A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Tony Pulis is looking forward to the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers to Home Park. He said: "I'm looking forward to the visit of Wolves; it should be a cracking game. I went to QPR v Stoke last night, and it was a bit of a damp squib in respect that the two of them looked like they were going through the motions. The game on Saturday will be nothing like that because Wolves are desperate for points to keep their season going. They are a big club and I'm sure they will be a little disappointed with their current position in the league but they have six games to rectify the situation. They won't be coming here for anything less than a win, so it should be an exciting game." Argyle have found themselves heavily involved in the race for the play-offs in the last couple of weeks, and will continue to be involved in forthcoming fixtures. Pulis said: "We've played Cardiff and Preston, which were tough games and we've now got Wolves and Leeds coming up, so we're up against teams with loads to play for in the promotion race." The manager is hoping for a decent crowd to greet Wolves, and their experienced squad. "I'm hoping that we can attract a big crowd on Saturday," he said. "Wolves are a big club; they've just spent £1.4 million on a new Polish striker. They also have Carl Cort, Jeremie Aliadiere, Kenny Miller, Paul Ince, Joleon Lescott - all top players, and it should be an exciting game for Argyle supporters to watch. These players all have vast amounts of experience. Wolves probably have some of the best individuals in the league but they find themselves outside the top six. They can beat anybody on their day but they haven't managed to do it week in, week out." Pulis is hoping Argyle can generate some excitement for the fans, despite their recent goal drought. He said: "I think we're due some goals; we've been creating chances but things haven't quite dropped for us. I don't think people should get carried away with negatives because we've played well in recent games. When you look at Preston, we've given them a real run for their money, home and away. We could have won either of those games, but we lacked a little bit of quality and finesse. We know what we lack, but you can't fault the players, and their commitment. We've defended ever so well and we've got ourselves organized. My objective for the rest of the season is plain and simple - get as many points as we can."
Michael Dunford has announced more details of Argyle's pre-season programme. He said: "The first team will be playing at Tiverton prior to going to Austria. We have to firm the date up on that." The Austrian trip will primarily take the form of a private training camp, but it is probable that a couple of friendlies will be arranged. In contrast to the last two visits to the country in 2003 and 2004, Argyle will not be inviting fans to pay to travel with the tour party. "We have got the plans in place to go to Austria," Dunford said. "We fly out on July 16 and come back on July 23. Tony wants it to be a dedicated training camp. It will be a professional environment, and it's a superb location. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have used it in recent years, so it's good quality. As soon as the players leave these shores, it will be work, work and work. We may play a couple of games out there against other teams who are based at training camps in the vicinity, but we haven't arranged any games yet." There may be only one home friendly prior to the season starting on August 5th. "Hopefully we'll have a pre-season game at Home Park," Dunford added. "We had hoped to attract Premiership opposition here but, given that the Premiership season starts 14 days later than the Championship, it is proving difficult at the moment to get dates aligned to fit in with Premiership clubs. We still have a couple of irons in the fire there. We hope to have one home game at the end of July, and one away game somewhere in the last week of July as well, but nothing is confirmed yet."
Paul Connolly is ready to play with his head heavily bandaged when Argyle meet Wolves tomorrow. He said: "Obviously, it's up to the manager but I don't want to miss the game. I hope they can bandage my head and I can play. I have never had 15 stitches before, and I hope it doesn't happen again. It wasn't very nice. The stitches are near the top of my head and it's going to leave a big scar. The lads have been ribbing me all week. I was getting called Terry Butcher on the bus back because I had a big bandage on my head. There's not much sentiment in football when things like this happen!" Connolly admitted the collision with Hill was an accidental one and put no blame on the Preston left-back. He said: "I have never seen anything like it and I have never experienced anything like it. It feels like your head has been ripped apart. I actually thought I had a free header. I knew he was near me but I didn't think he was that close. That's why when I jumped up I kept my arms down by my side, instead of raising them to protect myself. I just remember getting a good head on the ball and then half-a-second later being absolutely smashed. The next thing I knew, Maxie was on the pitch beside me and I saw my shirt was covered in blood. It took me a couple of seconds to realise what had gone on. I think I was in shock, but as soon as I saw the blood I knew what had happened. Maxie said there was no way I could carry on." Connolly and Hill were both taken to Preston's medical room to be stitched up. "There was only one doctor there so Mattie, as the home player, was seen first," Connolly added. "I had to wait for 20 minutes or half-an-hour. We were sat next to each other in the room and we were ribbing one another about it. I said to him 'you should have let me head it' and he said 'no, you should have let me head it'. At the end of the day, it was a total accident and you have just got to get on with it. I was meant to stay up and visit my family in Liverpool. It's the closest I have been to home for a long time. But I felt so bad that, under medical instructions, I was advised to travel back with the squad so I could be kept under supervision. The journey took us six-and-a-half hours but, to be honest, it felt like about 16 hours to me. I was feeling dead drowsy and sick all the way. It wasn't a very pleasant trip back." By Tuesday Connolly was training with the rest of the squad as usual, apart from heading the ball. The game against Wolves could be one of the highlights of the season at Home Park, and Connolly does not want to miss it. He said: "Wolves have got something to fight for. It's not like we are playing a team in mid-table. It just adds spice to the game. We need to get points on the board. We have got Leeds and Millwall coming up, but if we can get some wins it will send us into the summer in optimistic mood."
Michael Dunford has asked fans to understand why season-ticket prices might have to rise next season. He said: "From an economic point of view, the board needs to make sure that Tony has all the resources available within reason - and Tony is realistic enough to know there isn't a bottomless pit - to take the team forward. We've made progress every year over the last four or five years and we hope to maintain that momentum but doing that becomes even harder in this division. Tony wants to bring better-quality players to Plymouth Argyle, which is the only way we're going to make progress on the pitch - and that comes at a cost. We also have the problem of attracting players to Plymouth, but that's always been there. There's no point moaning about it, we have to deal with it. It's reality." Dunford continued: "Given the number of players who are out of contract this summer, Tony wants to improve the squad. The board is eager to support Tony, and we've already had discussions with him about what his requirements are and their likely cost implications. When 70 per-cent of your income comes from gate receipts, we have to look hard at the prices we're charging. We know that local wage levels are below the national average, and we have to be very sensitive about our pricing policy, but we have to look at the pricing throughout the club. No decisions have been made yet. We have an extremely loyal group of season-ticket holders - just under 9,000 - and there is a strong argument to protect their interests, but we all want to see success on the pitch. There's no magic wand. We're trying to drive up commercial income as well, because every penny that we make at this club will be ploughed back into strengthening the squad. At the end of the day we'll be judged by what happens on the pitch. Tony has made an impact already by bringing better-quality players into the club, and we feel we can continue to make that progress." The club will still be prudent, however. "The club has been built on very sound financial blocks, and we will not allow that to diminish in any way," Dunford added, "but the Championship is a very competitive league. We are up against clubs who have average gates of over 20,000. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our average attendance has gone down, so our job will be try to convince the people who have fallen away that prospects are brighter for next season. In no way do I want to criticise our supporters. The 13,700 who come along every week have been absolutely tremendous, but it's our job to try and convince more people to come along. It is price sensitive, to a certain degree, but the driving force at any football club is what happens on the pitch." A few fans in recent weeks have made public their reluctance to renew season-tickets because of what they perceive to be an unattractive style of football on offer at Home Park. Dunford said: "I'm not aware of that criticism, but I understand it's there. At any football club, you'll get supporters who wish to criticise. It's a game of opinions, and Argyle fans are no different to anyone else. They want to see their team winning. I'm told, even in Paul Sturrock's days in charge when we were winning, the style of play was not always the most attractive. First and foremost, it's about results. If you can ally results with attractive flair players, great, but that comes at a cost. The first priority is to make continued improvement in the Championship so that, within a reasonable period of time, we are serious contenders for the play-off positions. Tony has set some very strong foundations down. The board wants to support him, and if the supporters out there in their thousands can see that we're trying and have ambitions to do well, then I'm confident they will come back in larger numbers."
Tony Pulis is hoping to make further use of the loan system to boost his first-team squad next season. He said: "We'll look for one or two long-term loan signings from the big boys next season. If we can do that, it will help, as long as we get the right ones." Asked if he had been back in touch with West Ham manager Alan Pardew about borrowing Elliott Ward for the entire campaign, the response from Pulis was: 'No comment.'
Leon Clarke will not be taking it easy even though he cannot play for Argyle against Wolves this weekend. Clarke will have to wait until Argyle's next away game, at Leeds on April 8th to make his second appearance for the club. In the meantime, he will concentrate on topping up his fitness levels with Paul Maxwell. Tony Pulis said: "Clarkey will be doing extra work, either before or after training. I just think after the month where he hasn't been able to play his fitness needs topping up. Maxie will look after that for me." Pulis understood why Glenn Hoddle did not want Clarke to play this Saturday. He said: "They asked for it to be written into the deal and I have no problems with that at all. If Clarkey had played on Saturday and ended up scoring the winning goal, I think the supporters of Wolves would have gone potty. He probably would have had a point to prove, and that would have pushed him on. He would have been doubly keen to do well. There would have been a little bit of an edge. If they were middle of the table and had nothing to lose then that would have been different. But clubs who have something to play for are reluctant to let people play against them in any way shape or form, and I can understand that."
Tony Pulis has insisted he will always put the team before any individual player. Akos Buzsaky and Bojan Djordjic have hardly started a game in recent months but Pulis denied that either had fallen out of favour with him. He said: "No, not at all. I just picked the team and the bench that I thought would be best for that game, especially in the conditions. The pitch wasn't the best and we knew there was rain forecast. I didn't think it was going to be that sort of pitch and that sort of game for Bo, or Akos for that matter. It's very difficult to keep all the players happy, even with the size of squad we have got. I understand there are going to be people who will not be happy not being in the team. But on Saturday we played a decent Preston side who are sixth in the league and I thought the 11 players we started the game with were the best for that challenge. I'm not really concerned with individuals. I'm more concerned with the team. I hope the players understand that. Plymouth Argyle is bigger than any individual." Meanwhile, Pulis wants to see his team carry more threat at free-kicks and corners. He said: "We have worked on set pieces over the last few weeks but, at the end of the day, you rely on the players. We had two opportunities from free-kicks in the second half on Saturday - one for Paul and the other for Tony - and we didn't even hit the target. It's something we will talk about. We could also have scored off one of the corners we had in the first half. Vincent should have done better with his header."
Tony Pulis wants Argyle to fly to as many of their away matches as possible next season. The team had a six-and-a-half hour coach trip to Lancashire on Friday, for the game against Preston the following afternoon. The squad stopped off at Wigan Athletic's training ground before completing their journey to a nearby hotel. Pulis, though, was so concerned about the fatigue factor after the trip that the training session was only a short one. He said: "Sitting on a bus for six-and-a-half hours on a Friday is not the best preparation, not at this level. You might be able to get away with it a level below, but with what we are up against in this league everything has got to be so much on the mark to get the best result possible." Argyle have flown to some of their away games this season, including Norwich City, Ipswich Town and Crewe Alexandra and Pulis added: "My view is if we can fly to a game and it's within the budget then we should fly. Win, lose or draw, it's the best preparation. Obviously, it's easy for me to say that because I'm not the person who deals with the finances. I understand the club have got a travel budget and they will work within that. I think it's an issue that has got to be looked into. Paul Stapleton and the directors have been very good since I came to the football club. They have sat back and listened. We are hoping to sort some things out for next season which will make us more efficient in what we do in every aspect you can think of."
Argyle's reserve game against Yeovil scheduled for tonight has been called off due to a waterlogged pitch at Tiverton. No new date has yet been arranged for the fixture
Reuben Reid started this season playing for Manchester United in a youth team tournament in Northern Ireland and now, eight months later, has signed his first professional contract with Argyle. Reid trained with the Man United youth set-up in pre-season after an eye-catching performance for Millfield when they won the Independent Schools' Football Association Cup last season, and was included in United's squad to take part in the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland. Despite impressing in the tournament, Reid was not offered a contract by United, but admitted his time there had been a fantastic experience. He said: "Things didn't work out there but I ended up coming to Plymouth and it has gone really well for me. Things have moved really fast for me because I came into the game quite late in terms of being at a professional club. I think I have done well but there is a lot more to come. Hopefully, I can progress and move on. I have got quite good feet, good vision with the ball and upper body strength but, then again, my fitness is not quite up there yet. The gaffer has had a chat with me and we have decided that's something we can work on. Obviously, it's really important for me to be fit for the forthcoming season, which will allow me to perform to my best." Reid and Chris Zebroski have both signed professional contracts with Argyle for next season, which means the two strikers can continue to work on improving their partnership. Reid said: "I think me and Chris have done well together. We complement each other quite well. We have both got good ability but we are a bit different. Hopefully, we can form a good partnership and break through. It's looking good at the moment." Reid has only been with Argyle for a relatively short while but he is excited about the potential at Home Park. He said: "I think it's a very big club, to be honest. I can definitely see we are going places. The gaffer has come in and, since I first came, I can see the difference already." He wants to bring in some new players for next season and, hopefully, me, Chris and Lairdy will get a chance. You never know." Although Reid has not played at first team level yet, he has travelled with the squad to a couple of the recent away matches. Reid said: "I played a reserve game against Bristol City and I think the gaffer liked what he saw. The next day I came in and saw my name was on the list to travel to Derby. It was a great feeling, going away with the first team and staying in the hotel with them. At the start, I thought 'who can I come in and speak to?' and 'where am I going to sit?' but all the lads are great. They just get you involved in everything and you all work together. It's really good." Reid's debut could come in one of one of the final three fixtures of the season, which are all against sides who are not involved in promotion or relegation issues. He added: "Hopefully, before the end of the season I will get an opportunity to show the gaffer what I can do."
