A Round-up of Argyle News
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Argyle lose 2-1 at Brighton, the goal scored by Nathan Lowndes in the 87th minute. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Aljofree, Coughlan, Gilbert, Norris, Wotton, Friio, Hodges, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Keith, Adams, Sturrock (not used - Stonebridge, Capaldi). Attendance - 6,379.
Paul Wotton has made an impact as a substitute in each of the last three games but it is not a role that he wants to be stuck with. "Super-sub is not a tag that I want," he said. "But if you're not playing all you can do is come on as a substitute and try and turn the gaffer's head that way. The only way I'd get in at the back at this time would be if one of the centre-backs is injured or suspended, they've been brilliant. That's football, that's fair enough. I don't dislike central midfield, I enjoy it, but my position is centre-half. But central midfield seems to be my best bet at the moment."
Argyle's game at Tranmere has been rescheduled for Tuesday February 17th - kick off 7:45
Paul Sturrock will make a late decision on team selection this Saturday. He said: "I will not decide on the starting line-up until I have seen the pitch and considered the circumstances. The weather, the state of the pitch and particularly the wind will finally decide which team I go with. I haven't seen the ground before but it looks very open and if the wind is coming in off the sea it could have an affect and I will have to fine tune the team accordingly." Sturrock hopes his team can improve on their last live television appearance. "We have only been on Sky once since I have been here, in the FA Cup at Dagenham last season," he said. " We did not perform well that night and I think we all feel we want to show what we can do to the whole nation. This match is the hardest game we have had, particularly of late. They have a great home record and with players like Benjamin and Knight they can punish you severely. We will have to keep our concentration; they have good players and can hurt us if we are not on our game."
Tony Capaldi will take a late fitness test but should have recovered enough from his knee injury to be in Saturdays squad whilst long term casualties Jason Bent and Romain Larrieu are progressing well and are expected to be training fully soon
Argyle made a much reduced profit last season. Accounts published yesterday for the year ending May 31st 2003 show profits before tax of £63,759, down from the previous years £848,396. However, any profit remains good news as Paul Stapleton said: "What is encouraging is that the balance sheet shows a positive balance, as opposed to an adverse position. We've had two consecutive years of retained profits. The last time that happened was in 1996 and '97, and that was only because of a surplus in transfer fees. We're told by the Football League that only 24 per cent of Nationwide clubs make a profit, and I'm not sure how many of those make consecutive profits. We're very pleased that a profit has been made. You only have to look around to see how many clubs are in trouble. The key thing is try to ensure that the club is run profitably." Argyle also repaid bank loans of £1.5 million during the year
Paul Sturrock has concerns about this week's live televised game at Brighton. "The problem is the later kick-off," he said. "If the kick-off was at three I would not be as apprehensive, but the later start for the live coverage concerns me. It is nothing to do with television or the affects of being live nationwide on the players; it is more to do with what to do with the boys while they wait for the match to start. I do not like the squad sat round getting bored and listless, so what do we do with them throughout Saturday. We will do light training in the morning, but what about the hours before we leave the hotel to go to the ground? I have found in the past that waiting around does not aid the player's mental approach to the game. We will have to come up with something to fill their time." Sturrock is also concerned with the amount of media attention on his less experienced players. "I do not want the press interviewing any of the younger players; they can speak to the more experienced squad members, but only after clearing it with me. Earlier in the season the media attention seemed to affect some of the younger squad members and I do not want them distracted at this critical stage of the season."
Paul Sturrock will be the guest on Sky's Football League Review on Thursday from 7.30pm until 9.30pm
Ryan Trudgian has been released by Argyle at the end of his three-year scholarship. Trudgian's chances of securing a professional contract were hit when he suffered a broken leg last season. His scholarship was extended into the current campaign because of his long spell on the sidelines. Paul Sturrock said: "He was unfortunate because he was doing quite well when he broke his leg. When he came back, the progress of other players meant his opportunities became limited." The departure of Trudgian leaves Argyle with five third-year scholars - Lee Coxon, Marcus Martin, Wayne O'Sullivan, Gary Sawyer and Stewart Yetton after Ben Steward and Rob Guppy were released earlier this season
Paul Sturrock is quite keen to stop any talk about promotion or recent records set by his team. "It's a very dangerous thing," he said. "In fact, I'm getting to the stage where I'm not willing to discuss it. So, at this minute, I'm not prepared to discuss it, and the players are off limits for comment about anything like that as well. We're cutting down on all that type of discussion."
Paul Sturrock has been impressed with the professional approach shown by the first-team players who are currently out of the team: "David Worrell is very respective of how many clean sheets we have had and how Paul Connolly has played," he said. "He realises he has just got to wait his chance and take it when it comes. Paul Wotton is the same. He scored a great goal last week and was sat on the bench again today, but he came on and makes another goal."
1900 tickets for Argyle's game at Blackpool are on sale from today. The match is all-ticket and prices are: £14 Adult, £10 Senior Citizen and £7 Under-18. Tickets are on sale now to Green members, to Tangerine Members from February 9, to White Members from February 12th and then on general sale on February 16th. Tickets will be limited to one per member only until they go on general sale
Argyle's away game at Tranmere Rovers, scheduled for February 14th, has been postponed due to Tranmere's FA Cup 5th round tie and will now be played on a midweek date later in the season
David Friio, who opened the scoring on Saturday, said: "We're on a very good run. We have drawn only once in our last ten games and we have kept seven clean sheets now. What more can you ask for? We're on the way, we're doing well and we're playing as a unit. Stockport caused us lots of problems, especially in the first half, but Luke was outstanding and kept us in the game. Whenever we counter-attacked we were dangerous."
