness still has a sore groin and Norris is suffering with his ankle, although you wouldn't have known from the Stoke performance." Bojan Djordjic has fully recovered from a mild groin problem and Pulis is hoping he, along with others, will pick up match sharpness in the forthcoming reserve friendly at Plainmoor. "Bojan is fit again - we have a reserve friendly game at Torquay on Monday, which will give a few of them an opportunity to play," said Pulis
Tony Pulis has been busy doing his homework on Coventry City as he prepares for their visit to Home Park tomorrow. Pulis did not return to Plymouth with the squad after the draw at Stoke City on Tuesday but instead stayed in the Midlands and went to see Coventry beat Sheffield Wednesday following night. Pulis then drove back to Plymouth after the game, but was in his office at Home Park by 8.30am yesterday so he could watch a video of Coventry's 4-0 defeat at Watford last Saturday. Pulis thought his trip to the Ricoh Arena had been a worthwhile exercise, despite the travelling it involved. He said: "I just feel if you have got the opportunity you should do it. It was a long journey and a late night for me, but it has got to be done. I think, if you are not doing that, you are not doing your job. There are things you see in games that you think can help the team and they are fresh in my mind. I have got the tape of the Watford versus Coventry game, and I was sat in the office at 8.30 this morning watching it. Coventry played a different system against Watford. They played with five at the back, three in midfield and two up front. Last night they played 4-4-2." The victory over Sheffield Wednesday was Coventry's fifth in seven Championship games since the start of January. Pulis said: "They have got Adebola, Stern John, McSheffrey and Morrell - with Scowcroft to come in after suspension - so they have got firepower. If you look at the rest of their squad, they have got Wise, Hutchison, Page, Williams and Marcus Hall. They have got players with a lot of Premiership experience, never mind the Championship. Sheffield Wednesday had their chances last night, but Coventry always looked as though they were going to score goals." When Argyle lost at Coventry in December they were 20th in the Championship. Since then, they have picked up 20 points from their next 12 games, which has seen the Pilgrims open up an 11-point gap over the relegation positions. Pulis said: "When I first came to the football club in September the important issue was 'can we get more out of the players?' I think we have done that. We have got them fit, we have got them organised and we have got them working as a unit. We do need that little bit more - I think everybody recognises that - but I think the players have been fantastic. They have responded really well because we have all focused on what we have got, not what other teams have got. That has been the big thing here. I just think it's trying to get the best out of them as a group, and not as individuals. Everybody has stepped up a notch."
Elliott Ward returns to West Ham United after Saturday's game against Coventry City and Tony Pulis has been delighted with the contribution he has made. "Elliott has been first class and everybody at the club appreciates his effort and commitment, on and off the pitch," he said. "He's been a great advert for himself and West Ham United. "He's only 20 and still learning the game but I think he's enjoyed his time here. We've certainly enjoyed having him, and everybody will be sorry to see him go." Pulis is not the only one to have been impressed witth the form Ward has displayed at Home Park. Pulis said: "Alan Pardew has been pleased with Elliott's progress. "Elliott now needs to get his head down and try to break into the West Ham team. That's the next step for him - he's proven that he is an extremely capable performer at Championship level." Pulis is looking forward to a packed Home Park for Ward's farewell on Saturday. "A big crowd on Saturday will be fitting for Elliott because he has helped us climb the table," he said. "It will be nice for the supporters to turn out and show their appreciation for his efforts."
Tony Pulis has revealed that West Ham's James Collins was high on his wish list in the quest to replace Elliott Ward. Unfortunately for Argyle, the deal is seemingly dead due to interest from other clubs. "We tried to get James Collins from West ham and Alan Pardew was happy to do the deal, but I think there are bigger teams looking at him," said Pulis. "Bringing in Collins as a replacement to Ward was always the plan, and Alan was keen for that to happen. Unfortunately, a bigger club has come in for him. I think you'll find that he will be going to one of the top Championship sides."
Rufus Brevett will not be joining Leicester City on loan. The Foxes offered to take Brevett on a one-month loan but despite stating that Brevett is unlikely to feature in the first team this season, Tony Pulis was unwilling to release him for just one month. "Leicester rung up and wanted to take Rufus for a month," he said. "A month is no good for me or the club, if they want Rufus they should take him for the rest of the season."
Tony Pulis insists he is not concerned with his side's failure to score in their last three matches. He said: "I am really not worried that we haven't scored in our last three matches. We are creating chances still and that is the main thing. If we weren't, I would be concerned, but all the while we are, it isn't a problem. We just have to be patient. If we remain so, we will take our opportunities. I have every confidence in the players." Argyle will be hoping to end their barren run on Saturday against Coventry City, a game that will be the last at Argyle for Elliott Ward. The on-loan defender ends a three-month loan spell after the match and returns to West Ham United. Pulis confirmed a defender tops his wanted list but he is still hoping to bring in other players in different positions before the loan deadline of March 23rd. "We are desperately trying to bring in a couple of new faces to the squad,"he said. "Another centre-half is the priority what with Elliott going back after Saturday's match. But we are looking to strengthen all areas and just because we have brought in Vincent doesn't mean we won't be looking to bring another striker as well. Sometimes, you think you are close to bringing someone in and then, for one reason or another, that all falls apart. But we will keep trying to bring players in, who we think will improve the quality of the squad. It would be nice to bring in someone before Saturday, but you never know what is going to happen, so you cannot say for definite." Pulis has been impressed by Pericard, even though he has only been at the club a matter of days. "Vincent has settled in well at the club and he has done very well for us out on the pitch," said Pulis. "He needs more games to get his fitness up to the desired level, but he has the ability to hold the ball up and bring others into the game, as well as knowing where the goal is. He is a quality player who will help improve us between now and the rest of the season."
