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.
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
AFC Bournemouth have recalled Steve Fletcher from his loan spell at Argyle. The 39-year-old played his last game for the Pilgrims in the 2-2 draw at Morecambe, his sixth appearance and second start. Fletcher has been training with Bournemouth at the start of each week of his loan stint, but with Argyle now safe, Cherries' caretaker boss Paul Groves wants him at Dean Court for their season-ending home game against Preston North End this Saturday. Fletcher said: "In an ideal world I would like to do both – play a half for Plymouth and a half for Bournemouth. I'm going to go back to Bournemouth having had a fantastic time here and being involved in every game."
Carl Fletcher was pleased with a point at the wind-battered Globe Arena on Saturday. Argyle had the elements in their favour in the first half and were 1-0 up at the break, but Morecambe then had the wind at their backs in the second half and put it to good use as they took a 2-1 lead. But Argyle stuck to their task and drew level in the 83rd minute with a goal from stand-in skipper Darren Purse. Fletcher said: "I thought it was a good game. We had the better of it in the first half and they probably did in the second half. We played really well in the first half. We controlled the game and controlled the tempo, but in the second half we got a little sloppy. The goals were sloppy but, all in all, I'm pleased with a draw." Argyle played with more freedom than of late after securing their Football League survival the previous Saturday. Fletcher said: "I think, especially in the first half, you could see the pressure was off the lads' shoulders. You could see them out there expressing themselves."
Argyle and Exeter City's rivalry will be renewed in League Two next season. Exeter's three-year stay in League One came to an end on Saturday after a 4-1 defeat at Carlisle.
Ollie Chenoweth made his Argyle debut in the Pilgrims' 2-2 draw at Morecambe yesterday. The 20-year-old was released from Home Park last summer but was re-signed by Carl Fletcher midway through the current campaign as back-up to Jake Cole and assistant-manager Romain Larrieu. The bounceback was completed on Saturday when he became the 74th goalkeeper to make his Argyle league debut. "We were lucky enough to be in a position for Ollie to come in," said the Argyle manager. "He's been doing really well in training. In the first half, he had it quite easy, because of the wind, he didn't have to do too much and what he did, he did well; in the second half, he was under a bit more pressure. It was great for him to get his debut. We're pleased for him."
Ladjie Soukouna's appearance at Morecambe yesterday was his first start since October and first appearance since January. "It was tiring" he said after the game. "I've had a long time not playing. After my injury, which was two months, I have been back in the squad and on the bench, but not on the pitch. I waited for my chance. I have been professional and kept positive. I enjoyed today. It was good." The 21-year-old has been praised by Carl Fletcher for the progress he has made in adapting to the demands of the English game. Soukouna said: "When I came through the Creteil Academy, I was a left-back but, after spending time here, I am now a central midfielder. I feel I have a better understanding of the position. I haven't been back to France since October, so I am looking forward to having a few weeks holiday and coming back for next season."
The championship-winning Argyle youth team came back down to earth with a bump yesterday after a 5-0 defeat at second-in-the-table Bristol Rovers in the Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference. Argyle: Walton.C, Watson, Copp, Hart, Richards, Pearce, Richards, Harper-Penman, Berry, Lecointe, Sims, Nwoken. Subs - Bentley, Purrington, Wheatley.
Argyle drew 2-2 at Morecambe, the goals scored by Luke Young and Darren Purse. Argyle: Chenoweth, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, Young, Hourihane, Soukouna, Hemmings, MacDonald, S.Fletcher. Subs – Lennox, Chadwick (not used – Cole, Bhasera, Feeney). Attendance – 2,313.
Ashley Hemmings has said he has thoroughly enjoyed his five months on loan at Home Park. The 21-year-old Wolves loanee said: "Since the day I have come here, I have enjoyed it loads. I have fitted in with the lads and they are probably the best group I have ever been with. Their support has been amazing. To be honest, I didn't feel that much pressure because the spirit in the dressing room was high. Everyone believed we were going to stay up. There were no negative thoughts at all. Now we are safe, everyone is buzzing. It's probably one of the best feelings I have ever had."
Carl Fletcher hopes there will be announcement soon about his future as manager of Argyle. The 32-year-old had talks with chairman James Brent on Monday, two days after the threat of relegation from the Football League was averted. Fletcher said: "I spoke with James on Monday and we had a good chat then. I don't know for sure. I have been in situations, whether you are signing for a club or trying to get a player in, and you think everything is done and then something crops up. So I wouldn't want to say a time but, hopefully, sooner rather than later we can announce something one way or the other." Brent has praised Fletcher for the "exceptional job" he had carried out as Argyle manager, having effectively called time on his playing career to concentrate on his managerial duties. Fletcher said: "He says himself he doesn't know a lot about football, but he realised the situation we came into. It's quite a long break in the summer this year but there is planning to be done for next season, and a lot of things to be organised. So an announcement sooner rather than later would definitely be better for everyone involved."
Ollie Chenoweth will make his debut in goal for Argyle at Morecambe tomorrow. It is a chance for manager Carl Fletcher to assess the 20-year-old in a competitive match, now that survival has been assured. Chenoweth graduated from Argyle's youth ranks to sign as a professional for the 2010/11 season, but was released at the end of the campaign. He spent the first part of this season with Bideford but re-signed for the Pilgrims in December, as cover for Jake Cole and Romain Larrieu, until the end of the season. Chenoweth, who comes from St Austell, recently had a loan spell at Truro City, but he was recalled by Argyle last month, and was an unused substitute against Aldershot Town on Easter Monday when Cole was injured. "Ollie is going to play in goal," said the Pilgrims boss. "He has done well in training recently and it's a good opportunity for him to get his debut and for us to have a look at him in a first team game. It's something we wanted to do, as soon as we got safe, to try to have a look at everyone. That's what we are hoping to do, without being uncompetitive. We still want to go there and win the game." Fletcher added: "We told Jake first, because he has done well. Then we told Ollie, and he was delighted. That's the good part of the job. There are lots of times when I have had to tell players they are not going to play at the weekend. That's one thing I find really hard. It's tough. Ollie is a local lad and he was delighted when I told him. You could see the smile on his face. He didn't know what to do with himself. I think he wanted to call his mum and dad as soon as possible. I'm really pleased for him, and it's not a case of throwing him in and hoping for the best. He has deserved his chance. He comes in every day and works hard. He's still young, especially in terms of goalkeepers. We don't want him to get too nervous or anything like that, but to just enjoy the day, enjoy playing for Plymouth Argyle and show us what he can do."
Carl Fletcher has a selection dilemma surrounding midfielder Paul Wotton ahead of Argyle's away game against Morecambe tomorrow. Should Wotton pick up one more booking in the final two fixtures of the season he would face a three-match suspension, which could carry over into the new season. Fletcher said: "Wotts is on 14 bookings so if he gets one more he misses three games, and it carries on until next season. For him, the last thing he needs is to do all the pre-season and then sit out the first three games. That is something we have got to think of, and, luckily, we are in a position to do that."
Alex MacDonald made his sixth appearance for Scotland at under-21 level when starting their friendly against Italy in Edinburgh on Wednesday night. MacDonald played for 61 minutes against Italy, who ran out 4-1 winners, before being substituted.
Argyle youth side, champions of the Football League Youth Alliance South-West Conference, will receive their trophy and medals after next Saturday's final match of the season at home to Cheltenham.