Argyle this weekend broke an all-time club record by keeping their seventh consecutive clean sheet in the league. Hasney Aljofree said: "I'm probably more pleased about us keeping another clean sheet than winning the game. As defenders you pride yourself on clean sheets, and with the amount of work we do with Sloop during the week, I think it's a testament to the boys. It just shows you get your rewards if you keep working hard. Today the defence has come out on top again." Aljofree was also involved in Argyle's second goal. "Wottsie came on and with his first touch of the ball put a great free-kick in," he said. "I just managed to flick it on and Cocko has got to the back post and he has put it in. I think that just killed the game really." Aljofree did admit that he handled the ball when Stockport hit the bar, late in the first half: "It was just an instinct, but as I have gone to head it I put my hand up," he revealed. "That was how I did my wrist in. It hit my hand and has gone on the bar. My wrist just totally locked up. I'm very lucky the referee didn't see it. I didn't do it on purpose. It was going in the top corner and I just tried to get it with my head and my arm went up. It was just one of those freak things really and my wrist is OK."
After yesterday's game Paul Sturrock revealed the secret of Argyle's success so far this season. "We are a team," he said. "At the end of the day, if someone was here they might say that Stockport had one or two better players than us, but we're an 11 and we play a very solid game. Sometimes it's not pretty, but it's effective. There was a 15-minute spell there when we got battered, but we held out, matched it, got up the park, and churned out a performance. Sometimes, when things are not going well for you, you have to churn results out and, as a unit, I thought we were very solid and worked very hard for one another. I'm very pleased with the result, although not the performance, but, to be fair, I thought Stockport played very well in the first half." Argyle had to contend with a terrible pitch, caused by Stockport's ground-share with Sale Sharks, and David Friio was particularly unhappy. Sturrock said: "As soon as David saw the pitch, that was the end of him. He wants to get it down and make passes and play and that wasn't going to be an option. The surface made it very sticky and bobbly. It was diffuclt to play on. We got a lot of joy off Mickey Evans and kind of reverted to that all day. It's paid off in the end, so I'm relatively pleased with the result. Trying to roll things up to strikers' feet wasn't going to be on today. It was going to be a lot more aerial, although, to be fair to Stockport, they got the ball out wide and got some good crosses in. They hit the bar, Luke's made a great save, and Welsh, I don't know what he was doing in the second half. So there's been clear-cut chances they've had that might have made it a lot different. Just after we scored we had several half-chances and, if another one had gone in there, the whole game might have changed. We actually got a grip of the game in the 20 minutes before half-time."
Tony Capaldi is hoping to impress new international manager Lawrie Sanchez and earn a full cap for Northern Ireland. "My immediate aim is to get back in the Argyle team after my suspension," he said. "I just want to play well for Argyle and if anything happens with Northern Ireland that's a bonus. If I'm sitting on the bench for Argyle there's no chance of a call-up so I know that I have got to work hard." He added. "The only time I have come across Sanchez was when I made my debut for Argyle against Wycombe at the end of last season. I thought Jimmy Nicholl was going to get it, but I think Lawrie Sanchez will be a good appointment. He has appointed Gerry Armstrong, who was a very popular player for Northern Ireland, as his assistant. I think they will work well together."
Weymouth player-manager Steve Claridge has been impressed with Stewart Yetton. "Stewart is 18-years-old going on 28 judging by his fantastic performances," he said. "I can't speak highly enough of him." Paul Sturrock will make a decision later this season whether to offer Yetton a professional contract but he believes playing for Weymouth will be a good experience for the teenager. "Weymouth are getting big crowds, so there is an edge to everything," said Sturrock. "He's supposed to have played very well the other night and was involved in one of the goals. He has shown he can handle that kind of situation, so that's quite pleasing." There is a chance Yetton's stay with Weymouth could be extended. "I don't mind him playing reserves for us on a Tuesday and on a Saturday for them," admitted Sturrock. "That would be an ideal world for him."
Argyle won 2-0 at Stockport County with goals from David Friio after 28 minutes and Graham Coughlan (62). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Norris, Hodges, Friio, Stonebridge, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Adams, Keith, Wotton (not used - Sturrock, Phillips). Attendance - 6,608.. Following the game Paul Sturrock said: "Every away game is getting harder and harder. Everybody wants to get the better of the team that are top. I thought we were effective and we scored from two crosses into the box, which I was pleased with. The problem is that when we have Mickey Evans in the game we revert to him all the time and we lose some of the flow to our game."
Peter Gilbert thinks Argyle's defensive record may have shocked people: "Our record at the back might be surprising considering our age," he said, "but ability wise Paul has done really well and Luke has seized his chance since Romain's been out. Maybe few people would have thought, before the season, that we would be where we are in the League and have such a defensive record with the personnel in the team, but that's part of the reason why it has worked. You're battling against someone and it improves your game. Paul knows that Dave is there and Luke knows that Romain is coming back." Gilbert may make a full-time move to Argyle this summer but said: "I've not had time to think about that yet."
Tony Capaldi picked up a knee injury in the reserve game at Swansea on Tuesday but it is not thought to be serious and he should be available for the game at Brighton next weekend
Paul Sturrock insists he is happy with the size of his squad. "As long I have got 11 players I'm quite happy," he said. "Remember, we used to play with 11 and no subs. If we are down to eight or nine, I will start to worry. I'm not concerned at the minute, small is beautiful as far as I'm concerned. The important thing is when you run a small squad you have got an overlap, and we have several players who have shown they can play in five or six positions. Also, they can fit in without worrying about the positional change, because they know exactly how the team is set up. Other teams run big squads to cover that. We don't, we just try to make sure we have types of players who can handle several roles." Sturrock got a good report from Stuart Gibson after Tuesdays reserve match. "I was very pleased with the attitude and the workrate of the boys who went up there," said Sturrock. "Sometimes it's difficult for players who aren't in the first team to really lift themselves, but they worked very hard and were unfortunate to lose. In the end, these games are for making sure our first team players get good match practice."
