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.
Kari Arnason is set to sign a new two-and-a-half year contract with Argyle despite interest from rival Championship clubs. His agent, Allan Bak Jensen, insisted Arnason wanted to stay with Argyle. He said: "We are talking to Plymouth at the moment and trying to get to a solution. Kari has been playing really well lately, and there has been a lot of people noticing that, both in England and in Scandinavia, where he used to play. But I think if we can find a good solution with Plymouth he will stay there. He's very happy at the club. Plymouth got him on good conditions when he went there in the summer so now he's looking to get rewarded. Kari's really enjoying it. When we got him a free transfer from his Danish club his first priority was to go to England. He's a perfect player for England because he's a good header of the ball, he's a hard, physical player and he can shout. So many people have been in contact in the last month because his contract is expiring in the summer. But Plymouth have given us an offer and we are talking about it." Paul Mariner has been hugely impressed by Arnason and wants to see him sign a long-term contract. Mariner said: "We are really close with Arnie. I hope we can sort something out as soon as possible. He's on the top of his game. I think it's there for all to see the partnership he has struck up with Reda and it's something we have got to try to secure. I know Arnie was brought into the club as a midfield player, and that's certainly still not out of the picture as far as we are concerned. But he has been doing very well at the heart of the defence. He's very accomplished – as you saw the other day – and very calm under pressure."
Argyle are braced for a battle to retain the services of Jamie Mackie during the January transfer window after Paul Mariner revealed that other Championship clubs have shown interest in him. Mariner said: "Jamie is completely up-to-date with everything that is going on. We have some very good players in this team and Jamie Mackie is one of them. There is bound to be interest when you have an upturn in form and players start to do very well. Whether they are for sale or not is debatable. Every single person in the squad has a price. Every single player in the world has a price. Do we want to keep the players? Of course we do. We want to get up the league. In football, you don't know who is going to be here today or tomorrow. Nobody can predict what is going to happen in this league, what is going to happen with players or what is going to happen with managers." When asked whether he thought Mackie would still be an Argyle player at the end of January, Mariner replied: "I sincerely hope that he is, but I'm a realist."
Argyle are in talks about renewing loan deals for Darcy Blake, David Gray and Shane Lowry. Paul Mariner said: "It is looking possible with Darcy and we are in discussions with David. Whatever happens with Shane, I think he will be away with Australia in January. There are a couple of things we can do but we have some good lads here, and they are keen to show what they can do. We couldn't do anything prior to the window, so we had a squad of players to work with. The word was to stick together. We addressed a couple of things and adjusted things. Up to now, it's going ok. We have been rather unlucky in some of our defeats - 1-0 losses and goals conceded late, and mental errors committed. The players love coming to work and they really want to get the club out of this mess. We are having a meeting with the staff to discuss what we need and what we don't need. It will be a very interesting couple of days for everybody. It's busy but that's the best way to be. You don't want to be bone idle at this time of the year."
Paul Mariner has confirmed that Krisztian Timar could be selected for the FA Cup third round game against Newcastle United on Saturday. Timar has not been included in the starting line-up since the game against Barnsley on November 28th. Mariner said: "We have had some talks with him about what he needs to do to get in the team. The nice thing from my point of view is that we have a squad of players who are extremely focused on the job in hand, and Krisztian is one of them. He cares about the club. We had a discussion just prior to the Cardiff game about why he wasn't on the bench. It's our policy to make sure the players are informed of what our thinking is. It's just a professional way of doing it."
Reda Johnson is brimming with confidence as he prepares to represent Benin at the Africa Cup of Nations next month. "It is good for me," he said. "It is my first African Nations Cup and I will enjoy it. I am only 21 years of age, and it is very good for me now that I am playing for Plymouth and we have won two games. I will go there with a lot of confidence, and I hope I can go forward in the competition." Benin have been drawn in Group C with Egypt, Mozambique and Nigeria and the top two nations will qualify for the quarter-finals. Johnson said: "They are very hard teams, but we played Ghana, Mali and Sudan in the qualifiers and we finished second to Ghana, which was very good. I like the big games. The manager has told me to come and give my all and, if I play, that is good. If I go on the bench, I will wait to play."
Paul Mariner believes the decision to allow Marcel Seip to join Sheffield United on loan will be best for all parties, and that a clause was agreed which will prevent Seip playing against Argyle. He said: "We just feel that the way we are going at the present moment, it was probably best for this to happen. When players go away on loan and play against their own club, it's always difficult, for all concerned. It's good that the player does well for his present club but, as he was on loan at Blackpool, it really did ruffle a lot of feathers when he scored. We just want to keep everything nice and even. Marcel is delighted with the move. Sheffield United are a very good team, a very strong team and he's going to a great staff with Kevin Blackwell and Gary Speed, so it's best for both of us."
