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Bobby Williamson feels that his side are progressing nicely towards Saturday's season opener, following yesterdays draw with OFK Belgrade. "It's a good exercise, a worthwhile exercise," he said, "and hopefully we'll benefit from that next week." Asked what his players had gained from the game, Williamson said: "Fitness, more than anything, and composure on the ball - I feel we're knocking the ball about nicely and, from back to middle, we're getting decent balls through. Now we've got to take it to the next step and find the penetrating pass that will create a chance for us. I feel, up to there, we're doing okay. We're looking composed and solid at the back and that's going into the middle of the park - if we just add the final bit, I'm hoping we cane create chances and score goals. That will be ongoing - we will work on that during the course of the week. We'll work on strikers' movements and keep doing that until we take shape and score more. We'll be working as hard as usual and shaping up the team that will be taking part next week. Touch wood, everyone will come through the week unscathed and I'll have a full compliment to select from." One decision will involve the selection either Romain Larrieu or Luke McCormick in goal. Williamson said: "I feel both are equally good and it will be a gut feeling on the day before the match who I select. I'm delighted we have got two capable 'keepers. The guys who gets the nod next Saturday will hopefully have a great season, the other is going to be a Cudicini and wait his turn. That's the nature of football. You want to have two good goalkeepers and I believe we have got that. My heart will go out to the one who is not selected and I will be pleased for the one who is."
Argyle drew 0-0 with OFK Belgrade in this afternoons friendly at Home Park. Attendance - 4,674. Argyle: Larrieu, Barness, West, Aljofree, Brevett, Norris, Wotton, Buzsaky, Djordjic, Evans, Chadwick. Subs - Kouo-Doumbe, Taylor, Connolly, Capaldi, Gudjonsson (not used - Mendes, Dickson, Summerfield, McCormick).
Taribo West has already become a firm favourite among the squad, according to Hasney Aljofree. He said: "Taribo is certainly a character and the lads have taken to him really well. You have seen what he can do on the pitch. He's a class act and he showed that the other night in the first half against Bruges. But he has also fitted in really well in the dressing room, which is what a lot of people will not see. He's a very funny lad. Sometimes he has got quite a dry sense of humour and then he will just come out with something stupid and make all the lads laugh. I saw him teaching a few of the young lads the other day. I'm not sure what he was saying to them but he was obviously trying to help. I think he's trying to pass on his knowledge, which has got to be a good thing." One of West's strengths is his ability to read the play and intercept a pass before it gets to its intended target. Aljofree said: "That's the difference with the top players. They see the game that little bit quicker than most other players. That's why Taribo stands out, because he can do things like that."
Bjarni Gudjonsson is hoping to maintain his good pre-season form in today's friendly against OFK Belgrade. He said: "I came here to play football, and I hope I can play more games than I did last season. I was injured a bit towards the end of last season, which was one of the reasons I wasn't playing, but this is a new season and everybody is starting fresh." Gudjonsson, who was injured while playing for Iceland against Italy in March, has put his international career on hold to concentrate on Argyle. "At the moment," he said, "I'm not going to be involved with the national team." After the poor opposition in two of their three friendlies on tour in Sweden, Argyle did well to compete in Tuesday's draw against FC Bruges. "We needed better teams to play against," Gudjonsson said, "but the game on Tuesday wasn't much like what we're going to be up against. It was a completely different style. They gave us time on the ball and they played a different shape to what we're used to, but it was a good exercise and a good work-out for us. Against OFK I think it will be even better for us, because I think they will play 4-4-2. Even though some of the teams have been poor, you still need to get about the pitch and run. You need to go out and work hard whether you're playing good or bad teams, and if you do that you reach your match fitness. I think the players are ready for the new season." Argyle are unbeaten in their five friendlies so far, but Gudjonsson stressed: "Results are not important now, especially as we're still changing the team. Getting fit and ready for the new season is what matters."
Argyle have their last chance for proper match practice prior to the start of the season this afternoon when they face OFK Belgrade and Bobby Williamson intends to make several substitutions today. "I'll make sure everybody gets on the park," he said, "and I'll make changes at or just after half-time." Williamson does not want anyone to know his first-choice starting XI just yet. "We've been working on team shape over the last couple of days behind closed doors," he said, "and we'll continue to do that. Reading will be here to watch us and see how we shape up, but we'll not be giving much away. They'll get to see all our personnel, but that's all they'll get to see." Asked if he felt he had given his squad sufficient friendly match practice this summer, Williamson said: "You don't know. You try and use a bit of foresight. We feel we've arranged enough games to get the lads through it and get them through the season ahead, but the proof will be in the pudding when we get started properly." OFK Belgrade should give Argyle a decent game today, although they might not possess the quality of Bruges. "I expect OFK to be a very good team," Williamson said, "although I don't know if they'll be better than Bruges. They got a draw at Luton and we'll get a game, that's for sure. I just hope everybody comes through unscathed."
Tony Capaldi has been included in the Northern Ireland squad for a friendly in Malta on August 17th
Bobby Williamson believes OFK Belgrade will provide his team with another stern test, following the draw against FC Bruges on Tuesday night. He said: "We are expecting a tough match. They gave Luton a good game the other night and I'm sure they will do the same to us tomorrow. We are hoping for something similar to the Bruges game, with maybe one or two goals for us. You are always concerned when you come up against a team with the class of Bruges that you could find yourself on the receiving end of a heavy defeat, but that never materialised. We coped reasonably well with what they had to throw at us. They did retain possession for long periods, but so did we. I felt we knocked the ball about comfortably as well and we did have a few opportunities. It was a good work-out for both teams."
Romain Larrieu will get one last chance to stake his claim to be Argyle's goalkeeper before the new season starts next Saturday. Larrieu has returned to training after he was ruled out of the draw with FC Bruges on Tuesday because of illness and he will be between the posts against OFK Belgrade tomorrow. Bobby Williamson said: "There's not a lot to choose between the two. It doesn't matter which one I pick, the other one is going to feel hard done by. It will just be a gut feeling who gets selected on this occasion. Last season they played the same amount of games, which wasn't planned. It just materialised that way. I have got to go with a gut instinct at times when players are that close, and what I see in training helps as well." Williamson will listen to the opinions of Jocky Scott and Geoff Crudgington before making his mind up. He said: "Their opinions are valued but I will make the decision. That's the way it has got to be. Whoever is left out will be disappointed and the other will be delighted. I don't shirk that responsibility. I will speak to both the goalkeepers next Friday and let them know who will be taking the place between the sticks. It's up to them to go out and do themselves justice. I rate both of them equally. I haven't got a favourite. They are different in their own right and they have got strengths and weaknesses." Meanwhile, Williamson is still working to add more players to his squad before the season kicks off. He said: "I'm always talking to other clubs, other players and other agents on a daily basis. I'm certainly not in any rush. I have got 17 outfield players - plus a couple of younger pros. That's plenty to start the season with. Whether it's enough to get us through the season, I don't know. It all depends on injuries and suspensions. We can only prepare as properly as we can do. I will be guided by budgets, the same as every other manager."
Bobby Williamson has not ruled out adding a left-back to the his squad before the start of the season. Asked if the loss of Peter Gilbert was a blow, Williamson said: "That's football. We could sell another player in the next couple of days, who knows? I could buy a player in the next couple of days, too. We don't wait until somebody moves before we take action. We're always looking to strengthen every position in case something happens." Gilbert has explained his reasons for wanting to leave Argyle. He said: "It has been suggested to me that I wanted to leave Home Park because Plymouth signed Rufus Brevett, yet I have nothing against Rufus. Rufus is a quality player who has improved Plymouth's squad, and a nice guy to go with it. I just thought this was the right time for me to move on, and that a move to Leicester would give me the best chance to further my career and keep it going in the right direction. I was ready for a fresh challenge. I'd like to thank everyone at Plymouth for two great years at the club. I was part of a successful promotion team and a team that performed with pride in its first year in the Championship, and I look back on my time there fondly. Plymouth gave me my opportunity and I'll always be grateful for that. I really enjoyed my football there, and I owe the club and the staff a lot. I wish the lads every success for the coming season, and the club will always have a special place in my heart."