Tony Pulis paid tribute to Romain Larrieu after his save ensured Argyle gained a point at Stoke last night. "Romain made a great save at the end," he said . "He did not have a lot to do, but he made a great save. I keep saying it, but that's what 'keepers are paid for. He has been absolutely fantastic since I've been at the football club. It's a little bit disappointing for Luke because Romain has played that well. He's done it again tonight. I thought his handling was first class. I want Romain to stay at Plymouth Argyle for a long, long time." If Larrieu was the hero, Nick Chadwick was the villain, missing two tap-ins at the beginning of the second half. "The two chances just after half-time were gilt-edged chances," said Pulis. "Chadders thought he was offside for the first one; the second bobbled right at the last minute; but they are chances where he's only got to get connection and they go in the back of the net. It's two open goals, really." The draw keeps Argyle in 15th place in the Championship, on 40 points, with 13 games to go, and Pulis said: "We need to get to those 53 points as quick as we can; as soon as we're there, we can assess things again. If someone had said that, when I came to the club, I could have 40 points with 13 games to go, I wouldn't have believed it, so credit to the players. One or two of them said afterwards that, a few months back, they wouldn't have dug that result out. Tonight, they certainly showed a lot of character. We dug it out. As the game went on, Stoke obviously put more pressure on us, but we dug it out. It was difficult out there. There was a swirling wind and the pitch is a firm pitch, and it cut up a little bit. I thought both teams went at it full tilt and we felt that, if we'd got the first goal, we could have made them come out a little bit more and caused them more problems." The competitive nature of the game was the reason why Pulis did not bring on Akos Buzsaky, despite having him stripped for the last 15 minutes. Pulis said: "It got such a scrappy game that bringing on a very good player, and asking him to scrap and battle for bits and pieces would not work. I was ready to bring him on but he would have got lost in the wash, so we decided not to do that." It was not an easy night for outfield players and Pulis added: "It was difficult. There was a swirling wind and it was a firm pitch which cut up early on. But both teams went at it full-tilt. If we had scored the first goal, we could have gone on and won. It would have made them come out a little bit more and we could have caused them more problems." Pulis gave a full debut to Vincent Péricard, and said: "I thought he was smashing today. He did really well. He led the line on his own at times and the two chances came from his movement around the edge of the box. He's still nowhere near the standard of fitness he needs to be at full tilt, but I was pleased with him." A booking for Mathias Doumbe last night means that Argyle may be short of centre-backs when they visit Derby on February 25th. "Wardy goes back after Saturday and Matty will be suspended," said Pulis. "Ever since I came to the club, there's been one hurdle to climb, then another and another and another. So we'll have to climb it and make sure we don't fall over. We'll be looking for players, but Aljofree has done well. He's been patient - he might get his chance." Pulis was given a warm round of applause from the Stoke fans before the game. "It was a fantastic reception," he said. "I'm very, very pleased. You sometimes worry about going back, about what people might think of your time here. The directors wanted change, and they will stand or fall by that, but I do wish everybody here all the best. It's a fantastic club and I enjoyed my two and half years here. I'm now swimming a different channel and I'm just hoping that, if and when I do leave Plymouth, I get the same reception I got here tonight."
Argyle drew 0-0 at Stoke City. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Ward, Barness, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Chadwick. Subs – Evans (not used - McCormick, Aljofree, Buzsaky, Hodges). Attendance - 10,242.
Mat Doumbe has declared that the Argyle players are in no mood to settle for mere safety in the Championship this season. They want to finish as high as possible. Doumbe said: "Apart from last week, when we lost at Burnley and everybody was disappointed because we should have done better than that, we have been doing well. But we are still going to push hard. We are not going to content ourselves with being ten points clear of the bottom three. We want to win more games and get as high as we can." Doumbe felt that Argyle might have deserved more than a point against Sheffield United. He added: "It was a good game but I'm not going to say it was the best result we could have had. For sure we wanted to win, but it was a good performance. We had a couple of chances we could have done better with, so we are a bit disappointed. We may have drawn against the team second in the League, but it could have been better for us. The four at the back, Paul, Anthony, Elliott and myself, we did well. We stayed compact all the time, even when they were running fast and strong at us. We defended very well against them. That wasn't the problem. We could have done better with our chances - and maybe we deserved a little more luck."
Tony Pulis is determined to make his return to his former club a side-issue as Argyle prepare to take on Stoke City tonight. He said: "Everybody will discuss my return to Stoke but the important issue is picking up three points for Argyle. I enjoyed my two and a half years at Stoke and I'm looking forward to going back. As soon as the whistle goes I'll be desperate for the three points." Pulis remains hopeful that he will receive a good reception from the Stoke crowd. He said: "As a manager, you hope to get a decent response when you return to a former club because of the work you've put in. Sometimes you get a good reception, and sometimes you don't. It's the first time I've gone back there, so I'll soon find out." Despite Stoke striker Sambegou Bangoura arriving back late from the African Nations Cup, Pulis is still expecting him to take his place in the line-up. "I think Bangoura will be back in the side. He's a goalscorer with good pace and I expect him to play up-front with Mamady Sidibe," he said. "It will give them a lift if he does play, so it will be a tough game." Pulis has a decision to make regarding his own strikers. He said: "In the last 20 minutes againsy Sheffield United Vincent had three or four efforts on goal and he created a couple of opportunities for others as well. It's a three game week and Micky has been playing with a niggling injury because we've only had two senior strikers. We've patched him up and got him out there but the acquisition of Vincent allows us to share out the responsibility."