Darren Purse wants to win honours with Argyle before calling time on his long, successful career. The 35-year-old centre-back is already looking forward to next season, and successful times for Argyle. He said: "The reason I have come to Plymouth is I want this club to get into League One and, hopefully, the Championship. I think a club of this size deserves to be in the Championship. It's going to take a little while to do that, but the reason I have come here is I want to enjoy the last couple of years of my career and I want to win things. I have still got the desire, and I still love training every day. That's why I'm here, because I think this club can do that over the next couple of years. I want to be a big part of that." Purse believes it is important that Argyle finish the season strongly so they retain a feel-good factor at Home Park over the summer. He said: "I think we need to keep this decent run going into the next couple of games, and not rest on our laurels. It will give us a big base to build from next season. We are going to need to strengthen every single department of the team, hopefully with the help of the owner and people who are involved with the football club. The gaffer deserves a decent chance of giving it a go because of what he has done over the last six months. The team spirit is fantastic, the gaffer has done wonders in adding that bit of experience to the squad, and all of his staff and everybody involved with the club deserves a lot of credit for how far it has come over the last six months." Purse has been particularly impressed by the attention to detail of Fletcher, who is the second youngest manager in the Football League at the age of 32. "He goes into the smallest little things, and I think that's why we are in the position we are now," said Purse. "The gaffer, Ro and Nance have put in a lot of work off the field, which people don't see, and that's why we have done so well on the field in recent months. Now it gives everybody an opportunity to build for next season."
Club president Chris Webb has urged the Argyle Fans Trust to do everything possible to take up the offer of buying up to a 20% stake in Plymouth Argyle Football Club and believes it would put the supporters at the heart of the club. The Trust has until the end of September to take up James Brent's offer, and talks are continuing between both parties about the possibility of doing so. Webb said: "What the Trust are going to have to do is ascertain and make sure that the 20 per cent offer is on the best available terms for the Argyle fans. But it would put Argyle fans at the heart of the club and give us a legitimate financial stake, and say, in the running of the club. So it's vital, in my opinion, the Trust does everything possible to take up that 20 per cent offer." Meanwhile, Warren Bowden has stepped down as chair and board member of the Trust, and Tim Chown has stepped down as vice chair. Instead, the board meetings will be led by a chair elected on a rotating basis. Webb commented: "The Trust started off as a fighting machine to help save the club. Now it's evolving into something very different. I wish it every success in doing that."
Simon Walton has had 12 months added to his contract, which now extends to June 2013. Walton agreed a four-year contract with Argyle in August 2008 when he was signed from Queen's Park Rangers. Because of form and fitness reasons, he only played 22 times in his first three seasons at Home Park, but has made more appearances than anyone else for Argyle this term, with 40 starts and five substitute appearances. Walton also took over the captaincy in September, when Carl Fletcher stepped up from playing as a midfielder to become the Pilgrims' boss. After Argyle's successful escape from relegation out of the Football League, Walton is confident about the future. He said: "This is the best springboard we could have had, after the trauma of what happened last year. It can only make us stronger as a team, and as a group of players. We can push on next season, on a level playing field, and I've got good feelings about it." Walton continued: "The club is definitely going in the right direction. Everything has been sorted off the field and there are exciting times ahead. It's the old saying, 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', and we have certainly had that this season. The mental toughness of the whole club has been frightening," he added.
Argyle's on-loan Burnley forward Alex MacDonald will be hoping to make his sixth appearance for Scotland's Under-21 side in tonight's friendly against Italy at Easter Road, Edinburgh.
Paul Wotton has compared Argyle's team spirit this season to that of the club's two recent title-winning campaigns. The proud Plymothian admitted it had been an 'absolute pleasure' to be part of the Pilgrims' squad on his return to Home Park. He said: "I always said the team spirit of the two championship-winning sides would never be repeated. I thought we were lucky and it all just clicked. But the team spirit now is right up there with it. Honestly. They are real, good honest boys who are giving their all for Plymouth Argyle. It felt like we had won the league on Saturday. It was great to be in the changing room after the game, sat back and watching all the boys celebrate. Some people say you shouldn't celebrate staying up, but I think we should. I think we should paint the town green and white. The boys and the staff deserve every single bit of credit because it's an unbelievable achievement. They were dead and buried after nine games. Since the first day I came back into the club, I haven't sniffed any defeatism or any hard-luck stories. It has been an absolute pleasure to train every day with these lads. It's a great achievement, but we must never be in this situation again because it's too good a club. I watched from afar, as a fan, at what has happened at this club and it was heartbreaking, but it's onwards and upwards now. This club is too proud, too good, too big and the fans are too special." Wotton has also been impressed by Argyle's inexperienced management team of Carl Fletcher, assisted by Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell. He explained the trio had kept the players fully focused on escaping the clutches of relegation. Wotton said: "I can't honestly say we ever felt the pressure because the gaffer, Ro and Nance have been different class. They have kept building us up. And we have worked tremendously hard on the training ground – as hard as I have ever worked. The gaffer has done a fantastic job," added Wotton. "It speaks for itself. I know he's going to come out and say it's all about the players, but it's not. You don't do it like that. It's a joint effort. The gaffer has done great, his staff have done great and the players have done great. There is a real togetherness here, and you can't fail if you are together."
The fixtures for the 2012-13 season will be announced on June 18th, with the first games on the weekend of August 18/19, a week later than normal so that the new season does not coincide with the end of the Olympic Games.
Manager Carl Fletcher has admitted the turnaround in results, in a relatively short space of time, had made him proud. He said: "With all the money issues, you would have struggled to call us a football team – even a football club. How far we have come, from September to where we are now, is really pleasing for everyone involved, and that's down to the players." Fletcher also paid tribute to the roles played by Larrieu, Nancekivell and the rest of his support staff. He said: "There have been some real low points, but we stuck together when it would have been easy to chuck the towel in and do things differently. We knew this season was about getting results. It wasn't about playing well, or how many times we could pass it, or did we look pretty on the eye. That's what we had to do, and the players did that."
James Brent has said he is "absolutely thrilled" to see Argyle escape relegation from the Football League in the club's 125th anniversary year. He said: "I think the squad and the management team have done an amazing job. It was a very young, inexperienced management team, but with massive passion and drive, and they instilled that in the team. This is the result." What Brent has seen in his six months as chairman and owner of the Pilgrims has only enhanced his opinion of the supporters. He said: "I'm starting to understand the psychology of football a bit now. But it is brilliant that a group of people who had not been very well treated by an institution have supported it the way they have. Hopefully, as we start to treat them better, they will find it's a much better experience. The aim is to have competitive winning football in a nice environment, and more people coming to join the Green Army." Brent intends to have a new grandstand built at Home Park in the near future, but his priority is to make sure there is no repeat of Argyle's struggles on the pitch. He insisted: "The team for next season will come first."
James Brent is to hold talks with Carl Fletcher about his future now that the club has ensured its Football League survival. The owner and chairman said: "I think Carl has been exceptional. We both agreed we would like to have a chat once we had finished the job for this season, so I will certainly be having a chat with him as and when he's ready to talk. I think Carl has got a huge number of skills that will make him a great manager. We will see what works for him and what works for the club." Fletcher's contract as a player, signed when the Pilgrims were a Championship club, ends this summer. but the strong indications are that Brent wants Fletcher to lead Argyle into the 2012/13 season, and beyond. Brent added: "We have got a full close season to plan ahead and to add to a very good core team. Hopefully, we will have excitement at the other end of the table next season."
Simon Walton was ruled out of Argyle's draw against Oxford United because of a suspected dislocated shoulder. The Pilgrims' captain and top goalscorer will also have to sit out the final two matches of the season after he was hurt in an accidental collision with on-loan Bournemouth striker Steve Fletcher in training last Friday. He had his left arm in a sling on Saturday and will have further scans to assess the damage this week. Walton said: "It was just one of those training ground incidents. I have had a bit of a weak shoulder in the past and I have had a few operations on it. Big Fletch came in from the back of me and I just fell awkwardly. I knew straight away something wasn't right. I haven't broken my collarbone or anything like that, but I think have dislocated it nine times now, so I know when it's done. Touch wood, it was just a straightforward dislocation and it will be alright next season." He added: "It has been a physically taxing season so it's probably a blessing in disguise this has finished my season now. I can put my feet up." Walton had to watch from the sidelines on Saturday as Argyle secured their Football League status. He said: "In the past, when I have seen people celebrating staying up, I have thought, 'It's not a great achievement finishing third bottom or whatever'. But this club has been through so much, on and off the pitch, over the past year. So to still be in this league next season, you can't explain to people from outside what it feels like. It has been an incredible effort from everybody – the players, fans and office staff. I'm so proud to be captain of this amazing club."