Argyle will play a pre-season friendly at Grays Athletic on July 15th, prior to leaving for their Austrian training camp. Grays were asked to host the game because of their proximity to Stansted Airport, from where Argyle will fly to Austria after the match. The game, which will kick off at 3pm, will also form part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of PASALB, the London branch of the Argyle Supporters Club
Argyle are already planning for next season as Tony Pulis and his management team prepare for an all-out siege on the transfer market. Pulis has identified a number of players that he would like to bring to Home Park , but intends to continue searching for quality players, no matter where they are. "We've got a list of players that we are marking," he said. "Our coach David Kemp has been to Ireland to watch games - Reading brought in Kevin Doyle from Cork City for a very reasonable price. We had a couple of Poles over last month and now we're going to go and watch them in Poland, as well as another player who was unable to come over at the time because he was needed by his club." Although the transfer market is the short-term solution, Pulis feels that the youth team could be the salvation for Argyle in the years to come. "Watford have been very fortunate in that two exceptional players have come through the ranks - Anthony McNamee and Ashley Young are both quality players," he added. "We would love to have two young players of that quality come through our system - it makes such a huge difference." That is the future for Argyle but Pulis is quick to return to the present needs of the club. He said: "We'd like to nick a player from one of the top clubs and pinch a couple from the lower leagues. We also need to spend some money on proven quality, as well as a couple of long term loan deals."
Paul Wotton came out of the draw with Preston unscathed after a shin injury had hampered his progress in training. Tony Pulis was full of praise for the captain's commitment. He said: "Wottsy got thorough it with no reaction - he doesn't miss many games and you can see why. He didn't train on Friday, but said at the time he would be fit to play. Some players need to be 100% or they won't play. Efan Ekoku at Bournemouth wouldn't play if he had the slightest knock - he was like a top athlete. You could never persuade him to play if he didn't feel fully fit. Other players will play with all sorts of knocks and niggles." Unfortunately for Pulis, Argyle have fitness concerns in a number of other areas. A flu bug has hit the camp, Paul Connolly is nursing a sore head after his collision with Matt Hill of Preson, and Hasney Aljofree is suffering from a dead leg. "Lee Hodges and Luke Summerfield have gone down with the flu; it's the same bug that struck Paul Connolly last week," said Pulis. "Obviously, Paul has got a nasty head injury, and Hasney Aljofree has got a dead leg. Paul's okay but he has got to be a doubt for this Saturday because it was quite a nasty cut. I'm sure the kid will want to play but we will have to see how he is.
Tony Pulis was pleased with the contribution made by Leon Clarke at Preston, and understands why Wolves do not want him to play in next Saturdays game. He said: "People are often frightened that they'll get bitten. If he scores the winning goal on Saturday, it would be very difficult for Leon when he returns to Wolves. There is always a little bit of an edge when you play against a former club." Pulis likened goalscorers to a bowler in cricket - they are the people who can change the course of a game in an instant. "Bowlers are the key in cricket," he said. "They can win a game in five overs, whereas a batsman needs 60 overs to win a game. Goalscorers are very similar, and playing against your old club can be extra motivation." Clarke impressed on his debut but Pulis feels that he needs to improve his fitness levels before his next appearance. Pulis had intended to use Tuesday's reserve game to give him, along with others in the squad who are lacking match fitness, a decent run-out. Unfortunately, the match against Yeovil is in doubt because of a waterlogged pitch at Tiverton. "We've taken him to have a look - he needs to work on his fitness. I thought he did exceptionally well but he's certainly not fit in respect of his body. That's something we will have to work on over the next couple of weeks. I was pleased with him, and he's settled in with the players as well. He showed some good touches. I thought he did some good stuff at Preston, he linked up well with Péricard, and we looked a threat when we got it up and about them. We want to have a look at him, see what he's like, so it's an opportunity." I would have played him in the reserve game but it looks to be in doubt - we've had loads of rain and the forecast isn't too good either. We were going to play the likes of Akos Buzsaky and Bojan Djordjic - everybody who needs a game."
Tony Pulis praised his players' fighting qualities after a second successive 0-0 draw against Preston but admitted the team need more quality players. "It was a competitive game," he said. "We've come and had a go. They've given it 100% and we're pleased with a point. It's credit to the players, really. They give their maximum, win, lose or draw. I think we can do better. I think the delivery could be better and we've had free-kicks in good positions when we haven't hit the target. We're fighting under the sandline. You can't fault their effort, their commitment. They are a good group who work their socks off. We need more quality - everybody knows that. We need a stronger side, in respect of the squad, as well as the first 11, to push people on." Pulis refused to be drawn on whether referee Nigel Miller should have awarded a penalty in the opening five minutes when Youl Mawene clearly handled, but felt that North End defender Claude Davis was lucky not to be sent off for a second yellow card. "We'll see what it's like on the tape," he said. "The lads reckon it's an absolute certainty. The other decision that was disappointing was the one right in front of us - Davis made a very, very clumsy challenge on Péricard and, if that's not a booking, I don't know what a booking is. I've had decisions that go against us where players have been sent off for less than that. You take the rough with the smooth sometimes, and get on with it, and Preston have had a bit of good fortune in that respect. Despite the point, and clean sheet, Pulis was not entirely happy. "I was disappointed in the first half," he said. "I thought we were too deep. I thought the two centre-halves didn't do their jobs. We looked very dangerous going forward but we also looked very sloppy at the back. The two centre-halves played too far apart and they didn't cope with the movement of Stewart and Ormerod; in the second half, they did better." He was still left to rue the one that got away - in the first half when Péricard failed to make the most of a free header following Tony Capaldi's corner. "I still think we need that goal," said Pulis. "If we score, it relaxes people. Vincent's header was a good chance and I think he should have scored. Preston are a good side. They kept going. They pushed on in the second half, as we knew they would, but I thought, if we'd showed a little more composure, we'd have created more chances on the counter-attack."
Leon Clarke enjoyed his return to first-team action after making his debut against Preston. He said: "It was good, I enjoyed it. I needed it. I thought I could do better than I did with a couple of half-chances. In the first half, Vincent clipped it across and I should probably have hit it first time; I wanted to have a touch. The lads helped me a lot." Clarke met with his new colleagues only on Friday, but still formed an immediate understanding with Péricard. "In the first half, we linked up a few times," he said. "I only joined the team yesterday, so I don't know the players that well, but the manager spoke to me and told me what to do. I met the team in Wolverhampton, when they'd already been on the coach for four hours, and we did a bit of training in Wigan in the afternoon. We did a bit of shape work and set-plays, but the manager didn't want to do too much because it had been such a long journey. A few of the things, I've done before at Wolves, so it was easy, and we worked well together. It looks like it could be a good thing." Given the circumstances, Saturday went reasonably well for Clarke and his new colleagues. "A draw was probably a fair result in the end," he added. "We worked hard and limited their chances, and we had a few half-chances ourselves. We could have nicked it." Clarke's move to Home Park has been some time coming but now that it has been completed, he is eager to make up for lost time. "It could have happened about three weeks ago but Glenn Hoddle wasn't too sure because we had games coming up and it was either me going or Vio Ganea. In the end, he let me go. If I can help Plymouth out and help them get a few results, I'm more than happy - get a few results and get as high up the league as possible. Plymouth are a hard team to beat, well organised, with a strong back-four and strong midfield and they work hard for each other." Clarke will be a spectator and not a participant next weekend as he cannot play for Argyle against Wolves. He added: "There's nothing I can do about that. I don't know who I'm going to be cheering for."
Paul Connolly was recovering last night after being involved in a sickening clash of heads with Prestons Matt Hill during yesterdays draw. Tony Pulis said: "I think he's had ten stitches. It's an unfortunate clash of heads. I think the two lads had their eye on the ball - there was no malice in it. It sometimes happens. We're committed people. We were committed; Preston were committed."
Argyle drew 0-0 at Preston North End. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Clarke. Subs – Barness, Chadwick, Evans (not used - McCormick, Buzsaky). Attendance - 13,925.
Tony Pulis is waiting to find out what his budget will be for next season before deciding on the future of some of his senior players. Argyle are set to make a loss this season, with the average attendance falling below the break-even figure of 15,000. But it is widely believed the club will need to add another £1 million to their wage bill to remain competitive next term. Pulis said: "When the board come back with what we have got and what we haven't got then we can sit down with the players. I think it's important you know what you have got to work with and try to fit your budget around what you can get."
An Argyle veterans side will play a Tavistock Town XI in a charity match for the Children's Hospice South West next month. The game will be played at Tavistock's Langsford Park ground on April 9th, with kick-off at 3.30pm. Argyle's line-up will include Kevin Hodges and Tommy Tynan
Argyle may be all but mathematically safe from relegation but they remain determined not to let the season slide away into a state of under-achievement. David Norris said: "If we take our foot off the pedal, we could end up getting a right hammering or two. We're going to have to be right on top of our game in the seven games we've got left. We want to finish as high as we can, and there's no way this manager will let us rest on our laurels. We're going to keep giving it a go. Playing teams like Preston and Wolves, sides who are going for the Premiership, is the whole point of being in this league. These are the big games that get the crowds in, and we want to test ourselves against those sort of teams. We've got to keep going and do our best." Norris and his team-mates know that Preston are no pushovers, after the 0-0 draw between the two sides at Home Park earlier this month. "They came down here and gave it a go because they're right up there, and that made it an open and end-to-end game," he added. "We could have nicked a result, but because they're at home this weekend they'll fancy their chances. But by the end of the match they'll know they've been in a game with us." Along with a few of his colleagues, Norris did some extra training on Thursday afternoon - a session of finishing practice. Goals have been hard to come by for the team lately and Norris has been more culpable than most. It is a question of finding the right balance between practice on the training pitch and fine-tuning the mental approach to that aspect of the game. "I'd say it's almost half and half," said Norris. "You need to do the work on the training ground, just to get the feel of putting the ball in the back of the net, but it's always different in a game situation. Mentally, you have to be strong and sharp. When it comes to taking chances in matches, you have to be ready."
Argyle tomorrow face a Preston side who have a minor injury crisis in on their hands. Striker David Nugent has been ruled out for the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his right-foot whilst Daniel Dichio has damaged his ankle ligaments. Billy Davies has brought in the experienced Marcus Stewart in a short-term loan deal from Bristol City as cover. Tony Pulis is a good friend of Marcus Stewart after they played together at Bristol Rovers and said: "Two of their main strikers are out injured but they've brought in Marcus Stewart. I know Marcus very well; he was a youngster at Bristol Rovers when I was still playing. He's a great kid and a good signing for Preston, despite the fact that he's not had the best of times at Bristol City." Along with Stewart, Preston have the likes of Patrick Agyemang and Brett Ormerod to choose from, and Pulis is fully aware of the threat they carry. "On his day, Patrick Agyemang is one of the best players in the league, and he is certainly one of the quickest," he said. "You've also got Ormerod, who has played in the Premiership for Southampton." Pulis is a big admirer of the transfer policy pursued by Preston, and has stated that they are an excellent club for Argyle to try and emulate. He said: "They've done very well to bring in quality from lower divisions - they spent £150,000 on Dave Hibbert, the young forward from Port Vale. They've got young players with decent league experience." Pulis is expecting a full-blooded encounter at Deepdale, as Argyle prepare for a tough set of fixtures. "They will be extremely fired up, and the next three games for us will be very difficult," he said. "We've got Preston, Wolves and Leeds but that's why we want to be in this league and our supporters want to see us playing against teams of this stature. In the next three games we have a responsibility to everybody else in the running for a play-off spot, so we'll be fielding an experienced side."
Tony Pulis is hopeful Leon Clarke's lack of chances at Wolves will work in Argyle's favour. "I want Leon to come here feeling he has a point to prove," he said. "I want him to come here and be hungry to play first-team football. There are a lot of strikers ahead of him in the queue for a place at Wolves now. I've been chasing him for about a month and a half. He is an example of the sort of younger player I want to bring to the club." However, no discussions have taken place between the two teams about the prospect of turning the loan into a full transfer in the summer. There is every chance Clarke will make his debut, either from the start or as a substitute tomorrow, even though he only signed yesterday afternoon. Pulis said: "I'm not too concerned about that. I was just very keen to get him in. I think Wolves will hope he plays some games for us because he has not seen much action recently. He's a good young player and we are delighted to get him on board. He has found it difficult to break into the Wolves squad because of the number of players they have got. He has played a lot of games in the Championship and has scored goals. Unfortunately, one of them was against us. He comes straight into the squad tomorrow. We will give him an opportunity and, hopefully, the kid takes it."