Leicester City are believed to be interested in signing Rufus Brevett on loan
Tony Pulis wants to make three more loan signings after the arrival of Vincent Pericard at Home Park. Pulis said: "I'm looking at three other loan signings. I was in touch with one club the other morning about a player who we are hoping we will be able to get sorted out. There are another two we have been really, really close to bringing in but with players of decent pedigree you have got to work very hard. We can't go out and say 'we are going to give you over the top money'. We can't go out and say 'we have got the best facilities in the world'. We can't go out and say 'it's only two minutes from your doorstep, come and play some football'. These are all the problems we have got, and there is no hiding away from the fact so you have got to be a little bit more patient and a little bit more stubborn in what you are chasing and trying to get." Pulis insisted one of the three loan players he was trying to sign was not Jason Jarrett. Pulis said: "I have not spoken to Jason since he came down here. Obviously, he's a player that everybody at Plymouth Argyle liked. The staff, the people around the club and the supporters really took to Jason, I think. He's a decent player. I have worked with him twice now and one day maybe there might be a third time but, at the moment, he's not one of the ones we have been talking about." Pulis admitted Pericard would need some time to settle at Home Park and reach peak fitness but he believes the French striker will be an excellent recruit. He said: "With no disrespect to anybody but these are the sort of players we have got to be looking to bring into Plymouth Argyle. We have got to get another four or five wins to definitely be safe to stay in the league and that is still a big task for us because there are a lot of tough games coming up. We must not take our eye off the ball. Once that is achieved, and I hope to God it is achieved, then we have got to be looking at next season. And next season we have got to be bringing players in who are going to push the club forward and not stand still."
Anthony Barness and David Norris are the main injury worries ahead of Argyle's visit to Stoke City tomorrow night. Tony Pulis is still hopeful that both will be fit but admitted it will be a late decision. "They'll both travel up to Stoke but we'll have to wait and see," he said. "Hasney has played left-back and done ok, so I've got no problem with playing him. Norris took a whack on his ankle early on against Sheffield United but he's a tough kid and I'm hoping he'll be alright to play." If Norris is unable to play Akos Buzsaky is a possible replacement but Pulis is reluctant to rush him back into the team. Buzsaky has been struggling with an abdominal problem for a couple of months. Pulis said: "Akos is ok but he's still not as sharp as he was before the injury. We want to give him the time to regain that sharpness."
Lilian Nalis was the centre of attention before, during, and after the game against Sheffield United. Following Nalis's man-of-the-match performance Tony Pulis said: "Lilian couldn't get in the Sheffield United side and Neil spent an absolute fortune on bringing Flitcroft to his club, but I'm more than delighted to have Lilian in my side. If Neil didn't want Lilian to play against him, he shouldn't have sold him." Nalis, himself, was in no doubt that he would play the game. "All I know is that Plymouth are paying my wages and my manager asked me to play, and that's it," said Nalis. The Frenchman was more interested in the second-half performance as Argyle pressured Sheffield United and created the better chances. Nalis said: "We tried to improve our passing in the second half and be more confident on the ball." Although Nalis enjoyed meeting up with his former colleagues, he is loving his time at Argyle and praised the commitment of his new team-mates. "It's a pleasure to see my mates from Sheffield, but my priority is getting points for Plymouth," he said. "I'm really enjoying myself at Argyle and the commitment from all the players is superb."
Tony Pulis hailed his players' battling performance as a 'fantastic result' after yesterdays draw. "It was a tough game," said Pulis. "Neil's sides are always very competitive.They've spent an absolute fortune and they have some quality players. You've got to put things into perspective. They've just spent £2million on a new striker, so it's a fantastic result for us. We took the game to them in the second half, and we're disappointed not to have won. We played with a better tempo, and if anybody was going to win the game, it was us. Their best chances came from our mistakes. When you look at their squad, we've done exceptionally well to hold them and second half we pushed them back." Argyle had to settle for one point, but that was still a commendable achievement according to Pulis, who is only too aware of the disparity in resources between his club and the Sheffield United. "I keep saying it," he said. "It's like you're going into a Grand Prix and, with the money they've spent and what they've got, it's like they're a Ferrari and you're asking a Morris Minor to hold the tail-plate. You've got to be realistic and put everything into perspective. Look at their wage bill compared to our wage bill. They've got a centre-forward they've just spent nearly £2 million on. Do us a favour. It's a fantastic result." Argyle were on the back foot for much of the first half, but had more of the game after the break. "At half-time we said we've got to go forward as well, we have to get bodies forward," Pulis added. "I thought Tony and Chuck pushed up a little bit further in the second half and gave us more impetus going forward." Pulis introduced new loan signing Vincent Péricard as a second-half substitute, and believes the Frenchman will prove a good acquisition. "Vincent will be a very good player, but he needs time," he said. "He showed some good touches but he also looked rusty at times. There were one or two occasions when he could have moved the ball a little bit quicker, but there were other occasions where he caused them trouble up and around the box and that wasn't bad for his first game. He's had two bad years with injuries and we must be patient. He's a smashing lad, with good pace and power in his play."
Argyle drew 0-0 with Sheffield United at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Ward, Barness, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Evans, Chadwick. Subs - Pericard (not used - McCormick, Buzsaky, Hodges, Aljofree). Attendance - 15,017.
Vincent Pericard has admitted the French connection at Argyle influenced his decision to sign for the club. He said: "It does make me feel comfortable and not afraid. I have got people to talk to, which is good." Pericard spent three months at Sheffield United earlier in the season, when Lilian Nalis was one of his team-mates. He said: "We trained together so he's the person I know the most at the moment. I have known Mark O'Connor for a very long time so I know how he works. I feel very confident to be here with him around, as well as the other French players. Plymouth really wanted me so you have to go to a club where the manager wants you. That's why I came here." Pericard has past experience of playing at Championship level, as a member of Portsmouth's Division One championship-winning squad of 2002/03. He said: "The standard is lower than the Premiership but it's still good. The players are clever. I have got experience in this division so I know what to expect. I just need to get my fitness. I want to play every game and score as many goals as possible." Reports suggest Argyle have an option to make Pericard's loan move a permanent transfer. But for the time being he is not looking beyond the end of this season. Pericard added: "I don't have a clue what's going to happen in the summer. I will just do my best here and enjoy playing football every week. That's what I want to do."