Bobby Williamson took a lot of encouragement from Argyle's performance in their draw with FC Bruges last night. Williamson was especially pleased that his team kept a clean sheet. He said: "It was a good work-out and, obviously, a better class opposition to the ones we have played previously in the pre-season games. We knew we would get a run around at times, when they kept possession and tried to probe and pass. It's good to play against teams who try different formations. We have got to try to stop them playing and then play ourselves. I enjoyed the game. It was interesting to see the patterns of play and I felt we coped quite well. They didn't create too much, to be fair, but neither did we. The odd chance we had was usually a mistake from somebody. Defensively, they were very good, but they are a good team. You can see that. They had a few international players out there as well and it was a good test for us and that will take us into the next game. It gives the guys a bit of a confidence-booster as well, knowing they kept a clean sheet against a very good team. That was pleasing. Luke had a couple of decent saves and we defended well in certain situations. It was good to make sure everybody got a work-out really." Williamson believes his squad are ready and raring for the start of the season. He said: "Once we get Saturday under our belts we will start shaping up for Reading. I don't think we are too far away in fitness. The boys are feeling reasonably good, although we are picking up a few bumps and bruises." Williamson confirmed that Romain Larrieu had missed out against Bruges because of illness rather than injury. He said: "He was feeling the effects of some illness. Hopefully, it's just a 24-hour job and he will be okay for Saturday." Nuno Mendes played the first half against Bruges as a centre-back but after the break he played the holding role in midfield with Mickey Evans as Argyle's lone striker. Williamson said: "Paul Wotton can do that job but we need cover for him in case he can't do it for some reason. The more flexible we are this season the better. I will keep fluctuating between formations because we work on it in training and the players know what they are doing, so there are no excuses. They can't turn around to me and say 'we never tried that' because we have. We worked on it last season and we are working on it again this year." Bruges arrived at Home Park yesterday without five of their best players because they did not have the necessary travel documents. They only became aware of the problem on Friday and they did not have enough time to sort out the paperwork
Argyle drew 0-0 with FC Bruges in tonights friendly at Home Park. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, West, Mendes, Brevett, Gudjonsson, Wotton, Buzsaky, Capaldi, Taylor, Chadwick, Subs - Barness, Aljofree, Kouo-Doumbe, Norris, Djordjic, Evans, Lasley (not used - Debbage). Attendance - 6,365.. Bobby Williamson thinks his side are on target to hit the ground running when the new season kicks off and was happy with the draw. "It was a good work-out," he said. "It was obviously a better class of opposition than we have played previously, so we knew we would get a bit of a run around at times when they kept possession and tried to probe and pass. They were a good team. They had a few internationals out there and it was a good test for us that will take us into the next game. It gives the guys a bit of a confidence boost, knowing they've kept a clean sheet against a very good team -that was pleasing. Luke had a couple of decent saves and we defended well in certain situations. You want to play against decent opposition. That lifts the players. If you play against a team of lesser standard sometimes that drags you down to that level. I noticed that a couple of times in Sweden. No disrespect to the teams we played but they are not in our league and I felt, at times, we overdid it, and tried to hard to take too many touches than play our game. It's good to play against teams who try different formations - we have got to stop them playing and then play ourselves. I enjoyed the game. It was interesting to see the different patterns of play and I felt we coped quite well. They didn't create too much, to be fair, but neither did we. The only chances we had were mistakes that fell to someone. That happens in football. Defensively, they were very good." Argyle now play OFK Belgrade on Saturday with Williamson set to continue experimenting with different formations and personnel. "We're not far away," he said. "Once we've got Saturday under our belts, we'll start shaping up for the Reading game. That's what we're all set for. I don't think we're too far away in fitness, although we are picking up a few bumps. The more flexible we are this season, the better. I'll keep fluctuating between 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1. We're working on it in training and players know what they are doing. There's no excuses - they can't turn round and say that we've never tried it. The more problems we can pose the opposition and keep them thinking how we are going to play, the better."
Tonights game against FC Bruges promises to be a challenging occasion for Argyle. "It will be a good test for us," Mickey Evans said. "It will be different to what we sometimes face in the Championship. They won't be so direct and they'll pass the ball a lot more, so it should be good. Hopefully it will be a great game to watch, and it's good to be back at Home Park again. It's a good chance for the fans to see the new lads, but I hope they don't expect too much. It's only a pre-season game, and a lot of players aren't in peak form at this stage. That won't happen until we're three or four games into the season. You can play as many friendlies as you like, but until the actual cut-and-thrust of the Championship starts you won't see the players at their best. It's totally different." A year ago Argyle took seven strikers on their tour to Austria and Evans is the only one left at the club. "It's amazing," he said. "I'm lucky to be here still! But football clubs change, players move on, it's part of the game. All you have to do is focus on the season ahead."
Akos Buzsaky should be passed fit for Argyle's friendly against FC Bruges tonight, having missed the win over IFK Holmsund on Saturday because of a groin strain
In addition to the transfer fee Argyle received for Peter Gilbert, they have insisted on a substantial sell-on clause. Michael Dunford confirmed that Gilbert had indicated he would not sign a new deal next summer. Dunford said: "Leicester have been dogged in their determination to get the player and we have been dogged in our determination to obtain the best possible price for one of our younger players. Peter's contract was going to be up next summer and he indicated to us, irrespective of what happened, that he would be looking elsewhere to continue his career. There would have been a compensation fee due to us in the summer because of his age, but, in our opinion, that would have been minimal. We were left with the decision where if the player was adamant he wanted to move for personal reasons we had to secure the best possible price for him. It kept edging up and up until we got to a figure that was acceptable to us. I should add we have a sell-on clause as well." Bobby Williamson is aiming to add a new left-back and another striker to his squad before the season-opener on August 6th but is thought to have decided not to take his interest in Estonian international striker Ingemar Teever any further
Luke McCormick is relishing the prospect of renewing his rivalry with Romain Larrieu this season. Larrieu signed a new three-year contract in May, despite offers elsewhere, and McCormick was thrilled he did so. He said: "I was delighted he did end up staying. I have got a great relationship with Romain and it would have meant starting all over again. We have worked together for so long now and Romain has done a lot for me. He has helped me along the way and I have got nothing but the utmost respect for him, as a goalkeeper and as a person. I think the gaffer may have a headache again come the start of the season." McCormick believes recent signings can only improve the strength of the squad for the forthcoming campaign. He said: "The signings the gaffer have made have certainly brought a lot of experience into the team. What Taribo has done in the game speaks for itself really. The likes of Anthony Barness and Rufus Brevett have also played at the highest level. As a goalkeeper, it's good to have those sort of players in front of you. I think you saw that when Jason Dodd came on loan last season. He was very composed on the ball and I think these guys will be the same. Taribo is a real character in the dressing room and he likes to talk on the pitch. He likes to let you know that he's there as well, so I think he will be a very useful addition to us. With Cocko going, I think Taribo will be a good person to have around." Argyle have also signed Akos Buzsaky and Bojan Djordjic, McCormick said: "He showed bits of what he could do last season. He's someone who can turn a game, and I think you need a player like that in your squad, especially at this level. Bojan has been at Manchester United and you don't play for the best club in the world for no reason. He has looked sharp in training as well. It will be tough competition for places but it's a good problem for the gaffer to have."
Peter Gilbert today left Argyle to join Leicester City for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £200,000. Birmingham City will receive 30 per cent of the fee. Bobby Williamson said that the decision to let Gilbert go had been made easy by the player's desire to leave Home Park. "Peter had a year left on his contract and he gave us every indication that he had no intention of extending that deal," he said. "We didn't seek to sell him but, in the circumstances, it seemed the wisest move. We wish him all the best, he has been a good servant, but when a player makes it clear he sees his future elsewhere, we have got to take that into account. The longer we let the situation go on, the less our chances of getting a fee for him that matched our valuation." Gilbert said: "I have enjoyed my two seasons at Home Park, but as soon as I realised that Leicester City were interested there was only one place that I wanted to go to. It's a massive club."
Bobby Williamson admitted the standard of opposition on Argyle's pre-season tour had not been strong enough. He said: "The better the teams we are up against the better we play. Unfortunately, when the standard gets dropped we take too many touches of the ball and it's not productive enough for my liking. It's all about getting fitness levels up and I'm not really too fussed about the individual performances, but it's been good to see strikers scoring goals. It gets them in the habit of putting the ball in the back of the net. If we can do that here then, hopefully, we can take it on to the next step." Argyle have two more pre-season friendlies, starting with the visit of FC Bruges. Williamson said: "We will go into that game and, hopefully, be prepared for it. That will be a good test for us. Bruges will keep the ball and get our guys running around. We will have a decent training session on the Tuesday and, hopefully, the game in the evening will get more out of us." Despite the standard of opposition, Williamson thought the tour had been a worthwhile exercise. He said: "We have got a few new players and it gives them the opportunity to get to know the rest of the lads better, and that's important."
Argyle beat IFK Holmsund 5-1 in tonights friendly, the goals coming from Nick Chadwick, Scott Taylor (2), Tony Capaldi and Anthony Barness. Argyle: McCormick, Barness, Brevett, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Gudjonsson, Wotton, Djordjic, Capaldi, Chadwick, Taylor. Subs - Larrieu, Dickson, Norris, Lasley, Evans, Summerfield
Bobby Williamson is already impressed by the talent of Nuno Mendes, but he also hopes that there is more to come from the central defender. "Nuno has done OK," he said. "We're hoping he'll be a good acquisition for us. There are parts of his game that could be worked on, but that was only to be expected. Given time, he'll prove his worth." Today Argyle tackle their host club this week, IFK Holmsund, and will lift a trophy named in their honour if they achieve a victory. Williamson has not yet made his team selection for today's Plymouth Argyle Cup match. "One or two of the lads are feeling the effects of the games and the training," he said. "We've been doing double sessions most days, but we'll give them a rest this afternoon. Then we'll wait and see who is available for tomorrow's game. We're travelling back on Sunday, which is a toll on its own, and we've got another game on Tuesday. Today will be the first afternoon off they've had, and hopefully they'll take advantage of it and rest." With Argyle coming towards the end of their week in Sweden, Williamson is satisfied by the work the players have done on the training ground. "They're looking good," he said. "I don't think we have any complaints there, but it all depends how the season starts. If we get off to a good start, then this all went well. If we don't, then people will start asking: 'Was the training good enough? Were the games hard enough?' You need to use hindsight more than foresight, but we're hoping that everything has gone well and that we've got the players as fit as we can get them. It's up to the players now to be as professional as they can be, and look after themselves when they're not training. I think the players have enjoyed the work we've done here, but it is a training camp and not a holiday camp. It's been hard work, but they've buckled down." Willimson insisted the players would only get into tip-top physical condition once the season starts on August 6th. He said: "There is certainly more to come. They will find their fitness as the season progresses. But it's important they get this hard work under their belts. That sets them up for the season. If you miss the pre-season you are playing catch-up. You never really do get your fitness after that because you want to be doing your best in the games so you ease off in the training." Argyle have two home pre-season games next week, and Williamson added: "They might be a bit more strenuous than I would desire. When you go into games against quality opposition and you don't come out of them so well then the fans get disillusioned. But we have got to test ourselves against the best. We did it last year against Portsmouth and we learned our lesson. We worked them hard during the day and for 45 minutes they were fine but in the last 45 minutes they had blown a gasket. That was my fault for pushing the players, but it's all about what we are going to achieve during the season, not what's going to happen in pre-season matches. I think a lot of people went away from that game thinking 'it's going to be a long season' but it held us in good stead."