Paul Sturrock has warned his team against taking Stockport lightly on Saturday. He said: "We have got to improve on our last away performance, otherwise we will not come away with any points. We must build on the home win and get points from these next two away matches. Stockport have not lost for three matches and had a 2-2 draw at Luton, so I know it's going to be as tough as next week's trip to Brighton, because both sides want wins for different reasons."
Paul Sturrock believes hours of hard work on the training ground, under the specialist supervision of John Blackley has reaped its rewards. "Sloop works with the back four every day," he said. "Their last two performances have been very good. It's a culmination of a lot of work that has been done over a long period of time. Also, we have had a settled back four as well, which has definitely benefited the team. Sloop has about an hour-and-a-half with the back four through the week. He has got half-an-hour with them tomorrow, working on a few wee things for Saturday." While Blackley deals with the defence, Kevin Summerfield works on the attacking side. "Sloop and Summers are both doing good jobs," said Sturrock. "I delegate a lot of the work to them now so I can oversee everything. The content of training is discussed every morning between me and Summers and put into place. It has worked very well when we have dissected the squad. The midfield and the forwards do a lot of their work individually and the back four do a lot of their work individually. They come together periodically in the week."
Argyle reserves lost 1-0 to Swansea City. Argyle: Schofield, Worrell, Capaldi, Wotton, Villis, Sawyer, Phillips, Adams, Keith, Watkins, Dickson. Subs – Coxon, Bulley (not used – Entwhisle). Coach Stuart Gibson said: "I think that we really deserved a share of the spoils. When you lose away from home, especially from a penalty, it's very tough. Unfortunately, I didn't have a good view of the incident from where I was positioned, but despite the referee being closer, it was the linesman who drew his notice to the player's challenge which happened on the far side of the field."
Argyle are still hoping to play a special one-off game to celebrate the club's centenary. The board discussed the matter before Saturday's game and Paul Stapleton confirmed details would be revealed as soon as they are finalised. "It's something we are working on and we are trying to tie down the opposition," he said
Ian Stonebridge doesn't mind where he plays as long as he's in the team: "I will play wherever I have to, to be honest," he said. "I realise I have got a lot to learn out there, especially defensively, but it can only be good for the team and for myself if I can offer something in both positions. I played there a couple of times last season and when we've played 4-5-1 with Trigger up front on his own. Apart from that, I don't think I have ever played really as an out-and-out left midfielder. I have played a fair few matches there this season and you obviously grow into the role as you do that. I am conscious of keeping my eye in as far as goals are concerned because there might come a time where a couple of injuries give me a game up front again. Obviously, I just want to do what I can to stay in the team. There are very few players in the squad, if any, who aren't really pushing for a first-team place, and people who go out of the team know there is a chance they could be sitting on the sidelines for a little while. If someone comes in they are really keen to impress and do a good job. I think that's what is driving us forward at the moment."
Yesterday's clean sheet was Argyle's eighth in the last nine games and Paul Sturrock said: "We pride ourselves on that and we work very hard it. That's why we have a defensive co-ordinator. But you have got to remember at the start of the season, we had a wee zany spell when we were giving goals away. We then went clean sheets and then had another wee spell when we gave goals away, so you can't always rely on your defence."
Paul Sturrock paid tribute to Paul Connolly after the game yesterday: "It was a test for Connolly," he said. "Not training all week, I was taking a chance on him and I felt, in the first 20-25 minutes, he just wasn't himself, but he stuck to his task and got better and better against a very difficult opponent – a First Division player playing in the Second Division – and he eventually mastered him."
Paul Sturrock praised Argyle's professionalism after today's win. He said: "It was a very professional performance from start to finish. They were difficult opposition to play, a very offensive team, and, if you give them room, they will cause you all sorts of problems. To be fair, we nullified that. They had a couple of breakaways in the first half but, once we got our goal, we went on from there and I thought the boys, as a unit, played very well. It was a difficult first half. There were a lot of half-chances, a penalty miss which could have cost us dear, the goalie made a couple of decent saves, that kind of thing. I felt it was vitally important we got an early goal. I was very pleased it was a set-piece we scored off." Ian Stonebridge replaced Tony Capaldi and Sturrock said: "Because Capaldi is suspended for next Saturday, I wanted somebody else to play there to see what the story was, so that we had somebody match-fit for that position. I thought he did very well, got his goal well, which I think he's been needing. I think there's more goals in Ian. Funnily enough, when I saw Hasney running for the penalty, I like confident people taking penalties so I let him take it, but in the back of my mind I wanted Stonebridge to take it, to get on the goalsheet. I think he's a very clinical finisher." Sturrock denied that he now saw Stonebridge only as a midfielder. He said: "We feel it adds another string to his bow. He's got great fitness. He runs up and down; he sees passes; he puts crosses into the box; and he does his defensive duties as well. It's good to have competition for places, as far as Tony and he are concerned, in that area."
Argyle beat Rushden and Diamonds 3-0 at Home Park, the goals coming from Graham Coughlan after 47 minutes, Ian Stonebridge (58) and Paul Wotton (90). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Hodges, Norris, Friio, Stonebridge, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Keith, Wotton (not used - Sturrock, Phillips, Capaldi). Attendance - 13,021. and Ian De Lar's match report is here
Paul Connolly will take a fitness test on Saturday morning before Paul Sturrock names his team to face Rushden and Diamonds. Connolly returned to training on Friday as early fears of a serious knee problem were allayed by a visit to the hospital. "There was nothing bad in the knee scan," said Sturrock. "He trained vigorously with the physio this morning and he'll probably go through another fitness test tomorrow. If he has any problems with it, we'll obviously not take a chance with him. He's come through most of the things he's done today, but the reaction he has will determine what happens."