Oldham manager Ronnie Moore has admitted he tried to sign Nick Chadwick on loan before yesterday's deadline
Rufus Brevett has had his loan spell with Leicester City extended until the end of the season
Paul Wotton is an injury worry ahead of Saturday's match with Preston North End. Wotton received a whack on the shin in the early stages of last weekend's defeat to Cardiff City but Tony Pulis has revealed that the injury is not as bad as he initially feared it may be. "Wotton's had a kick on his shin, which is a bit of a worry," he said. "We're a little bit concerned with that but knowing Paul, he will be desperate to play. He did it after about five minutes of the game with Cardiff and we were very concerned on Tuesday - we thought he may have a stress fracture. He's taking some tablets, so we're hopeful that he will be fit."
Argyle have signed striker Leon Clarke from Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan until the end of the season. Clarke will be available for Argyle's trip to Preston but he will not, however, be able to play in the home match with Wolves on April 1st. Wolves also have a 24 hour recall clause after the initial 28 days
Tony Pulis has confirmed that Leicester City are keen to extend Rufus Brevett's loan spell. He said: "Leicester are looking to extend Brevett's loan period which is fine with me - I've got no problems with that." Despite only making one substitute appearance, Brevett is clearly enjoying his time with Leicester. He said: "We've won every game since I arrived, so maybe I'm something of a lucky charm. Of course I'd like to be playing, but it is always going to be difficult for the manager to change a winning formula. All I can do is go out on the training pitch and give my best."
Dan McCauley will leave it up to opposition parties on Plymouth City Council to challenge the local authority's decision to sell Home Park to Argyle. McCauley feels the city cannot afford to turn down the extra income his offer for Home Park would have produced. He contacted the local authority leader, Tudor Evans, last week to ask why his bid had been snubbed. Apart from an acknowledgment of his letter and a summary of the Cabinet decision, McCauley has not received a reply. He said: "I'm not a ratepayer in Plymouth, so I'm not suffering any loss. I can't sue anybody for anything, because it's the city's ratepayers who are at a loss and not me. I've written to Conservative opposition leader Vivien Pengelly, and she did respond to say that she's going to take it further." McCauley has explained why he thinks his bid would have been beneficial for both the local authority and the club. He said: "I made an offer to buy the property at more than the Council are receiving and step into their shoes. "They weren't obliged by the lease to give any more money but I have the funds to help complete the stadium, so the club could have kept their £2.7m to spend on team strengthening and I could have helped with the buildings. At the Cabinet meeting, the Councillors were only told that other interest had been received but didn't mention at what level. It seems a surprise and a shame to me that they didn't explore my proposal at all. To describe my offers in the way they did was totally misleading." McCauley also doubts that Argyle need to become owners, rather than tenants, of Home Park in order to borrow the funds needed to complete the stadium rebuilding project. He added: "Why don't the club keep the 125-year lease in place and instead use the £2.7m saving of the freehold purchase price to invest in the phase-two works instead? I wonder whether the club are over-egging the 'we must own the freehold in order to borrow money to undertake the development of the main stand' line? I thought lenders viewed a 125-year lease to be almost as good as a freehold." McCauley went on to insist that receiving only £2.7m for the freehold of Home Park was very bad value for the Council. He said: "Phase one of the stadium development cost approximately £4.6m. This was financed by grants from Plymouth City Council (£2.5m) and the Football Trust (£1.5m). The Football Trust also made an interest-free loan to the club of £300,000 and the balance of £300,000 was met from the club's own resources. In addition, also in 2001, the Council agreed to pay £1.5m to the club as compensation to surrender its old lease, which had only ten years left to run. Therefore, in the past five years a total of £4 has been paid by the Council to the club towards the Home Park property. It is now set to receive only £2.7m back - and lose the freehold. This fact seems to have been totally ignored, and it is most surprising that no reference is being made to this."
David Norris has admitted he is feeling the pressure to end his goal drought at Preston on Saturday. He said: "Although I feel I've been playing well, I've been feeling the pressure, personally, to score more goals. As a team we haven't scored as many goals as we should have this season, so when opportunities come along it's important to take them. We are creating enough chances, but simply not putting them away, so we're all aware that we need to score more goals. When we played Preston at home a couple of weeks ago, I suppose I should have put a couple of chances away. So it would be really terrific to make up for that at Preston this weekend and also to score the winning goal which would see us to 50 points."
Tony Pulis is trying to secure two signings before today's deadline for emergency loan deals. Pulis would not reveal the identity of his targets but admitted one was at a Premiership club and the other was with a Championship side. He said: "We are hoping something might be done with both of them but whether it will or not, I'm not sure. Everybody is weighing up what they have got and what they haven't got for the rest of the season. Managers are covering themselves. One of the clubs is hoping to get someone else in today and if they do that it might leave the option for them to release someone to come to us. Both players are in their early 20s and have got Premier League experience."
A young Argyle reserve side lost 1-0 this afternoon at Cheltenham Town. Argyle: Bowring, Churchill, Laird.J, Watts, Kendall, Taylor, Smith, Reski, Mason, Davies, Deeks. Subs - Cayford, Rivers
Paul Wotton is hoping Lilian Nalis will stay at Argyle for another season. Nalis has admitted that Argyle will be his last club in England but he will not be drawn on his future beyond the end of this season. However, it is thought Tony Pulis is keen on keeping the midfielder. Wotton said: "Lilian has been great. All I can say is I would love him to stay. I think he has been a great signing for us. He has obviously got a wealth of experience and he's a very fit 34-year-old. He still covers the ground. He has played every game since he has been here and has not missed a day's training. The good thing about Lilian is that he has come in and it seems like he has been here for a long time. He has fitted in really well and all the lads get on great with him. From my point of view, I would love to see him here in pre-season but that's obviously for Lilian and the club to decide. He has got a calming influence in games and he also fits in with our style of play. He's very strong in the air and he's brave as well. He will put his foot in. He has been a really good signing."
Tony Pulis has admitted he might try playing with a 3-5-2 formation before the end of the season, but it will not be this Saturday, when Argyle are away to Preston North End. He said: "I would not mind having a little look, but not with the way Preston are playing at the moment. They are playing three up front, with one down the middle. There is no way I would waste three players marking one. Usually the two wide players will occupy the full-backs and then you are just left with one centre-forward and three centre-halves marking him. I want to try one or two things but I still want to win games as well." The deadline for 'emergency' loan signings is 5pm tomorrow and Pulis is still trying to add another centre-back to his small squad. He said: "There are one or two things we are hoping might drop but everybody is out there trying to do the same thing. We do need that cover in the centre of defence, without a question of a doubt, because we are short there."
Argyle's Shareholders' Association have been campaigning for shares to be made available for fans to purchase, and Paul Stapleton told last week's AGM that the club are discussing proposals for an issue with a firm of specialist sports lawyers. Stapleton also announced that Argyle have made progress towards reaching a contract settlement with Bobby Williamson
Tony Capaldi could have his season extended by four weeks because of international duty. Northern Ireland will go on a tour to the United States and will play Uruguay on May 21st and face Romania five days later
Argyle physio Paul Maxwell has been charged by the FA with using abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official. The alleged incident took place at Saturday's game against Cardiff at Home Park. Maxwell has until April 4th to respond to the charge. Tony Pulis was unaware that an incident had taken place, and will reserve his judgement until he has read the FA report. "I didn't even know anything had happened, so I'll wait for the report to come through and see what they say," said Pulis. "I'm generally shouting louder than anyone else on the touch-line, so I tend to miss what anybody else is saying. I was concentrating on the game but I'll speak to Paul when we receive the report."
Scott Laird started out at Argyle's centre of excellence as a 12-year-old and is now preparing to make the step up to the professional ranks. He said: "I have waited for this for a very long time. It's absolutely brilliant. It will be a very proud moment for me when I get to pull that green jersey on and run out for the first team." Tony Pulis has admitted Laird, and some of Argyle's other young players, could make their first starts for Argyle before the end of the current campaign. Laird added: "I can only do my best in training and for the reserves and, hopefully, the gaffer will pick me. If not, there's always next season. People might say I have made it as a professional, but I would say 'no I haven't'. I'm just starting, really. It's the first rung of the ladder and I have got a long way to go yet." Although born in Taunton Laird has already played for, and captained, Scotland at under-16 and under-17 level. That is because his father, Craig, who runs Argyle's soccer school in Bridgwater, is from Glasgow and is a patriotic Scotsman. Laird has thoroughly enjoyed playing for his adopted country and said: "Playing different teams from around the world is brilliant. I have played with some real top-class players in the team and it's another good experience to, hopefully, take into the first team at Argyle." Laird has played for both the under-18s and the reserves this season, all the time trying to prove he should be kept on as a professional. He said: "I kept my head down and worked really hard. I thought 'if it comes, it comes, if it doesn't I will look somewhere else'. Luckily, it has worked out for me. The last two seasons I have been here as an apprentice, doing all the jobs for the first team. It's great to know that now I can go down to the training ground and play my football with the first team and try to impress the gaffer." Laird has played in 10 of the reserves' 11 games in the Pontin's Holidays Combination and recalled: "I played against Marcus Stewart and I used to like him a lot when he was in his prime. It's brilliant to play against good, experienced players like that. You learn a lot from it." Laird is still waiting to make his senior debut for the Pilgrims, but he has travelled with the senior squad to recent away matches. He said: "It has been an eye-opener for me and it does give you good experience for what will, hopefully, come before the end of the season and next season. You have a laugh and a bit of banter with the rest of the players and you just make good friends with everyone. You get to know each other a little bit more." Laird can play in central defence or at left-back, and does not mind either position. He said: "I love defending at centre-back but I also like getting forward, putting crosses in the box and making opportunities."
Tony Pulis was the first to concede that a lack of goals is hampering Argyle's progress as the season draws to a close, but he remains delighted with his strikers contribution throughout the campaign. He said: "I think Micky Evans has played a big part in the club reaching 47 points and, whatever people say about him, or Nick Chadwick, they have both played their part. Micky is totally committed to this football club and even on Saturday, there were chances that have come from him, giving others the opportunity to score. Their attitude in training has been first class and there is no way in the world you will hear me criticizing either of them." Evans has never been the most prolific of strikers but his lack of goals this season does not tell the full story. "Admittedly, he has hit a bit of a brick wall, and if he'd scored his chance on Saturday, that would have given him a real lift," said Pulis. "It was a gilt-edged chance and I won't deny that he should have scored, but I will reiterate the massive role he has played this season, on and off the pitch. Vincent Péricard also had a good chance when he made a great run to the near-post, pulling the centre-back out of position, and it should have been a goal." Evans was replaced by Chris Zebroski on Saturday, as Pulis kept his promise of blooding youngsters for the remainder of the campaign. "I'd made my mind up that Chris Zebroski would have a run-out at home, as I prefer young forwards to have a run-out at home rather than away," he said. "He had a good half-hour on Saturday to feel the pace of it and, although it wasn't a victory or a winning performance from us, it still gave him an insight of what is required. I thought he did fine and there will be three or four others who will get their chance before the end of the season. I would like these youngsters to come into pre-season having enjoyed a taste of the first-team and with a better understanding of the levels they need to reach. Hopefully, they will come back stronger, quicker and hungrier." Argyle's lack of goals is certainly not down to a lack of crosses into the oppositions' danger area. "We got 47 crosses into the box on Saturday," said Pulis. "We work extremely hard defensively but we also want people in the oppositions box, which we are doing but we need them to get on the end of these crosses. The frailties are there for everybody to see but you can't take away from the effort the players have put in. If you look at the second half, Cardiff had two break-away opportunities and the rest is one-way traffic for us. It's nice that the players never gave up and kept going until the end." Pulis admitted that there are certain areas in which Argyle need to improve during the close-season but he was keen to point out that all successful teams do not just rely on their strikers for goals, and contributions must be made throughout the team. Pulis added: "We have to be open-minded and recognise what we need to improve. We're putting teams under pressure and creating chances but we're not scoring enough. There are times when Tony Capaldi and David Norris, and Tony in particular, could have got into better positions but they're almost waiting for things to happen instead of making it happen." Pulis has regularly stated that his charges always need to be playing at full-tilt if they are to be successful in this league. The first-half performance against Cardiff was below the levels required, and Argyle were duly punished. "I thought we were a little bit off our usual tempo in the first-half," said Pulis. "It showed that teams will give you problems at this level if you're not right on the mark. The second half was much better; the crowd got behind us, which was a great help but we didn't get the break we needed." Pulis has been very clear in his intention to experiment with younger players between now and the end of the season and would also like to tinker with his formation, but a sense of duty to other clubs may well prevent him from making wholesale changes in each of the last seven games. He said: "I wouldn't mind looking at different formations but we don't have an abundance of defenders to enable us to switch things around. I like the way Chelsea play, with one striker on his-own and his partner just in behind; I think it gives you a more rounded shape to your team. We have games coming up, however, where we have a certain responsibility to other clubs to field our strongest team with our strongest formation. Preston, Wolves, Leeds and Millwall all have a great deal to play for and I know I would be very disappointed if the shoe was on the other foot. Our games with Luton and Ipswich may be the chance for us to experiment a bit more."
Argyle will enjoy a day at the races on Tuesday when the first-team squad and management descend on Exeter racecourse. Tony Pulis will be using the day-out as a team-bonding exercise, while the club as a whole will be looking to forge ever-stronger links with our sporting partners in the area. "The players deserve it, and I'm pleased they're having a day-out," said Pulis. We will have training in the morning as usual and then they can go out and have an enjoyable afternoon." Rick Cowdery feels that it is perfect opportunity for the club to establish a partnership with Exeter racecourse. He said: "Everybody is looking forward to the day, and we are very grateful to Exeter racecourse for inviting us to spend the afternoon with them. Many of the players are keen followers of the sport, and we look forward to returning the favour in what we hope will become a mutually beneficial arrangement. Like Exeter, we enjoy the distinction of being one of the top sporting venues in the Westcountry, and we are hoping to share our experiences and knowledge with each other for the benefit of our respective customers."