Damon Lenszner's first pre-season tour as a Plymouth Argyle director has been an eventful week in Sweden. Within the space of three days, Lenszner has had to supervise the completion of an international transfer and then present the response to an apparent attempt to poach one of their most promising players. "What has happened this week has made it apparent why the club always wants to have somebody from the board on a tour," Lenszner said. "It's difficult enough for the manager and his coaches here to do their jobs. We're a couple of weeks away from the start of the season now, and we want the manager to concentrate on the team and work with his staff to get them right for the kick-off. The manager doesn't need any off-the-field distractions, and it's the responsibility of what we call the director in charge to handle anything that might come up. As it happens, there have been a couple of things that happened within a short space of time, but it looks like we've managed to deal with what we've needed to deal with." This is Argyle's fifth consecutive pre-season tour and there are some critics who wonder whether overseas trips represent money well spent. "The old saying 'a change is as good as a rest' still holds true," Lenszner said. "These are different surroundings, but what is more important is the bonding that takes place. The players are living with each other round the clock for a week, and the team becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. That's the advantage of going away on tour. The players all get to know one another as a person, and if that helps just a fraction in knowing what they're going to be thinking on the field then this trip has done its job." No foreign journey is perfect and Lenszner said: "The training facilities here are fine, but the pitch we played at on Tuesday and the level of opposition we faced was not perfect. I don't think you can gain very much from a 9-0 victory. So, with having Gil Prescott on board, part of his job come the new year will be to go out and have a look around and make recommendations about where the next tour should be." Rather than just follow the teams progress as a supporter, Lenszner now has to approach football from a businessman's perspective. "As a fan, I've always had an appreciation of the financial aspects of the game," he said. " The board, under the current chairman, has always made it clear that the objective is to push Plymouth Argyle forwards, and it's difficult to do that if you're running up huge debts. We're not going to put ourselves into debt to buy a £500,000 striker, or whatever. It's a balancing act, but I think most fans are aware of who we are and where we want to go. Hopefully, within the next three or four seasons, when we're pushing for a Premiership place, we'll be in a different financial position. We have the development coming at the ground, which we're almost ready to talk about. We have lacked off-the-field income, and we'll be looking to use Home Park all week when Phase Two is finished. The income from that will be ploughed straight back into the team." Asked to disclose his ambitions for this season, Lenszner added: "We have to look for a mid-table place. We have a very important couple of years in the development of the club coming up, and we have to make sure we remain where we are but we also have to do better than we did last year. More points and a higher finishing place is the target."
Bobby Williamson admitted his experiment of playing with three centre-backs against Umea last night had not been a success. He said: "We will need to do a bit of work on it I'm afraid, but I was pleased with the effort they put in. It was a game we could have won, although Romain did have a couple of decent saves. We had better chances I felt. Their goalkeeper had a really good save from Mickey Evans in the second half. The result was immaterial. We got more out of this than we did the other night. They are not a bad team. They had a lot of movement, good players and they were well organised. It was difficult, but that's what we are looking for. You have got to remember their season has started and they are a bit ahead of us when it comes to fitness. We are still chasing that just now." Williamson was pleased with the performance of Bojan Djordjic, even though he played out of position in central midfield, rather than out wide. "Bo looks as if he could trouble teams in the last third of the pitch," he said. "I was pleased he got 90 minutes under his belt and I think he will be a good acquisition for us."
Bobby Williamson has praised the contribution of Jocky Scott during the club's pre-season preparations. Scott has taken most of the training sessions in Sweden this week, with Williamson closely scrutinising the players. Williamson said: "Jocky is a good coach and we speak about things before we go out on the training ground. We put our ideas together and then he carries them out. It's probably better that one voice is heard, not two, so the players are not being confused and getting it wrong. There is no chance of mixed signals because we are singing from the same hymn sheet. That's the way it will be all the way through the season." After the departure of Gerry McCabe last week, Scott has extra responsibility for the coaching and Williamson said: "You find at the higher levels you go, the less coaching you need to do because the players know the game. They know their strengths and weaknesses and they play to them. The top clubs don't have to coach so much. They go and play five-a-sides and generally just keep their fitness levels up. The further down you go the harder you have got to work, to try to get across your ideas and paint the picture for the players. I feel we have got a good coach in Jocky Scott who can paint the picture. It's up to the players to see and develop it. If they can't see and develop it, then maybe they should not be playing at this level. But I feel we have got players who do want to learn and want to progress as a team, and that's the most important thing." Argyle have a squad of 23 senior professionals and Williamson believes it is essential they are all kept involved as much as possible. He said: "We don't just work with the players, who we think are going to be in the team. We have got to work on everybody, and everybody has got to know the role they have got within that team. That's what we try to do. Once we get the ball and we are further up the field, I prefer players who can improvise and do things off the cuff. If we can coach it, then people can coach it to stop it happening, so we need players, who can think for themselves and do what's necessary in the last third. When we are not in the last third we want to make sure we don't give away the ball needlessly, and we are organised enough to know that if it does break down we have got bodies behind the ball to stop them creating."
Argyle drew 0-0 against Umea FC in tonights friendly. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, West, Mendes, Aljofree, Brevett, Norris, Lasley, Djordjic, Evans, Teevor. Subs - Barness, Chadwick
Peter Gilbert could be on his way to Leicester City, according to today's Leicester Mercury. They report that the Foxes have been chasing Gilbert all summer and the two clubs have agreed a fee, and that Gilbert could move within the next 48 hours. But this afternoon Argyle denied a fee had been agreed for Gilbert, although the club admitted Leicester had made a bid. "The club very rarely comments on speculation," said Damon Lenszner. "It is unsettling for the team and the player to hear speculation like that. There was an offer which was rejected, he is an Argyle player and we want him to remain an Argyle player, he is a promising under 21 international and part of the set up here and he has 12 months left on his contract. An offer has been received and rejected. He is here in Sweden and will remain in Sweden and will complete the tour with us, so how they can talk about him playing against Boston for them on Sunday is beyond me." Sources in Leicester claim the move will still go ahead, once a 'few technicalities' have been sorted out
Taribo West believes that Argyle's pre-season training programme is as good as any he has undergone in his career. "Training camps in Italy can last for four weeks, sometimes six weeks," he said. "But the work is mostly the same, we did more ball work and a lot of work with weight, it's just a different environment. Here with Plymouth, it has been very impressive. I've been impressed tactically and also by the physical work. It compares well to the Italian clubs. We run a lot, and that is good. If you want to be a good footballer, you have to have the physical strength to run a lot. Teams that run very well will win games. I think we are running very well here, and tactically the manager and the coaches are putting everything together very well. Everybody is happy." West still has international ambitions. He wants to go with Nigeria to Germany next summer and take part in the World Cup finals for the third time. "After the 2002 World Cup," he said, "I retired from the team because there was a lot of mismanagement, exploitation and corruption. I needed a break, but then I had a few phone calls from the trainers and I changed my mind to play in the 2004 African Nations' Cup". A knee injury put him out of action though, and he missed the finals. Now it seems that he could be invited back again to represent his country. "I still believe I have a lot to offer the national team," he said.
Bojan Djordjic is poised to make his first appearance for Argyle this evening, when they face Umea in the second game of their pre-season tour. "We're hoping he'll be fit," Bobby Williamson said. "He's had a couple of stiff training sessions and it's looking good. He should feature. We need them all playing at this time of the year. If you miss out in pre-season it's very difficult to play catch up. But Bojan has not been out for very long, so hopefully he'll be involved tomorrow night. He needs some games." Tonight's starting XI should feature players who did not begin Tuesday's win against Betsele. Mickey Evans is set to lead the attack alongside Nick Chadwick, Keith Lasley and David Norris are likely to be the central midfielders, with Ryan Dickson used on the left wing. Mat Doumbe and Hasney Aljofree are expected to team up in central defence. "That's the idea," Williamson said. "The guys who didn't start the other night will feature tomorrow, and we'll look at the last game on Saturday differently once we get tomorrow's game out of the way. The main benefit of Tuesday's friendly was the fitness conditioning for those who took part, rather than the result. Keeping clean sheets and scoring lots of goals was not the prerogative, although it was great to do that. It was all about fitness. That's all we want out of these games, we're not looking to do anything else. I don't want to judge the boys too early. It's a gradual process."