Argyle have confirmed that Kyle Letheren, Ryan Brett and Ben Gerring have all left the club. Paul Mariner has decided against renewing Letheren's short-term deal at Home Park. And youngsters Brett and Gerring, who signed six-month deals in the summer, have been allowed to leave. A statement from the club said: "Everyone at the club would like to thank the trio for their contribution to the club and wish them great success in the future."
Marcel Seip is set to sign for Sheffield United on loan until the end of the season when the transfer window opens. As part of the deal, Seip will not be able to play against Argyle when the teams meet on February 27th. It is not clear whether United will be paying all of Seip’s wages while he is with them, or whether Argyle will continue to finance part of his salary. Paul Mariner said: “Blackpool showed some interest, but Sheffield United showed more interest.”
Alan Judge and his Argyle team-mates will be hosting Newcastle United in the third round of the FA Cup at Home Park on Saturday, and are looking forward to the challenge. However, league survival remains his and the team's priority. "Of, course, we're happy to be playing Newcastle, but the league is the most important thing for us this year," he said. "Hopefully, we'll just enjoy Saturday and you never know what could happen because I don't think they will fancy coming here."
Luke Summerfield is hoping to complete a memorable seven days by helping Argyle beat Newcastle United in the FA Cup at the weekend. "Newcastle at home is a good game to look forward to," he said. "Hopefully, we can carry on our good form as the win would be brilliant for us. I've been very lucky to come straight back into the team, while the two wins have been brilliant for me. They have been games I've really enjoyed playing in and I've put everything into them. And the wins have been extra-special – so it's been good. I've come back determined to enjoy my football. That's all I want to do as a footballer and play for the team and get a win. I want to get on the ball, to be creative by keeping play moving and make things happen for the front players. But I feel myself that I've done well in both games and enjoyed the matches." Summerfield played 15 times for Leyton Orient during his loan spell, all of which were starts. "The loan spell did me a world of good," he added. "I'd been desperate to get out on loan and play games, week in, week out, wherever I am. I got the games under my belt, which is all I wanted to do." Summerfield has sensed a new-found confidence within the Argyle squad since his return. "It shows you the character of the lads that after the result at Cardiff, when we went to 2-1, there was still a belief that we'd go on and win the game," he said. "Getting that goal back calmed us down and we showed we were enjoying it by scoring a fourth." Summerfield is hopeful the new management regime will produce similar results in the new year. He said: "I've only been back here a week and the two games and the time have just flown by. Hopefully, we can carry on into the new year with the run we're on which will take us up the league." Summerfield believes the Cardiff and Reading results were a statement of intent by the Argyle squad. "Keeping a clean sheet was massive for us and coming away with a win was a big turning point for us," he said. "And we have gone on from there and scored four goals and we'll want to create more goals in every game. The Christmas period is always tough and so to come away with six points is brilliant for the boys and so we'll take a lot of confidence into the new year. And it was an extra special win for us having scored four goals."
Ben Gerring has been released by Argyle. He was given a six-month contract in June, which has not been extended and he now hopes to have a chance to join home-town club Torquay United. "It was a surprise to be told I was being released at Argyle. As I saw it, I was doing OK," he said. "There's a lot going on at the club at the moment, but I stuck to it and played for the reserves every week before there was a change and Paul Mariner took over from the manager. There were then two reserve team games where I didn't play, so I went to see the new head coach five or six days ago. We had a brief chat, about two or three minutes, which is when I was told I was being released. Since then. I've had a call from Sweden, where Stuart Gibson is now working, plus I'm also due to have talks with Martyn Rogers. Paul Buckle has also hinted that he'd like to see me play, so I'll keep all my options open. Ideally, I'd like to join another League club. If not, I could be off to Sweden."
Paul Mariner hailed a 'total team performance' after Argyle's victory over Reading yesterday. He said: "I think you could make out a case for many of the players to be man-of-the-match. It was a total team performance. You can look at each player individually and say they made a massive contribution. That includes the lads who started the game for us, and the ones who came off the bench. Everybody played some high-level stuff." Mariner insisted the back-to-back wins against Cardiff and Reading were no more than the players deserved. He said: "The players at this club have been magnificent in every single aspect. It's not only their professionalism but their thirst for knowledge and putting it into practice. They are a joy to work with." Argyle's display against Reading did not come as a surprise to Mariner. He said: "I think it has been a combination of the work we have done on the training ground and, obviously, the win the other day. We played against a very tough Cardiff side, who have got some very good players, and that win was a confidence boost for us. The most pleasing aspect about this is that, 48 hours later, we have put in probably an even better performance against a side at the wrong end of the table. It was somewhat of a six-pointer, but every game for us is a six-pointer. But to go out and play at that level, especially in front of your own fans, is very pleasing." Argyle are now only two points adrift of a position of safety in the Championship at the midway point of the season. Mariner added: "I think we are still in the bottom three on goal difference, but the key is we put the points on board and keep dragging people closer to us. Hopefully, we can start climbing away." Argyle have played a 4-4-2 formation in the last two matches, after using a 4-3-1-2 system in Mariner's first two games as boss. He said: "The type of people we are, on the staff side, we are very flexible. We have got a group of players who are very intelligent and we can throw different systems at them and they are happy to adjust. That's good for a team, and good for everybody, they can switch at the drop of a hat."