Scott Laird and Reuben Reid are set to make their first team debuts for Argyle before the end of the season. Tony Pulis said: "From now until the end of the season, I'm going to give the younger players 20 minutes or half-an-hour just for them to get a taste of it and give them an understanding of the pace and what's needed out there. That's why I left Chadders off the bench, really, because I always had it in my mind I was going to play Zebroski. I will do that with three or four more of them." It was only the second time Zebroski, a regular goalscorer for the youth team, had played for Argyle since Pulis became manager. Pulis said: "Chris has worked really hard and played well in the reserves. You could go through the season not giving him a shout and then they don't know what it's all about. Even if he doesn't play now until the end of the season, he will still have a feel for the pace of it and what it's like to play in." Pulis admitted it was likely he would use the young players in home games, rather than away. He said: "We are hoping to pick up points and everything else, but the subs' bench will be a lot younger and we will work it from there." One youngster who will not feature is midfielder Clay Bond, who has signed on loan for Torquay United until the end of the season. Bond is expected to complete a permanent move to the Gulls in the summer after being released by Argyle
Argyle will reveal their season ticket prices for 2006/07 within the next month. Michael Dunford hinted supporters could have to pay more money next term but promised the board of directors would approach the issue sensibly and with 'careful consideration'. He said: "The board are currently considering the pricing and ticketing policies for the new season and there will be an announcement by the middle of the April, at the latest. All season-ticket holders will be written to personally, explaining the state of affairs. We have to be mindful of the economic situation facing our supporters, but it is difficult for us to keep in touch with other clubs when our average gate is approaching the 14,000 mark - considerably lower than the average for most clubs in the Championship. A lot of thought has to go into these decisions and there are a number of factors for the board to consider. We have to assess the financial status of the club and the manager's team building requirements, which are of paramount importance. Supporters can be rest assured that we will approach the issue sensibly and with careful consideration."
Tony Pulis was left ruing a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal as Argyle lost to Cardiff yesterday. He said: "I thought we were a little bit off the pace in the first half but the second half was very different with 95% of the play down in Cardiff's end. They got the ball to Koumas too many times in the first-half, and his passes, especially to Cameron Jerome, opened us up on three or four occasions. Jerome could have scored a couple of goals and one miss was the sort that you don't see often at this level. After they scored I thought we dominated the game but they were a threat on the break with Koumas's ability on the ball and Jerome's pace." Despite Cardiff's early dominance, Argyle had plenty of opportunities of their own, but they were thwarted by poor finishing and bad luck. "I thought Micky Evans could have scored in the first minute after some good work from Péricard," said Pulis. "Doumbe hit the post and it dropped to Nalis; I thought he was going to score but they managed to block his effort. We were waiting for the net to bulge but it didn't happen - we need to be more ruthless." Argyle put a succession of crosses and set-pieces into the Cardiff box, but an inability to score headers is becoming an unwanted habit for Pulis. He said: "The statistics say that we've only scored three headed goals this year and that's a poor return for the amount of balls we get into the box. We've had one from Djordjic against Luton, Elliott Ward's against Wolves and Chadwick's against QPR, and that's it, which is a bit of a worry. Even today, we got plenty of crosses in to the danger area but we're not getting on the end of it, apart from the Nalis header in the second half." Pulis was not excessively disheartened, however, and is fully aware of the areas in which Argyle need to improve. He said: "We know where the frailties in the squad are and we need to try and improve in those areas. Hopefully, we can bring in the players to make a difference in the summer. We've only got ten players left in contract, so they're will be in changes." Chris Zebroski was given a thirty-minute run-out - a policy the manager intends to pursue for the rest of the season. "From now until the end of the season my substitutes will often be younger players," he said. "I want to give them a taste of first-team action, and give them more of an understanding of the pace of the game at this level. I always had it in mind to give Zebroski a run-out today - he's worked really hard in training and done well with the reserves, so he deserves a chance. We have seven games to go and I want to give the younger players a feel for the game."
Argyle lost 1-0 to Cardiff City at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Evans, Pericard. Subs - Djordjic, Zebroski, Buzsaky (not used - McCormick, Barness). Attendance - 13,494.
Argyle will have to wait until June before finding out whether their application to enter a side in the South Western League has been successful. Argyle are planning to play a team of under-18 players, plus trialists, in the SWL and are in 'advanced stages of negotiation' with Plymouth Parkway about the possibility of using their Bolitho Park ground to play their home matches. The club had originally suggested playing their home games at their Harper's Park training ground, but that was immediately rejected. So, too, was the idea of playing at Tiverton Town's Ladysmead ground. Tony Pulis said: "I want to get the kids playing more games and with the league being local as well, I think it's important we are part of it. We have got the one youth league we play in and, obviously, the reserves. After that's there's nothing. I hope they will allow us in because we need the games." Pulis also pointed out that as the league was a Saturday competition, players returning from injury could play at weekends, as well as for the reserves in midweek, which would speed up their comebacks
Paul Stapleton has promised to press ahead with the second stage of Home Park's redevelopment following the club's purchase of their ground. Stapleton told last night's annual shareholders' meeting that Plymouth City Council's decision to sell the Home Park freehold for £2.7m has opened the way to the completion of Phase II. He also assured supporters that the decision would not be reversed and to ignore reports that outside parties would be contesting the sale, but that the delay while the sale was being negotiated had also delayed the start of the reconstruction. He said: "You have heard the news this week that the Council Cabinet has given permission for the football club - and that includes everybody in this room - to purchase the freehold of Home Park. It was quite an emotional moment to be part of that decision-making process, to see it was done so democratically, and to hear the lawyers and councillors talking about what was happening. I actually was a name on the lease that was signed in August 2001 and, when I signed it, along with the former chairman, I thought that in 120-odd years time, someone would look at that lease and say: 'Who is that chap Stapleton?' Hopefully in the next few weeks, that lease may be torn up. We are working as fast as we can to acquire the freehold. We do not envisage any problems, contrary to what you may hear or read in the Press, the council are quite within their right to dispose of the freehold to the existing tenant with the benefits that that may bring the council. Don't worry about any outside people saying that they might have offered more or they might make a legal battle about it because I have been assured that a final decision has been made by the council and we are pushing ahead with that process. Our solicitors are already working on it. We can now look forward to the next phase of the development. Unfortunately this delay has held us up slightly we are still not sure exactly when we will start. We are working on it. We have got to make sure we do things properly. The freehold is the first step; the second step is that we will complete this development. Stapleton said that Tony Pulis was eager for the redevelopment to be completed. He said: "The manager is anxious because he wants to attract quality players to this club and he wants to show them a good stadium that can highlight the fact that we are ambitious, and players can come here and not look at a 1951 grandstand with old changing-rooms and showers." Presenting the accounts for the year ending May 2005, which showed a record profit of £1.1m, Stapleton said: "We mustn't hide our light under a bushel. They are excellent results. If we had that every year, we'd be flying. We'd be able to increase the budget, keep costs down." Stapleton said he recognised that gate receipts from an average crowd of 16,600 had played their part in being able to post such returns, and asked the Green Army to continue to show their support. "We get money from the Football League and we get money commercially," he said. "Until we rebuild this grandstand, we're a bit short in other areas. When we build the grandstand, we will have income in other areas. We do need the attendance to rise again to help us with our aims." It is the fourth year in a row that Argyle have posted a plus-figure and Stapleton added: "There can't be many clubs, if any, that have improved their league position every year for four years and improved financially." Phill Gill and Nic Warren were unanimously re-appointed directors, while Damon Lenszner and Tony Wrathall, who were appointed directors after the last annual meeting successfully presented themselves for election, again without dissent
Tony Pulis believes Argyle could be on the threshold of an exciting new era. He told last night's shareholders' meeting that the imminent purchase of Home Park and the rebuilding of the Grandstand were historic decisions. He said: "I think this club has got the best opportunity it has ever, ever had to push forward and the decisions taken over the next two or three months will determine how this club pushes on. The club is now at the stage when it's making the biggest decisions in its history. The opportunity of having a magnificent stadium is fantastic and a credit to the people involved. The big issue for me is trying to get a budget big enough to attract better players to get a successful team on the pitch. I just hope we are given the chance to put a team on the pitch that supporters will come and watch. You can build the brightest theatre in the land but, if the shows are no good, people aren't going to come along and watch it. If you have got nothing on the pitch, it will all fall to bits. We need the stadium, without a question of a doubt, if we are going to compete at the top. We have got to be able to compete financially with other clubs at this level. "
Argyle are being linked with a loan move for QPR defender Georges Santos.
Paul Wotton has praised Tony Pulis for masterminding the turnaround at Argyle this season. He said: "I think we have been brilliant since the gaffer has come in. Obviously, we have lost a few games but I can honestly say it has only been the second half against Leeds where we have been beaten by the better team. We could easily have taken 12 points from the last four away games with a little bit of luck. The boys are enjoying training and enjoying playing and that is down to the gaffer. From being in a really precarious position when he came in, I think it's all looking rosy. Even a month after the gaffer came in, although the signs were there that we were picking up, the table wasn't a pretty sight. But we are disappointed now that we are only 13th. Look at Coventry, who are ninth - we beat them 3-1 at Home Park last month and absolutely battered them. We would definitely have settled for fourth-from-bottom when the gaffer took over, just to be safe. Now, though, we are looking upwards and I think that's how much it has turned around since he has been here. I think it's testament to him and his coaching staff, and also to the players, who have responded brilliantly." Wotton insisted the Argyle players would not ease up between now and the end of the season, even though they are in a safe mid-table position. He said: "For one thing, the gaffer isn't going to let us do that and, two, we are a real honest bunch of lads. You have seen the effort we are putting into games. It's phenomenal. Even though Hull was our third game in a week, we were running over the top of them in the last 20 minutes because we are so fit. It would be lovely if we achieved a top 10 finish, and that's completely and utterly in our own hands. It would be nice to finish the season on a high, and I'm sure the gaffer wouldn't have it any other way." Argyle have pulled clear of relegation trouble even though Pulis has had to operate with a very small squad and Wotton added: "I think that has got its good and bad points. A good point is that we are a very close-knit group of players, but a bad point is that it doesn't give the gaffer many options. Competition for places is always good and a healthy thing, and I'm sure that will change in the summer." Meanwhile, Wotton admitted he was proud to reach the milestone of 400 first team matches for Argyle, especially as he is still only 28-years-old. "I would say I'm a middle-aged footballer now," he said. He added: "I wasn't sure how many games I was on but, obviously, it's a pretty big achievement. It's something I'm proud of and, hopefully, there will be a few more as well.
the sort of thing you look back on with fond memories when you retire, to be honest. I'd like to think I'm part of the club's history. I've captained the side to two titles, which nobody else has done. I'm born and bred in Plymouth and everyone knows how proud I am to play for Argyle. To be up there in the top ten with players of that calibre is a great achievement and, touch wood, I've got a good few years left yet. I feel great, I'm only 28 and I feel as fit as I've ever felt. I'm really enjoying my football under the gaffer and I'm enjoying playing in the Championship week in, week out."
Argyle are hoping to enter a team in the Carslberg South Western League next season. The club has applied to join the league and, if successful, will be looking to play their home games, not at Home Park, but elsewhere in the city. Michael Dunford said: "We have applied to join the South Western League for next season. We are also in the advanced stages of negotiation with Plymouth Parkway Football Club about the possibility of using their Bolitho Park ground to play our home matches."
Argyle approach Saturday's game with Cardiff City looking for their first league double of the season and Tony Pulis is expecting a tough encounter. "We were pleased with our performance at Cardiff on Boxing Day and we thoroughly deserved the three points that day," he said. "Every game is different and we know it's going to be a tough game, especially as Cardiff are still in with a shout of reaching the play-offs, so they'll come here and have a go. It's important that we focus on our strengths, and how we can use them to nullify their strengths. They've got some very experienced players in their team. Darren Purse, Ricardo Scimeca, Jeff Whitley, Neal Ardley and Neil Cox have all played in the Premiership. The Scottish lad Steven Thompson up-front compliments his strike partner Cameron Jerome, and the goals Jerome scores is proof of his potential - he has good pace. They also have Jason Koumas who, on his day, could be the best player in any game in the Premiership, never-mind the Championship - if he wants to turn it on, he is almost unstoppable." Last week Argyle were involved in a thrilling draw against Preston at Home Park, and Pulis is expecting similar excitement on Saturday. He said: "Cardiff have a decent side and I'm sure they will come here to win, which will make it a more open game. I will be showing Cardiff the utmost respect on Saturday. They are in a play-off position, so I won't be messing about with the team as we need to be respectful to the other teams near the top. I have said to the players that we have a duty to go out and show people that we are a team that gives a performance every week. I'm not looking at a final position in the table; I just want us to go out and perform every week. We have got to accept our weaknesses and frailties but I don't want anyone to ever think that we are a team that just turns up and doesn't have a go. We need an identity, and our identity is that of a hard-working, committed side. I honestly believe we have become hard to beat because all eleven players are giving 100% every week." Argyle have not lost at Home in seven games, and Pulis is thankful to the Green Army for the role they have played. He said: "We needed to turn Home Park into a difficult place for opponents to visit. We're just hoping we can continue that through to the end of the season. The supporters have been fantastic ever since I arrived and they have played a massive role in enabling us to turn Home Park into a bit of a fortress." Argyle'shome form is in great contrast to their form away from Plymouth. Pulis, however, is convinced that things could have been very different with a little more fortune in front of goal. He said: "One goal in four away games is not too much of a concern because we are creating lots of chances and we're spending a lot of time in our opponents' half, so things will drop for us in time. It's not just the strikers; it is down to the whole team. We are a team when we defend and the same applies to when we go forward. We have to spread the responsibility but with a little bit of good fortune, things will change in that department." Pulis set his team a target of 53 points upon his arrival at Home Park and they are just two victories away from reaching that objective. If Argyle do reach that mark, Pulis is seriously considering the possibility of experimenting with his team for the last few games of the season. "We're six points away from my original target of 53 points, so a couple more wins should confirm our safety and then we can look at things differently," he said. "Once we have secured the points, I can look at some different options in terms of players and the shape of the team."