Damon Lenszner is enjoying an eye-opening trip with the Argyle squad on their pre-season tour to Sweden and has been impressed with the amount of work put in by the players and staff. He said: "I'm amazed at the amount of work that does go on. I have every admiration for the professionalism of Bobby, Jocky, Maxie and Crudgie. They all do a superb job. I think most fans see them just standing on the touchline shouting orders on a Saturday afternoon, but the graft they put in during the week is just phenomenal. What happens on the training field is entirely down to Bobby and his team. What we, as a board, do off the field is support Bobby in the decisions he makes. If he identifies a player, we will do what we can to bring him into the club. It's a sales job to bring people to Plymouth but, as has been proved, once we get them down we can show them what we have got to offer and the ambition the club has got. Normally, we get our man. Bobby was saying earlier that pre-season is a hard slog for the players. They come back from a few weeks off and it's really hard work for them to get back into match shape. I think just the change of scenery does them good. You can be at Harper's Park doing the slog, but if you can get away it's a good team-bonding exercise first and foremost. Also, the work can be put in, in different surroundings and I think a change is as good as a rest for the players, the same as anybody else." Lenszner admitted he had been on 'a very steep learning curve' since joining the board. He said: "Having looked behind the scenes and seen the amount of work that actually goes into running the football club, as well as a football team, it's just incredible. I'm really enjoying it and I know there is a lot more to learn, but it has certainly been a great first few months. It has been an experience - I wouldn't have missed for the world. Off the field, there is still a long away for the club to come. We are still trying to catch up with what the team have done on the field to make us a Championship club off it. Michael Dunford has done an absolutely superb job since he came to us in January. He has added to the professionalism of how the club is run. I just think things are looking good for the club to go onwards and upwards over the next three to four years." Lenszner believes Argyle should aim to finish in the middle third of the Championship this season. He said: "We have sat down with Bobby and put down the parameters of what we are looking for as a board. I think most fans would be in agreement that we should be aiming for that middle eight, from ninth down to 16th. You never know, if we win the last six games of the season it could push us in the back door of the play-offs, but we don't want to be in any relegation trouble. There are a big couple of years coming up, with phase two happening at Home Park, so we can't afford to let things slip. We are going to be well clear of that relegation zone. We are looking for mid-table and we want to be better than we were last season, both in position and points." Although Lenszner is in the tour party, he insisted Williamson would make all the decisions while they were in Sweden. "The manager is in charge. I just do what I can when the expense bills come in," he said.
Keith Lasley has struggled to hold down a regular first team spot in his first season at Home Park, but has no regrets about his move from Motherwell. He believes the Championship as a whole is stronger than the SPL and is enjoying the challenge. He said: "Some of the clubs are bigger than others but it's a good standard all round and you don't get an easy game, no matter who you are playing. We found that out last season when we went to some of the so-called smaller teams in the league and got really tough games. It's exciting because you want to play at the highest level you can and it's a good standard. With the size of the club, it definitely should have the ambition to go even higher. People from home ask me what the Championship is like and I would say, overall, it's better than the SPL. Obviously, in Scotland you have got the big two and they are a higher standard than the Championship. There are the top two and then you have the rest, whereas in the Championship you get a steady level. It could be even stronger this season with Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Southampton relegated from the Premiership and with Luton Town, Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday promoted from League One. Every week, it's whoever is up for it the most, and whoever plays well on the day, that usually comes out on top. You look the fixtures and there are not a lot you can pick out and say 'that's an easy three points'. It's a very competitive league."
Nuno Mendes admitted it had always been an ambition to play in England after signing for Argyle. He said: "I hope the season goes good for me and I will do everything to help the team. I like to play at centre-back or midfield. It's no problem." Argyle's tour to Sweden this week has given Mendes the chance to get to know his team-mates. He said: "I speak with them 24 hours a day. It's good for me and I like the players. I like what I have seen of Plymouth. They have good players. I am very happy to join them."
Argyle won tonights friendly against Betsele IF 9-0, the goals coming from Akos Buzsaky (2), Estonian trialist Ingemar Teevor, Bjarni Gudjonsson, Nick Chadwick (2), Paul Wotton, Tony Capaldi and Luke Summerfield. Argyle: McCormick, Barness, Mendes, West, Gilbert, Gudjonsson, Buzsaky, Wotton, Capaldi, Taylor, Teevor. Subs - Chadwick, Kouo-Doumbe, Connolly, Summerfield
Argyle today signed Portuguese defender Nuno Mendes, who has been training with the squad since they returned for pre-season training. Mendes has agreed a one-year contract. "I am delighted to have got him," Bobby Williamson said. "He is a dominant central defender and can also play in a defensive midfield role. His versatility could be a real asset as he can also play anywhere across the back four. He came over at the end of last season and we talked football so I invited him over for pre-season and he has impressed everyone and has fitted in well. He has good stature, he's tall and is comfortable on the ball, although he will not get as much time on the ball as he is used to in England but he will learn. He is the fourth central defender I have been looking for and has come to play first team football but he will find competition for places. He also turned down a lucrative offer from another club to join us." Williamson revealed he had gone to the top for references on Mendes. "I spoke to Jose Mourinho about Nuno and he told me he is very good and should be playing in the Premiership not the Championship," he said. Mendes will face fierce competition for a first team spot from Taribo West, Hasney Aljofree and Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and Williamson added: "I will not be looking to strengthen that department of the team now. I feel we have got plenty of cover there and four decent central defenders who will fight it out for two places. They may have to fight it out for three when we play with five at the back on some occasions. Who knows? Now is the time to work on shaping that up and letting the players know what is expected of them if we do go into that formation. The more flexibility you have got about you, I feel will be a benefit in this division because everybody gets to know each other's strengths and weaknesses so well and so quickly." Damon Lenszner said: "We're pleased to complete our sixth signing of a busy summer. At 6ft 4in, and nearly 13st, Nuno's ability to play anywhere in the back four will be of great benefit to the team. He has spent most of his career in the Portuguese Superliga, apart from his two seasons in France." Mendes confirmed that the Chelsea manager knew him: "I played for him at a previous club in Portugal, Uniao Leiria before he left for Porto" he said. When asked what he thought of Argyle after training with the team for the last two weeks, Mendes said: "Very good, I like, I like." He admitted that he did not know any of the players previously: "I knew Akos in Portugal but only here have I spoken to him." Mendes also revealed that he represented his country at Under 16, 17, 18, 19 and 21 levels
Argyle travel north to Lapland tonight to play Betsele IF, the first of three fixtures on their tour to Sweden. Bobby Williamson wants to give the 11 players he chooses for starting roles tonight a full game, and he will then hope to repeat this with the rest of his squad against Umea FC on Thursday. "We'll be asking players to play full matches from now on," Williamson said. "We'll see how it goes. We'll have players on the bench, but we'll only use them if necessary. We want them to start getting through 90 minutes now. That's how you get full fitness. I'm not really fussed which 11 players start the game tomorrow, though. We're not bothered about performance levels yet, we're just working away at getting fitness levels up. Nobody should read anything into the teams I pick pre-season." Williamson supervised two training sessions yesterday and said. "The conditions have been difficult. It has been extremely warm and it has certainly sapped the players' energy. There have been a lot of mosquitoes flying around as well, and some of the players are suffering from hay fever. We have just got to work through that and get the training sessions and the three games under our belt to get us into good shape for the start of the season." Williamson added: "The players dehydrate quickly and they have to take a lot of water on board. Even in a warm-up they get a sweat on and it's not easy working in these conditions but they are getting through it, and credit to them."
Argyle are set to field a trialist in tonight's game, a striker from an Eastern European club. He met up with the team in Stockholm on Sunday en route to Holmsund and Bobby Williamson is currently keeping his identity under wraps
Bobby Williamson is hopeful Bojan Djordjic will feature in the tour of Sweden, despite picking up an injury in training last week. He said: "Bojan got a knock in training the other day but it's not as serious as we first thought. Hopefully, when the week goes on he will be able to take part in one of the games. He will not be training with us but he will be working hard to try to keep the fitness levels up. He has worked very hard up until now and it's a shame he picked up this injury." Williamson would not reveal what damage Djordjic had done. "It was just a knock. You start getting the balls out in training and it gets competitive. That's where you pick up injuries and that's what has happened. It's only in the last couple of days where we have started stepping it up a bit and getting physical contact in the five-a-sides and full-sides. It's just a blow to the player because we are getting close to the season starting. He has done all his hard work and now he has got to sit it out, but, hopefully, it will not be for too long."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Torquay United in this afternoons testimonial match for Tony Bedeau, Tony Capaldi scoring Argyle's goal after 30 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu (McCormick half-time), Connolly (Barness half-time), Kouo-Doumbe (Aljofree 30), West (Kouo-Doumbe 55), Brevett (Gilbert half-time), Gudjonsson (Martin), Lasley (Norris half-time), Wotton (Summerfield half-time), Capaldi (Buzsaky half-time), Evans (Chadwick 58), Chadwick (Taylor 30). Bobby Williamson was delighted with the amount of Argyle fans who went to Plainmoor. He said: "Hopefully Tony's made a few quid out of it and I wish Torquay all the best for when the season starts and in the future." Williamson refused to read anything into the result. "It's just about fitness," he said, "that's why we arrange these games. The aim was to try and get on the park for a length of time and we'll do that in the next few games as well, as we work towards a team for the Reading game." Bojan Djordjic was forced to sit out the game after taking a knock in training. He will though, be flying out for the training camp in Sweden on Sunday. "He'll be working hard and trying to keep the fitness levels up," said Williamson. "He's worked very hard up to now and it's a shame he picked up this injury. You are going to pick up injuries, whether it's in training or in games. It's just a blow to the player because, just as the games start and he's done all the hard work, he's got to sit it out. It hopefully won't be for too long." Argyle fans were treated to their first glimpse of Taribo West and Williamson added: "He's a class act. You can see that he's played at a level. He does the simple things well and when questions are asked, he normally stands up to be counted. He wants to pass on his knowledge, as well. He'll talk players through games and, if some players can learn from him, it bodes well for the future." Williamson said that working on fitness would also be the prime concern in Sweden, but said: "It will give us a chance to work on other things, shapes and different styles of play. We prefer playing with a back-four but we'll probably be working on a back five as well. We'll set things up and put ideas in players' heads."