Alan Judge believes Argyle's new management team of Paul Mariner and John Carver have helped to instil a belief into the team as they aim to pull themselves clear of the relegation zone. Judge, who got two of the goals yesterday, said: "If I'm honest, I think we were due a win and I think I was due a goal as well. As I said in the match programme, someone was due a hammering from us and they were the ones who got it. We took a lot of confidence from the Cardiff game. What were they, fourth in the league at the time? To beat them at their place, we got a whole load of confidence coming into today's game. Also, the gaffer has put a lot of confidence into us, he believes in every one of us, so it makes it easier. The gaffer and John are unbelievable – they are so hands on, which is great. I think that is what we needed, and it certainly seems to be working at the moment." Judge admits he is getting himself back into top form after a sluggish opening to his second spell at Home Park. "I think I was a bit of a slow starter this year," he said. "I think Paul Sturrock was right to pull me out when he did because I wasn't performing to my ability. It made me realise that nobody is guaranteed to play every week, and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed. Now, I think I am in a good run of form, so I'm happy enough." As well as improving confidence within the dressing room, Judge was quick to point out the efforts to which Mariner and Carver are going in a bid to generate more points. "We've watched a lot on the other teams, so we know where the opposition are strong and where they are weak," said Judge. "That's something the gaffer has brought in. We knew the back two for Reading were their weak areas, so we just put the ball in the channels for Mackie, and not many people are going to keep up with him." Judge says more of the same will be needed against Newcastle. He said: "Obviously, we are happy to play a game against them, but the League is our main importance. Hopefully, we will enjoy Saturday and you never know what might happen against them. I don't think they will fancy coming here."
Steve MacLean is poised to make a loan move to Hearts for the rest of the season. Csaba Laszlo, the manager of Hearts, admitted there was a ‘great possibility’ of a deal being done when the transfer window opened. MacLean trained with the Hearts squad for the first time yesterday and Laszlo said: "Steven is from Edinburgh, he is a Hearts supporter who played for Rangers, and he's also a very good goalscorer. He can play the No 10 role or he can play just behind the striker. He can help us for six months." Paul Mariner has confirmed he expects MacLean to sign on loan for Hearts.
Argyle beat Reading 4-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Alan Judge after 13 and 63 minutes, Kari Arnason (59) and Ashley Barnes (84). Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Folly, Barnes (not used – Letheren, Noone, Blake, Gow, Barker). Attendance - 12,091
Argyle won for the first time under Paul Mariner at Cardiff City on Boxing Day and Mariner described the victory as a Christmas present for everyone connected with the club. He said: "Obviously, I'm absolutely thrilled, but I'm thrilled for the club. Every single person who works at the club has been extremely supportive of what we have been doing as a team. So the win is a Christmas present for them. I thought the away support today was quite remarkable, and let's hope we can get some people in on Monday to, hopefully, try to keep this going." Mariner was especially pleased for the players, who he has repeatedly praised over recent weeks for the resilience they have shown. He said: "These boys came to work every day and they want to get it right and get the club out of this position. Every single game in this division is a tough game, but the boys were ready to go today. So we knew we were going to get a resilient performance, and to get three points is wonderful for us." Gary Sawyer's first goal of the season came courtesy of a deflection off Cardiff defender Anthony Gerrard. Mariner said: "Sometimes you need a little bit of luck. Gary was brave enough to take the shot on and hit it very, very well. We have conceded many goals this season from outside the box with deflections, so maybe it's just balancing up for us. If the deflection took it by the goalkeeper, I'm going to apologise for that. You have just got to be brave enough to take the shot on." With the return of David Gray to Manchester United, Argyle had to find a new right-back so Karl Duguid moved from midfield to play there. Mariner said: "He did a fantastic job that day, and again today. But I thought the whole team were quite magnificent. To keep a clean sheet against such a high-powered attack as Cardiff have got, is not easy. For me, Bothroyd and Chopra are a handful for anybody." Duguid's place in midfield was taken by Luke Summerfield, who returned from a loan spell at Leyton Orient last week. Mariner said: "It wasn't a gamble. He's fit and we have had some very good reports on him. He trained well with the lads this week and you have got to give people their chance. Even though it is a difficult situation we are in, he was ready to respond. I thought he got better as the game went on actually. He was sliding balls down the channel for Jamie to run onto and milk the clock a little bit. Whenever a striker, or a team, is going through a barren spell you have just got to keep doing the basics and hope something bounces your way. And it happened today."