Tony Pulis believes Argyle have benefited from the bad luck Vincent Pericard has had with injuries over the last couple of years. He said: "I'm delighted. The kid has had a couple of bad injuries that have kept him out for a long time. If he hadn't have had those injuries I don't think he would be at Plymouth Argyle now. So we have been very opportunist in respect of waiting and knowing what was there. Vincent played with my son Anthony at Portsmouth so he has spoken to him and to Mark O'Connor, who he knows really well. I think Mark has played a major role in getting him to Plymouth, which is lovely. We have fought off a lot of competition to sign Vincent. The kid wants to come to a place where he is going to enjoy his football and be a big part of something. We have got him for three months and it's a suck-it-and-see situation for both of us, but we are just delighted we have got him." Pulis believes Pericard has a lot of qualities which will make him a valuable addition to the squad. He said: "He has got good pace and good power but he can play as well. He scored a lot of goals for Portsmouth when they were promoted from this level. Now what we have got to do is give him time because he hasn't played much football over the last couple of years, but he's only 23 and he's a young lad." Pulis added "I was getting everybody I knew that knew Vincent to ring him. Lilian was one of those people. We had a walk around the pitch for five minutes before training yesterday and I said to Vincent 'persistence pays off sometimes' and he just looked and smiled at me. We have worn him down really." Pulis believes that Pericard, despite his experience with Juventus and Portsmouth, is a still an up-and-coming player. He said: "Vincent is 23. We are not taking on a 35 or 36-year-old who has run out of gas and is just looking to Plymouth to see out his days. We are actually taking on someone, I hope, who has got the desire and commitment to push on." Pericard is included in Argyle's squad today but Pulis would not be drawn on whether he would make his debut in the starting line-up. He said: "He goes straight into the squad. Whether I will play him or not, I'm not sure. It's a three-game week and he only travelled down to Plymouth late on Thursday night."
After the disappointment of defeat at Burnley last weekend, Argyle's players are in no mood to drop more points against Sheffield United this afternoon. David Norris said: "We'll be relishing the battle. They're a big strong team, and they're going ever so well at the moment. We'll look forward to it. They were expected to win here last year and I'm sure they'll be coming down here expecting to win this year, but it doesn't always work out like that. After the loss they've just had, too, I'm sure they're going to be really fired up. This is a really tough league, and you have to graft hard as well as play football. We're getting our rewards and, although we slipped down a couple of places last weekend, if we can get a couple of wins from the next three or four games we could be up there in the top half." Apart from last month's defeat to Leeds United, when he was suspended, Norris has started every Championship game since Tony Pulis became Argyle manager in September. "Burnley was a quieter game for me, but up until then I've been really pleased with my form, especially over Christmas and the New Year" he said. "Hopefully I can keep that going."
Neil Warnock is reported to be not happy with Argyle. Warnock has confirmed that he believes he had reached an agreement which would prevent Lilian Nalis playing in this afternoon's game but it remains to be seen if he has any written proof of the 'clause'. Last night he was attempting to contact Tony Pulis and Paul Stapleton to resolve the dispute
Argyle are insisting that Lilian Nalis can play against Sheffield United tomorrow. The club have denied rumours that they had an agreement with United which would prevent him taking part in the game. Tony Pulis and Paul Stapleton both yesterday stated that Nalis will be available for selection this weekend
Keith Lasley today completed a loan move to Blackpool until the end of the season
Argyle today completed the signing of Portsmouth's French striker Vincent Pericard on loan until the end of the season. Reports suggest the loan deal will include the option to sign Pericard on a permanent basis in the summer. Pericard is determined to get back to playing regular football after suffering with injuries in the last couple of years. "I'm very happy to be here and I just want to enjoy my football," he said. "Football is my job, and my first priority is to enjoy my job and, hopefully, everything else will come after." Tony Pulis was particularly pleased to have signed Pericard after failing to sign a forward before the transfer deadline had passed. He said: "Vincent's a good player and we're delighted to have him. I first watched him play when Pompey battered Coventry 5-2 in their promotion season. Vincent played up-front with Svetoslav Todorov, and the pair of them slaughtered the Coventry defence." Pulis revealed that Argyle coach, Mark O'Connor, was a major factor in bringing Péricard to Home Park. "Mark O'Connor has played a big part in the deal, having worked with Vincent at Portsmouth," he said. "I want to thank for Portsmouth for helping us secure the deal. We just want Vincent to enjoy his football and score some goals." Despite only bringing in one player during the transfer window, Pulis is relatively satisfied with the course of events. Pulis said: "The transfer window causes some managers to panic, and spend big money on average players. With Jason Jarrett, Elliott Ward, Lilian Nalis and now Vincent, we have brought some good players to the club."
Tony Capaldi has been selected for the Northern Ireland squad to play Estonia on March 1st
Argyle will play a reserve-team friendly against Torquay United at Plainmoor on Monday February 20th at 2pm
Tony Pulis has been thrilled with the contribution made by Lilian Nalis since his arrival at Home Park. He said: "I think Nalis has done well. His attitude has been first class. He has shown a real assurance about his performances and the players have taken to him as well, which is always nice. The group have embraced him as an individual off the pitch, and as an individual on the pitch. It's always nice when someone comes into the football club and fits in so tidily." It is only natural Nalis will want to put in a good display against his former club tomorrow, but Pulis downplayed whether the Frenchman would be out to prove a point. He said: "I'm not one to build things up in that respect. For me, there's a bigger picture than that. It's not Lilian against Sheffield United, it's Plymouth Argyle against Sheffield United." The Blades are in second position in the Championship and the game looks like a formidable task for Argyle as they try to bounce back from their loss at Burnley last Saturday. Pulis said: "Sheffield United are almost guaranteed Premiership football. They are coming here and have got enough points at this present moment to have a blip and still push on. They have done fantastically well and it will be a tough game, but this is one of the gold fixtures that are left for us for the season. They have got Akinbiyi, Kabba, Webber, Shipperley, Deane, Dyer, Ifill and Tonge - to name just a few of their attacking players. We are playing a team with so much artillery going forward that it's going to be an exciting game whichever way you look at it." Argyle had won three successive matches before they lost against Burnley and Pulis added: "The biggest thing in life is not getting knocked down, it's how quickly you get back up. It's the same with a football team. It's suffering a defeat and then trying to pick yourself up again and be in a position to start throwing punches, and we have got the opportunity against a side that is odds-on now to get in the Premiership."