Jason Bent's recovery from a knee injury suffered a set-back this week. "Jason's had a wee reaction, so we have got to go softly, softly with him again," said Paul Sturrock. "With the amount of away games we've got, I would really like Jason back in the fold." Of Argyle's other injury problems, Sturrock said: "Blair's stepping up training dramatically now, and is starting to progress, and Romain's back in ballwork with the goalie coach and Maxie, although not with us."
Luke McCormick will fight for his first team place when Romain Larrieu returns from serious injury later this season. Southampton and Celtic have watched McCormick but he is determined not to let anything distract him. "It's flattering being associated with clubs like that, but I think it's important I do stay focused and don't get carried away with it all," he said. "I have got to keep my feet on the floor and got on with my job. Any sign of me slipping up and I'm sure the management will let me know. It's the same with the lads. Everyone looks out for each other here." McCormick has seen off four international goalkeepers since Larrieu's injury. "It's all good competition when keepers come in," said McCormick. "You learn things off everyone. I think Romain may be back soon so that's more competition, which I'm looking forward to. To be totally honest, it has gone better than I thought it would do. I think it's just a case of getting the chance. Basically, I think you have to have confidence in your own ability. You have to think you are capable of doing such things. I'm really enjoying it and, hopefully, I have taken my chance."
Stewart Yetton is joining Weymouth on a work experience basis, and will therefore still be available to play for Argyle
David Worrell is set to return at right-back for Argyle tomorrow and Paul Sturrock is confident he will grab his chance. "It's not ideal the situation he's going to go into but I'm sure he will cope," said Sturrock. "The biggest problem I have got for tomorrow is this will be the hardest selection I have had to make for a while. There are 16 or 17 players who merit being picked, but we can only play 11. That's going to be the difficult decision. The team worked very hard at Grimsby and dug out a result, and the week before they won convincingly. Do they deserve another run or do I freshen things up? It was a long trip to Grimsby and we have had heavy conditions this week; we have got a suspension coming up, which you have got to think about. There are a lot of things to mull over in my mind." Sturrock is expecting an open game against Rushden and Diamonds. "They are a very offensive side and have got a lot of armoury," he said. "If we don't give them the respect they definitely merit we could cause ourselves a lot of concern. If we play as open as we did against Chesterfield, when they had five clearcut chances in the game, they will score goals. The important thing is for us to be more thoughtful when the other team have the ball."
Paul Sturrock has begun informal talks with some of the players who will be out of contract at the end of this season. Sturrock will outline his plans for the future to the board next month before more detailed negotiations begin. Seven members of Argyle's first-team squad will be out of contract in June: Paul Wotton, Graham Coughlan, Luke McCormick, Jason Bent, Lee Hodges, Martin Phillips and Marino Keith. In addition to this Peter Gilbert's loan deal will be over and young squad members Matt Villis, Stuart Yetton and Andy Watkins also reach the end of their current deals. Sturrock does not expect any early decisions on future contracts. He said: "I have talked to two or three of them so far, just to find out their thoughts on extending contracts. That's as far as it has gone. I have just got to have a picture in my mind of all the players' thoughts by the next board meeting, which is not until the first week of February. It will be a very casual thing, chatting to players to see if they are interested and then, basically, taking it from there."
Argyle's latest video release, 'Argyle's Magnificent Seven' is available now on-line and in the Argyle shop. The video, which costs £7, features full match footage of the 7-0 win over Chesterfield, and runs for about 100 minutes, without commentary
Luke McCormick, who has already been linked with Southampton, is thought to be interesting Glasgow Celtic. The Scottish club sent a scout to Argyle's game at Grimsby. Southampton and Wolves were among the other clubs who had scouts at Blundell Park
Paul Connolly is still waiting for news about the severity of his knee injury but contrary to previous reports he has not yet been ruled out of the game against Rushden. "We won't get the scan details until Thursday," said Paul Sturrock, "but it's much better today. We have to get to the bottom of it, though, and we'll know much more by the end of the week." David Friio and Tony Capaldi returned to training yesterday after not taking part on Monday, following dead legs sustained in the draw at Grimsby. David Norris also trained yesterday, despite suffering a knock on an ankle on Monday
Argyle's reserve game at Bristol Rovers tonight has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch
After seeing the match video Paul Sturrock has decided not to appeal against the yellow card shown to Tony Capaldi last Saturday. "Tony definitely touched the boy but I didn't think it was as severe as the referee has made out," he said. "We did contemplate appealing against it but he did make contact." Peter Gilbert and David Friio were also booked at Grimsby. "Peter's was just stupidity, kicking the ball away, which will cost him financially," said Sturrock. "We have got to watch what we are doing because we are a small squad now. We just can't afford these kind of things and David should appreciate that. The last time it wasn't just four weeks he was out the team, it was seven weeks and I'm sure David doesn't want to go through all that again. He has got to be more realistic in his approach."
Lee Hodges believes Argyle will face more tough games after the visit to Grimsby. He said: "After being on the run we have had, seven wins in a row before Saturday, teams are going to be after you. To go to Grimsby and get a point, I think, is a good point at the end of the day. Hopefully, the fans see it that way as well. We knew it was going to be tough and after a defeat they were well up for it from the word go. A point away from home is not too disheartening." Hodges has started the last nine games in Argyle's midfield. "I'm really enjoying playing there" he said. "You have got Stevie, and Jason is on his way back from injury, but, at the moment, I feel I'm holding my own. If the manager wasn't happy with me I wouldn't be in the team, so I must be doing something right."