Carl Fletcher hopes that Argyle’s win at Cardiff City can give the team the confidence to pick up another victory over Reading today. "We got a bit of luck, but you need that bit of luck," he said. "It was pleasing to get a clean- sheet, and nicking a goal was fantastic. We rode our luck a little bit at times, but maybe we deserved that bit of luck, with all the hard work and effort we've been putting in. Once we got the goal, we saw it out, and getting the clean-sheet was something we can be proud of. Hopefully it will be a starting point for our season, but we're not getting carried away. We've got a tough game on Monday and, if we don't put in a performance against Reading, today's result will mean nothing. We've got to start putting runs together, and we've got to focus on Monday's game. It will be a tough game for us, but we'll take a little bit of confidence from today's game, and we've got to work hard and put in the effort we put in today to try to get a result against Reading." Argyle used a 4-4-2 system against Cardiff and Fletcher added: "We were quite solid. That's a positive we can take from the game, and now we need to recover well and to prepare for the game against Reading." Saturday's win was a massive boost for Paul Mariner and his assistant John Carver. "They're both very passionate guys, and everyone in the team wants to do well," Fletcher said. "We want to do well for the team, we don't want to be relegated. Our livelihoods are at stake, and we're trying our nuts off. Hopefully, if we keep on putting in the hard work, it will turn around for us. We're trying to do things the right way and, if we keep doing that, I'm sure we'll pick up more points."
Paul Mariner believes there are exciting times around the corner for Argyle, after the clubs five-year plan was unveiled. He said: "Obviously, it's a broad outline, but I think it's a wonderful thing Sir Roy and the board have put together. For any supporter, and any player for that matter, it seems to me this is a great place to be." Argyle are still in a precarious position, despite the win against Cardiff, and Gardner touched on that in a statement which outlined the framework of the plan. He said: "The board's short-term focus is to support Paul Mariner with the actions necessary to improve our league position. However, in addition, the board believes it is fundamentally important to lay down the foundations for long-term success." Gardner conceded much change was needed for Argyle to be capable of securing promotion to the Premier League within five years. "This can only be an aspiration, but the probability of success can be increased with an appropriate investment in facilities, coaching and the team," he said. "Without better facilities, it will remain very challenging to recruit and support the players we will need." The make-up of Argyle's holding company consists of the club's seven directors, led by Gardner. That set up could change in the near future, according to the five year-plan. One action point is: "Restructure and recapitalise the PAFC holding group in order to put the club onto a sound financial footing." Gardner added: "More details will be announced in due course as appropriate. However, for now, the number one priority is to support the improvement in the team's current league position."
Argyle can call upon Reda Johnson for this afternoon's game against Reading after an agreement was reached with Benin to delay his departure for the African Nations Cup.
Argyle's win against Cardiff was their first in six matches and they will hope to follow it up with another victory when they take on Reading at Home Park today. Paul Mariner said: "We have got a very tough game again against a team who don't want to be down in the position they are at. It's going to be a six-pointer. Is today going to be a turning point for us? Obviously, I sincerely hope so. But, in this league, who knows? I don't think anybody can predict what's going to happen."
Paul Mariner was thrilled as Argyle claimed a shock 1-0 win at Cardiff yesterday. “We worked very hard for that result but the signs have been there for a couple of weeks,” he said. “The players want to get this club out of the mess we are in and we knew we would get a resilient performance from them but three points is a wonderful result. The away support was remarkable and I felt we created a few chances in a very tight game but we needed that little bit of luck. To keep a clean sheet against such a high powered attacking force as Cardiff have is a magnificent effort. We haven’t scored for a long time but you have to go back to the basics and that is what we have done today.”
Paul Mariner praised Rory Fallon after the forward led his team-mates to a 1-0 victory at Cardiff. "I think he is actually playing classic centre-forward football," said Mariner. "If you cast your mind back towards the ways that centre-halves and centre-forwards used to go at it, it was a joy to see and everybody shook hands afterwards. Rory's as honest as the day is long. There's no way is this kid a dirty player. He's a very honest player. His team and his mates are struggling and he wanted to do his level-best to keep the team moving and I thought his game was terrific today." Fallon was the centre of attention from the Cardiff defence, and was on the end of some verbal abuse and gamesmanship that some felt might see him withdrawn at half-time. "It never crossed my mind," said Mariner. "Purely and simply because of the player. He knew what he was doing. There were a couple of words exchanged, but that's fine - if he's not upsetting the opposition, I want to know why not. I spoke to him at half-time, and said we needed him on the field. He's a very intelligent person and a very intelligent footballer, and I felt he played his role beautifully today. I thought the officials did a great job. We asked the referee to be strong and I thought he was strong."