Argyle have concerns over the fitness of three players in the build-up to Saturday's game with Sheffield United. Tony Pulis said: "Akos has a slight knee problem, and we'll just have to wait and see whether he is fit for Saturday. Hasney has had a scan on his knee, but we're expecting him to be fit for the game. Djordjic, however, is struggling with his groin and I'll be surprised if he is ready in time."
Argyle's small first-team squad may be even smaller this weekend if Lilian Nalis is unable to play against Sheffield United. The Blades are understood to have given Argyle some degree of financial assistance when Nalis made his move to Home Park and, in return, according to reports, an understanding was reached that the Frenchman would not appear in this weekend's fixture
Tony Pulis has confirmed that Elliott Ward will play his last game for Argyle on February 18th. He said: "Elliott will be returning to West ham after the Coventry game."
Keith Lasley was today considering a loan move to Blackpool whilst Rufus Brevett looks set to join Doncaster Rovers. Tony Pulis said: "Blackpool have come on about Lasley so we have given him permission to speak to them. And Doncaster have asked about Rufus Brevett and we have given him the opportunity to speak to them." Pulis has been busy trying to bring loan signings into Home Park this week. He said: "Loads of people are leaving and we are working on people coming in, but we have not been successful yet."
Tony Pulis is convinced Chris Zebroski and Reuben Reid have the potential to become future first team stars and has been excited by the progress made by the two teenage strikers over recent months. Zebroski made his fourth appearance for Argyle as a substitute at Burnley on Saturday and Reid also travelled to Turf Moor as he was included in the senior squad for the first time, although he was not on the bench. Pulis thought the experience would be beneficial for Reid, who has formed a potent goalscoring force with Zebroski in the under-18s side this season. He said: "It was to give him an insight into travelling away with the first team. He has got a lot of talent and we have just got to mould him. He had not been away before and with his mate getting on, he can see what's at the end of the road if he's prepared to keep working hard. They play up front together so it's nice to keep them together. I have been really pleased with those two. Reuben has got really good feet. He can manipulate the ball much better than Chris can do at this present moment. He's better with the ball in and around his feet. Chris is a better all-round player, I would say. He's much more direct and looks as though he's going to score goals. For a pair, they are a good partnership." Despite the performances of Zebroski and Reid at youth and reserve level, Pulis is under no illusions that he needs to add more experienced strikers to his slender squad. He said: "I see Chris and Reuben as the future of the football club, not the present."
Tony Pulis is waiting to find out the severity of the injury suffered by Akos Buzsaky. He said: "He was desperate to play at Bristol but he felt his knee as he was getting off the bus. Whether it's the travelling up to Burnley and back and then jumping in a bus again on Monday for another two hours, I don't know. Akos said it felt very stiff so we didn't want to take a chance. We are going to get him scanned."
Argyle are reported to have offered Rufus Brevett a £60,000 pay off to leave Home Park
Akos Buzsaky suffered another injury setback when he was forced to withdraw from the reserve match at Bristol Rovers yesterday. Buzsaky was bothered by an ankle injury he picked up during his brief appearance at Burnley last Saturday, and not by his pelvic problem. He said: "I thought I would be able to play, but I couldn't." Geoff Crudgington added: "Akos was feeling a little niggle in his ankle, and as it was a reserve game we didn't take any chances."
Argyle's next Championship game, against Sheffield United at Home Park on Saturday, will provide them with an opportunity to rediscover their match-winning form. Paul Connolly and Paul Wotton both played for Argyle in the 3-0 victory over United in February last year, and are determined to claim another victor. Connolly said: "We've got a massive game against Sheffield United at home next Saturday. They're second in the League and they're flying. It's a big, big game, which is just what we want after last Saturday. Hopefully we'll be able to put on a good performance in front of a big crowd and we'll be able to do the business. We'll be the underdogs and there won't be many people expecting us to win, so it's up to us go and win. We all can't wait for the game." Wotton said: "We had a great run and we've got a great game to look forward to at the weekend. We'll have a good week's training, I'm sure, and we'll be up for it. There will be no fear, nothing to worry about. We'll give it our all, as we do in every game, and hopefully that will be enough on the day. We are bitterly upset about losing at Burnley. We'd forgotten what losing was like and it doesn't feel very nice, so we'll try to get back to winning ways as soon as possible." Wotton, like Tony Pulis, felt that Argyle should have been awarded at least one penalty at Burnley. "I believe the full-back admitted to Tony it should have been a penalty," he said, "but what can you do? And I can't understand how the one on Mickey wasn't a penalty. That challenge would have been a free-kick if it had been on the halfway line. But we did get a controversial penalty last week, so I suppose things work themselves out." Wotton and his colleagues will hope that luck, and refereeing decisions, favour them against Sheffield United on Saturday. "The gaffer drilled it into us about how important the start was at Burnley, and we didn't start well," he said. "We weren't at the races in the first 20 minutes and then, after they scored, we bombarded them for 70 minutes without really working their 'keeper. It was a poor game with nothing in it, but Burnley took a chance and we didn't - simple as that."