Paul Mariner and Billy Rafferty will be the guests of honour at this Saturdays game against Rushden & Diamonds. One of the highlights of the pair's visit will be a special half-time presentation to them from the Argyle board of directors, followed by a live on-pitch interview. The two will also visit the Centenary Marquee before the game to meet guests. Paul Stapleton said: "We are delighted to have these two former players back at Home Park at a time when there is such a buzz about the place. It's fantastic to include these two legends in our centenary celebrations. I remember watching them from the Devonport end, and what an incredible double-act they were. They led us to promotion, and here's hoping history repeats itself this year." Peter Jones added: "The Mariner-Rafferty era was a great time to be an Argyle supporter. They were both excellent footballers, but somehow their partnership added up to even more than the sum of the parts. It's fantastic that they should be reunited for a visit to Home Park, halfway through our centenary year."
Paul Sturrock does not plan to risk many first-team players in the reserve game against Bristol Rovers tomorrow. "We'll probably play a youth team against Rovers," he said. "We can't take many chances on first-team players. Jason's going to come into ball-work on Thursday this week. So we'll see how he feels, and he'll probably get a reserve game next Tuesday." Despite recent departures Sturrock does not intend to rush out to sign new players. "We've taken our squad down to 20. I would like to think we can be competitive with 20 players. I'm not going to go charging around and dragging other people in just for the sake of it," he said
Brian McGlinchey has signed for Torquay United on a free transfer. Paul Sturrock said: "I very pleased that Brian's getting a home. I'm delighted he's going back into somebody's team. He's been a fantastic servant to us and I do believe that, if we were playing 3-5-2 at this minute, rather than 4-4-2, Brian would have influenced this team over the last two years. That's a situation which is difficult, obviously and Brian goes away with our thanks as far as his performances in the Third Division were concerned. He could be classed in the top four or five starters in promotion year, but, as I say, I feel our system of play has hindered Brian playing in this team as a regular occurrence. I wanted to make sure Brian was playing in a regular team, rather than a bit part for me. I think Brian appreciates that as well. It's important, at his age, that he's playing regular football."
Paul Connolly is suffering from a knee injury and is unlikely to be fit for Saturdays game. "We're having it scanned today or tomorrow, so we'll know how severe it is," said Paul Sturrock. "It was very sore and tight and couldn't really bend very well, he is a doubt for Saturday. I think the boy will be sick because he's put a case up and he's got better and better as every game has progressed. It opens the door for David Worrell, and if he is recalled, it is up to him to make sure Paul doesn't get back in again. But we're all fingers crossed that it's nothing serious and doesn't affect him long term." Jason Bent is progressing well after his injury and could be back in action next week. Sturrock said: "Jason's going to come into ball-work on Thursday, so we'll see how he feels. He'll probably get a reserve game next Tuesday."
Paul Sturrock was disappointed with two of the bookings his team received on Saturday. "I'm hoping the referee will have a wee look at a couple of the bookings he has given us," he said. "For the Capaldi one, he was well away from the incident. I think if he looks at TV he will find that Capaldi takes the ball and not the man. To be fair, we had a couple of silly bookings. The boy Gilbert was undisciplined with some dissent, and with the size of squad we have got we can't afford suspensions later in the season. It's something we have just got to stamp out." If Capaldi's booking stands he will be banned for the game at Stockport County on January 24th
Graham Coughlan thought Argyle's defence were at their best against Grimsby on Saturday. "Their front two men were lively, they were quite good," said Coughlan. "But I thought it was probably the best back-four performance that we have had in a while. It looked more solid and more compact. We didn't give away as many chances as we have been doing. It was a tough game so I wouldn't be too disappointed with an away point. I think it's 22 points from 24 so there is certainly no reason to be disappointed with it. I do honestly believe there are going to be more games like that. Plus, some of the teams in and around the promotion and play-off area will maybe struggle when they come here as well." Coughlan has been impressed by the way Paul Connolly and Peter Gilbert have slotted into the team. "They obviously bring youth and enthusiasm to the team. There is a big emphasis on the full-backs at the football club to get forward, as we have seen for the past couple of years that Dave Worrell has been doing it. If you are keeping a player of Dave Worrell's calibre out of the team you must be doing something right. The two boys are young and they are still learning. Sometimes they get a rush of blood to the head, but that will come on. It can only help them working with the likes of the gaffer, Sloop and Summers. We do have a lot of younger lads, mixed with the older ones, which augurs well for the future. There are some good lads who don't make the first team - Stewart Yetton, Marcus Martin and Wayne O'Sullivan - who could come on and become regular members of the side in a couple of seasons' time."