Gary Sawyer, dropped for the first time this season last week, bounced back with a goal which ensured Argyle avoided an unwanted club-record sixth game in a row without scoring. His shot was slightly deflected but Paul Mariner felt the goal was just reward for Sawyer’s enterprise. "Gary was brave enough to take the shot on," he said. "He hit it very, very well. We've conceded many goals this season from outside the box with deflections; maybe it's just balancing up for us. You have got to be brave enough to take the shot on. You have got to hit the target; If you hit the target, you have got a chance. Whenever a striker or a team is going through a barren spell, you have just got to do the basics and hope that something's going to bounce your way. It happened today."
Argyle won 1-0 at Cardiff City, the goal scored by Gary Sawyer after 84 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Folly (not used – Letheren, Noone, Barnes, Sheridan, Gow, Barker). Attendance - 24,010
Argyle will get into the Premier League within five years by investing in facilities and coaching, the board announced yesterday. Revealing the details of the clubs five-year plan, Roy Gardner said: "The Board’s short-term focus is to support Paul Mariner with the actions necessary to improve our league position. However, in addition, the Board believes that it is fundamentally important to lay down the foundations for long-term success. The board has agreed the framework for a new Five-year Plan – from January 2010-December 2014 – which we are pleased to announce today. The World Cup Host City win for Plymouth is great news for the city and region, as well as the club. It will provide an excellent context for the implementation of the five years plan." The plan was discussed at the board meeting on Tuesday and the first objective is to 'achieve Premier League Football within five years. Gardner said: "This can only be an aspiration, but the probability of success can be increased with an appropriate investment in facilities and coaching and the team. Without better facilities, it will remain very challenging to recruit and support the players we will need." The board aims to get planning permission for a new stadium in 2010, provide a new durable pitch for the 2010-11 season, demolish the Mayflower grandstand in June 2011 and build Stage 1 for completion in time for 2012-13 season. Stages two and three of the rebuild will be complete by 2014-15. The board plans to build a new training facility to support the team and youth programme in Devon or Cornwall broadly within 20 minutes of Home Park. The target is to get the new training pitches available by the end of 2010. The supporting training facilities will be developed in stages over two years. The plan says Argyle will secure and develop playing staff to improve and consolidate the team's Championship position and provide a base to achieve Premier League football in five years, consolidate on a core squad of 23 professionals and 4 development players and secure extended contracts for key players who are committed to the club. The board will support the football management team with recruitment of specific players to progressively strengthen the squad over the next few years. On youth development, the plan is to build on the established and successful youth programme. At the same time Argyle will expand the medical and physiotherapy activities and increase the links to the local universities’ medical and sports science activities. The board aims to expand the scouting network nationally and internationally over the next 24 months. The plans second objective is to create a Sports and Leisure ‘destination’ within Central Park, working with partners. Plymouth City Council’s Central Park Action Plan envisaged the creation of a leisure and sporting complex. The PAFC Holding Company will take the lead to create the facilities to deliver this objective, including creating a stadium that can be used for other sports. The third objective is to build the fanbase in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall and, in addition, an international fan base, initially focussed on Japan and the USA. Gardner said: "While it is understood that results matter in driving attendances at games and general support, there is a need to better understand what makes a fan become committed to a team and what Argyle needs to do to draw a larger percentage of fans from Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall. We have an immediate catchment area of more than 250,000 and a total of 1.7 million people in Devon and Cornwall, yet average gates in recent year’s average 12,000 and current attendance are less than 10,000. We will work with partners to survey attitudes of the general public and of businesses across the region." The board plans a complete study of attitudes to Argyle, improved communication with fans, enhanced markleting in Japan and New England and it will launch Argyle TV online next year. The fourth objective is to provide the business infrastructure and operational team to underpin the achievement of the business objectives. Gardner said: "To achieve our business objectives, we need to operate as a modern global business, with the appropriate tools, facilities, business and capital structure." The board will restructure and recapitalise the PAFC Holding group in order to put the club on to a sound financial footing, provide a modern technology-based business infrastructure to maximise productivity of the business team, operate the business aspects from appropriate modern facilities.