Tony Pulis believes Paul Connolly has a lot of potential but that there are still areas of his game he must improve on. He said: "Defensively, Paul still has lapses but his general play on Saturday was good. I think he has got a chance of being a good player but the one thing he has really got to work on are his concentration levels." Meanwhile, Pulis has explained that the absence of Bojan Djordjic from the Argyle squad at Burnley was for tactical reasons. Pulis said: "I wanted two attacking players on the bench so it was two out of three from Zebroski, Akos and Bo. Zebroski played ever so well for the reserves last Wednesday so I went with him, and it was either Akos or Bo for the other place. I had Lee Hodges on the bench to cover the midfield and Hasney Aljofree, who can play in the defence."
Argyle reserves drew 0-0 at Bristol Rovers this afternoon. Argyle: McCormick, McKeever, Hodges, Laird.S, Brevett, Bond, Summerfield, Lasley, Reski, Zebroski, Reid. Subs – Drew, Watts. Geoff Crudgington was pleased with the performance. He said: "They did well. They worked hard, played some good stuff at times and should have won the game really. I can't remember Bristol creating a chance. Luke certainly didn't have a save to make. We had two or three reasonable chances that on another day might have gone in. Overall, I was pleased with the performance. The effort and commitment was spot on so I have got no complaints. The two young lads up front did well but it was a good team effort."
Paul Connolly and his team-mates have become unaccustomed to the taste of defeat this year, and were unhappy after Saturday's defeat at Burnley. Connolly said: "We started slowly, and I thought the goal was coming when it did, but from then on we dominated the game. I don't think we created as much as we would have liked, but at the same time we were on top. From all the pressure we had, we should have come away with a result. We've been getting little knock-downs fall our way in recent games in the penalty box, but it didn't happen here. To be fair to their back four, I thought they were brilliant. They won almost every header and most of the second balls. They were really solid, but at the same time we should have created a bit more. There were crosses coming in, but they were always falling to their players. On another day it could have been 3-1 or 4-1 to us, but it wasn't to be." The loss meant that Argyle missed out on an opportunity to move into the top half of the Championship table, although they are still nine points clear of the relegation zone. The players want to see that gap grow. "We can't afford to be complacent," Connolly added. "We want to build another run and try to go five or six games unbeaten. We're sick about losing here and we can't wait for next Saturday." Connolly has been absent from the team, or hindered, for much of last month or more with a thigh strain. "This was the first game that I've played for a long time with no niggle," he said. "For a few weeks, when I was in the team I kept feeling the thigh strain. I went for a scan and found out I had two tears in my thigh. I think I've been playing with that, and it can't have been doing me any good. The physio, Paul Maxwell, has been brilliant with me and I've been in every day, even on my days off, working hard and now I really feel good. I feel able to get up and down with no pain."
Paul Wotton called Argyle's defeat at Burnley on Saturday a 'missed opportunity' as their recent revival ended abruptly. He said: "The gaffer drilled it into us about how important the start was today, and we didn't start well. We weren't at the races in the first 20 minutes and, then after they scored, we bombarded them for 70 minutes without really working their goalie. It was a poor game with nothing in it but they took a chance and we didn't, simple as that." Argyle dropped to 15th in the Championship after the defeat but are still nine points clear of the relegation zone. Wotton added: "We are disappointed because we could have gone up a good few places. We are bitterly upset. We forgot what losing was like and it doesn't feel very nice so we will try to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. We are disappointed that with the amount of balls we put in their box in the second half none of them fell for us for one reason or another." Argyle now prepare to face Sheffield United next Saturday. Wotton said: "We have had a fantastic run and it's a great game to look forward to next Saturday. We will have a good week's training and make sure we are up for that. Sheffield United are a big club but there is nothing to worry about. We will give it our all, as we do in every game, and, hopefully, that will be enough."
Tony Pulis claimed his side lack an instinctive goalscorer after watching Argyle batter Burnley but fail to score. He said: "We let ourselves down today in the final third. We had enough possession, enough opportunities, and we've got to start taking out chances. Maybe, that's our weakness - when we get up there, we haven't got that clinical finisher that scores the goals. I am not disappointed with the commitment, the way we played; the biggest disappointment was that little bit of quality we lacked in the final third to turn all the possession and area-dominance into better chances. We were sloppy for the first 20 minutes: we started slowly; they got the goal. From then on, it was one-way traffic except for them breaking now and then. Larrieu didn't have a short to save in the second half. About 90 per cent of the game was played in their half of the pitch. We just didn't take the opportunities and the chances." Pulis felt the referee could have awarded two penalties, when Michael Duff fouled Tony Capaldi in the 40th minute, and, later when Mickeyl Evans appeared to have been fouled. "The one first half was an absolute stone bonk penalty," he said. "I think Tony's just done him and he's caught him. The referee's put his whistle to his mouth and pulled it back down. He had a good look at it. He couldn't have been better positioned. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. We're more disappointed about having so much play in the final third and not really creating the most of our opportunities. For an hour, we completely dominated made but made their goalkeeper save only about three times." Burnley's goal stemmed from an intercepted quick free-kick by Mickey Evans. "That happens," said Pulis. "Mickey's seen a pass and you can't stop him from doing that if he sees a pass. It went the full length of the pitch before they score the goal. There's no way I'm blaming Mickey." Pulis had words of praise for Chris Zebroski, who came on as a late substitute after impressing the manager in a midweek reserve game. "He's one for the future and one that we've got to work with and give him the opportunity," said Pulis. "He's a good kid and he has worked hard in training and played ever so well at Bristol last Wednesday. So he deserves a little go."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Burnley. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Ward, Barness, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Evans, Chadwick. Subs – Buzsaky, Zebroski (not used - McCormick, Aljofree, Hodges). Attendance - 11,292.