Dan McCauley has insisted that he has no interest in regaining control of Argyle, despite his attempt to purchase Home Park from Plymouth City Council. McCauley has stated that he wanted to replace the Council as the club's landlords, and bear part of the burden of paying for phase two of the ground's reconstruction. He said: "I'm not trying to run the football club. All I'm trying to do is invest in the club, and hopefully make some money. It would free up the club to use their money on the football side. I would be taking the risk - if they get relegated the rent would go down, if they get promoted it would go up." The club pays variable rent to the Council on that basis at present. The argument put forward by McCauley is that the board of directors may struggle to invest sufficient funds in the team to allow Argyle to thrive in the Championship, while at the same time coping with interest repayments on the loans that are likely to be needed to purchase the Home Park freehold and then finish the rebuild. He feels that it would have been in the club's short-term interest to retain tenancy status, with a cash-rich landlord, rather than go it alone as owners of their home. That viewpoint is not shared by the board or the City Council, however. They are in agreement that making the club the masters of their own destiny is a positive move for the club, the local authority and the city. Nor are they willing to re-open the sale process. Tudor Evans insisted yesterday that the decision to sell the Home Park freehold to Argyle was 'final'. He added: "No-one can force the council to sell to anybody. This is not an auction where the Council has to necessarily take the highest bidder." That opinion has been challenged by McCauley, who doubts the legality of the Council's decision. "They are playing a very risky game if they go along this route," he said. "They are there to represent the taxpayer."
Vincent Pericard insists Argyle are not losing sleep over their current lack of goals. He said: "We've just got to remain patient and not worry about it. If it was the beginning of the Championship and August, September it might be different - but, no, it's not a worry to the team at the moment. We're creating lots of chances in games, we just need that bit of luck or finishing touch and we will score a lot of goals. And if we score one or two goals a game, we will win games." Pericard marked his first home start for Argyle with a hat-trick against Coventry but he did not hit the target before and has not since. He said: "It's been very frustrating. If you score a hat-trick, you just want to score more goals. But we're creating the opportunities, both for myself and others. We just haven't been able to find that finishing touch. We still try to enjoy training. We have worked on shooting and the manager is doing his best to work individually with the strikers, midfielders and defenders - which is not easy. Tony Pulis is a very good manager, professional and tells it straight. That's what you want from a manager as a player - honesty and to know what a manager is thinking." Pericard is happy to be back playing regularly and rediscovering his sharpness in front of goal. He added: "I'm very happy. Plymouth is something new for me, but I'm enjoying the city and everything here. I'm match-fit - definitely. I can play 90 minutes now without any problems and just focus on my finishing, which is a good thing."
Tony Pulis is continuing to clock up the miles in his on-going search for new faces to his squad, with particular focus placed on defensive cover. Although nothing has come to fruition as yet, Pulis remains hopeful that something may drop before next Thursday's deadline. "If we can bring in another two players to help us through to the end of the season, that would be great," he said. "There won't be any loans before Saturday's game with Cardiff but, hopefully, something may happen after the weekend. The centre-back position is top priority for us without a doubt." However, Pulis is not only thinking about cover for the rest of the current season. He and his coaching staff will continue to travel around the country to recruit new players in readiness for next season. He said: "I've been to three games this week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It's always worthwhile because you get to see games and meet people. It's a case of touching base with people and finding out about players, and whether they are available or when they will become available. We are on our own down here, so it's vital to maintain contact with people further up the country." It is a very different situation for Pulis, having spent more than two years as manager of Stoke. "At Stoke, we had more than 30 clubs in the close vicinity," said Pulis. "I need to stay in touch with people and, most importantly, listen to what people have to say about certain situations." Despite the constant travelling, Pulis feels that Argyle can derive some unique positives from their remoteness. "There is a plus and minus to our relative isolation," he said. "Once you get people down here, they can see it's a fantastic place and it is easier to foster a feeling of togetherness. There is more of a community spirit down here, whereas at Stoke you are competing with all the clubs in the Midlands and Manchester areas. Stoke are big in Stoke, but there are a lot of big clubs on their doorstep who dominate the headlines." The challenge for Pulis is to overcome any negative perceptions about the club, and convince quality players to make their future with Argyle. He added: "We are the only club in the area, which is quite strange to get used to, but we need to make people around the country aware of who we are and what we are doing. I think we've proved that you can bring players here but you do need to work a little harder in order to do that. We are perceived as an outpost, which is something that we have to overcome."
Argyle were given the go-ahead to purchase Home Park yesterday - despite a higher offer for the ground from former chairman Dan McCauley. The sale was approved despite interest from other bidders, one of whom was McCauley. He confirmed last night that he had lodged a bid for the freehold of £3.5m, which has been snubbed by the Council. He said: "I've written to Tudor Evans. They are in violation of what should happen. They have to get best value, and they have to be careful where they tread. I can't see how they can accept a bid that is lower than mine, but time will tell." If his bid had been accepted, it is understood that the purchaser would have been a company called Plymouth Argyle Developments Limited, which is based at the Tiverton headquarters of Rotolok, McCauley's engineering firm. Another potential bidder, who might in the long run have been willing to join forces with McCauley, was believed to be a Plymouth-based commercial property developer. A Council briefing paper prepared for the Cabinet meeting stated: 'Two expressions of interest in purchasing the freehold of the ground have been received. These are not substantiated with any evidence or firm proposals. If the Council were to consider these bids at this stage, the Council would need to go to the market and incur the risk that the benefits of the proposed scheme could be lost. Given the desire of the football club to be afforded the opportunity to progress with its future development proposals, securing optimum market benefits, the transfer of the freehold needs to be progressed quickly.' The Cabinet accepted that argument, and the sale proposal was approved
Mathias Doumbe is unsure whether he will be fit to face Cardiff City at Home Park on Saturday. He said: "I don't know whether I will play on Saturday, to be honest. We will have to see, day by day. I have broken bones before but not my ribs. Paul Maxwell has told me there is nothing you can really do about it to make it better. It just takes time." Doumbe revealed he had suffered the damage when Romain Larrieu collided into him as Argyle defended a Preston attack last week. He said: "I remember a ball was played behind us so I tried to cover it. Dichio was next to me. Romain came out for the ball but I couldn't see him and when I turned he just hit me around the heart with his knee and that was it. I fell on the floor and, at the start, I couldn't breathe, but then it got better. When I first went off the pitch, it wasn't feeling too bad but when I tried to run it was impossible. The first night I couldn't sleep. I couldn't lay down. In fact, I had to sit up in a chair so that was quite annoying. It feels better now. I have started running but, for the moment, I'm not training with the others because I'm trying to avoid any sort of contact. I'm running hard and I can do exercises." Before the game at Hull, Doumbe had missed only one match for Argyle this season, and that was because of a suspension. He said: "It's frustrating because I want to play in all of the games. You have to get on with it and just rest yourself and try to get ready as soon as you can." Doumbe did not travel to Humberside with the Argyle squad so he had a quiet weekend. He said: "I was really bored. I stayed at home and watched some movies on TV and that was it. I tried not to move too much to help the healing process."
Tony Pulis is hoping to add further loan signings to his squad before the deadline for temporary transfers next Thursday, March 23rd. He said: "We are looking to bring in a few younger ones to help us get through the last eight games, and if we can get an experienced one as well we will do that. But we will not be doing anything silly."
A meeting of Plymouth City Council's Cabinet yesterday approved the proposed sale of Home Park to the club. Paul Stapleton, who attended the meeting as an observer, said: "We welcome the decision of the Council Cabinet and are delighted that progress on the sale of the Home Park freehold is continuing. I was extremely happy to witness, and impressed by, the democratic process in action. We are now happy to leave the matter in the hands of both sides' legal teams." Council leader Tudor Evans said: "This is a great deal the football club, for Plymouth City Council, and for the city as whole. It means the club can fulfil its ambitions to complete the redevelopment of Home Park and have a ground that complements its ambitions on the pitch. It will provide them with greater security and flexibility and puts its destiny in its own hands. For the Council, it also not only makes sound financial sense and links to our plans to have the best swimming and leisure facilities in the region with the LIFE centre, but it also supports our ambition to have first-class sports facilities for the city."
Dan McCauley believes it will be a 'bargain' if Argyle complete their proposed £2.7 million purchase of Home Park. He said: "I think they will be getting a bargain. Maybe I should put an offer in! The price is a tremendous deal for Plymouth Argyle, especially when you look at the balance sheet and see how much they value it at. They are getting the land on top of it, as well as the freehold. And in the future there might be other ventures within Central Park which might be beneficial to them as well." However, the former chairman was surprised the price of the proposed sale had been made public. He said: "By publicising it in the Press I think it could invite other people to come in." The estimated cost of a new two-tier main stand would be around £8m and McCauley added: "When I left the club I said to the new board I had a £2m facility available but we never got around the table to talk about it."
Hasney Aljofree has claimed that Argyle should have been awarded a penalty in the closing stages of the defeat at Hull on Saturday. Aljofree tangled with Keith Andrews inside the 18-yard area and Andrews fell over, clearly handling the ball on the ground, but the assistant referee flagged for a foul against Aljofree. Tony Capaldi and Aljofree were both booked for dissent as Argyle protested in vain. Aljofree said: "I have just gone in the box, the guy has tried to tackle me and he has fallen on the floor. He has grabbed the ball with his hand and I know the linesman saw it but he has flagged and given it the other way. Away from home, you are not going to get them. That's the pressure of the home fans, but it was still very disappointing." Aljofree's booking was only his third in 30 matches for Argyle this season. "It was 100 per cent a penalty," he said. "I know it was. I wouldn't have been so upset otherwise. It's not in my character to run to the referee or the linesman because it's hard enough for them, but I knew for a fact it was a penalty then. When the guy got up, he just went 'flipping heck'. He knew it himself. He thought it was a penalty. I don't mind about the booking. It's for the team. But if the linesman had had a bit more courage he would have given that." Aljofree thought Argyle were unfortunate to lose another away game 1-0, having been beaten by the same score at Burnley and Derby County. He said: "I think Hull were sharp at the start of the first half and the start of the second half, but we came into the game each time." Hull's goal came on the counter attack after Lilian Nalis lost possession. It was hard on Nalis who, otherwise, had an excellent match for the visitors. Aljofree said: "We found Lilian a lot today. He bossed the game from the centre of the pitch but he got tackled once and they have ended up scoring from it. It's not Lilian's fault. He was just trying to create something for us. It was a great finish from the lad." Argyle have eight more matches this season and Aljofree believes a mid-table finish is a realistic target. He said: "We have been in a relegation battle all season and we have pulled ourselves out of it. We don't have to look behind us. I think like the manager has stressed it's one game at a time and we will see where we end up, but we want to finish as high as possible because of the amount of work the whole squad has put in. I think we will finish mid-table if we carry on with the kind of form we have got. That's what we are looking for. It's important to pick up the three points in our home games because away from home it's going to be tough anywhere you go in this league."
Tony Pulis has dismissed rumours linking David Norris with a move to either Crystal Palace or Norwich. "I've not had a phone call," said Pulis. "Norris is a very, very important part of this club and he is the sort of player you look to build the club around. He's been fantastic since I joined the club and although he's not having the luck in front of goal, it will come for him.
his stay, but we've had discussions with a few other players as well. Ideally we'd like to tie him down. His tenacity, energy and commitment levels are superb."
unsuccessful attempts to sign Norris during the January transfer window, both involving player-exchanges. Argyle, though, were not interested in selling
Mathias Kouo-Doumbe has resumed light training after sustaining a cracked rib against Preston. Tony Pulis said: "Mat was jogging today and we're hoping he will be fine by the end of the week. He's feeling much better but he obviously hasn't had any physical contact as yet, so we'll have to see how he responds to that." Pulis also revealed that Argyle had sustained no new injuries following the game at Hull City. "A few of them are a bit tired after a three-game week," he said. "We trained today and we'll do so again tomorrow, and then the players will have a day-off on Wednesday, although those who didn't play will be doing some short, sharp work."