Bojan Djordjic is looking forward to returning to his adopted home country next week. He said: "It's going to be pretty hot over there. It's always hot in the middle of July. We are going to enjoy 20-22 hours of daylight as well, which you English are not that used to. I'm really looking forward to it. It's always nice to speak your language and speak to the people from the country you come from. We have a really good national team but there have not been many players who have played at big clubs such as I have. They know me more in Sweden than they would know me here in England." Argyle will be playing three games during the tour and Djordjic said: "It's hard to say what the games will be like but if we were playing them in the season I would probably expect to beat them with big figures. It's like playing a mid-table Conference side. I think they only train a few times a week because they work. But the training is the most important part of the tour, and the games we are playing are about training as well. It's getting your runs out, being comfortable again on the ball and sprinting back into position because when you return for pre-season the pitches just seem so big."
Argyle make the short journey to Plainmoor to take on Torquay United today and Bobby Williamson will not want anybody to make assumptions about their readiness for the new campaign based upon what happens in the game. "It's far too early to be judging any players," he said. "The occasion is Tony Bedeau's testimonial, and that's why we're turning up. I hope we get a good turn-out for Tony, he deserves the recognition. He's been a really good servant to Torquay and I hope he makes a bit of money out of the game. As for our fans, I just hope they can come along and enjoy the occasion." Williamson intends to give every fit member of his squad some exercise today. "Everybody who is fit to play will take part in the game at some stage," he said. "Hopefully I won't have to use anybody for the full 90 minutes, and I'd like the players to play no more than 45 minutes each." Williamson wants to use today's game, plus the three friendlies in Sweden, to give all of his squad an equal amount of playing time. "It's all about getting fitness levels up," he said. "It's up to each individual to get themselves as fit as they can. If they're not as fit as they should be, then they won't be picked. At the beginning of the season, everybody starts afresh. I've got a squad of players, and they're all in the reckoning."
Paul Wotton will savour the first taste of match practice this summer when Argyle play Torquay today. He said: "Pre-season is one of the very few down-sides of being a footballer, and these last two weeks have probably been as tough as any I've ever done. It's been pretty hard, because we've been training morning and afternoon and it's been freakishly hot. Unfortunately, it's something that has to be done. To be a footballer in this day and age, you have to be a fit lad. Our coach Jocky Scott said that, if there was a magic pill you could take to get fit, then everyone would take it, but unfortunately it hasn't been invented yet. So we just have to get on with it. We're definitely looking forward to it today. It will be nice to get out there and return to some sort of normality." Today's match is in honour of Tony Bedeau's ten years with the Gulls. "It's a fantastic achievement by Tony," Wotton added, "and I hope he gets a good crowd." All the summer signings have settled in well at Argyle, according to the captain. "Anyone who signs for Plymouth automatically seems to take a shine to the place," he said, "and it's not like they are young lads who are going to need time to settle in. They're all experienced players who have played at the highest level. Everything is looking good."
Bobby Williamson has confirmed that joint first team coach Gerry McCabe has left Argyle, as reported yesterday. He said: "We have mutually agreed to go our separate ways."
Bobby Williamson has warned supporters not to expect too much too soon from his new signings. Tomorrows friendly against Torquay should see Anthony Barness, Rufus Brevett, Bojan Djordjic and Taribo West make their first appearances for the club. All of the first team squad will be involved, with each player expected to get at least 45 minutes of action. Williamson said: "I hope the supporters who come along to watch the game tomorrow realise we are there to benefit Tony Bedeau and recognise his service to Torquay. I hope they don't expect too much from our players just yet, especially the new signings. Hopefully, they will not judge them too early - good or bad. It's very early days for us and we are not interested in any result. All the players in the first team squad will get a run-out. It may be a case of two teams playing a half each, who knows? We have mostly been doing conditioning work but we have been getting them to get a feel of the ball as well. It's just about getting fitness levels up. It's up to each individual to get themselves as fit as they can do. We can coach them and train them as much as we want, but if they go away and don't eat the right foods or don't rest properly then they certainly suffer. If they are not as fit as they can be then they will not get in the team. At the beginning of the season everybody starts afresh. I have got a squad of 22 players just now and they are all in the reckoning." Neither of the foreign trialists who have been at Home Park this week will be involved tomorrow because international clearance would be required
Argyle's youth team, along with Portuguese trialist Diego Andrade, won 3-1 at Buckland Athletic last night. In a ceremony before the game, Paul Stapleton was invited to open the clubhouse at Bucklands new ground. He said: "It's been a really good occasion. What Buckland have done here has been fantastic, and this is a club that could be going places. It's also been very reassuring to see so many Argyle fans here. It typifies the support we have all over the Westcountry. Bringing the first-team players here to sign autographs and mingle with the supporters has gone down really, really well. It's been a fantastic atmosphere." Argyle's goals were scored by trialist Andrade, Chris Reski and Anthony Mason. Argyle: Seeley, McKeever, Routledge, Laird.S, Laird.J, Andrade, Summerfield, Martin, Dickson, Mason, Reski. Subs - Kendall, Gosling, Bond, Watts
Coach Gerry McCabe is to leave Argyle after just 12 months at Home Park. It is thought he will return to Scotland, although it is not clear whether he has a new job lined up
Bobby Williamson has shelved plans to sign a third goalkeeper before the start of the season. This comes after the Football League confirmed they would allow 'short-term emergency loans in exceptional circumstances' next season despite the introduction of transfer windows. Williamson said: "If I need to, I could bring somebody in on loan but, hopefully, nothing happens to our two goalkeepers. We have also got a young boy in who has got a good stature about him and he has got the potential of being a good goalkeeper. We will see how he develops."
Graham Coughlan believes that Argyle will one day reach the Premiership. That was his parting message to the Green Army as he leaves Home Park with 'so many great memories' of his stay. He said: "Where do I start? There were so many. The highlight of my four years at Argyle, from a personal point of view, was the birth of my two children. I'm proud that they were both born in Plymouth. From a football point of view, as well as the two titles and the two PFA team awards, I was very proud to finish my first season as an Argyle player not only with a championship medal but also as the club's player of the year and as top goalscorer. When I first came to the club, three sides of the ground were being demolished and we were only getting crowds of 5,000 or so. By the time I left, we were playing in front of crowds of 20,000 in a great stadium. The sheer buzz about the place was incredible." That first season contained more than a few days to savour for Coughlan: "The game away at Rochdale, when we clinched promotion and I scored one of our goals, sticks in my mind," he said. "The home game against Cheltenham, when we celebrated the title and I scored again, was a very emotional time for me. I'd lost my grandad earlier in the week, and I shed a few tears that week, I can tell you." Moving up into the Second Division brought more occasions to celebrate, Cocko added: "The game here at Sheffield Wednesday, when we won 3-1 to go top of the league, was a great night. However, for everyone associated with the club, the one day that sticks in the mind from that season was the day when we beat QPR 2-0 at Home Park to clinch the title. We'd gone through a really sticky patch after we'd lost our manager and a few people were asking questions about us. For the boys to go out and put on a performance like that was something special. It was right up there with the best. Nobody involved in the club can ever forget the two bus rides round the city to celebrate the championships, either. To see so many thousands of Argyle fans - men, women and children - out on the streets was just incredible. They were absolutely tremendous." Coughlan revealed his sadness at his departure from Home Park. "I was chasing another bus trip down Royal Parade," he said. "I would have loved to have had the opportunity to win another title with Plymouth. I honestly don't think it's beyond Argyle to reach the Premiership one day, with their fanbase and the size of the surrounding area and the dedication of people at the club. With the right blend and the right mix on the park, they can get there. There are four or five clubs in the Premiership that are no bigger than Plymouth Argyle. They wouldn't be out of place. It's a lovely thought. Last season's experience will stand them in good stead, and they'll be looking to take the next step. They can do it, but it won't happen next year." Coughlan will play no further part at Argyle, however. "Mixed emotions is a good way of summing up how I feel," he said. "I've felt for a while that I was going to be moved on at Argyle. I felt that my time was up and I'd come to the end of my tenure at Plymouth. These things happen, it's understandable." Coughlan was offered an improved deal by the club, but the terms were not to his liking and the offer was subsequently withdrawn. "As soon as the discussions came to an end and the contract was withdrawn, I knew it was over," he said. "When Argyle accepted a bid for me and gave me permission to talk to another club, I knew then it was obviously time to go. That's when it hit me. That's when I realised it was all over. I did try and hang in there, and I was gutted when I did leave. But I've just got to look forward now. I'll still enjoy myself when I return to Plymouth, whether it's as a player or as a fan." Coughlan will return to Home Park with Sheffield Wednesday on October 15th. "I can't wait," he said. "If I'm allowed to, I'd love to pop my head round the Argyle dressing-room door just to say hello. I'll want to see all the back-room and office staff too. That's an occasion I'll be really looking forward to. It will be very exciting."