David McNamee is set to return to the first team when Argyle play Cardiff City on Boxing Day. David Gray has returned to Manchester United after his loan spell and Darcy Blake is ineligible to play against his parent club and Paul Mariner said: "Within the group, we have people that have played at right-back before. But I'm going to talk to David McNamee about whether or not he's comfortable playing in an extremely important game for us. David trained on Tuesday, when we worked on 11 versus 11, and he played in that position. We will listen to the medical people, and also to David." With Gray and Shane Lowry no longer available Mariner will also add Chris Barker to the squad. He said: "Barks is close but it is difficult for me say because the all-weather surface we have been training on is pretty dangerous. We have a squad of about 21 we are working with and it just depends on availability and fitness. It's really that simple. The thing with Barks is his experience, his brain, his voice, so he will be in consideration because we've not got a great deal of defensive cover. It is needs-must and you never know what is round the corner after the Cardiff game. The Reading game is only 48 hours later, so, depending on injury and suspension, he comes right back into consideration."
Marcel Seip is expected to return to Argyle next week, when his loan spell with Blackpool ends and Paul Mariner has not ruled out including him in his first team plans. Mariner said: "To be honest, I haven't seen him play, and I know he has been injured recently. I'm not trying to dodge the subject, but I have been focusing completely on what we have available to us at the present moment. But everybody is in our thoughts because they have got to be. We don't want to cut our nose off to spite our face."
There was a training session for the Argyle squad this morning, to be followed by another one at 9am tomorrow. That early start is to allow the players to spend some time with their families to celebrate Christmas. The squad will then set off at 6pm for the trip to Cardiff, where they will stay in a hotel overnight. Paul Mariner said: "We are going to come in a little earlier tomorrow so the boys can be with their families. We will train at 9am and then leave at six o'clock. We will get up there, have something to eat and rest up. It's an early kick-off so we have got to be up bright as buttons on Boxing Day." Mariner has insisted there is still a good spirit among the players, despite recent results. He said: "If the morale was poor then, obviously, I would be very concerned, but morale is incredibly high. John Carver and I commented on it again at training on Tuesday morning. I'm not going to say the boys are flying, but they are getting close to flying. We have got some good leaders and the staff are a very positive group. I think that trickles down to the players. What you will find with the staff is that, win or lose, we are on an even keel. We don't go crazy. And I think the players are enjoying what they are doing in training. They can see they are close. I think they genuinely believe they can get up this league. We are fully aware the front two for Cardiff are probably close to being the best in the league. Burke, on the right side of midfield, is in an extremely rich vein of form. They are very well organised, and from the keeper all the way up to the front they have got good players who know the system. That's why they are where they are."
Bradley Wright-Phillips could be back in training next week. Paul Mariner said: "Bradley may be joining in training next week. That will be a fantastic boost for the club. I can't really put a date on when he will be back playing. Of course, we want him back – we wanted him back yesterday. But we can't afford to push him too much. We need him to be fit for the duration, not just for a couple of games here and there." Jim Paterson continues to be sidelined by a hamstring injury and an early return does not look likely. Mariner said: "Jim doesn't look as though he's going to be close for quite some time."
Chris Barker is at last available to re-join the Argyle squad after recovering from his calf muscle injury. He said: "I'm watching every game, and it has been disappointing for me because I can't help the boys. Hopefully, from Saturday onwards, I can help the boys – if I'm included on the team-sheet. We just need to push on, and do it very quickly." Barker believes that Argyle can take some comfort from the fact that they have not suffered any severe beatings this term. "Four of the last five games have been 1-0 defeats," he said. "We lost in injury time at Leicester, and then Sheffield United scored against us just after Carl Fletcher had hit the post, but that's what happens in Championship football. If you don't take your chances, the other side will take theirs. Hopefully, on Saturday, we can do what other teams have been doing to us," Barker added. "We're six points adrift now, and we can't afford to wait any longer. We have to move up the table very quickly." Barker also believes that the club have the talent within their squad to beat the drop. "There are decent players here," he said. "There's Jamie Mackie up front, who is being linked with other teams. We need to keep him in January, and hopefully we will. We just need to get a scrappy 1-0 win in the 89th minute, like other teams have gained against us. That would be a start, and hopefully we can get at least four points from the weekend." When he was asked how he would react if he was told to start either of the next two matches, Barker replied: "If I was asked to play on Saturday, I'd last as long as I can. I'm not sure if I could do 90 minutes, but it would be great if I could have at least 60 minutes. I'll do what I'm asked to do, whether it's to start or just to come off the bench. I'm training day in, day out, now, and I played for almost an hour in a reserve game last week. The problem with reserve games is that there aren't enough of them, but I can't hang around. That's the way it has to be, and we have no choice. I have to get on with it. I have to train more and more, and get my fitness back up." Barker was unprepared for the length of his absence from the first-team squad. "When we first had a scan done, we said I'd be out for eight weeks at the very most," he said. "But, after about five and a half weeks, it went again. It was just one of things. We still don't know why it first happened in the warm-up before the friendly against Hearts, but I've just had to get on with it. It's the worst injury I've ever had in my career, but that's not too bad in an 11-year career." Barker has endured a difficult year. His mother, Pauline, passed away in March after a two-year battle against cancer. "I has been a hard year, with my mum," he said. "I just want to get rid of 2009, and hopefully 2010 will be a better year for me and the club. I just want to get out there playing, and help the boys as much as I can. We have to stay together as a team, and we need the fans to get behind us and hopefully we can celebrate a good win on Saturday." Cardiff are fourth in the Championship, and will be testing opponents for Argyle on Boxing Day. "I'm sure a lot of people will be betting on Cardiff to win the game," said Barker. "We have to make sure they don't. If we get at least a point there and then a win on Monday, hopefully that will move us up the table and we can carry on from there."