Plymouth Argyle Football Club is finally assured of its Football League membership next season. Argyle and their loyal faithful had to endure another tense afternoon at home to Oxford United yesterday, and keep a nervous eye on the Hereford and Macclesfield scores. But Hereford's draw and Macclesfield's defeat meant that the point against Oxford was enough. After the match manager Carl Fletcher said: "They are seventh in the league, they play some nice football and are very comfortable in possession. We knew it was going to be tough. We had a good start and could have had a couple more, but the geezer's scored a worldy from 30 yards. The lads dug through, did what we needed to do, and the results went our way today to give us a bit of breathing space. It was important that we did what we needed to do. Full credit has got to go to the players." But the manager was quick to add wider praise: "Our support has been fantastic, home and away," he said. "With all the travelling we do, they are second to none. And a mention has to go to James Brent. He put me in charge, and it would have been easy for him to change things around. That's the easy thing to do when things are going the way you want them to. But I think a lot credit has to go to him for sticking by his decision. You see it with other teams in and around us that have changed managers and it has not worked the way they would like it. There are others behind the scenes who have got us where we are that you never know about. Jason Turner, the club's General Manager, has worked so many hours, late into the evenings, long after everyone else has gone home. It has been a real team effort."
Robbie Williams, scorer of Argyle's second minute free-kick yesterday, feels that the team can enjoy the rest of the season and put on a show for the Green Army. He said: "We go to Morecombe next week and just see what we can do. We can go there and enjoy it and we've got the potential to win by three or four easily. So we'll go there without any pressure and see what happens."
Argyle secured their League Two survival with a 1-1 draw against Oxford United at Home Park, the goal scored by Robbie Williams after 2 minutes. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, Young, Wotton, Hourihane, Bhasera, Feeney, Fletcher.S. Subs – MacDonald, Chadwick (not used – Larrieu, Hemmings, Soukouna). Attendance – 8,668.
Alex Macdonald has insisted he and his team-mates are not feeling any pressure as the fight to stay in the Football League nears its end. He said: "I don't think the boys feel the pressure. They are just relishing the challenge, and it's so far so good. We are at the last stage, and if we get a win tomorrow then we have done what we set out to do. When I first came down here we were in the bottom two and a lot of people had written us off. Over the last couple of months we have really turned it around and put in some great performances, and showed everyone what we are about. This team, next season, shouldn't be looking down the way. It should be looking up the way. With the fanbase and the quality that's in the dressing room, it should, hopefully, be pushing for promotion." MacDonald has scored four goals in 13 starts and two substitute appearances for Argyle, either as a striker or on the right-side of midfield. He said: "I knew what the task was when I came down here. I knew how big the club was and I knew the manager's thoughts on what he wanted to do. I would just like to think I have played a good part in getting the club to where it is now. The job is not done yet. We are almost there. But I'm happy to have come down here and helped out." The versatility of MacDonald has been put to good use by Carl Fletcher over the past couple of months. "If the manager asked me to play in goal, I would play in goal," he said. "That's the way I am. I just want to play. "Before I came down here I was playing right-back for Burnley. It's mad how things have changed. It has been a pleasure being down here and being involved in a good team with a lot of good players and good people, and a great manager. Whichever position I play, I will try my best to do a job as well as I can." Oxford will arrive at Home Park tomorrow occupying the last of the four play-off positions, and so will be desperate to pick up points. MacDonald added: "I think the teams in the middle of the table are just looking to get their seasons over and done with. But we have still got a job to do, and Oxford have still got a job to do, so it's not going to be a typical end of season game of going through the motions. We have been concentrating on the game all week and we are going to be giving it everything to win it and ensure our Football League status."
Carl Fletcher would have no qualms about starting Steve Fletcher, should the striker be called into action. The manager is waiting on the fitness of Nick Chadwick and Juvhel Tsoumou and said: "Whether we decide to start him or put him on the pitch, he will give us 100%. If he starts, he probably wouldn't make 90 minutes but he will give it his all. He has come down here and wants do really well and make an impact on the club. Still waiting on Chaddy and Juvhel but, apart from that, all we're fit. With Fletch where he is, he hasn't played many games and considering his age and his physical capabilities, we have to be careful with him. He is at that age now where he doesn't train every day and he has got to make sure he is ready for when he is needed. We've had to be careful because if we bring him in and throw him on, we could lose him for two or three weeks."
Carl Fletcher does not believe that Argyle’s 5-1 defeat at Oxford United last October will have any influence on the outcome of the rematch tomorrow. He said: "It was a long, long time ago. It's pretty much a completely different team now. That night, I think six of our players were under 20, with two apprentices on the pitch." A win against Oxford will see any chance of relegation disappear, and Fletcher said: "We would like to have done it last weekend but it wasn't to be with the result. We are looking forward to the Oxford game, knowing what we need to do. Like I have said before, at this stage of the season it's all about the results. You always look to get a performance but I don't think anyone can put their hand on their heart and say they are playing really well at the minute."
Argyle stage their fourth annual Armed Forces Day at Home Park tomorrow and as part of the build-up, the players and coaching staff paid a trip to the HM Naval Base in Devonport. They were shown around HMS Argyll and HMS Courageous by Warrant Officer Phil Gibson and CPO Phil Mogrid. Carl Fletcher said: "The whole squad went along and it was nice for us to see how other people live and what they do for the country. It's the first time I have ever been on a submarine. It was a little bit tight, and there were not many creature comforts, but it was interesting. It was good." Alex MacDonald added: "It was an eye-opener. Being in a submarine for four, five or six months at a time, it would be really hard graft. The guys down there were brilliant. It was a fun day out and we all enjoyed it, but it was cold, though, by the sea! You have got to take your hat off to people in the armed services and give them as much support as you can." The Military Wives' Choir will lead Home Park in the signing of the national anthem before the kick-off against Oxford. Prior to that, the Plymouth Pipe and Drum Band will provide entertainment for a crowd which will include 500 invited servicemen and women from the West Country. An Argyle spokesman said: "Plymouth is a service city, steeped in history, and the club is delighted to again recognise its service personnel's achievements. We are honoured to play host to special guests Vice Admiral Sir Richard Ibbotson; the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Peter Brookshaw; and the Military Wives' Choir. This is an important date in our season. The club is proud of its strong association with the military, who play such an important part in the life of our community. We recognise their commitment and dedication, and that of their families."
Carl Fletcher has praised Kevin Hodges and his team after the Argyle under-18’s secured the Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference title on Tuesday. He said: "It is great, it's fantastic. They are a real good bunch of lads there and it is great for Hodgy to put that feather in his cap. It is fantastic for all the boys that they are working day in day out. They have been together for a year now, they work hard and it is great for them and the club really, something to proud of. The experience they have got from this season will stand them in good stead for years to come. They are already a couple of years down the line, they have come in and been involved and seen what it is like. Whether it has been going to away games and travelling with the first team or training day-in-day-out, getting to know what is expected of them, just being out there and getting a test of first team football."