Tony Pulis is not feeling too disheartened by the stats of Argyle's recent away record. "The record shows that we're struggling to score goals away from home but I'm still encouraged," he said. "In our last four away games, we've drawn once and lost by the odd goal three times. With a bit more luck on our side, we could have come away from those games with all twelve points." Pulis also took solace in the positive comments from his counterparts in recent away games. "The opposing manager in each of those games has commented on the contribution we have made to a tough match," he said. "Hull City manager Peter Taylor, for example, was very generous with his comments after the game on Saturday." Taylor admitted that Argyle were 'the better side in the first-half', and Pulis echoed those sentiments. He said: "We started sloppy in the second half - the worst thing to happen on Saturday was half-time. I've told the lads to not get their heads down because when you look at the game, we looked solid, compact and we created some good opportunities. The game obviously became more stretched after they scored because we were chasing a goal. We had a responsibility to the clubs down the bottom to have a right go at Hull and that's what we did - we have the same responsibility to the teams at the top to have a go at Cardiff." Turning his attention to Saturday's game with Cardiff, Pulis is expecting a large Home Park crowd to be bolstered by a large traveling contingent. "They will bring a lot of supporters down," he said. "Cameron Jerome and Jason Koumas are the two players that stand out but they are a very experienced side with the likes of Cox, Purse and Whitley who have all been around for a long time."
Tony Pulis admitted his side was lacking in two key departments after losing at Hull yesterday. He said: "Hull were fired up. They had 20,000 people here and players stood up to it, competed and challenged - we lacked that little bit of quality in the final third and also - again - that little bit of good fortune that you need." Pulis has seen his side lose three of their last four away games 1-0, and felt that the Hull defeat was similar to those at Derby and Burnley. "It's a little bit déjà vu," he said. "I think we've given it a good crack. We had enough chances and enough opportunities, but, when you are on top, you have got to score. I'm desperately, desperately disappointed. We had a couple cleared off the line and I think we took the game to Hull, especially in the first half. Without being too disrespectful, for an away team, I thought we played really well in the first half - controlled it. It's the third away game on the bounce when we've gone away and done enough to get something and ended up not scoring and beaten by the odd goal. We can't keep letting people off the hook and that's what we've done today." Hull scored in the 54th minute after a mistake by the otherwise impressive Lilian Nalis. Pulis said: "Lilian got caught in midfield - a square pass and Fagan goes on and scores. If we scored first, it's a different game. They scored after 55 minutes and the game opened up: if it had stayed 0-0, it would have been interesting to see how Fagan and Noble would have done. Goals change games. The game got stretched later on, and they had a few more chances, because we were chasing the game." Pulis chased the game by introducing Bojan Djordjic and Akos Buzsaky in the final quarter and both were prominent. He said: "You are chasing the game. You are hoping they will do something, that they will create a chance." Pulis felt that his side might have been awarded a late penalty by referee Howard Webb. "The lads thought at the end that Andrews fell on the ball, and handled," he said. "The referee is closer than the linesman, but the referee didn't give it." Praising the 'tenacity and togetherness, and the honesty' of his players, Pulis said: "This is our third game this week - we've had an extra game. You can't fault the players. The commitment and their effort was absolutely first class. They've given it a right blast today. I think the squad of players, when you look at it, has done absolutely fantastic. If we had a little bit of good luck today, we could have won the game. Cort sticks out his foot, it hits his big toe and goes over the bar: on another day, that goes in, we're winning 1-0 and it's a different game. It's that quality in the final third - making that chance, that opportunity, count. There's a thin line between success and failure. Fair play to Hull, they got the three points."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Hull City. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Wotton, Aljofree, Barness, Norris, Hodges, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Evans. Subs – Djordjic, Buzsaky, Chadwick (not used - McCormick, Pulis). Attendance - 20,137.
Whether it is at left-back or in midfield, Lee Hodges looks set to play in Argyle's game at Hull City this afternoon. Tony Pulis is an admirer of Hodges and he said: "Lee has been brilliant. He's a dream to work with - he never moans or groans. Lee is delighted to be back in the squad and back in the mix. He's versatile and, with such a small squad, it's important to have players who can play in more than one position. We have to be flexible, we can't avoid that." That small squad contains only three senior strikers. The two on duty at Hull will be Vincent Pericard and Mickey Evans. "I thought those two were good on Tuesday and I think Nick might need a little bit of a rest, because of the effort he's put in," Pulis said. "Mickey looked really bright and up for it." Anthony Pulis will be in the Pilgrims' squad today and his father said: "He's not going to go straight into the team, but he's good enough to be around it. He can play on both sides of midfield and in both full-back positions, so he gives us that versatility we're looking for in the short term." While Pulis is not yet prepared to admit that Argyle have guaranteed their status in the Championship, the 15-point gap between his team and the bottom three means that he is now planning for next season as much as the rest of this campaign. "We've been desperate to get one or two main players into the team now for the last nine games," he said. "That would have helped us immensely, but I don't think we're going to get the main hitters into the club now. I think they're all tied up, so we're ear-marking them to attack in the summer. We've also got our eyes on one or two younger ones, and one or two players who are out of contract at clubs."
Hasney Aljofree lost his place to Taribo West when Argyle played Hull City at Home Park in August, but Aljofree is currently a regular at the heart of the Argyle defence following the departure of Elliott Ward. As he prepared for today's trip to Hull, Aljofree said: "We've got nine games and I just want to play every game. I had a disappointing period over Christmas when I was out of the side, after playing 20-odd games when I thought I'd done well, but it's the manager's decision. Now I just want to carry on playing and then at the end of the season I'm sure each player will sit down with the manager and we'll see where we all stand. I don't think I've let anyone down in any game I've played this season." Aljofree did not like being out of the Argyle side, but he did recognise the quality of his replacement. "Elliott came in and did a great job," he said. "I would have thought a bit less of myself if he wasn't a good player, but he came here and he really excelled. He helped to take the club forward." Aljofree was also happy to acknowledge the manager who has master-minded Argyle's recovery. "The club was going through a bit of a bad time,"he added, "but all credit to the gaffer. He's turned it round and we've climbed the League and we're going to Hull looking to put in a really good performance. There's no pressure on us now. We're more or less safe, and we've got to go there and express ourselves and show what an Argyle team can do. We have struggled this season, but we've picked up wins here and there and pulled ourselves out of trouble. Now we're looking for a good mid-table finish. We'll take that."
Tony Pulis has admitted he is on the look-out for more talented young players. He said: "What we are trying to do is that we will have a group of core players, but we also need a group of young players we can build underneath the team. We will be looking for one or two more like that. We have got the three lads who have signed professional contracts with us, as well as Luke Summerfield and Ryan Dickson. We are not a Leeds United or a Norwich. We can't have 22 senior pros all on good money. We just have not got those resources. We are going to have to do it a different way."
Argyle will not be travelling to Hull tomorrow just to make the numbers up, according to Tony Pulis. A win would put them on 50 points - equalling their total from last season with another eight games still remaining. Pulis said: "Peter Taylor has spent quite a lot of money and I think, quietly, he will be a little bit disappointed they have not done better this season, but I don't see them as a team going down. They are a decent club, they get big crowds, they have a new stadium and Peter has proved himself at this level." Hull are viewing tomorrow's game as a 'must-win' match, defender Damien Delaney saying: "We have got two home games coming up against teams that we really should beat at home." Tony Pulis was not surprised by such comments, and may well use them as a motivational tool for his players. He said: "No disrespect to any of our supporters, but outside of the city we are looked on as small fish in the pool, ones that can be easily taken on, beaten and eaten up. We have certainly got some quotes off the internet that we will be keeping back. What we have got to do over the next two or three years is what a lot of clubs in the league have done - we have got to build ourselves up into a side that everybody respects. At this present moment, we are not there. But I think once we get the stadium finished and other things progress along the way then people will look at it differently. I like being the underdog, and I'm sure the players enjoy it as well, but one day you hope to be pushing on where people respect you as being a quality team and a quality club." Argyle could be without Mathias Doumbe for the trip to Hull. Pulis said: "Matt has got a small crack in a rib. People have played with it but it depends how bad it is and to what extent he can handle the pain so, really, it's his call. I think Chuck has played with one for the last month or so. According to the doctor, you are not going to make it any worse by playing. It's a case of whether you can go through the pain barrier or not. We are hoping it will settle down enough for him to play tomorrow." If Doumbe is unable to participate, Argyle will almost certainly play Paul Wotton and Hasney Aljofree in central defence. That move would probably see Lee Hodges move to central midfield and Anthony Barness restored to the line-up at left-back. Pulis added: "Paul did exceptionally well when he dropped into the back four on Tuesday, after Mat went off. We'd like Mat fit, that goes without saying, but Paul has done a decent job there when called upon."
Anthony Pulis is not expecting any favouritism from his dad after signing on loan for Argyle. Pulis has been named in the squad for their game against Hull tomorrow, but his dad, Tony, revealed his son would not go straight into the starting line-up, and might not even make the bench. Pulis jnr said:: "There has been a possibility of it happening for about a month. There were a couple of other clubs interested but I weighed it all up and decided the best option for me was to come to Plymouth until the end of the season. That is the initial agreement and I'm not going to look any further forward than that. I'm going to come here and, hopefully, enjoy my football. I have got another year left on my contract at Stoke so it's not as if I have got the worry of trying to get something else sorted out for next season. I know it's going to be difficult to get into the team because the lads have been playing well and getting some good results. Hopefully, I can impress in training and help the side to finish as high up the table as we possibly can. My dad is the one person who knows me best. I know it's going to be difficult for the first few weeks, what with me being the manager's son, but I think we are professional enough to get on with it. I have no doubt he will treat me the same as anybody else. In fact, I will probably have to work harder to catch his eye." Pulis admitted it had been frustrating to be stuck in the reserves at Stoke with no prospect of a step-up to the senior side. He said: "A lot of politics went on and the relationship between the manager and me wasn't the best." His father, meanwhile, is not bothered about any accusations that he has only signed the midfielder because he is his son. Pulis snr said: "You are always going to get that. It's not a problem to me. It makes no difference who he is. He's just another player out on the training ground. That's all. He can play on both sides of midfield, and both full-back positions, so he gives us that versatility we are looking for in the short term. He's not going to go straight into the team but he's good enough to be around it."
Tony Pulis is looking forward to his first visit to Hull City's KC Stadium. He said: "It's my first visit to the KC stadium and I don't think any of the players have been there before either. When we played Coventry City, it was my first visit to the Ricoh Arena and I thought that was fantastic but the KC has won the award as the best ground in the Football League, so I'm really looking forward to it. Hull are a big side and fully committed; it will be a tough game because they're not out of the mire yet, so they will be fighting for everything. It will be a tough game and we respect them but we certainly won't be going there with any trepidation. I expect them to come out of the blocks fast, in a simliar way to which Derby began the game a couple of weeks ago. We need to be aware that the first 20 minutes will probably be the toughest part of the game." Pulis and his coaching staff are particularly fastidious in their preparation for away fixtures, especially as geographical isolation means a lot of travelling for the team. "We're flying up to Hull, which takes away a lot of the travel problems - we try to get our preparation as close to perfect as we can," said Pulis. "Our physiotherapist Paul Maxwell has got everything sorted in terms of food and well-being." Although Pulis is still looking to mathematically confirm Argyle's Championship status, he allowed himself a rare moment of contented reflection. He said: "I watched the team get beat at Barnet and since then, we've got rid of ten players and brought in three, two on-loan. We've had to work very hard with the players who were already here, and they deserve full credit." Pulis is already looking forward to nest season, when he will have time to fully assemble, and prepare his own squad. He added: "We're already preparing for next season - we've compiled a list of players over the last month that we will target. My coaching staff and I will all be going out to watch players for the remainder of the season. We have got to build ourselves into a team that everybody in this division respects; we're not quite there yet. I do enjoy, however, being the underdog and I'm sure the players do as well but, one day, we want to be respected as a quality team. Once we get the Stadium finished, people will look at us differently."
Argyle have signed Anthony Pulis, son of manager Tony, in a loan deal from Stoke City. Anthony will stay at Home Park for the remainder of the current season
Tony Pulis has admitted he is likely to miss at least one of Argyles remaining league games in order to check on potential transfer targets. He said: "The coaches and myself have worked tirelessly in travelling up and down the country watching matches. We have compiled a list of players from those trips or who have been recommended to us. But we need to see these players now and so, I think you are going to see more and more that either Kempy or Mark will not be with me on match days. And it might even mean that it'll be me who will miss a game." Pulis insisted that he is also hopeful of strengthening his squad before Saturday's match at Hull City, particularly as Mathias Doumbe is doubtful for the trip. "We're taking it each day at a time with Matt (Doumbe) and no decision will be made just yet," said Pulis. "It's badly bruised but we've got two to three days to see how he's feeling." Despite being short of cover in defence, Pulis insisted that even if Doumbe fails a fitness test, that would not automatically mean Wotton standing in, as he did against Preston and at Derby at the end of February. "No, it doesn't necessarily mean that Wottsie will fill in at centre-back again," said Pulis. "We're hoping to get a loan signing in before Saturday as we've only got 15 players training and there are a lot of tired legs at the club at the moment. It's important that we look to bring someone in, hopefully, before we go to Hull. The timing of these matches haven't helped either, as Preston came to us having not played for 10 days. And we'll go to Hull on Saturday, who have only played once, while we'll have played twice in a week."