Bobby Williamson is confident of capturing a quality centre-back to replace Graham Coughlan. He said: "I don't wait until somebody walks out the door before I start thinking how to replace them. I have got to have my finger on the pulse and be prepared for these situations occurring. I have been looking for centre-backs over the course of the summer, and since January because we were one short in that department. There are plenty of candidates. It's just a case of making sure I get the right player in to add to us." One possible replacement is Portuguese defender Nuno Mendes, who is training with the squad. Williamson has not confirmed that, but has admitted there are a 'couple' of trialists at the club. "They will continue working away with us until I feel we have had enough time to make a judgment on them," he said. It is possible Mendes could join the squad for the tour of Sweden and Williamson admitted there was a good chance some trialists could feature in those games. He said: "I don't know if we will take them with us or we will just meet them over there. We will try to look at the players, if that's the road we want to go down. I haven't got a problem doing that. I think if I'm going to make my mind up about a player it's best doing it then, when we can work together and live together 24 hours a day, rather than bringing them here and only seeing them for five or six hours during the day." Williamson will take all of the Argyle squad to Sweden as long as they are fit. That rules out Lee Hodges, who will miss the start of the season because of a persistent back injury. Williamson said: "I'm afraid he's still ongoing with his rehab work."
Bobby Williamson has insisted Bristol City only have themselves to blame after losing out to Sheffield Wednesday over Graham Coughlan. Brian Tinnion was upset that Argyle gave Sheffield Wednesday permission to speak to Coughlan while they were negotiating terms with him. Tinnion said: "In the end it was the Sturrock factor that counted against us, but I'm disappointed Plymouth gave Sheffield Wednesday permission to talk to him after we had been waiting four days to do that." Williamson responded by saying: "I'm sorry about that but it's just business. If we accept an offer for any of our players we allow them to speak to all interested parties, and that's what we have done. Maybe if Bristol City had come up with the figure we had in mind in the first place they may have got the player, but it dragged on and dragged on. I'm disappointed the subject arose when it did, and that was months ago when we still had important games to play to keep us in this division. That could have unsettled Graham but, thankfully, it never because he played as well as he could have done and we managed to get the results we wanted. Bristol City had plenty of time to agree a deal and sort him out and they never done that. Sheffield Wednesday stepped in and made us an offer that we found acceptable and they were given permission to speak to him, the same as Bristol City were. Then it's up to them. The last thing Graham would have wanted was to agree a deal with Bristol City when he really wanted to go to Sheffield Wednesday. If I was Brian Tinnion, I wouldn't be too disappointed. There's no point in having a player there who probably doesn't want to be there in the first place. He has put a lot of hard work into it, I'm sure, behind the scenes but that's football I'm afraid. I'm sorry he feels disappointed."
Graham Coughlan admitted today he was 'gutted' to be leaving Argyle after joining Sheffield Wednesday. He said: "I'm absolutely gutted to be leaving the football club. I wish things had worked out differently. In the four years I have had I have always given 100 per cent, on and off the pitch. The two trips up and down Royal Parade on the open-top bus, seeing all the fans, were tremendous. They are days I will never ever forget. I'm just delighted Plymouth Argyle are now up there with the big boys in the Championship and I'm really pleased to have played a part in that. I wish the fans - who have been different class to me - and the club all the best in the years ahead. They have gained a friend and a supporter in me and I will get down to watch them when I can. I genuinely hope the football club goes from strength to strength. It's a magnificent place to be with fans who are second to none." Argyle offered Coughlan a new two-year contract to replace his existing deal, which still had 12 months remaining, but wages proved a problem. Coughlan said: "I think I had three separate offers but, realistically, they were offers the club knew I wasn't going to sign, and I knew I wasn't going to sign. If it had been for a fair and equal crack, then I would have signed it straight away. Plymouth will have their own take on things but I have always told the truth, and that has got me into one or two scrapes along the way. I can fully understand Bobby Williamson wants to put together his own team and stamp his authority on the football club. I just hope we don't forget each other and the good times we have had. I wouldn't say last season was one of my best but, nevertheless, we stayed up and that was a tremendous achievement for the club. I think everybody in Plymouth knows what I wanted to do, and what I have been wanting to do for the past year but it didn't work out that way. I never thought Sheffield Wednesday would come in for me but on Friday night I got a phone call saying they had been given permission to speak to me. I think there was only going to be one winner then. I didn't have another decision to make. When Sheffield Wednesday and Paul Sturrock come in for you it's one of those things you go for. Everything pointed to them really." Coughlan phoned Bristol City boss Brian Tinnion yesterday to tell of him his decision to sign with the Owls. Coughlan said: "I have kept him informed and we have had open and honest discussions. I spoke to him yesterday and wished him all the best. There would be no prouder man than me to pick up the phone at the end of the season and congratulate him on winning the League One title." He added: "I have had four great and successful seasons at Plymouth Argyle and one thing I will definitely miss are the fans and their backing. I want to thank them for that. If I have half as much success at Sheffield Wednesday as I did at Plymouth Argyle I will be a very happy man. One thing I would like to do is get a ticket and sit with the fans in the Devonport End as a supporter. That's something I would really look forward to."
Bobby Williamson is to hold talks with Marcus Martin over his future at Home Park. He admitted sending Martin out on loan to another club was still an option. He said: "I will be having a discussion with Marcus, and we will see what we think is best for him to progress."
Having signed their two-year professional contracts Ryan Dickson and Luke Summerfield have become fully fledged members of Argyle's first team squad. For Summerfield it was only 12 months ago that he started out at Home Park as a first-year apprentice. Bobby Williamson said: "Luke has got a talent and I feel he will progress better training with us rather than playing another season at youth and reserve level. I'm not saying he will not play reserve matches. He will. But I'm hoping he will progress rapidly and we will try to nurture him along the best way we see fit." Dickson sat out the end of last season because of muscular problems caused by a sudden growth spurt, but is now fully fit and taking part in pre-season training. Williamson said: "He has worked hard during the close season and is training hard. He's looking in good shape, touch wood and, hopefully, he will get off to a good start in pre-season and we will just take it from there." Dickson enjoyed a sudden rise to prominence last season before suffering a loss of form and his injury problems. Williamson said: "There is always a reaction from young players once they have had a taste of it, and then they go out of the picture. He had a lot of injury problems to concern himself with as well, which didn't help him. He wasn't firing on all cylinders. But that's why these guys get the length of contracts they are getting - to help them develop. We aren't in any rush to push them forward and put too much pressure on their young shoulders." Dickson and Summerfield are both expected to play for a young Argyle XI when they visit Buckland Athletic tomorrow. None of the senior first team squad are expected to feature in the game but all the players will be there. Williamson said: "I have had a look at Buckland in action and it's more likely it will be mostly youths who will be playing in that game. But the first team will go along and it will be a good PR exercise to meet the fans in that area, because they don't get an opportunity to see us very often."
Graham Coughlan has left Argyle to rejoin former manager Paul Sturrock at Sheffield Wednesday. Bobby Williamson said: "Cocko is a dedicated and hard-working professional, who deserves everything that comes his way. His name will rightly be associated with a golden era in the history of Argyle, but time doesn't stand still and he has decided the moment was right to move on. Once he had decided, we did not want to stand in his way. He leaves with our best wishes and heartfelt thanks and I know our fans will look forward to seeing him again when he comes down with Wednesday this season."
Marcus Martin will not be returning to Exeter City on loan next season. City manager Alex Inglethorpe said: "Unfortunately I am not in a position to take him this year. The deal slightly changed from Plymouth's point of view and last year he represented tremendous value for money. I am sure if I had more money this year the deal would still represent great value for money. But I cannot give what I haven't got."
Sheffield Wednesday yesterday made a bid for Graham Coughlan but Bobby Williamson insisted that the club are in no rush to part with the defender. "It's down to the player," he said. "If Graham wants to be here, we'll be delighted. If he wants to move on, he'll go with our best wishes. As far as I'm concerned, he's still a Plymouth Argyle player." If Coughlan does leave, Williamson has alternatives in mind. "There are always players to replace players," he said. "I'm always looking at possible targets in every position. We're not actively looking to replace Graham, but there are players out there that I'm aware of, if he does go. But there's a while for him to make his mind up before the season starts. He can take his time to think things over, and I'm sure that's what he'll do and hopefully he'll make the right decision."
Argyle have been drawn against Ilfracombe in the first round of the St Lukes Devon Bowl. The tie is to be played by October 30th. The winners will then face Clyst Rovers in the second round
Graham Coughlan may not have played his last game for Argyle. He had been expected to conclude a transfer to Bristol City today but is reported to be undecided about his future. Sources at Home Park revealed this week that Coughlan has been offered both an extended deal and a pay rise, an offer that was made before the club agreed a fee with Bristol City. Sheffield Wednesday are also thought to be interested in signing Coughlan
Paul Wotton admitted this week's signing of Taribo West had been 'like a bolt out of the blue'. He said: "Taribo coming here is a really great move by the club. And like everybody, except for the management it seems, I was caught on the hop by the signing. It was like a bolt out of the blue when I heard about Taribo's signing, as I'm sure it was for the rest of the team. Along with Anthony, Rufus, Bojan and Akos, it sends out a message that 'hey, we're in the Championship now and we want to stay there'. Even from the little I've seen of Taribo, it's easy to see that he's a real character as well as a very skilful player. It's a real sign of the progress Argyle are making - I mean, if someone had told me as little as four or five years ago that a player like Taribo would one day sign for the club, I'd have told them they were mad. I'm sure he'll be good for the rest of the team - I know I'm already excited at the prospect of playing with Taribo and the other new players."