Argyle have scrapped traditional season tickets for next season, instead introducing a number of membership packages, which offer more than just admission to games. Adult fans will still be able to gain admission to all home league games for £340, the same price as this year's season tickets, but will also receive additional benefits like one free room hire, invites to club events, discounts at the club shop and commercial partners, and a one month free subscription to Argyle Player. In a statement James Brent said: "We're not issuing season tickets for 2012/13, we're saying 'Join the Club'. However, together, players, staff, fans, the whole Argyle community, we came through and, at the time of writing and despite our defeat at the hands of the League Two champions-elect, our Football League destiny is firmly in our hands. Now we are preparing with confidence for a new season, a fresh start. You know as well as we do that Plymouth Argyle is, and always will be, a great football club, and we all want it to be greater still." The top individual membership package, titled Green+, is priced £425 for adults and £325 for concessions. It includes admission to all 23 home league games, a replica shirt, matchday programmes, Argyle Player for a year, six invites to club events per season, priority ticketing for home games, pre-match emails, one free room hire, 15 per cent discount in the Argyle Superstore, and 10 per cent discount at Akkeron Hotels and Saltrock Clothing. The packages go on sale on April 24th and there are also options for six-game, no-match, junior, family and business memberships. Full details of each package can be found on the clubs official website.
The Argyle youth team clinched the Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference championship with a 2-0 win at Swansea City yesterday, the goals scored by Jamie Richards and Tyler Harvey. Argyle: Walton.C, Watson, Copp, Hart, Pearce, Richards, Harper-Penman, Berry, Lecointe, Sims, Harvey. Subs - Allen, Wheatley (not used - Bentley, Summers).
Curtis Nelson believes he will be a better player in the long run for his recent spell out of the Argyle side. He said: "It's a learning curve and you have got to take it in your stride. There is no point getting upset and moaning about it. It's one of those things you have to deal with. And at a young age you can't expect too much. Yes, you have got to strive to be the best that you can but, at the end of the day, it's a learning curve. Hopefully, I will be a better player for that when I do get my chance." Nelson admitted he had been 'excited' to sign a new contract with Argyle earlier this month, and said: "I can look forward to the future. It gives me time to improve. We have got two centre-halves at the moment with a lot of experience, especially Darren Purse. I have learned so much from him, and it's just about working hard, being ready for my chance and taking it when it does come. I have done little bits with him in training and you pick things up he's doing and you try to replicate that. You have got to learn off the older, more experienced pros, even the strikers such as Fletch. All of the more experienced players give you tips because they know the game a lot better than you do. They have all been there and done it. They were young at one point so they know how it is, and how key it is for you to receive help off the older pros." Maxime Blanchard has been an ever present since making his debut against Northampton Town on November 26th. Nelson said: "Technically, he's a really good player and you have got to respect what he and Pursey are doing. Yes, you want to be in the team, but if they are playing the way they are you can't complain. You don't want to upset the relationship there and, potentially, the balance of the team. You have just got to work hard on the sidelines and do your bit. In football, you do need experienced players in key positions, leaders, as such. No disrespect to anyone who was here at the start of the season, but we have brought in some key players and they have helped. They are massive figures in the changing room as well."
Alex MacDonald has been called up by Scotland for the under-21s Challenge match with Italy on April 25th.
Carl Fletcher hopes Argyle can celebrate Football League survival in front of their own fans this weekend. Argyle face Oxford United at Home Park on Saturday and a win would end any chance of relegation. Fletcher said: "In an ideal world we would have won on Saturday and it kind of would have been done. But it's still in our hands and to play at home this weekend in front of our fans, knowing that if we win we are safe no matter what anyone else does, is a great bonus for us. We will be right up for it and looking forward to the game." Jake Cole believes it would be fitting for Argyle to make sure of escaping relegation on Saturday. He said: "We have been good at home and the fans have been quality. Hopefully, we can do what we have to do. It's close, but you can't get excited. You have just got to get it done."
Jake Cole was bitterly disappointed by the defeat against Swindon Town. He was beaten by an 85th minute shot which deflected off Darren Purse. Cole got a glove to the ball, but could not stop it rolling into the net. He said: "We have defended well all game but they have scored from one little chance we gave them. It took a slight deflection off Pursey and has gone in. It's very disappointing." Cole was convinced he would have saved the shot had it not been redirected. He added: "It was going to hit me, but deflected away from me off Pursey's inside leg. We defended really well but we didn't threaten them, I don't think. Their keeper hasn't had a thing to do. We have been getting clean sheets of late and it's a shame we didn't get another one." Argyle were without Nick Chadwick and Juvhel Tsoumou because of injuries, while Steve Fletcher was a second half substitute. Cole said: "We created a few chances at the end and just needed to be ruthless and take one of them. Big Fletch came on and was a target to hit. We didn't have that to start the game because of injuries, obviously. We are just gutted because we did defend well, and it's one little bit of bad defending and they have scored." Cole returned to action after being ruled out of the previous game, and added: "I strained my adductor so I had to miss the last match. I thought I kicked reasonably well considering I still slightly feel it."
Argyle yesterday were within six minutes of becoming only the third team this season to take points from Swindon Town at the County Ground. Carl Fletcher: "The lads are so disappointed because we set ourselves such high standards, and they meet those high standards, so, when they are not met, everyone gets down about it. You come away to the team that is top of the league, and they are there for a reason, and we knew they were going to have a lot of possession, but we felt fairly comfortable, both in the first half and in the second half. Everyone did their jobs. We were disappointed, with the goal coming late, and we felt we didn't deserve to lose. I am proud of the way the lads played, and the way they defended and did their jobs and tried to do the things we asked them to. Everybody works hard on what they need to do defensively and I have always said that, if you keep clean sheets and don't let a lot of goals in, then you are more likely to win more games than you lose. In the first half, we knew they would come out strong, and we had to weather that. We did a job in the first half but, in the second half, we were a bit better in possession, which was pleasing. I have got players on the pitch who get stronger as the game goes on, like Young and Baz and people like that. I was disappointed to lose a goal so late in the game when we were fairly comfortable. We'll mourn it over the weekend and we'll go again on Monday."
Argyle looked as though they would keep yet another clean sheet yesterday, before conceding with just six minutes left on the clock. Maxime Blanchard said: "We felt really strong; we felt confident. In the first half, they had a couple of chances which were a bit dangerous, but, in the second half, we were really solid. But when you defend like that for 90 minutes, some situations will happen. As a defender, you go into every game to win and to keep a clean sheet. We know we can win against anybody. We have never doubted that. We are disappointed with the result. We are not buzzing about only conceding one goal against Swindon." Blanchard has been part of a settled back four whose form has been a huge boost in the fight for survival. When asked what he thought had led to the improvement, he said: "A lot of work on the training ground. A good understanding with the full-backs. And it's not just the back four, the midfielders work hard for us. The whole team is working hard. There is a great working atmosphere on the pitch, which is good. We just need to keep the ball a bit more." Argyle go into next Saturday's game at home to Oxford United knowing that a win will ensure their safety, and Blanchard added: "There is still work to be done, but hopefully it will be done at home. That would be brilliant, in front of our fans. We have been doing alright at home, so hopefully we will do so against Oxford. We can put it in our pocket and think about next year."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Swindon Town. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, Young, Wotton, Walton, Bhasera, Feeney, MacDonald. Subs – Fletcher.S, Hemmings, Hourihane (not used – Larrieu, Daley). Attendance – 10,422.
Simon Walton has vowed to continue taking penalties for Argyle. The team captain missed the first spot kick of his career in the draw at Hereford United last week, but said: "I will still take the next one, 100 per cent. It was disappointing to miss the one against Hereford, especially with how the game went as well. But there is no question in my mind or anybody else's in the dressing room that if we get a penalty I will be the one to take it. I still fancy myself one-on-one. It was the first one in 12, I think, that I have missed. I will be taking the next one, and I believe that I will score it." In addition to being Argyle's top scorer this season, Walton has also made more appearances than anyone else. He said: "I've said all along that I just want to play football and luckily this year I've had the chance to do that I am not going to complain as long as that continues. It is a lot of games obviously after last year with what happened with my injury. I was lucky get back and sort of play the last few games last season and, touch wood, I carried on and stayed fit playing this year. I am enjoying it but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel it now, especially after Monday's game."