Argyle have confirmed that Reda Johnson will be required to play for Benin at the African Nations Cup next month. All the countries taking part in the event have the right to insist on their players' presence at training camps from this Sunday, but Argyle hope to hang on to Johnson for at least an extra two days. Paul Mariner said: "We're trying to talk to Benin in the nicest possible way. Unfortunately, we're going to lose him, but it would be a very big problem if we lost him for the Reading game."
Argyle are looking to extend the contract of Kari Arnason beyond the end of this season. Paul Mariner said: "We're attending to it now. Since Paul Sturrock put him back to playing central defence, we have worked with him on the coaching side. He has responded and he really likes that position. He can still obviously play in midfield but he has done a fantastic job back there."
Luke Summerfield has returned from his loan spell at Leyton Orient and could be thrust straight back into action for Argyle. Paul Mariner said: "I was pleased to welcome Luke Summerfield back to the club today, which was very good. Luke's been doing very well, so we're absolutely open to everything. We have had very good reports and he's done very well."
Shane Lowry is waiting to find out whether he will be returning to Argyle in the New Year for another loan spell. Lowry is set to have talks with Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who will make the decision and also insisted he had not been put off a return, despite an altercation with a couple of supporters on Saturday. The fans were frustrated with the team's performance and Lowry became involved in an argument with them. Karl Duguid had to intervene and lead Lowry away from the dispute. Lowry said: "It hasn't changed my mind about anything. I was a bit disappointed about it at the time, but these things happen. Everyone else at the club has been very supportive of me." Lowry is unsure what the future holds for him, and whether it involves another loan spell with the club. "I don't have a clue, to be honest," he said. "I don't think it's any secret Plymouth would like to extend my loan. I have had a word with the gaffer and he wants me to stay. I put my views across to him as well but, at the end of the day, it's between Plymouth and Villa. It's not down to me. I don't make these decisions. But I would like to go out on loan again and play more games. Villa are fourth in the Premier League at the moment so I have got to be realistic. I'm not going to be playing for them. Getting games with Plymouth has done me the world of good." Regular first team football will also improve his chances of making the Australia squad for the World Cup next summer. "Obviously, you do have it in the back of your mind there is a World Cup coming up," he said. "I think there is a chance for me to make it, but you just never know what can happen over the next six months with injuries and form. The manager of Australia has said players need to be playing first team football every week to be considered." Lowry's contract with Villa ends next summer, and it was recently reported in one newspaper that he was set to be offered a new deal. "I read that myself, and a few people have said that to me as well, but I haven't heard anything," said Lowry. "I will speak to the manager and, hopefully, take things forward from there."
The short-term contracts of Kyle Letheren, Ryan Brett and Ben Gerring will come to an end on December 31st and Paul Mariner must decide whether to offer them new deals. Argyle's loan deals for Darcy Blake and Cillian Sheridan are also close to ending.
Reda Johnson is a relative newcomer to the Argyle side, having made only his third starting appearance for the club team against Coventry. Paul Mariner said: "When you look at Reda's record, he has not played that many games. I don't think he has played 20 games in his career. It's quite remarkable. He's a work in progress, but he obviously has some tremendous weapons, and the language barrier is not much of a problem. Romain helps us out with that."
Paul Mariner had labelled the game against Coventry as a 'must-win match', but despite the defeat, insisted he would persevere with the 4-3-1-2 formation he has adopted in the last two matches. He said: "I think it was clear for all to see that we are still trying to get the system down. You can criticise it for lack of width, but if you stay with the system the width will come. We changed it after 60 minutes and tried to get some width on. We had our best spell and then they go up the field and score. But that's football. I can't praise the players highly enough for their attitude and commitment. I thought their goalkeeper was extremely busy and their central defenders were extremely busy. We just got done when we were having a few moments on top." Freddie Eastwood secured all three points for Coventry when he headed home a right-wing cross from David Bell. Mariner said: "It was sort of a training ground goal. You set things up, with no pressure, on the training ground and that's what happens. That's what it looked like to me. The players are absolutely down in the dumps, but there is no reason for them to be if they keep building on the performances in the second half at Preston and today. I'm just proud to be a part of this club, and I'm proud to be working with these players." It has not been the start Mariner would have hoped for since taking over control of the first team on December 10th. He said: "You have got to try to put as much information into the players as you possibly can – when you are chasing the game, when you are trying to hold the lead – all sorts of various scenarios. I would like to think the players are enjoying their learning process. Obviously, we want to try to get some results and points on the board, but the group are highly committed." Mariner made two changes to the team, recalling David Gray and Shane Lowry, who were both playing their last matches of three-month loan spells. Mariner admitted he had opted to play Lowry instead of Gary Sawyer because of his height. "Coventry are very useful on set plays and Lowry has played left-back before," he said.