Bobby Williamson is still on the look out for further additions to his squad. He admits he currently has a player on trial at the club, who he has refused to name, but it is not thought to be either of the two Portuguese players linked with the club yesterday. Williamson said: "As the fans will know by now, I have never commented on transfer speculation in the media. It is disrespectful to the players, whose career prospects might be affected by comments by a manager one way or another. Anyway, I have had umpteen contacts with players' agents since the season ended. To comment on all of them would be pointless. There is one guy training with us, but as I say I'm not prepared to talk about him, as if he doesn't manage to get offered anything here, it could jeopardise his prospects in the future. Suffice to say, that when I have something concrete to talk about, the fans will be the first to know about it."
Graham Coughlan's proposed move to Bristol City has been delayed after his wife went into labour
Neil Shipperley is the latest player rumoured to be on his way to Home Park
Argyle fans will have their first chance to see the team next week, when they visit Devon League side Buckland Athletic. Bobby Williamson has promised to take his entire first-team squad to Buckland's new Homers Heath ground on July 13th for a match to mark the official opening of the side's club-house. The youth squad will also be travelling to the game and Williamson will not make up his mind on the composition of his squad until nearer the fixture. He said: "Whoever plays, we will all be going to the match to help Buckland celebrate the opening of their smart new club-house. It is a big day for them, and everyone at Home Park is delighted to support their initiative and hard work. They have done brilliantly. Argyle prides itself on being a community club and I believe it is important we give full recognition to achievements like this." Any players who do not feature next Wednesday are likely to have a run out against Torquay on July 16th, the day before Argyle set off on their pre-season tour of Sweden. "We'll see how pre-season training goes first, before I decide who I think should play in that game," said Williamson. "As for Sweden, at the moment I've no plans to leave anybody behind, apart from injured players." Phill Gill, who has helped arrange the game against Buckland, said: "We are all aware that Argyle have a massive number of fans in the Teignbridge area and are delighted to be playing at Buckland. As a Newton Abbot member of the Green Army myself, I know how hard Buckland Athletic have worked to build their new ground from scratch, without any financial backing, and they rightly deserve our admiration. Any members of the Green Army who can't make it to the game could do a lot worse than donate £5 in lieu of the entry charge to a very worthy cause." Admission to the game at Homers Heath, which is on Newton Abbot's Decoy Industrial Estate, is pay at the gate, £5 for adults and £1 for children
Bobby Williamson insisted that Taribo West had to convince him that he still had the passion and the desire for the game before he signed him. He said: "It has taken a lot of work by the chief executive and the board of directors to get him here. He is a very fit man and Taribo will be in there for selection the same as anybody else. I'm sure he'll help the players we've got here at the moment. He got here at two o'clock in the morning and that showed me that he had the desire to join us. He'd been down to Home Park and had a look around and we're delighted he's here. And he's shown us the passion he's got in him - the questions he was asking me about how passionate Argyle were going to be this season proved to me that he wants to come to a club that's on the upward scale. And we certainly believe we are. In fact, he interviewed me in a sense - he wanted to know what ideas we had for the future before making up his mind. And by meeting him face-to-face, I was able to establish just how much desire and passion he had. And also by acquiring a player of Taribo's status, it shows our fans that whoever is out there and is available, then we'll try our best to get him here, within our budget, obviously. And Taribo does come within our budget - it's not a money-making exercise for him. Taribo has other options and we started to getting the deal complete and I'm always a great believer that if we can get the player to Plymouth , then we've got a chance of selling the place. But after a sleep, in the morning, we showed him around Plymouth, but he'll find out more about the club and the passion in the fans, the longer he's here. I'm sure he'll endear himself to our fans, because he's a hard-working, no-nonsense defender, who wants to go out and win. And what also has impressed about Taribo, is that every club he's been at, seems to have moved on an upward scale. I know Derby County weren't doing so well when he joined, but then they moved away from relegation trouble. We don't want to be in relegation bother this season - we were close to it last season. Now we want to build and give our fans a bit of hope and their expectation levels will rise. He wants to come here and play for a club which is moving onwards and upwards and I'm delighted he's joined us. He's an interesting bloke as well as being a very good football player - I'm sure he can produce the goods for us. We're trying to sign players who can excite the fans - he certainly excites me. But until we see him out on the park and see how he goes about his business, only then can we slap ourselves on the back for doing a good bit of business." Williamson feels that by bringing in experienced defenders like West, Brevett and Barness will prevent Argyle from dropping points this season. "There were quite a few games last season that we could and should have won," he said. "For example, Reading down here when they equalised in the last minute, Stoke when we had a goal denied to us, also Rotherham. Those points would have put us in a much safer position. Somebody touched on Taribo's age, but that is not important as far as I'm concerned as a manager."
Argyle are giving a trial to two Portuguese players - defender Nuno Mendes, who currently plays for Uniao Leiria and midfielder Carlos Fangueiro of Sporting Braga. Fangueiro said: "I am going to seize this opportunity tooth and nail. I will go on Sunday, train on Monday and Tuesday, on the Wednesday I have a game with the coach. There will be three days of examination but if there should not be any problems I could stay. They are going to set right some details, alone after the game that I am going to carry out we are going to talk. But I do not have many doubts that I will stay. I like English soccer, that is a soccer that fits very well with my characteristics. I am going to seize this opportunity tooth and nail. By chance I have not spoken to them still, but I have spoken with the agent Amadeu Paixao and I know the essentials. It is a club that always 20-30,000 people see the games. Despite it is the second division I know that it is a widely watched championship and I value that. It is able to provide me with the return to Portugal with a bigger team or an experience in the English first division, that is a dream I have."
Robert Dennerly claimed the financial support of the fans was the reason Argyle could afford to sign Taribo West, and that money is available for further signings. He said: "I certainly wouldn't say that Taribo will be the last signing. If good players become available, we can afford them - we haven't drawn a line under further signings. We think along the same lines as the fans do over a fourth striker, so yes I think we need to be looking in that direction. Although there's no reason to panic, as I'm looking forward to seeing the three guys we've got be given a chance." But it was the signing of West that was exciting Argyle's deputy-chairman. He said: "When you describe it as a coup for Argyle, I really can't disagree. It's certainly excited the board and I'm sure the fans will be equally excited. Hopefully, it'll be inspire a few more fans, who hadn't made up their minds, to go out and buy season tickets. It's all about the fans, really, because the reason we've been able to afford to increase our wages' budget, is by the supporters paying their hard-earned money through the turnstiles. Hopefully, it will encourage the fans to carry on supporting us - without them there would be no more signings, which would mean we would not be able to strengthen our squad and secure our future in the Championship. It's a great signing for us and is just an indication of how ambitious we are to, year-on-year, improve this club. Taribo's career which has seen him play in World Cups, and for Inter and AC Milan speaks for itself. I still have those pictures in my mind of him when he had the braided hair playing for Nigeria. We've had four good years on the trot and we're hoping for another improvement this coming season. He will help our defence, I'm sure - it's no secret that we need to improve our away form and tighten up at the back. The fact we've signed Anthony Barness and Rufus Brevett along with Taribo, shows how seriously we take that. Having said that the young boys - Paul Connelly, Peter Gilbert, Matt Doumbe - have all done well. But they are only young and can only improve. Competition for places will given them that extra edge."
Taribo West is relishing the physical challenge of English football and helping Argyle progress in the Championship next season. West also said the ambition of the club and its family atmosphere had persuaded him to join Argyle and that he was particularly looking forward to meeting one of his previous clubs, Derby County, on August 13th. "I'm really looking forward to playing them," he said. "I had a fantastic time there, their fans are like Argyle's, crazy about football. I like England, it is a very sporting country. Italy is OK, but football is more life and death over there. And in England, the physical side of the game is something I really like. Over here, you have to have power - if you don't have power, you don't win things. I missed that aspect of the game a lot." With rumours of Benfica also chasing his signature, West was asked 'why choose Plymouth'? He said: "I liked the ambition in the club, the manager and also the close-knit family atmosphere here. This issue over my age, I'm just 31, has been controversial, perhaps, but there are others at the club who are older than me. As long as I'm fit, age really doesn't matter to me. My family, I have a wife and a daughter, will stay with me here. I already love the city. Bobby showed me around a few places and I thought they were very nice. It's a quiet town - not much distraction - which is what I like." West believes there is a family atmosphere at Argyle, which he is convinced will help the team next season. He said: "When you have a network as a team, that will bring you to your destination. And I believe that this team will arrive there in due time."
Graham Coughlan is holding talks with Bristol City after Argyle agreed an undisclosed fee, believed to be £125,000, for the defender. With Coughlan expected to leave Home Park, Bobby Williamson said: "I think we need four decent centre-backs. We've got four now and I'll have four at the start of the season. Whether that will be the same four that we have now, I don't know."
Argyle today signed Nigerian international centre-back Taribo West on a one-year deal. Bobby Williamson said: "I'm delighted Taribo West has decided to join us. We have been speaking to him for a couple of weeks and he has already been down to Home Park. His agent got in touch with me two or three months ago and Taribo turned up in Plymouth at 2am and that shows his commitment in wanting to come in. A player of Taribo's status shows the fans that we are able to attract top players to Home Park." West is looking forward to joining Argyle. He said: "I am looking forward to my time here. I hope to play in the first team and help the club into the Premiership. A couple of weeks ago the club made contact. I felt there was a great network at the club. I like the ambition of the club and the heart of the coach as he feels the team can be a formidable team. I'm just happy to be here."