Carl Fletcher has insisted he has not thought about his future as manager of Argyle beyond the end of this season. His contract as a player ends this summer and it is unclear what the future holds for him beyond then. Fletcher said: "All I'm focusing on is Swindon on Saturday, and that's it really. That's as far as I look forward. I have got my little niece's birthday on Sunday but after that it's kind of nothing. So it's Swindon that's the main priority at the minute and everything else can wait." Fletcher said he had not spoken to James Brent about his future beyond the end of the season, and added: "The focus is now, not in a couple of months. It's today, not next week or the week after. You have to live now. There is no point thinking about the future because if you don't do things right in this moment then the future will not be what you want it to be. All the lads are fully focused on what they need to do, and what we need to do as a club and as a team. I'm very lucky and privileged to have the players I have got. If people drop off, or standards aren't met, then I have got characters that make sure things are done the right way."
Argyle will be trying to put Swindon's promotion party on hold tomorrow, and possibly ensure their own Football League survival. Carl Fletcher is excited about the challenge his side will encounter. He said: "Swindon are top of the league and they are there on merit so we know it's going to be a tough game. But it should be a great atmosphere there, and it's kind of a local derby I suppose. It's something we are all looking forward to. Everyone is expecting Swindon to win, but we are going there to try to get a good result. We will prepare right to give ourselves the best opportunity to get a result. All we are focused on is Plymouth Argyle and getting the results we need. Everything else is irrelevant. For what we need to do, Swindon are our next opponents and we will be trying to get a good result." Swindon have won 17 and lost only one of their 21 home league games, outscoring opponents by 43 goals to eight. Fletcher said: "Swindon have got a good squad and they do things the right way. It will be a tough test for us. At this stage of the season, you are not top of the league by fluke. They have got a good side and we will have to make sure we are at our best, or near it, to have a good chance of getting a result." Meanwhile, Fletcher has not disclosed whether Jake Cole will be fit to face Swindon after missing the win against Aldershot Town because of a groin injury.
Simon Walton has warned 'we are not safe yet' despite Argyle being eight points clear of the relegation positions with four games to go. He said: "We are not safe until it's mathematically impossible for other teams to catch us. Football does funny things to you. We know that. So until the gap is big enough that nobody can catch us, then we are not safe, but we have put ourselves in a brilliant position. We have said all along that we had to take care of ourselves, and we have done that. We have put ourselves in with a real fighting chance of doing what a lot of people thought we wouldn't achieve." Walton is proud to be the captain of such a tight-knit group of players, and of the way they have responded to the pressure of being in a relegation battle. Walton said: "The spirit we have got, not just among the players but the whole club, you don't find it anywhere else. It's hard to put into words what we have in that dressing room, what the lads have been through together and how we pull each other out of the mire at times. We have fought admirably all season and we have got four games left to carry it on. Our job is not done yet. We want to finish on a high. Our main aim was to stay in this league and, with what we have done in the last few weeks, we have put ourselves in a great position to do that. We have got to keep that up. If we slacken off, football has a habit of biting you on the bum. We won't let that happen. We have had a good talk and made sure everyone is still focused. We will keep that going right until the very end." Argyle take on table-topping Swindon tomorrow, but that does not hold any fears for Walton. "It will be a great game to play in," he added. "With the fight and desire in the squad, we are confident we can match anybody on our day."
Darren Purse believes a strong finish to this campaign could be a springboard to success for Argyle next season. He said: "We are on a decent run, but we can't afford to rest on our laurels and think it's done and dusted. We need to be bang at it again on Saturday. We don't want to let the season peter out. If we are going to stay up and we do pick up the results we need over the next couple of weeks, let's finish the season on a high. Who knows where that confidence might take us going into next season? Winning games is contagious and everybody wants to do that. With the group of lads we have got, we have got the feelgood factor around the place. Out of all the places I have been throughout my career, this is one of the best dressing rooms I have known." Argyle were bottom of the table, five points from safety, when Purse signed for Argyle at the end of November. He said: "Since I have been here, whenever we have lost a game we have always bounced back. Maybe the results didn't go for us sometimes but the performance was always there. After Rotherham, I thought we would do the same again. If you look at the run of fixtures we have had, they were all big, winnable games for us. The lads have really rolled up their sleeves up and produced the performances to back up the results we have got. There was a lot of pressure on it, not just from ourselves. Nobody wants to come down to Plymouth next season. Everybody else wants us to go down, but we have dragged ourselves out of it and it could be a big turning point in the history of Plymouth Argyle." Argyle's improved defensive record of late has been one of the keys to their upturn in fortunes. Purse said: "We work really hard as a back four on the training pitch and it has come to fruition. We have had seven clean sheets in 13 games, and conceded only six goals. I don't think there will be too many clubs in the country with a defensive record like that. It's not just the defence that does it, but obviously we get the credit for doing that, and you have got to look at Ro as well." Romain Larrieu deputised for the injured Jake Cole against Aldershot, and Purse added: "The two games he has played in, away at Accrington Stanley and against Aldershot, he has been superb. It's great to have people like that to step into the fray when you need them." Argyle's winning goal against Aldershot was scored by Alex MacDonald, another player to impress Purse. MacDonald has scored four times in 14 appearances for the club, often playing on the right-side of midfield. Purse said: "He's a centre-forward but he has filled in on the right-side for us. Sometimes you don't know what you are going to get from loan players but, to be fair to Macca, he works really hard."
Argyle moved a step closer to Football League survival after beating Aldershot Town yesterday. There is now an eight-point gap between Argyle and the relegation zone, as several of their rivals lost. Carl Fletcher said: "I think we knew going into the game that things could go really well for us, and thankfully it has. We have just got to take care of ourselves. We can't worry about everything else. I'm delighted with the clean sheet, I'm delighted with the three points and I'm so proud of all the lads in there because they worked their socks off." Argyle have picked up 12 points from their last six matches and Fletcher added: "I think it's two defeats in 13. It's a vital time in the season and we needed to get results. Touch wood, we are going in the right direction." Argyle's winning goal was scored by Alex MacDonald with a deflected shot in the 14th minute. Aldershot had long spells of pressure after that, but they could not come up with an equaliser. Fletcher said: "We didn't play but I don't care. We won the game, we got a clean sheet and the lads defended for their lives, and had to do all the horrible stuff. If anyone questions their commitment or desire for this football club then they would have me to answer to. It's about having the desire just to go that extra couple of yards to close people down, make them play backwards and get in their faces so they haven't got time to pick a pass. It's all those little things that makes a team successful. It was tough for us, especially in the second half, with the wind against us. We couldn't get out, and we couldn't get any good quality possession. But the lads dug in and stuck their tin hats on. It was a big game for us. Aldershot are a really decent side. Dean Holdsworth has got them playing some good football. It's a massive win for us." Fletcher revealed Jake Cole had suffered his injury in the draw at Hereford United on Friday. It was only yesterday morning, though, that he was definitely ruled out. Fletcher said: "He has got a little strain in his groin. We wanted to leave it until the last minute, to see if he could have got through it with a little bit of discomfort, but it wasn't to be." Argyle now face table-topping Swindon Town on Saturday. Fletcher said: "We know where we want to be, and we are getting there. We have got a tough game against Swindon on Saturday. We will make sure we rest up in the next couple of days and get ready to go again. Sometimes, games against teams at the top of the league kind of take care of themselves."
Carl Fletcher paid tribute to Romain Larrieu, who returned to the Argyle line-up in yesterday's win over Aldershot. Larrieu was recalled after Jake Cole injured his groin at Hereford on Friday and pulled off an outstanding save in the first half from Peter Vincenti to keep Argyle a goal up, and continued, along with his back four, to repel the Aldershot attack. "We dusted him off and took the cobwebs out of him and threw him in the goal to have a little bit of an outing." said Fletcher. "It was a good save. He's a big goalie and he's a big presence. He fills the goal up, which is great for us. Especially in the second half with the wind against us, it was tough and we couldn't get any good quality possession. It's great for the defenders and the goalie to get a clean sheet. It's great for the whole team. You keep clean sheets you're going to win games. We got a bit of luck with the goal, but I don't care."