Argyle's under-19 side lost 3-2 at home to Swansea City on Saturday whilst the under-17's won 4-2 at Swindon Town. The current tables and results for both can be seen here
Following yesterday's game Paul Sturrock said: "We got out of the game what we probably deserved. If I was the Grimsby manager, I'd be a wee bit disappointed I didn't get the three points. I felt we were very sluggish, but you have got to give them credit, they came out of the traps buzzing after the disappointment of last week and caused us a lot of concern. I do feel that we got in a rut straight away. Early on, we decided Mickey was our only ball. When we do that, we're not the same team. We'll go up the training-ground and get that sorted. To come away with a result at the end is important, the boys worked very hard without ever reaching the heights of what they have achieved over the last two or three weeks. The essence of winning trophies and everything else is that, when you play bad, you get something out of the game and that's basically what we are going to say, get down the road, and get ready for next Saturday. The good thing when you do bad is to keep churning results." Sturrock had decided not to change last weeks team: "If we'd lost a goal today and lost 1-0, I would have made a mistake; if we'd scored a goal and won 1-0, we'd all say I did the right thing. I was on a hiding to nothing, but, at these types of places, you need different types of players. The amount of chances we allowed the other team to create last week was a worrying aspect for me. I think this midfield is just too open. As the game went on and we did our substitutions, we looked more solid and more forceful going forward. Sloop thinks that's the best our defence has played for weeks. Grimsby had two width players, who were very offensive, and two good strikers. They showed a real appetite for the game from the first whistle, which really set the tone, so we're delighted to get a result of sorts." Sturrock also confessed that he was troubled by the four yellow cards dished out to his players and with some players attitudes. "With the size of squad we've got, we can't afford suspensions," he said, "so it's something we've just got to stamp on. We got a couple of young laddies and I'm a wee bit disappointed by their reaction when we get a wee bit of praise and slaps on the back. It's time I maybe slapped them around the front. That's my job this week."
Argyle drew 0-0 at Grimsby. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Phillips, Hodges, Friio, Capaldi, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Norris, Wotton, Keith (not used - Stonebridge, Sturrock). Attendance 5,007.
Paul Sturrock says he does not expect to sign any players from Scotland before the transfer window closes. "I'm getting phone calls from agents of all sorts of players, who will either be available at the end of the season, or now," he said. "I'm just slowly sifting through them, the problem being there are a lot of aspects you have got to look into. We don't want to break the mould of what's happening at this minute in time by bringing fresh faces in. I would rather cover myself with fresh faces if and when I need it, rather than when we don't need it. If you could guarantee me what league I'm going to be in next season right now, it would make my life a lot easier." Sturrock has only 21 professionals at his disposal but insisted: "I'm very content with a smaller squad. Eugene came in at a time when we had injuries and a lack of form in a position and I covered myself for three or four months. Everybody is flying now and I will only use the loan system if we have key injuries." Sturrock has specifically denied any interest in signing Livingston goalkeeper Alan Main
Paul Sturrock has assured Ian Stonebridge that he still figures in his plans. "I talked to Stoney on Thursday," he said. "It has been a very hard scenario for him. I told him he has just got to keep his head up and keep working. There are wee bits and pieces of his game I want him to work on, but I have been very pleased with him, because he has put another string to his bow as far as playing wide left is concerned, which gives me a lot more options for him. He was one of the players where it wasn't a lack of form that took him out of the team, it was just a situation of needing a different style in that area. In every reserve game he has played, he has been in the top one or two performers. I thought it was appropriate I had a quick word with him, to make sure he realises he's not too far down the pecking order."
Paul Sturrock has witnessed an urgency in training as he decides whether to make any changes to last weeks team. "There is a real edge to training," he said. "They are all working hard because the ones that are in know that they have got to keep churning, and the ones that are out know they have got to churn it to get back in. I hope the ones that are not in the 16 are very professional in their thoughts. I think they are all appreciative that people have got their opportunity and are winning games. When they are winning games, it's been mapped out that they, basically, they keep their place. I've got to weigh up whether the team that played on Saturday can handle it away from home. That's something I'll take right up to Saturday morning to make a decision on. Some players played very well at St Blazey during the week, which puts an edge to them and gives me headaches. Nice headaches. There has always been the horses-for-courses scenario. The team we played last week and the week before has been very offensive, and the teams that have played against us have created a lot of chances. Sometimes, there are teams which are very good offensively, but who can't play away from home. Obviously, if I was to change one or two players from Saturday, they would be disappointed but I have got to do what's best for the team. It's a dangerous game for us. If we don't approach it properly, we could be in trouble. We will lose games before the end of the season. How we react to that is the test. January and February are difficult months – it's how we handle these two that will determine how we're going to go."
David Friio may reconsider his decision to retire at the end of next season. When asked if he would still finish after the 2004/05 season, he replied: "Yes, but you never say never. I'm enjoying my time here and my fitness is alright. I have always been somebody who is fit so it's not a problem for me to run. I will be 32 at the end of next season, and you can see what players at this age can do, even in the Premier League. It will be a family decision. That's the main point." Friio is determined to play in the first division with Argyle before returning to France. He said: "I'm focused on one objective, and that is promotion. I said at the beginning of this season that I didn't want to play in the second division anymore. It would be nice to quit England having played in each division. Maybe not the Premier League, but certainly the first division."
Torquay United are rumoured to be considering signing Brian McGlinchey
Argyle v Brighton and Hove Albion is being shown live on Sky Sports on January 31st and tickets are now available to watch the game in the Argyle Lounge. The price is £7.50 and includes a programme, pre-match buffet, quiz and prize draw. Contact Andy Budge on 01752 302204 to book
Argyle reserves won 5-1 in the friendly at St Blazey last night with two goals from Ian Stonebridge and one each from Lee Coxon, Stewart Yetton and Andy Watkins. Argyle: Schofield, Worrell, Villis, Routledge, Dickson, Coxon, Adams, Martin, Stonebridge, Yetton, Sturrock. Subs - Parrish, Nute, Hoyles, Bulley, Watkins
Martin Phillips wants to make up for lost time after his long absence. He said: "I have had a difficult nine months, what with injury and everything else. The lads have been doing so well and I have had to wait my time. At my age you want to be playing first team football so it's great to be back again. The lads are playing with a lot of confidence but we have got to keep our feet on the ground. It's only January and there is still a long way to go yet. I had never been out for that long before, but I had good backing from Maxie and everyone at the club. When you are out of the game for such a long time you are desperate to get back playing and I'm just pleased about that. I didn't think of anything else, apart from getting fit again. It took a long time but it's just one of those things. I have been lucky in the past with what has happened to me and getting injured is just part and parcel of it. Obviously, it's quite hard when you are sat on the sidelines but I'm back playing now and I will take the plusses and really enjoy it. To be fair, the lads were absolutely flying, I just had to wait about and try to play the best I could in the reserves. You can hardly go knocking on the manager's door when you come back and they have just won 6-0 against Tranmere. But I'm back playing now and I'm looking forward to 2004 with a smile on my face." Phillips insisted it was still far too early to talk about promotion. "We are only two games into the second half of the season," he said. "I'm sure there have been teams in our position before who haven't got promoted. I guess that has happened quite a lot. We have been in this situation before, and I guess it's something we can draw on."