Argyle's game at Norwich on September 10th will be screened live on Sky Sports, and the kick-off has been moved forward to 12.45pm
Argyle are reported to be interested in midfielder Don Hutchison. The 34-year-old is out of contract at West Ham United. Reports also suggest that the Hungarian international midfielder Argyle are interested in is Denes Rosa, who plays for Ferencvaros
Anthony Barness wants Argyle to be a 'top-half' outfit next season. He said: "Initially my aim is to get playing more than I have done the last few seasons and get a regular place in the team. I want that to be part of a team that's progressing and looking to be in the top half of the division, rather than down in the bottom half. I want the team to improve and do well - it will prove the manager's signings have been worth bringing in. Hopefully we can bring the club on and I would like a long-term future at the club." Barness believes Bobby Williamson's other new signings - Rufus Brevett, Bojan Djordjic and Akos Buzsaky - can take the club forward next season. "Argyle did well last year as they managed to stay up in their first season in the league and managed to stay clear of any last-day relegation fights," he said. "The manager has brought in a few good players like Rufus Brevett, who has a lot of experience and has played at a good standard, and Bojan Djordjic, who has a good calibre from being at Manchester United and Rangers. They will make the squad stronger, and we should be able to improve on last season's showing." Barness comes to Argyle from a very professional set-up at Bolton and acknowledges he has yet to discover how things compare at Home Park. "At Bolton they try a lot and an awful lot has been chucked out of the window," he said. "But they are a forward thinking club, and I don't know yet how it is down here. I don't know down here whether they have got the money and facilities to pursue those different kinds of training methods. But I think everyone is professional down here, that's what I have heard, and as long as we get up to scratch for the first game of the season then it doesn't matter how you do it." Barness believes his best position is full-back, but insists he is happy to play anywhere. "My strongest position is full-back, and I'm probably stronger on the right foot, but I have probably played equal amounts on the right and on the left. But it's a case of anywhere I can do a job for the team. I am quite happy to move around if needs be."
Bobby Williamson has warned everybody associated with Argyle to 'stay strong mentally' during what he predicts will be another tough season. He said: "Unfortunately, we built up people's expectations too high last season, because we had such a good start. Nevertheless, I was delighted to get that good start, as it takes the pressure off to a certain extent. But, I was well aware that there would be periods in the season where you had to stay strong mentally. You have to try and ignore the knockers because they do come around and they'll be back again next year. We'll probably have that spell in the season coming up, when we can't get a goal or a result for love nor money. But I'm used to dealing with that sort of situation - there's never been a time at any club I've been with that there hasn't been a so-called crisis. But if you believe that what you're doing is right and have belief in your players and the backing from the fans, then you're not going to be far away. I felt quite comfortable in the division last year and hope to improve our finishing position this year." Williamson said he was pleased with the condition of the players yesterday - and added that the coaching staff would be concentrating on easing them to peak fitness. He said: "I don't judge them too early - they all look in good nick. Time, of course, will tell if they're ready for the season ahead. But that's why we do a pre-season - to let the guys re-charge their batteries during the summer and then come back and work them hard, but gradually, until they get their fitness up to the levels to sustain us throughout the season. We don't want to peak for the friendly at Torquay. We want to peak for at Reading and then we want to sustain that throughout the season. But it's trying to get it right. We managed to get off to a good start last season and let's hope we can do likewise this season. What we want to do is avoid injuries, strains - so if we can steer clear of that, then it augurs well. We've freshened our coaching and training up this season and changed the whole outlook of it. I think last year we carried over what had gone before, but as I say this season, we're starting with our own stuff in place. We know what the Championship is all about, we know the rigours and the demands we're going to face. Basically, we're going to be training more on the grass this year, featuring different types of running - long stuff, stamina stuff. So, we'll be doing it mostly at Harper's this time and maybe Delganey, but we won't be using Plymstock or Saltram House as much. To be fair, every league you go up, you find that the demands are greater. Like if you watch the Premiership games, obviously it moves up again, as it becomes more powerful and faster football. The Championship, of course, is a bit below that level, but there a lot of big, strong lads in that division all the same. But we knew that and we stood up to it, and we gave a good account of ourselves overall."
Rufus Brevett accepts he has a fight on his hands to start in the first game of the season on August 6th. "There is competition for places and you have got to earn your right to play in the first team," he said. "But I have come here to play football - I have not come here not to play football. At the end of the day it's how it goes in pre-season, how I do in the games and then it will be down to the manager. But as I have said I have come here to play football." Brevett believes competition for places is a given for any good football team. Of course there will be competition for places, but I have had that at every club I have been at. I remember at Fulham when Jon Harley came in for £3.5 million. I think you need that sort of rivalry to play at a certain standard." Brevett enjoyed the first day of training, although it involved running rather than ball work. "I feel very good and it's nice to get started and I'm looking forward to the season now," he said. "I am quite impressed with the town, I have seen the Barbican and other areas and it looks nice." Brevett is convinced the Championship will be a tough league next season. "It's always a difficult league," he said. "I came out of it with Fulham a few years back, but the teams who came down from the Premiership last season are going to make it doubly hard." Brevett feels he is not yet ready to judge the true standard of his team-mates. "I think the standard of the players is very good, but obviously all we have done today is run. Until you get the balls out you don't really know. I played against Argyle last year and they were a hard working side and a footballing side."
Bobby Williamson cannot wait for the new season to begin after welcoming back his squad for pre-season training yesterday. "The guys know what pre-season is all about and what is expected of them," he said. "For me this is probably the easiest time of the year, I just watch the guys and make sure they are doing the work. The hard part for me comes later when teams are being picked and people are being left out, that's when I start working. At this time of year it's a clean slate for everyone, I'll judge people on what they do between now and the start of the season and make my decisions accordingly. Some people may be disappointed if they don't start the first game of the season, but it's going to be a long, hard season and everyone will get their chance. We've added a few new faces over the summer and we may add one or two more. We've got competition for places which, I'm sure, will help bring the best out of players. Last season we brought in four or five new guys, but I think it was only Keith Lasley and Stevie Crawford who started the first game of the season. Stevie's moved on now, as have others, and we wish them well. What's important now is the people at this club and making sure we build for the future with them. Sure there were positives from last season - we beat two of the sides who are now in the Premiership - but we also took some defeats along the way. There are areas we need to address, we know that, but I'm confident that we can do well this season. As I said, the immediate aim is to make sure that we have ourselves fit and raring to go for the start of the season. Everything is being geared up towards that and we'll go from there. I'm looking forward to the new season as much as the supporters. I know they want us to do well this season and so do I. They pay good money to watch our games and travel all around the country, so it's up to us to give them something to shout about."
Ryan Dickson and Luke Summerfield today both signed two-year professional contracts
Paul Wotton thinks Argyle are a stronger and better equipped team ahead of the upcoming season. He said: "I am excited about the new season coming up - I always am. I definitely believe we will be stronger this year - not just because of the signings - but mainly due to the experience of playing in this division last season. We know what it's all about now and that is a big bonus. Last year, we went in not knowing what to expect - so having the experience of playing at this level is important. The manager has made some talented signings to strengthen the squad overall. I know Akos, of course, and am looking forward to getting to know the new lads as well. Having competition for places is vital. I'm a great believer that, as a professional, if you don't play well then you don't play the next game. By bringing in new players competition is even hotter than last season, which will help keep all of us on our toes. I believe consolidating our place in the league was a bigger achievement than our championship-winning season. The players and the management deserve great praise for their efforts. And the team spirit that people always praise us for will be vital again this year. Because the club don't have thousands and thousands of pounds to spend on big signings, it's important that we work as hard again this year. That spirit shone through last year and I'm sure it will again this season. As always, I can't wait for the new season to start."
Graham Coughlan has again been strongly linked with a move to Bristol City. Media speculation suggests that Coughlan is a target for Brian Tinnion, following the exits of Tommy Doherty and Marc Goodfellow. Tinnion said: "Things haven't changed. We need a big central defender in case anything happens to Matt Heywood."
Paul Wotton has admitted that returning for pre-season training was 'probably the worst point in a professional footballer's year'. He said: "It's good to be back but I don't think the first day of training is something any of us really look forward to. Coming back to reality after having time off is probably the worst point in a professional footballer's career. I can tell you that pre-season training doesn't get any easier. And if they're honest all players will say the same, but that soon goes as the positive side of things take over again. It's good to be able to catch up with your mates again and see what they've been up to and how they're getting on. And the whole thing quickly takes over again. And it's vital to get off to a good start in pre-season, as no-one wants to be left out of the first XI. So, you have to buckle down and train hard and try and make sure you make a good case for yourself. I'm particularly looking forward to playing this season and like everyone else looked at the fixtures with great interest. There are some really great matches up coming up, for a start there are the three teams - Crystal Palace, Norwich and, of course, Southampton - to look forward to. Then there's another big one with Sheffield Wednesday, obviously, because our old manager is there. And we will be looking to meet our old rivals Luton Town, and that's without other really big teams like Leicester, Derby, Wolves and the like. As you can see, it doesn't take long before the whole thing starts buzzing again."
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