Argyle beat Aldershot Town 1-0 at Home Park, the goal scored by Alex MacDonald after 14 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, Wotton, Walton, Bhasera, Feeney, Chadwick, MacDonald. Subs – Tsoumou, Fletcher.S, Hourihane (not used – Chenoweth, Hemmings). Attendance - 8,677.
Warren Feeney has credited Carl Fletcher for working wonders as manager of Argyle. He said: "I think what the gaffer has done has been phenomenal. I have always been a big believer that it's easier to get a team promoted than keeping someone up. It's his first opportunity, really, and I think he has more than grabbed it with both hands. From where the club was at the start of the season, what the gaffer has done is incredible. It's so hard to keep a team up because you've got to get confidence and you have got to get the right players. You have got to look at whether players want to come down here. The gaffer's contract is up at the end of the season but I think it's going to take care of itself. He's a young manager and I think he has done more than enough with the staff around him. So, fingers crossed, they will see that. The fans seem to like what he has done and the players like him. He has got a good togetherness here and the boys have really taken to what he wants. With five games to go, we've just got to get over that line." Feeney has taken a philosophical view to his recent stint on the bench. He said: "I think I was unfortunate to get injured at the wrong time. It kept me out for a while and the boys came in and did well. But I'm a big believer you can't have enough strikers. At the end of the day, it's about keeping us up. It's not a personal thing. Whoever the gaffer feels is going to do it, that's what you've got to believe in," he added. "Yes, you want to play, but the most important thing is to keep Plymouth up. We want to be in this league next season. We've got one month left and we have just got to work hard as we can. We will be all right." Feeney was involved in the goal which gave Argyle a 30th-minute lead at Hereford on Friday. He put centre-back Stefan Stam under pressure as the pair chased after a long clearance. Stam then lifted the ball over goalkeeper David Cornell, who had come off his line, and it bounced into the empty net. Feeney added: "To be fair, I was getting a bit of a joy, getting over the top of them. I always try to chase stuff down and make them defend. If I had been a bit closer, I might have claimed it! The point of it was to force him into a mistake, and he did that. It was great to see it go in the net, but the most important thing for me was to get a game. I was buzzing when the gaffer gave me the shout. Hopefully, I can sustain that now until the end of the season."
Home Park is expecting a bumper crowd for Easter Monday's game against Aldershot - perhaps a five-figure gate - thanks in part to a special Bank Holiday ticket offer for the game that could see Carl Fletcher's men stretch an unbeaten run to six matches. Under 25s can get in for just £5 and it's just £1 for under 18s. Season-ticket holders can also benefit by being able to bring up to two friends for just £10 each. The offer is available at the Box Office until noon on Monday, although it is closed today, Easter Sunday. The manager said: "We know it's tough and there's ups and downs but we'll look forward to the game on Monday and take nothing for granted. We'll try and put in a good performance and get a result. We'll make sure we prepare right and make sure that they're okay more mentally than physically. At this stage of the season, the training is getting in the way of the games and that's been the case for us all this week. We've been dying to get the game going and now we can't wait until Monday."
Chairman James Brent, manager Carl Fletcher and director of football John Deehan were amongst the much larger than usual crowd at Haye Road yesterday see to the Argyle youth team beat Exeter City 4-1 in the Football League Youth Alliance - South West Conference, with winger Jed Harper-Penman and striker Matt Lecointe each scoring two. The result keeps the Pilgrims in contention for the title and knocks their arch-rivals out of the race. Argyle: C.Walton, Watson, Copp, Hart, Bentley, Richards, Harper-Penman, Berry, Lecointe, Sims, Harvey. Subs - Summers, Elcock, Allen (not used - Rooney, Lane).
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher was disappointed with his side's draw against Hereford yesterday. He said: "We knew what we needed to do, and we did it well in the first half. The second half wasn't so great, but you are never going to play a whole 90 minutes of brilliant football. I'm disappointed we didn't win the game because we felt we did enough today." He continued: "I think the lads can be pleased the way they conducted themselves in a high pressure situation. "It shows how far we have come when we are really disappointed we didn't win the game." Argyle were without on-loan Preston North End striker Juvhel Tsoumou because of an injury he had suffered in training three days earlier. The manager said: "He got injured on Tuesday, which was down to our training pitch really. The quality of that is the main reason why. That's disappointing from our point of view, but Feeno came in and did well."
Steve Fletcher has only played for about an hour in an Argyle shirt, in two thirty minute stints, but they have been crucial shifts in helping his temporary club earn vital points. "I'm just disappointed because we know we should have had the game buried by half time but these things happen in football," said Steve, "We've just got to get on with it. Every point gained is huge in our position. Yes we should have been two or three up by half time, but it didn't happen. But we dug in, got a point, and it's another point closer to survival. That's the most important thing at the end of the day. I think that second half we weren't on it as much, if I'm honest, and we got punished. But we dug in and we could have won it at the end." 'Big Fletch' has had precious few minutes of playing time this season at Bournemouth, so is relishing the opportunity for more game time. He realised that his huge frame and aerial prowess can assist his new side at both ends of the park, and while he'd prefer to be helping to convert or create chances, he understands the ultimate goal is points, and therefore survival. "From a personal point of view I really enjoyed it," he said. "I felt a lot better and won a lot more headers. It's another thirty minutes under my belt. That's two in a week. I feel fitter, feel better, more comfortable. When you haven't played for so long it's like coming back for pre-season, you need a couple of games to get back into it. Carl just said to me 'how long have you got in you?' and I said 'Whenever you're ready'. I went on, won the majority of my headers. In some ways I actually enjoyed the game, personally, more today than I did on Saturday against Bradford, because I was in my own box defending in that one, playing centre half for the majority! But I'm not bothered where I play as long as Plymouth get a result. But I just went to win some headers and hoped something would fall for Feeno. Unfortunately nothing really fell his way." Fletcher will be part of the Argyle squad that will host Aldershot on Monday in another crunch game in the battle to maintain league status, and is under no illusions about the task ahead. "It's a big game," he said, "Aldershot are a decent team. Good passers, players with the ability to pass and play. We've got to take our game to them. We've got to give everything we have. The crowd will be huge. As a team we need them right behind us. It's imperative we start well. We don't want them to get a foothold in the game. We can't let them dictate the game. It's a big ask, but it's the same for everyone. Everyone's played two games in three days. The Easter period is always a big ask, but it brings out the best in players."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Hereford Utd, the goal put into his own net by a Hereford defender. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, MacDonald, Walton, Wotton, Hemmings, Feeney, Chadwick. Subs – S.Fletcher, Hourihane, Young (not used – Larrieu, Bhasera). Attendance - 4,597.
Bond Timber has agreed to be the club's official shirt sponsor and main sponsor for next season – come what may. Chris Bond, director of WH Bond and Sons, said he was confident the Pilgrims' management team of Carl Fletcher and Romain Larrieu would win their fight to stay in League Two and welcomed the new stability at Home Park since James Brent became the new owner of the club. Bond said: "We will back the club with the new deal, whatever the outcome of the season. The football club is very important to the local area, in terms of its economy and exposure. We feel it needs our support. We are very pleased to be working with a club which has a structured backing now James (Brent) has taken over, and we look forward to the deserved success of the club and the new owner. Finally, and most importantly, we would like to thank the incredibly loyal fans for doing what they do best – supporting the team through such turbulent times." The new agreement is structured along similar lines, with a guaranteed annual retainer plus bonuses dependent upon success in the league and cups. Richard Herrick of Argyle's commercial department, said: "We are delighted Chris and Jon Bond have again agreed to support Argyle and its future. The sponsorship has clearly raised the profile of their business. The renewal is tangible evidence of how successful the sponsorship has been for both parties. We have made great strides over the last few months regarding the number and extent of our commercial sponsorships at the club. This agreement is tangible evidence of the club's confidence in the future." Argyle expect to announce more sponsorship deals before the start of next season.