Paul Sturrock has re-affirmed that he is happy to remain Argyle boss for the long term. "Other clubs have been in contact already, over the past three years, but at this minute I am very settled here," he said. That is not to say I am not ambitious but I think the commitment I have shown to the club means that all that rumour-mongering has been curtailed - which I think is appropriate. It would take a big job at this minute to move me from here. In the future, I would think about hopefully coming back to Scotland to manage. (Dundee) United would be a prime job for me, because obviously I have something to fix there, something I didn't finish. But I am talking about 10 or 15 years time." Sturrock also admitted that he was keeping a close eye on which Scottish players are currently available, with the transfer window now open again. "I am getting names of players who are available without a fee - just because clubs need to get them off the wage bill, so I am just sifting through that at the moment and seeing if any of them are of interest to me."
Tickets for Argyle's match at Brighton on 31st January go on sale this Thursday, January 8th, to Green Members and are available strictly at one ticket per member. Prices are: £21 adults, £14 senior citizen and £13 under-16's. The cost of the ticket will include a travel voucher to the value of £3. Each person buying a ticket will be given a leaflet regarding travel and parking for the game. Any tickets remaining will be available to Tangerine Members from 14th January, to White Members from 6th January and on general sale from 19th January. Tickets for the match at Stockport on January 24th will also be available shortly and are priced: £17 adults, £9 senior citizen and £5 under 16's
Paul Sturrock has decided against signing Abdallah Bah. "I've decided not to bring back Bah," said Sturrock. "He indicated he'd be quite happy to take a contract here, but I couldn't promise him any thing long-term. He had an opportunity to play in the African Nations' Cup and I wouldn't allow myself to hinder anybody in that kind of scenario. The search goes on."
Steve Adams will return to action on Tuesday night in the friendly at St Blazey and David Worrell, Brian McGlinchey, Matt Villis, Ian Stonebridge and Blair Sturrock are all set to play. Jason Bent is not yet ready but should return soon. Paul Sturrock said: "Jason's slowly building up now. Now we've got through our hectic spell, it would be nice to get Jason a couple of reserve games as quickly as possible."
David Friio is aiming to become the first Argyle player to score 20 goals in a season since Steve Castle in 1993/94. He said: "It's going to be difficult to get 20 goals but I'm on a good run. I think I have played 21 games and scored 12 goals, so that's good. If I can get 15 or 16 I will be happy. I have two scored two doubles and one hat-trick this season, so that's unbelievable for me. I will do my best to get as many goals as I can but as long as we stay at the top of the league I will be happy. I was looking for the hat-trick at half-time. The gaffer was saying he was going to freshen things up in the second half and I told him 'OK, but only after my hat-trick.' In France I was a defender so you can't be on the scoresheet all the time. Since I have been in England things are going well. From midfield you are always involved in the attacking game. I'm very glad to score my first hat-trick."
Argyle reserve's Combination League match against Bristol City on 27th January has been rearranged and will now be played on 10th February at 7pm
Paul Sturrock was delighted with Argyle's performance yesterday. "No team in the world would have gone out and performed to the same standards we did in the first 45 minutes," said Sturrock. "There's not many times when I've looked at my watch after 17 minutes and been 5-0 up. It was quite scary. We played high tempo, never gave Chesterfield a moment on the ball early on. It paid dividends. We got round the box and got the goals. It meant that the second half was very disappointing but I don't think you can play at that kind of tempo all game. To say they were the best 15 minutes I've ever seen would be an understatement. It's one of those days. They were well made goals, there were people running into the path of the ball, people realised where they had to be, where they had to lay the ball of. We got lots of crosses in the box, which is our game. We reaped the benefits. The goals we scored were different class and it's been a great first-half performance. Everyone's sharing the load as far as goals are concerned. I thought Nathan had his best game for us this season. I thought he was exceptional. His work-rate was second class; he's linked up really very well; and he's started to realise what he's got to do to stay in the team."
David Friio scored Argyle's first hat-trick for nearly four years. He said: "I was so up for my hat-trick, I didn't head the ball properly, so I scored with my mouth. They are all different. The third was a very good delivery from Stoney , and it was a very good delivery from Tony in the first half – both corners. The second goal, we sometimes work on in training, a long diagonal ball, a lay-off from Mickey, and I just had to cut in front of the 'keeper." He continued: "It's great to be back on the score-sheet. I haven't played for a long time. It was important for me to get back into the team, especially last week, when you play twice in three days, because, after seven weeks out of the team, the sharpness and match fitness is not at the best. It was a bit unbelievable today, scoring six goals in the first half – every chance was a goal. We played Tranmere, played Peterborough last season, so we know we can score a lot of goals - it happens sometimes - but today, after 17 minutes, it was already 5-0. We put lots of crosses into the box and Mickey and Nathan did really well up front to keep the ball and we created movement. We wanted to put the ball on the wing, and it worked. Buster and Tony did well on the wings to create crosses, we were on the end of it, and it works. When you score six goals in the first half, you cannot ask for more."