Argyle have completed the signings of Scott Laird, Chris Zebroski and Reuben Reid on one-year professional contracts. The players were understandably delighted and Laird feels that they can become role models for other young players in the South-West. He said: "I've been with Argyle since I was eight-years-old, so this is a proud day. Plymouth has a huge catchment area and there is a lot of talent out there, and I hope we can be role models to other youngsters." Reuben Reid was equally thrilled to take his first step in professional football. He said: "I've been thinking about it since I was five-years-old and watching Match of the Day. It will be a great honour to make my first-team debut, and I just want to do well for the team and be involved." Zebroski has already tasted first-team football and his next target is to get his first senior goal. He said: "I would love to get off the mark for the first-team and, hopefully, given the chance I'll be able to do that."
Argyle reserves lost 2-0 at Cardiff City this afternoon. Argyle: McCormick, Drew, Laird.J, Laird.S, Kendall, Summerfield, Smith, Watts, Zebroski, Reid, Reski. Subs - Hopkinson (not used - Gosling)
Tony Pulis has given his enthusiastic support to the club's proposed purchase of Home Park. Pulis believes it is another sign that Argyle are a club on the up, and can become a force in the Championship in the future. He said: "I think everything at the football club looks prosperous and rosy at the moment. We have established ourselves mid-table in the league. If we had won tonight we could have gone 10th, which is quite amazing really. Then, with the news about the stadium, it's the final piece in the jigsaw for the development of the ground. I think it shows the football club are pushing forward." Pulis, however, is anxious the completion of phase two does not take funds away from team strengthening. He has made his thoughts clear to Paul Stapleton and the rest of the board and believes both objectives can be successfully achieved. He said: "It's no good building a brand new stadium and forgetting what's at the front of the house. We have had good discussions and the chairman knows my points of view. We will work on this together. That's what I ask from everybody - every Plymouth supporter, young and old, and people all around the club. Hopefully, we can push on and try to get this football club moving the right way." Pulis has only been Argyle manager for five-and-a-half months but he is aware the club has always struggled to progress any further than mid-table in the second tier of league football. He said: "We have a history at the football club of getting to this level and then finding it very difficult to compete with bigger clubs. I'm talking about clubs with the tradition of the two Sheffield's and Leeds. Just look at the number of teams in the Championship who have been in the Premiership over the last 10 years. There is a massive gap that we have got to make up and we will not do that overnight. You have got to do it gradually. People have got to understand that and make sure they work and pull together, and be positive with it." The deal to purchase Home Park should be rubber-stamped by the local authority's Cabinet at a meeting next Tuesday, with the club anxious to complete the purchase as soon as possible after that
Mathias Kouo-Doumbe is a doubt for Argyle's game at Hull on Saturday after suffering a chest injury in last night's draw against Preston. Doumbe has been diagnosed with heavy bruising around his rib-cage, although Paul Maxwell said on Wednesday that it was too early to tell the full extent of the injury. "Mat's got severe chest bruising," said Maxwell. "Until the swelling goes down in the next couple of days, we won't know how bad it is. At the moment, all we can really do is to monitor his progress." Tony Pulis added: "Matt has had a blow on his ribs so we will have to see what he's like later. I think he will go and see the doc tomorrow. Maxie has told him to go home and make sure he rests it, and then go from there." Should Doumbe now be ruled out for any length of time, the urgency to add another defender to the squad will increase. Pulis said: "We have been trying non-stop. You just hope you get a little bit of a break."
Tony Pulis was slightly disappointed with just a draw against Preston North End last night. He said: "I thought it was a very open game and both sides went for the win, but we're disappointed because we felt that we created the better chances. The players have been fantastic and they showed that they'll always give it their best shot again today, against a very good Preston side. It's our second game in four days and Preston have come into the game fresh, so it's another example of the character of the players. Everybody played their part and we got in behind them on a number of occasions, but the only thing lacking was a little bit of composure in the final third." The progress that the club is clearly making was typified by a battling performance, and David Norris, once again, embodied the commitment of the entire team. Again, his endeavour was not rewarded with the goal his enthusiasm so richly deserves. However, Pulis remains confident that Norris will get the goals to match his consistent, energetic displays. He said: "Norris keeps getting into the right positions and a goal will come; he's a player who could score ten goals every season. You can never fault his enthusiasm, effort and commitment and he's certainly one of my favourites here." Vincent Péricard was inexplicably booked by referee Iain Williamson in the second half and the explanation offered by Tony Pulis was a fairly simple one. He said: "The referee became embroiled with the crowd and it became a bit of a personal battle for him."
Argyle drew 0-0 with Preston North End at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Evans, Pericard. Subs - Buzsaky, Barness, Chadwick (not used - McCormick, Djordjic). Attendance - 10,874.
Argyle today confirmed recent rumours regarding the club purchasing the freehold of Home Park from Plymouth City Council. The club and council made the following statements:
Council Statement: A groundbreaking deal between Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Argyle Football Club could pave the way for the completion of the redevelopment of Home Park. The City Council is proposing to sell the freehold of Home Park to the club for £2.7 million, freeing the club from a 125-year lease and annual rent charges, and enabling it to raise capital. A report to the Council's Cabinet recommends the sale to help the club complete phase 2 of the redevelopment of Home Park that includes a replacement for the Mayflower Stand. The Council has been keen to support the club in its ambitions to carry out phase 2 of the redevelopment but its current financial position means it is unlikely to be able to make a significant contribution in the foreseeable future. Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of the Council, said: "This move would help the club in its ambitions for the ground, which we are very keen to support. "It is a 'win-win' solution. It will free the club from the burden of a lease and will give it greater flexibility to raise funds. It gives the club greater security and puts its destiny in its own hands. Plymouth Argyle deserves a ground that reflects its ever-growing reputation. This proposal is a winner not only for the club and the council but for the city as a whole."
Argyle Statement from Paul Stapleton: "The board of Plymouth Argyle welcomes wholeheartedly the proposal by the City Council to sell the freehold of Home Park to the club. "We have been working hard with the Council to seek ways to ensure that the process of improving the football club continues. I and my fellow director Phill Gill have been actively engaged by the board to bring the Phase II rebuild of the main grandstand at Home Park to a successful conclusion. We discussed with the Council the possibility of acquiring the freehold of the site - a move which would enable the club's lenders to assist with the future development of Home Park. An independent valuation of the ground was produced over which the club and the City Council agreed a purchase price. We hope that the process of transferring the freehold to Plymouth Argyle is now completed as quickly as possible so that we can move on to the next stage of the football club's development. All the directors are dedicated to the continued improvement of the club and we are aware that manager Tony Pulis and his team are as ambitious as anyone to complete the Home Park infrastructure in order to attract players to Plymouth. We are pleased with the assistance of the City Council in achieving this fundamental and important step towards our main goal of providing the people of Plymouth, and Argyle supporters everywhere, with a team and a club that ranks among the best in the country. We are also pleased to work in partnership with the City Council and look forward to being an integral part of the city's planned Life Centre project in Central Park." No-one at Argyle will be adding to, or expanding on, the Chairman's statement until there are further developments.
A steady performance by Lee Hodges on Saturday has left Tony Pulis with a selection headache ahead of tonight's game against Preston. He said: "Paul Connolly comes back into the reckoning, so I've got a couple of decisions to make. Anthony Barness and Lee Hodges both did well at full-back against Brighton, so I'll have to think about whether Paul Connolly comes straight back into the side. The one thing Paul gives us is energy going forward." The victory over Brighton was not one for the football purists but Pulis is expecting a far more open encounter tonight. "It should be a great game, they've got some fantastic players and it will be a much more open than the Brighton match," said Pulis. "We will definitely play better than we did on Saturday. The result against Brighton was much better than the performance but everybody needs to accept that you'll get those games. Not playing very well and still winning is not such a bad habit." Argyle could find themselves playing against a familiar face tonight. Jason Jarrett recently joined North End on loan from Norwich, and Pulis added: "It will be nice to see Jason again, he's a great kid and he did very well in the six weeks he was here. They'll bring Graham Alexander back in, I should imagine, and perhaps Brian O'Neil will move back into defence, and Jarrett will probably take his midfield slot. They're not where they are without having a good squad - they have got real depth. When you look at the bench, he could start with Brett Ormerod and David Nugent up-front, and still have Danny Dichio and Patrick Agyemang to come on." Pulis is determined to start the game brightly after sluggish openings in Argyle's last two matches. "We've not been too quick out of the blocks in the last two games," he said. "We were a goal down early-on at Derby and we could have gone behind against Brighton, so we'll be talking to the players about that." Pulis is hoping for a decent turn-out from the Green Army, despite the attraction of Champions League football on the television, as Preston are one of the top sides in the Championship. He said: "We've had a good run recently, especially at home, and we just hope that the supporters turn out and we've got a decent crowd. The die-hard supporters will be here."
Tony Pulis has urged supporters not to lose faith in Nick Chadwick. He said: "I don't think anybody has worked harder for this football club or been more unselfish than Nick, but sometimes you hit a little bit of a brick wall, mentally and physically, especially up front. You do become tired and Nick might have reached that stage where he needs a little bit of a break. But I do want people to understand that he has played a massive part in taking us to where we are at this moment. His contribution certainly hasn't been forgotten by me." Nevertheless, Mickey Evans might be selected alongside Vincent Pericard up front tonight. "I thought Mickey did well when he came on against Brighton on Saturday," Pulis added. "He's champing at the bit now. He's missed the last couple of games so I'm sure, if selected, he'll be up for it." Chris Zebroski and Reuben Reid will both be considered for first-team duty by Pulis before the end of the season, and he said: "I've still got in my mind I'd like to give Zebroski and Reid a chance at some stage. Zebroski is in front of Reid at the moment because of fitness levels, so I'll try and pick the right games to take a look at them. That's the important thing."
Tony Pulis and his staff are still attempting to secure more loan signings to add to the squad, but success on that front has been elusive lately. "We need to bring a couple in to beef up the squad, but there's nothing in the pipeline at the moment," he said. "We only had 16 players at training this morning, though. That shows just how thin we are."
Tony Pulis has pointed to Preston North End as role models for Argyle to try to emulate. He said: "I think the club has been run properly. Gary Peters started it all off and set good foundations. Then David Moyes came in for four years and it has gone on from there. They have done very well as a football club. If you look at what they have done, it's something we can learn from. They are building a new stadium, they have spent decent money on players, developed them and sold them on for big profits. In doing so, they have been able to reinvest that money, not only in the stadium but also on the playing side of it. They have definitely established themselves now as a top 10 Championship club and it has taken them six years to do that. Stability through the ranks and a good policy of buying and selling has paid off. They have not just concentrated on the stadium." Preston's home ground, Deepdale, has been redeveloped on three sides, as Argyle have done at Home Park, and the capacities are both just over 20,000. Pulis said: "I think there are a lot of similarities between the two clubs, such as the average attendances. They also had two very quick promotions from the lower leagues through to the Championship, very similar to Argyle." Pulis believes Preston now have a wage bill that matches many of the top clubs in the league. He added: "I would say they are very competitive in this league when it comes to wages. I think that is shown by them going out and getting Jarrett. If they are paying Jarrett's full wages, there are only six or seven clubs in this league who could do that. For Preston to be able to do that shows how far they have come."
Lee Hodges enjoyed being part of an Argyle victory for the first time in 19 months on Saturday - and declared his desire to earn a new contract for next season. He said: "I've had a couple of games this season, but we got beaten 1-0 in both of them. I got another opportunity today, and it was really good to grind it out and get the win. We've been on a really good run and we were disappointed at Derby. We felt we did enough to draw, if not win, the game. That was very frustrating and we wanted to get back to winning ways. We did that, and we want another win here on Tuesday against Preston. We want to win every game." Hodges played in midfield at Derby, but against Brighton he was deployed at left-back. "Sometimes it can work against you, playing in a lot of positions," he added, "but today showed that the gaffer isn't afraid to put me in there. I was really pleased with the way it went. Romain made a good save early on, but I think that was Brighton's only shot. They were on top for the first 20 minutes, but they didn't really create anything. They weren't going anywhere. They were going across the pitch, so we were happy as a defensive unit. The game went really well for us." Hodges contract expires in June, and he is in no hurry to leave Home Park. "At this stage all I can do is play as many games as possible and train as hard as I can," he said. "At the end of the day, I'll just have to wait and see." Hodges hopes that his versatility will work in his favour. "The gaffer knows he can put me in any position," he added. "We have got a small squad and, after being out for so long, I think that has helped me. That has given me the opportunity to play two or three games, whereas if we had a much bigger squad I probably wouldn't have been involved so much. But, while the opportunity is there, I'll take it as best I can."