Carl Fletcher has seen a surge in confidence from Juvhel Tsoumou, who scored his first goal for Argyle to secure a win over Bradford City last Saturday. Tsoumou scored the decisive goal in only the fourth minute, with a header from a free-kick taken by Paul Wotton. Fletcher said: "Wotts put in a good ball and Juvhel was free in the box but he still had to finish it. It was a good header. I was pleased for him because he worked hard up front on his own at Northampton, and in the last couple of games you can see he has grown in confidence." Tsoumou has the physical presence to play as a traditional target man but Fletcher pointed out there was more to him than that. "He's still young, but he's big and strong and he's quick," he said. "I'm pleased he scored because that's what strikers like to do and it breeds confidence. We have got five strikers, and we have got Matty and Simsy as well. They all want to play and they all want to score goals. It's great for me to have that competition for places, and they all bring something different, which is what I'm pleased with." Fletcher reported he had no injury concerns ahead of the trip to Hereford tomorrow. He added: "Joe Lennox has been ill this week, but other than that we are all okay at the minute."
Results, not performances, are all that matter for Carl Fletcher as Argyle's fight for survival continues. His team face a potentially season-defining game at bottom side Hereford United tomorrow and Fletcher will not be taking anything for granted, even though Hereford have lost their last four games. He said: "Every team in the league has the potential to do really well. And we know that with Hereford. When they came down here they did play well and we know it's going to be a really tough game. We will have to be switched on to everything we need to do. I think at this stage of the season, if you went down all the teams in the league there wouldn't be too many that are playing well, but it's all about the results at the minute. It's great if you can play well and get a result. But results are what matters and we were testament to that last Saturday, when we didn't play brilliant but we got the result that mattered. We will be looking to try to play well and get a result tomorrow, but, at the end of the day, we just want to go there and do well and do ourselves justice, and, hopefully, get something out of the game." A win against Hereford would see the two teams separated by eight points, with just five games to go. Fletcher said: "Yes, it's important, but it's important to win any game. From our point of view, to win and get another three points would be great. We don't look at it from anyone else's point of view. We want the three points and I'm sure Hereford are the same. Like I say, it will be a tough game but one we are looking forward to. It's important to make a good start against any team. It doesn't matter whether it's Man United or whoever. It's no different. You are never going to be able to guess how a game is going to go, and it's about dealing with situations as the game goes on. Last week, we went 1-0 up after four minutes and I thought we did pretty well defending that lead for the next 90-odd minutes. You try to do as best you can for as long as you can in the game. When there are times you are not playing so well, it's important to stick in and grind it out so you are ready for the times when you are playing well and you can capitalise on those moments."
Kevin Nancekivell has hailed Argyle's signing of three of their most talented young players on new contracts. He said: "It's very rewarding to see young lads like Luke and Jared come through like this. I think in Luke's case he has been at the club since he was nine. Having worked with them for a lot of years, it's terrific to see where they are now. They are good kids and their attitude in training, all three of them, is fantastic every day, and they can all play. They are all talented young boys and are the future of the club. They are people we want in and around the place." Jared Sims will step up to the professional ranks next season after serving a two-year apprenticeship and Nancekivell said: "I don't want to put too much pressure on the lad because there is too much hype in football as it is, but Jared is a very technical player. His awareness is of a high standard and he's just a very clever footballer. We have got high hopes for his future." Luke Young is a contender for Argyle's young player-of-the-year award and Nancekivell added: "I have known Luke for a long, long time and I'm delighted for him. He's a smashing kid. His attributes include his work-rate and attitude, and he's another fantastic player. He has taken a little while maybe to mature, from a physical point of view, but from an early age you could see that he could play. With his attitude as well, you have got all the ingredients that, hopefully, will see him as a long-term player for Argyle." Curtis Nelson was the young player-of-the-year last season and was also capped by England at under-18 level. But he has not featured much for Argyle recently, partly due to a knee injury and also because of the form of Maxime Blanchard and Darren Purse. Nancekivell said: "I think Nelse exceeded expectations last year in a traumatic and horrendous season for everybody at the club. To play those number of games was a fantastic achievement. This season, he has been able to watch the likes of Darren Purse and Maxie play and learn from them, and I think he has enjoyed that experience as much as sometimes playing. He will be a better player for having taken a seat out of the game rather than being in the forefront all the time, I'm sure. We have got a lot of talented boys and Carl, Ro and myself are determined they are going to play a big part in the future."
Carl Fletcher is pleased with the news that Kevin Hodges is to head the Argyle youth system. "It's great for the club," he said. "I've worked closely with Hodgey since we took over. In fact I speak to him every day. Youth is important to this football club. We're not going to go out and spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on players because one, we don't have the money, and two, unless you are getting really good players, it doesn't have the same effect as the youth players coming through like we have at the minute. Nance has good ties with the youth team, so we know everything that's going on and all the players coming through. It's something we wanted to be aware of because we want to know who's coming through and what we want for them when they do come through. But I'm pleased for Hodgey; he works hard and I know he'll do a great job."
Argyle lost 1-0 to Torquay United in the friendly at Home Park yesterday. Argyle included eight players with first team experience in the starting line-up and there was also a trial appearance for left-back Conor O'Sullivan, a second-year apprentice from Southampton. Argyle: Walton.C, Bignot, Nelson, Richards, O'Sullivan, Daley, Young, Soukouna, Harper-Penman, Sims, Feeney. Subs – Hart, Pearce, Berry.J, Copp, Harvey, Lecointe.
Luke Young has admitted he has exceeded his expectations in his first season as a professional at Argyle. He said: "I feel like I have worked quite hard this year and to get another contract is a great bonus for me. I couldn't ask for anything more at the minute." Carl Fletcher has been very complimentary about Young's development this season and has high hopes for him. Young said: "It's always nice when the gaffer says nice things about you. It gives you a bit of a boost. I have just got to kick on now from what I have done this year and, hopefully, strive for bigger and better things. I have exceeded my expectations to play that many games at a young age in the first team. It gives me a big boost now to build on next year." Young has been with Argyle since he signed centre of excellence forms in May 2002, aged nine. He added: "It's what I have wanted ever since I was a little kid. When I first joined Argyle at that young age it was always an ambition of mine to play for the first team. I think we will stay up this year and, hopefully, build from there." Argyle's win over Bradford City saw them move four points clear of the relegation zone, with a game at bottom-of-the-table Hereford United coming up on Friday. Young said: "We can't take anything for granted going into Friday. We know it's going to be a tough battle because they are fighting for their lives as much as we are. But there is a positive vibe around the place so we will be going there with confidence and, hopefully, we will get the three points."
Luke Young, Curtis Nelson and Jared Sims have all signed new contracts with Argyle, the details of which have yet to be released. Carl Fletcher was delighted to secure the futures of three of his most talented young players and said: "I'm really pleased. They're young lads and it is important for the club to get them signed up. It's another chance for them to get out there and an opportunity for them to give professional football a chance." Fletcher has used all three in his first-team this season and is enthusiastic about their futures in the game. He added: "Since I've been here I've learnt what a great player Luke Young is and this season he's really found his feet. He's a credit to have as a player and will be a real top, top player for this football club. He's home grown and its the direction we want to go in, having top home grown players at the club. He's done a lot of stuff on his own back, some fitness and speed work, and it shows now when he plays. If he didn't sign here I'd have taken him home with me so no one else could! Nelse is still young. I think because he played a lot last season, people think he's older than he is but he's still only 19. He's got that potential there and now it's all about harnessing it in the right direction. When we first took over, Jared was training with us full time and he never looked out of place. I think if we had been in a different situation this season then he would have played in a few more games. When he has been training or playing for the first-team and he's gone back to the youth team, he's not shown off about it and there's no change in his attitude. That is really pleasing from our point of view because it was something we looked for."