After today's win Paul Sturrock said: "What can you say after that. I have never been involved in a game like that either as a player or manager where I've looked at my watch after 17 minutes and we're 5-0 up. I thought that the first half was the best we have played this season and after being 6-0 up you always knew the second half would be like after the Lord Mayor's show. I thought a fair reflection of the game might be 7-3 because Chesterfield played their part, but obviously you have to be happy when you win 7-0."
Argyle beat Chesterfield 7-0 at Home Park, the goals coming from Lee Hodges after 4 minutes, Tony Capaldi (11), two from Nathan Lowndes (12 and 18) and a David Friio hat-trick (16, 36 and 88). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Phillips, Hodges, Friio, Capaldi, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Norris, Keith, Stonebridge (not used - Sturrock, Wotton). Attendance - 13,109. and Ian De Lar's match report is here
Paul Sturrock has been named the latest winner in the Tissot Mangers' Performance League. Sturrock was the most successful league manager over the second quarter of the season and will collect the award on Tuesday from Claudio Ranieri, the previous winner
Eugene Kangulungu has been released by Argyle. Paul Sturrock confirmed on Friday that Eugene will leave the club after his short-term contract expires later this month. Sturrock said: "I have talked to Eugene today and I will not be extending his contract at the end of his deal, which runs out on January 18th. Eugene has been very unfortunate. I tried to convert him into a midfield player, but several players have moved positions. Hodgy has come in and done a very, very good job, showing that he can play three or four positions. In other circumstances, I'm sure Eugene would have played a part, but he's come into a form team, plus the performances of individual players means he hasn't had an opportunity. He's away, thinking about things. He has an opportunity of playing in the African Nations Cup, so he's got to think about whether he takes that chance or has a trial somewhere else, or whatever."
Abdallah Bah may not join Argyle if he chooses to play in the African Nations Cup. Paul Sturrock said: "I'll listen to what he has to say, he could potentially be called upon for the African Nations Cup, so what's the point of having a boy on loan when he's away in Africa for most of January? But he is so keen to get a contract, he might give up his opportunity to play in the Nations Cup, so I've got to weigh all that up – what kind of deal they are looking for."
Paul Sturrock has warned his players not to take tomorrow's visitors Chesterfield lightly. He said: "The banana skin has been chucked down. It's up to us whether we jump over it or are caught out by it. Chesterfield have been a bogey team to us. Along with Wycombe, they are a team we have not handled well. So that's a worrying aspect for tomorrow. The opportunity is there to put 12 points between us and some of the chasing pack. It would be nice to have that gap develop. I would like the players to appreciate that fact, those who are selected that is." Sturrock again has difficult decisions to make as he selects his side. Paul Wotton and David Norris are both available following suspension but may have to settle for a place on the bench and Marino Keith has shaken off his calf injury. Stevie Adams has been diagnosed as having mumps. "Stevie has the mumps which went through the camp," confirmed Paul Sturrock. "A couple of other young boys, Gary Sawyer and Tom Entwisle, have fallen with it, as well. So we're now keeping Luke McCormick in a bubble. The only one we can't afford to go down with mumps is Luke." Jason Bent is still sidelined by a knee injury but the situation is improving. Paul Sturrock said: "Jason had a wee injection on his knee the other day and it's just starting to clear up now. He's feeling much better day by day. We'll see how it is at the end of the weekend, and hopefully, he'll start rehabilitation work on Monday. So there's light at the end of the tunnel on that one."
Argyle have arranged a friendly at St Blazey on Tuesday, January 6th - kick off 7:30pm
Paul Sturrock has been named Second Division Manager of the Month for December. It is the fifth time in three years that Sturrock has picked up such an award and as usual he shared the plaudits. He said: "Once again, the manager has got the headlines, but, as usual, everyone at the club has contributed to this wee bit of success. My staff and the players deserve credit for helping to reach and maintain the standards that have put us in the area of the league where we want to be. The players are working very hard for each other. It's been difficult to select the team as they've all performed brilliantly. We have put in a lot of effort to get where we are but it is easier getting to the top than staying there. We got the kiss of death the last time we won the award - we didn't win one of our next four games. If we win the award again in April than I hope we will be there or thereabouts."
Paul Maxwell is really pleased with the recovery of Romain Larrieu from his knee injury. He said: "I'm really pleased with Romain, he saw the surgeon about 10 days ago and his actual words to me were 'it's looking fantastic.' The leg is getting stronger and stronger all the time. There are not many players around that will work as hard as Romain has done. He has really dedicated himself to doing the job of getting fit again, and that's a massive plus for me. I think he's quite happy with the way it has gone, in fact he's chomping at the bit, but it will still be a while before he's ready to start playing again. I have got my own timescale that I'm working to at the moment and we are on course for that."
Nathan Lowndes is enjoying his new lease of life with Argyle. "It's the best run I have had in the team full-stop," he said. "I think I played three on the bounce last season, and bits and bobs here and there. I have started more games this season than I did last year, so I'm positive with myself and I'm glad of the run I'm getting. It's always easier when you are in the first team. Life is better. You enjoy yourself more. You have got a Saturday to look forward to, whereas if you are not involved it can get you down a little at times. I'm happy with life at the moment and I'm happy the team are winning. Long may it continue." He continued: "I think we are all very grounded in the dressing room. We know what's attainable and what we can achieve. There is a long way to go yet and there are a lot of games to be played against good teams. We have to make sure we realise our ambitions now. We have put ourselves in a good position but 2004 has only just started. Hopefully, by the end of the season we will still be there or thereabouts."
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