Tony Pulis paid tribute to Lee Hodges after Saturdays win. He said: "I had a good chat with one or two people who have seen Hodgie play at left-back. I didn't think it was going to be a classic today and I thought we might have to grind a result out. I thought Hodgie did exceptionally well at left-back because the lad Carole is a good player. We have had really good reports about him but I thought Lee did very well there. I'm pleased for him. He's a great kid." Hodges made his 150th league appearance for Argyle on Saturday and his versatility could be an important factor when Pulis makes a decision on whether to offer him a new contract. Pulis said: "Everyone is playing for their future. It's not just him, it's people who have got one or two years left on their contracts, and that's the way it should be." Pulis boss clearly has a high opinion of Hodges, though. He said: "I have seen him in training and I have seen him around the place and his attitude and commitment to the football club has been first class." With Tony Capaldi remaining on the left-side of midfield on Saturday, there was no place for Akos Buzsaky or Bojan Djordjic, who were on the bench instead. Pulis said: "I think the team have been on an exceptionally good run, for what we have got, what we have spent and what we have brought in. I think it's being disrespectful if you say we are short of anything with Akos or Bo not being in the team, because I think the lads have been fantastic. It's about the team, it always will be." Pulis insisted Buzsaky and Djordjic had dealt with their omission from the starting line-up in a professional manner. He said: "The two of them have been fine. Their chance will come. Akos was the best player at the football club when I first joined. That first five or 10 games, he did ever so well. But since his injury I don't think he has regained the sharpness he had before but, he will get his chance again. There's no way in a million years I'm writing Akos off." Argyle moved up to 13th in the Championship and Pulis added: "I'm very pleased we have got 46 points with 10 games to go. I'm absolutely delighted."
Tony Pulis was not expecting a classic match against Brighton & Hove Albion, and he was not wrong. "It was never going to be pretty," he said. "Brighton are fighting for their lives - Mark has a group of young players who run all day and make it difficult. It looked like an end of season game and the sun made it difficult for the players, but sometimes you have to scrap for a result, and that's what we did. It's probably the first time we've come into a game as firm favourites, which means the pressure was on us, so I'm very pleased. The motivation for the players was to avoid having a team in the bottom three do the double over us." The result may have gone Argyle's way but it was the Seagulls who started the game the better. "They started the brighter and had a couple of chances; Romain made a fantastic save in the first couple of minutes," said Pulis. "We gradually started to come into the game more and created more chances - Chadwick could have scored a couple at the end of the first half and Norris had a good chance with a header." Pulis took great heart from the defensive partnership of Hasney Aljofree and Mathias Kouo-Doumbe. He said: "I thought Hasney and Mat did well today but Elliott Ward was our linchpin, without a doubt. If we can find someone who does as well as Elliott, then we've done well." The decision to play Lee Hodges at left-back raised a few eyebrows but his performance justified his selection. Pulis had considered Tony Capaldi at left-back, with Akos Buzsaky and Bojan Djordjic waiting to fill in on the left-hand side of midfield, but Pulis eventually opted for Hodges. "Their chance will come, Akos was the best player at the club when I arrived but his injury has hampered his sharpness," said Pulis. "I had a good chat people who have seen Hodges at left-back, and I thought he did exceptionally well against Sebastien Carole, who is a good player." Although relegation is still a possibility, Pulis conceded that the supporters' focus may turn to other matters. He said: "The biggest thing for the supporters will now involve who we bring into the club, and we're working very hard behind the scenes to find out who is available. The supporters will be looking to see how we push on in the transfer market." Pulis also took the opportunity to reflect on his first six months at Home Park hot-seat. "When I arrived, I thought it would go right to the wire - there are a lot of teams fighting below us who were in a lot better shape than us in September," he said. "Overall, I'm very pleased, especially as we now have 46 points with 10 games remaining. It's vital that we keep the season going; whatever the game we must put in a performance."
Lilian Nalis refused to speculate on his Home Park future after his first Argyle goal earned all three points against Brighton. He said: "I was really upset with my situation at Sheffield United, not playing. It was a really hard time for me. Argyle gave me a hand, took me out of Sheffield, I came here, and since I've been here, I have really enjoyed my time. When the contract is ended, let's talk. The club is being built in a good direction and all the players have to work really hard for it. Let's work hard until the end of the season and see what happens." Nalis is already looking forward to Tuesday's home game against Preston, where he will look to add to a goal that came about as the result of a Brighton defensive mix-up. He said: "From what I remember, the 'keeper tried to come out and punch the ball, missed it a little bit, and I just tried to lob him. The most important thing is the three points, to stay away from the relegation zone, so it's a good win for us, but now we have to look forward to Tuesday's game, which is going to be a tough one as well. It was a really hard game, but the team has to be really pleased with the performance. Hasney was unbelievable behind, and Mat Doumbe had a great game. It is great when you have a great win like that when it is a tough game. Now we are not looking behind us; we have to look forward as well, and Preston is going to be a good game for us. Let's work with the victory we have tonight and keep confident for Tuesday. All the games we have played, we have always had a good go; even it was a bad game, we have tried to do our best. The commitment of the team was good, today, as well. We have to look at every game and try to be as solid as we can."
Argyle beat Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 at Home Park, the goal scored by Lilian Nalis after 36 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Barness, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Chadwick, Pericard. Subs - Evans (not used - McCormick, Buzsaky, Djordjic, Zebroski). Attendance - 13,650.
Argyle's under-18s scheduled game at Swindon today has been postponed due to the cold weather
Tony Capaldi will have no worries this afternoon if, as expected, he is asked to switch to left-back when Argyle play Brighton. Capaldi is a regular in that position for Northern Ireland and after winning his 16th cap on Wednesday he is within five games of becoming Argyle's most capped player. "Anything can happen in international football and I'll take it one game at a time, but it would be a nice record to break," he said. "Tony Pulis sees me as a left-midfielder, but if he wants me to do a job at left-back then I'm ready to do it. I can play there, and as long as I'm in the team I'm happy." If Argyle win today they could find themselves 17 points clear of the relegation zone with only ten games left and Capaldi added: "That would push us well clear, but we want to look forward and try and finish higher than we did last season. We want to do better than 17th place, and then we could all look back and say it has been a successful season."
The quest to bring in fresh faces to Home Park is continuing to be a frustrating one for Tony Pulis. He said: "We tried to bring in two players before the Derby game last weekend - we thought they were coming, but things fell through. We were also hoping to bring in another two this week but that's still ongoing. It hasn't come to fruition as yet, and with such little time to go before we face Brighton on Saturday, it's going to be too tight to get them in for that game. I'm still hopeful that they might come to Argyle, but it is only a possibility. Ever since I joined the club, we've been trying to bring in players - some you get and some you don't, you just have to keep trying."
Argyle have two injury worries ahead of tomorrows game against Brighton. Vincent Péricard took a whack on the ankle at Derby, whilst Romain Larrieu is suffering from a sore back. Tony Pulis said: "Vincent trained for the first time on Thursday, and our goalkeeping coach Geoff Crudgington has got the goalkeepers out early, so fingers crossed they'll both be ok." Mathias Kouo-Doumbe will return after suspension ruled him out of the Derby game but Paul Connolly is suspended meaning Pulis will, once again, be forced to reshuffle his defence. He said: "Obviously, Doumbe comes back but we're missing Connolly, so the big question will involve what we do at the back. I'm thinking about playing Capaldi at left-back and playing Hasney and Matt in the middle of defence. They've played together before and it's vital that the centre of your team is solid. It's certainly not a foreign position for Tony. He played left-back in my first game in charge at Southampton, and did well. Anthony Barness can play at full-back on either side - he's got two good feet, and he's a very experienced player. It will be either Djordjic or Buzsaky, who fill Tony Capaldi's left-midfield role. The balance will be better with Bojan because he's another left-footer, but Akos could also do a job out there. It's an opportunity for them - they've both been on the sidelines because the team has been doing so well. Akos has suffered from the outstanding form of David Norris at right-midfield, and Bojan has been denied because of the solidity Tony brings to the team from left-midfield. We'll make the decision closer to the time."
Despite recent form, Tony Pulis is well aware of the threat Brighton will pose to his team tomorrow. "Brighton are fighting for their lives, and they're not too far behind Sheffield Wednesday, so a few results going their way would bring them right back into the mix," he said. "They will be a dangerous animal, without a doubt. We have to treat them with the same respect that we show to anybody in this division." The absence of Paul McShane and Gary Hart due to suspension will probably give Frenchman Sebastien Carole the opportunity to come in and make an impression for Albion. "We expect Sebastien Carole to come in, and he's a good player," said Pulis. "He's only a small chap but he's quick and sharp." Pulis has considerable sympathy for Mark McGhee but is certain that a move away from the tiny Withdean Stadium will be the catalyst for an exciting new era for the Seagulls. He said: "Mark McGhee has a difficult job and I fully recognise that. He's got a small squad and a small budget to work with, and he's fighting against clubs who are spending four times the money. He has worked exceptionally hard this year to keep them going. Brighton need to move to a new ground because they can attract big crowds down there. Until they get that sorted out, it's always going to be a struggle for them." Despite this, Pulis is warning against complacency ahead of the game. "We will certainly not be complacent going into the game," he said. "You only have to look back at this season and the two teams who are also down there. We only got a draw at home to both Millwall and Crewe, so that wipes away any complacency." Pulis is determined to reach his safety target of 53 points, irrespective of the fact that Argyle have opened up a 14 point gap with those in the relegation-zone. He said: "If we maintain the current margin between ourselves and the bottom three, every game that passes makes it more difficult for them to catch up. I don't want to rely on that, we need to focus on ourselves and go into Saturday's game with the right attitude. We must never forget where we were, and what we've achieved so far. We haven't spent a fortune on players and there has not been a massive change-over of personnel. I think the players should be congratulated for their effort and commitment, but we're still not over the line yet."
Tony Capaldi won his sixteenth cap for Northern Ireland last night in the 1-0 win over Estonia
Tony Pulis wants to sign 'another Elliott Ward' to strengthen his squad defensively for the end-of-season run-in. He said: "The centre of defence is a priority for us. We are looking for another Elliott Ward. I think the success that was achieved at the football club was because the back four were pretty settled and so were the two in front of them. We are up and down the country to matches like you wouldn't believe and we are on the phone all the time, non-stop. We are just waiting for things to drop for us. Elliott was never available and then, all of a sudden, he became available. You keep making those phone calls and just hope to get one back that changes things. We desperately need to get a couple of defenders in."
Michael Dunford believes Tony Pulis is on the brink of completing his first objective as manager. He said: "Tony's first job was to keep us in this division and it looks, touch wood, as though that's more than a possibility. So for phase one of the Tony Pulis regime there is a tick in the box." Dunford has been impressed by Pulis' style and added: "He's very focused and has a keen sense of players' fitness - he's a fitness fanatic. He's very strong on discipline and he's always willing to learn but, obviously, he has got a track record and he knows the style of play he wants his teams to use. I think everybody would acknowledge that the players we have at our disposal are fitter now than they were 12 months ago and play to a system they appear to be comfortable with. "Tony is always looking at the medical side - Paul Maxwell is very good at it - and he's also trying to eliminate the travel problems we experience. We can't do it all straight away but he will certainly try to extract every single percentage of ability and commitment out of the players we have."
Tony Pulis is looking to the youth set-up in order to find positives in the clubs geographical isolation, with a view to bringing new players to Home Park. "The best, and worst, thing about Plymouth is our comparative isolation," he said. "We bought Zebroski from Cirencester and Reuben Reid came down from Bristol for a trial - Scott Laird is the only to come through our system. I've not had time to focus on the youth set-up but it is an area we need to exploit. We are the biggest club in four counties - Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and most of Dorset. No other club in the country has that kind of monopoly on an area. The youth set-up is something I really want to get my teeth into. I don't know enough about the current system to comment on it." Pulis genuinely believes that Argyle could reap huge benefits from effective utilisation of the catchment area. "You've got big clubs in an area - at Portsmouth we had the big London clubs looking at all the youngsters," said Pulis. At Stoke we were surrounded by Manchester and Birmingham, so you couldn't get the best youngsters. We're a Championship club, so we're looking for youngsters with the quality to play at this level."
Argyle have opened talks with Mathias Doumbe over a new contract. Doumbe's existing two-year deal ends in June and Tony Pulis is keen to keep him at Home Park for longer. Michael Dunford said: "We have already opened discussions with the player and his agent over a new contract. We wouldn't make an offer to any player unless Tony wanted him to be available in his squad next season. We have made an offer to Matt already and those discussions will continue." Doumbe is one of five players who will be out-of-contract this summer. The others are Mickey Evans, Lee Hodges, Lilian Nalis and Rufus Brevett. Dunford added: "We, as a club, have a limited budget. I don't want to get bogged down by budget, though, because I'm certain supporters are sick and tired of it. But, at the end of the day, there is only so much in the pot and it's up to the manager to advise the board and myself on how he wants his squad to be composed. It's no good tying up all your money now when I'm sure he will want to bring in another two or three new faces in the summer. We have to leave ourselves some leeway. We have already seen players leave the club whose contracts were up in the summer - Bjarni Gudjonsson, Nuno Mendes and Keith Lasley - and it's likely, I would have thought, Rufus Brevett will not be here next season. It's a case of the board and the manager working within that financial framework to allow him some room to manoeuvre in the summer."
Argyle's reserve fixture against Cheltenham Town on March 14th has been postponed and will now be played on Wednesday, March 22nd
Tony Pulis has not ruled out offering professional contracts to more of Argyle's apprentice players. Reuben Reid, Chris Zebroski and Scott Laird have all been offered one-year deals but Pulis insisted there was still time for four more apprentices to earn contracts. They are Liam Drew, Tony McKeever, Clay Bond and Chris Reski. Pulis said: "I have spoken to all of them and we haven't closed the door on any of them yet. It has been difficult because I haven't seen as much of the youth team as I would have liked because my priority has been with the senior side. There are two months of the season left and there is still an opportunity for these lads."
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