Kevin Hodges is to head up Argyle's youth operation as the club prepares to restructure in order to comply with new Football League guidelines. Hodges takes over from Gordon Bennett, who has resigned after six years in the job. His appointment comes as Argyle implement the requirements of the new Elite Player Performance Plan. The EPPP, from August 1st this year, will see clubs reorganise into a four-tier academy system and comply with requirements on such things as player-contact, staffing levels and budgets. Argyle aim to initially become a level three academy, with Hodges also fulfilling the role of Academy Manager. In addition, the club will be doubling their full-time youth staff from two to four. Chief Executive Martin Baker said: "Kevin has been at Home Park, man and boy, for most of his life and knows the club from top to bottom. Argyle is in his DNA. That knowledge and experience, combined with Kevin's energy and enthusiasm, makes him the ideal person to succeed Gordon. He has a tough act to follow. Gordon has contributed much to the club, putting his own unique stamp on the youth set-up and bringing through a string of players, like Dan Gosling, Joe Mason, Curtis Nelson, Luke Young, Matt Lecointe and Jared Sims. At the age of 66, he felt that the demands of the role were becoming too much for him, and that early morning starts to travel to away games were increasingly taxing. We thank him for his contribution to the Green cause and wish him all the very best for the future." Other recent appointments to the youth department are Phil Stokes as Technical Development Coach working with age groups 5-11, as well as fulfilling one of the full-time posts under EPPP regulations, and Tom Hunter being made Senior Physiotherapist for the youth teams. Former Argyle striker Ian Stonebridge, who currently coaches Argyle's Under-11s, will be the youth development lead coach for 12-16 year olds take and take up the position of Lead Sports Scientist, in which he graduates from Marjon this summer. Baker added: "These appointments underline the commitment to young talent that runs through the club from top to bottom. We have put together an excellent team, one that will provide Westcountry youngsters with the best possible introduction to and education in the game." Carl Fletcher said: "I'd like to thank Gordon for all efforts and wish him the very best for the future. He has been a great servant for the club. We have a close working relationship with the youth department and look forward to that continuing. We have some good young players here and need to bring them through for the benefit of the football club."
Carl Fletcher admitted Argyle did not make it easy for themselves against Bradford City on Saturday. He said: “It was a good game and both sides played their part in it. It was a big game for us in the grand scheme of things and I’m delighted we have come away with a good win. We had some good chances in the game. Willo hit the post and the ball hit the goalie on the way back out, and it could have gone in. It could have been a lot easier for all of us in the last five or 10 minutes than it was, but we will take 1-0 and another clean sheet. I’m pleased with that.” Argyle are unbeaten in their last four games, and have picked up eight points, improving their chances of escaping relegation. Fletcher said: “I’m really delighted with the lads. They are a great bunch and I’m proud of them because there is so much pressure on us at the minute. It is tough but they go out there and you can see they want to do well. It isn’t going to work every time, but they get on with it and try to do it the right way by passing the ball. We could have had a couple more goals, but the desire and hunger to keep another clean sheet was brilliant. You could see the players putting their head in where it hurts and defending in numbers. It’s vital to get that first touch on the ball, whether it is a header or a clearance.” One example of Argyle’s defending came in the 63rd minute when Simon Walton came to their rescue. James Hanson seemed certain to score with a header from a corner, but Walton was guarding the left post and headed the ball away. Fletcher said: “Walts did his job, and he did it well. He’s kind of a magnet to the ball in that near post space. He knows that if the ball goes over his head, he gets back on the line. That’s what he did and he cleared it away. That’s what we expect of everyone. You don’t want to take away too much from players when they are out there. You want them to have that freedom to express themselves, but we like to make sure we are on the ball with the little jobs they need to do. It’s those little things that will get you results, like we have seen.” Steve Fletcher made his debut for Argyle as a 66th minute substitute for Nick Chadwick, and Carl Fletcher added: “That’s the first time Fletch has played for a long time. We knew he was fit this week, but he didn’t start because he hasn’t had the games to have lasted.”
Argyle have opened up a four-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone after beating Bradford City on Saturday. Robbie Williams described it as 'a massive win' for the team, and said: "It puts us on the same points as Bradford now. It's probably play-off form at the minute. We are just taking it a game at a time and the next one is away to Hereford. It was a bottom of the table clash. It wasn't going to be pretty, and it wasn't pretty. We had to fight, and we could have had a couple of goals and they could have had a couple of goals. But, at the end of the day, if you look in the paper tomorrow morning it will say 1-0 to Plymouth." Juvhel Tsoumou's winning goal was his first for Argyle in nine appearances since signing from Preston on loan. Williams said: "It was a great ball by Wotto. His set pieces have been good for us, and Juvhel pulled off at the back stick and it was a terrific header. It set us up, and we could have got another one or two after that to kill the game off." One of those chances came in the 10th minute when Williams took a 25-yard free-kick which hit the left post. The ball then ricocheted off the goalkeeper and out for a corner. Williams said: "As soon as I hit it I thought it was in, to be honest. On another day it might have gone in. But I'm not bothered about that. All I'm bothered about is the three points for the boys." Bradford piled on the pressure in the second half, but could not make a breakthrough. Williams added: "They brought a couple of their best players on, in Kyel Reid and Hanson up front and they caused problems. They had a couple of chances and Jake has pulled a couple of decent saves off. We had to scramble and we had to put our heads there and our bodies there, but we did it and, at the end of the day, it's a 1-0 win and three points."
After the win over Bradford City Carl Fletcher reserved some praise for two of his on-loan forwards. Juvhel Tsoumou scored the only goal of the game after just three minutes whilst Steve Fletcher was frequently required to help out his new defensive team-mates. Carl Fletcher said: "Wottsy put in a good ball, and Juvhel is free in the box, but he's still got to finish it. It's a good header. Last week he played up front on his own and he did well. You can see he's grown in confidence, and I'm pleased for him. That's the first time Fletch has played for a long time. We knew he was fit this week, but he hasn't the games to start, he wouldn't have lasted. We knew when we got him that he would be massive for us if we need a goal and massive for us when defending a lead. He was getting his headers, and not just winning them but clearing them."
Robbie Williams thinks that the Argyle dressing-room is a much happier place now than it once was. "We've got some experienced players now," he said. "The lads that have come in have made it easier for you to get on with your job, instead of helping the younger ones along at the same time. Maxi has got games, Pursey has got games, Walts, Wotto, Chadders up top, and now Big Fletch. They've all played games, now you can just focus on your job. With six clean sheets in the last 11 games, Williams thinks that the club are seeing the benefits of having a stable back four. "We've got a good understanding now," he said. "There's a good understanding in the whole squad, but, as a back four, we've been doing well. You've always got a chance if you can keep a clean sheet. Durrell, Pursey, Maxi and myself are playing well and, touch wood, it will carry on." Williams was also quick to point out the performances of Jake Cole, who made two saves of particular note during the final minutes of the game yesterday. "Jake's come on leaps and bounds," he added. "It was a dodgy start to the season for him, well for all of us really. We had a lot of young kids in the side but now he's massive for us and he's been one of our best players."
The Argyle youth team beat Cheltenham Town 3-0 yesterday, the goals scored by Matt Lecointe (2) and Tyler Harvey. Argyle: Walton.C, Watson, Copp, Hart, Pearce, Richards, Harper-Penman, Berry, Lecointe, Sims, Harvey. Subs – Elcock, Bentley, Sakyi (not used – Summers).
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