Tony Pulis wants to bolster his squad with at least four loan signings and is optimistic about his chances when the Football League allow 'emergency' loans, starting next Tuesday. Pulis said: "We definitely need to bring players in. That's important. The eye-opening thing for me, has been to see how people perceive this football club to be. I don't mean the football club itself, but the location more than anything else. If we were based in the Midlands or London we would attract players. But outside of Plymouth, it is perceived to be that club out on a limb. It's difficult, but we have got to overcome it. It's no good to keep talking about it. We have got to find a way around it." Pulis and his staff have been out and about over recent months checking out potential signings and he hopes that endeavour will pay off when loan signings are permitted again. He said: "I would like to bring in four if I could, maybe five. If I could bring a couple of young ones in as well I would do that because we might lose one or two. That is a possibility. There are still one or two who could leave." Pulis believes Argyle must be prepared to break their wage structure to get better players to the club. He added: "The point I'm making is that there are big players in certain positions that influence your team. And I think we, as a football club, have got to understand those are the vital positions. To get players who are going to push the club forward, then those areas will cost you maybe a little bit more than other areas. The whole ethic of building the football club and taking it forward is actually recognising the strengths of what you are trying to put together and what it's going to take to put that structure together. We have got to understand that we have got to move the jigsaw pieces around to fit the necessity of what we need. You can make certain areas in your group very stringent and tight budget-wise and then you can release the purse strings a little bit more on other areas. There is no way in a million years the chairman is going to give me £2million to add to my wage budget. But, within that structure, I might have to release a little bit on one side of the pitch to give me a little bit more for the other side of the pitch. That's me as a football manager and the way I have always worked."
Tony Pulis has urged the Argyle board to consider revising the club's wage structure in order to increase the chances of attracting high-class players to Home Park. He said: "We need to bring players in. I'd like to bring in four or five, if I can, because we might lose one or two more. The important thing is to bring in players who are at the right level to push us forward in the Championship. The one thing you can't take away from the group is their work ethic. If you bring in a couple of charlies now who just swan around, you could ruin all of that. There are loads of players who want to come to Plymouth, but whether those players are good enough to push us on is another matter." In common with every other manager ever employed by the club, Pulis has found that Argyle's location hinders recruitment. "Outside Plymouth, it is perceived to be a club out in the wilderness," he said. "It's difficult, but we have to overcome it. We have to find a way around it. That's the big issue for us. How do we find better players for this football club? We've got to have a strategy where we can compete for the best players in certain positions. Maybe we need to restructure the financial balance at first-team level. We have to recognise that certain players can make a difference, week in, week out. Big players in certain vital positions can influence your team. We have to understand that players in those areas will cost you maybe a little bit more than players in other areas. Money should be spent on the backbone of the team." The Argyle manager used his successful time in charge of Gillingham as an example to back up his point. "I had Bob Taylor and Carl Asaba up front, and everybody knew they were earning more money than anybody else. But Asaba scored 22 goals and Taylor scored 21 and we got to the play-off final. The players knew they were the cream. They were the difference between us winning games and losing games."
Paul Wotton scored his sixth penalty of the season in the win over Southampton on Tuesday and Tony Pulis had no doubts Wotton would convert the matchwinning spot kick. He said: "I was standing there thinking 'Wotton will score'. It's lovely to have that feeling. You feel so confident with him running up to the ball." Pulis was pleased with the performance of Wotton and Lilian Nalis in central midfield against Southampton. He added: "Southampton played three midfield players so Wotton and Nalis were outnumbered in there but they kept working and battling and chasing. Sometimes supporters don't see all the graft that goes on and all the commitment that goes on."
Rufus Brevett has played his last game for Argyle. Tony Pulis has admitted he has no plans to use him for the rest of the season and said: "I have had a chat with Rufus about the situation and he's aware he's not going to be involved in the team from now until the end of the season. I didn't bring Rufus in but he has been good as gold. There have been no problems between me and him. I have been pretty straight with him."
Tony Capaldi could get an immediate recall to Argyle's starting line-up for the visit to Burnley tomorrow. Akos Buzsaky replaced the suspended Capaldi against Southampton but Tony Pulis was not impressed with the performance of the Hungarian. He said: "I thought Akos was poor, but he worked hard and gave it his best shot. He never performed anywhere near the levels he can reach, but it was his first game for a while so we have got to accept that, but I'm not going to sit here and say he was magnificent. I just think he was rusty and it was a very quick, competitive game. I thought he would take the bull by the horns but he never slipped into it. That does not make any difference to my opinion of the kid - he's a terrific player." Pulis gave away no clues when he was asked whether Capaldi would be recalled to the team. He said: "That's why I get paid, to make those sort of decisions. It will be for the best interests of the team, not the individual. It's very important for the club that all the main players stay fit and are available because we haven't got a big group of senior players here. Tony has done exceptionally well and he has been a major part of the team and a major part of the success we have had over the last couple of months." Pulis has an injury worry over Anthony Barness, who sat out training with a groin problem. Pulis said: "Barness has a slight groin strain that we're a little concerned about but, hopefully, he'll be fit. He's not trained today but I think he'll be ready for Saturday." Argyle have lost only one of their last nine league games and Pulis admitted there was a feel-good factor around the club. He said: "Winning breeds confidence, but we know we have got to keep our feet on the ground. There are difficult games ahead of us, starting with Burnley tomorrow. We are not getting carried away but it's lovely to win and it was lovely to have 16,000 fans on Tuesday night to watch a Championship game. That's what we want all the time. We want to be filling the stadium with supporters and we want them to come and watch a team that is committed and winning games. That's the aim, obviously."
Tony Pulis has insisted the players deserve the credit for Argyle's recent excellent results, and not him. Pulis was one of four bosses nominated for the Championship manager-of-the-month award for January but he said: "If the team is winning and playing well the manager gets the accolades but, for me, it's down to the players. The players at this football club have been very good and they are the ones who have turned it around. We can only help them." Pulis still sees a lot of room for improvement, despite Argyle's recent results and he added: "We have got a long way to go. The retention of possession at times and our play with the ball has got to be better. But, as a group, the workrate and their commitment together has been fantastic. I have had a chat with the players and told them we have had a great run, but that great run counts for nothing. That finishes at three o'clock tomorrow, and we are up and at them again. That's the attitude you have got to have. If you haven't got that drive and that determination, then don't be in football because games come around so quickly and things can turn so quickly. I have always been guarded in that respect about the next game." Pulis was appointed as Argyle manager on September 23rd and his record in 21 league games is seven wins, nine draws and five defeats, for a 30-point return. Pulis said: "I think we are more organised now and everybody is pulling together. Everybody knows their jobs within the group and if they are not being done then people get onto them, which is nice. Supporters pay good money and expect to see their players run around and be committed." Argyle's latest victory came on Tuesday when they beat Southampton at Home Park. Pulis said: "Let's not forget, Southampton spend more on their academy than we do on our first team, so we have got to punch above our weight. We have got to be committed and you can't carry anyone. As soon as you start carrying people that's it, you are on the slippery slope."
Argyle have launched an investigation into the power failure that delayed the kick-off of the game against Southampton on Tuesday night. The start of the game was delayed 17 minutes because of an electrical fault. Michael Dunford said: "We have sought to obtain an independent report from our electrical contractors, who were on site promptly on Wednesday morning. The power loss was unfortunate but we, as a club, acted promptly and the contractors' report will help us identify the root cause. It was obviously not to our liking that we should suffer a power failure. But the supporters showed patience, they took it in good humour and a victory certainly helped." When asked about the power failure, Tony Pulis said: "I think it just shows the necessity of this stadium being finished. No disrespect to people anywhere, but we are bringing Southampton down here, and it's a pleasure for us to be playing Southampton. When you go to their new stadium it's absolutely fantastic. If we want to be fighting against the big boys, or in the top 40 in the country, then we have got to turn this around and finish the development programme. The sooner we do that the better. You don't want people going away and saying 'the lights went out, the game could have been called off'. But Paul Stapleton has got that in hand. The directors know which way the football club is going. They have been very successful over the last three or four years and they know this has got to be finished." Pulis thought the delayed kick-off was why the first half against Southampton was so flat. He said: "I have gone to games where they have been put back and I think it affects the home team rather than the away side. You get them up for it and then waiting in the dressing room for 10-15 minutes takes away that little bit of buzz."
Argyle reserves drew 1-1 at Bristol City today in the Pontins Holidays Combination Cup fixture, the goal scored by Chris Zebroski. Argyle: McCormick, McKeever, Laird.S, Kendall, Hodges, Lasley, Bond, Summerfield, Djordjic. Subs - Reski, Watts (not used - Drew, Laird.J, Smith)
Tony Pulis was frustrated as the transfer window closed on Tuesday night. Having failed to land any of his targets, Pulis was disappointed, but not despondent. "We've come close to getting players but it's proved to be difficult," he said. "I was hoping to bring in three or four players but it never materialized. We have had loads of lines out, trying to get players, but we found it difficult to be honest. You think you have got something on the end of it and it falls away - they go somewhere else or they decide not to come here. I'm disappointed not to have made a signing - everybody is disappointed, supporters and players. People shouldn't forget that we can make loan signings next week. I know this league and I know the standard, and we must bring in players that will improve us. I'm not going to sign players for the sake of it because it will cost us in the long-run." Pulis is also determined not to bring in players who may have an adverse effect on the squad. "We've got to be careful who we bring in because it can be disruptive," he added. "They must be capable of emulating the work ethic of this group of lads. There are clubs who have signed three or four players and lost their games tonight. Our budget is not big enough to swan around and take a chance with five or six players and then say in two weeks' time that three of them are not good enough. We can't do that. The ones we bring in have got to be rubber-stamped and good enough to take us forward. I think the one thing I have always done in my management career is always be diligent in that respect." Pulis also confirmed the departure of Bjarni Gudjonsson and said: "Bjarni is leaving the club. He's sorted out and is going to pastures new. He's a great lad and I wish him all the best for the future."
Romain Larrieu made a stunning late save as Argyle beat Southampton last night, their third successive victory which moved them up to 14th in the table. Tony Pulis said: "I thought it was a scrappy game and it wasn't one for the purists. I just think the effort and commitment of the players, as well as the togetherness, was absolutely first class. People will talk about Romain's save, but he has had a few games off where he hasn't been asked to do anything because of the other players. He has played his part tonight when called upon. It was a fantastic save - absolutely top drawer. But let's not take anything away from the commitment of the 10 in front of him." Pulis was non-committal about the controversial penalty decision and said: "I would have to see it on the video again. The lad did jump over Mickey but whether it has hit him on the arm I don't know. The lads thought Chadwick was fouled inside the box earlier on in the second half. I don't know whether that was or not. I couldn't see from where I was, but maybe it has evened itself out." Argyle are now nine points and seven positions clear of the relegation zone. Pulis added: "We are edging closer and closer to safety but I will reiterate this, we must not take our foot off the pedal. People must not get complacent around the club. It's a tough league we play in and every game is a difficult one. Tonight, we played against a team who were in the Premiership this time last year. We have managed to take four points off them this season, which is a fantastic return for this football club. The league position only counts at the end of the season. I will always say that. My priority is just to get as many points as we possibly can from the 16 games. We can be positive with it, but never, ever complacent. I think the lads fancy themselves now at home against most teams. The one blip was the second half against Leeds. Apart from that, they have really upped the pace, had a go at teams and been competitive. They have been together as a group, and I think that's the most important thing here. We are going to have more blips, don't worry about that, but we have got to make sure we stay focused."
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