Kari Arnason admitted it was 'the same old story' for Argyle after their latest defeat. He said: "I thought we deserved more, but that's life. It's the same old story. We aren't giving away too many chances, and they really only had one, but he put it away. That's the difference." Argyle have now played twice since Paul Mariner assumed control of the first team and in both matches have played a 4-3-1-2 formation. Arnason said: "We are trying to play more football, instead of just booting it down the pitch. I think the second half was positive. We created chances, although most of them were on set pieces. We definitely should have scored." Eastwood's goal came when he soared above Arnason to head home a cross from David Bell. Arnason said: "It was a good, deep run from the winger. I was on the back foot when I was jumping, and he just jumped on my back and scored." Arnason twice came close to grabbing an equaliser. First, he had a header from Craig Noone's corner cleared off the line in the 85th minute. Arnason said: "The guy was on the post and it went up and over the bar." Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, Arnason's header from a Noone free-kick was parried away by Coventry ‘keeper Keiren Westwood. Arnason said: "It was an unbelievable save. That one should have been a goal." Argyle have now lost 14 of their 21 Championship fixtures this season and Arnason admitted that was tough to come to terms with. He said: "We are trying to keep our heads up, but it's hard. It feels like we are in a situation where it's always the same. I think we created more chances than they did today, but it didn't fall our way." Mariner appointed John Carver as his assistant coach last Thursday, a move which was welcomed by Arnason. He said: "I think it's an improvement. He's a new face and I think it's a good thing." Arnason wants the fans to continue getting behind the team, despite the dreadful run of results. He said: "Like us, they have to keep going. They have shown us fantastic support so far. We all have to push together towards the same goal. I understand the fans are frustrated, but they have to realise we are doing our best. We are probably more frustrated than they are. They are part of the team so they have to stay positive and keep cheering for us, although it's hard, obviously."
Paul Mariner believes the new system he has adopted will benefit his players, despite the defeat by Coventry. "It was clear for all to see that we're still trying to get the system down," he said. "You can criticise it for the lack of width but, if you stay with the system, the width will come; but we changed it after 60 minutes to try and get some width on. We had our best spell and they went up the field and score, but that's football. You have got to try and put as much information into the players as you possibly can, when you're chasing a game or trying to hold a league - all sorts of scenarios. I can't praise the players highly enough for their attitude and their commitment. Coventry's goalkeeper was extremely busy and their defenders were extremely busy. I was talking about it with the Coventry staff and it was a sort of training ground goal. You set things up with no pressure on the training ground and that's what happens. I'm very positive. The players have been fantastic and they're absolutely down in the dumps. There's no reason for them to be down in the dumps because we can keep building on the performances from the second-half at Preston, and today. I'm proud to part of the club and proud to be working with these players. We have only been here ten days and I would like to think the players are enjoying the learning process. Obviously we want to get some results and points on the board, but the group are highly committed." A lack of goals is an obvious concern, after five games without scoring. "Balls are coming into the box and we're having clean headers, but we're not converting," said Mariner. "The law of averages say that we may convert one sooner or later. Coventry will say that they defended well. It's all little tiny bits, it always is." Another disappointment was the lowest ever crowd at Home Park for a Championship game. Mariner insisted it is down to the players to lift the fans and get people back through the gates. "We said in the dressing room before the game that we have got to raise supporters' spirits and, as you saw, when we started to do it, the fans got behind us," he said. "All you can do is work with the players and see what happens. The players are totally committed to the cause and the illustration of 15 points going into Christmas, you would think they weren't, but they are. We're having loads of fun. When you cross the white line, there is pressure and we're professionals that need to bear the pressure." Mariner's final word was praise for Reda Johnson, who shone in his full home debut. "If you look at Reda's record, he hasn't played many games," said Mariner. "He is a work in progress and he has some tremendous weapons. The language barrier is not much of a problem because Ro helps us out with that. I don't think he has played more than 20 games in his career."
Argyle lost 1-0 to Coventry City at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Arnason, Johnson, Lowry, Duguid, Fletcher, Clark, Judge, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Noone, Gow (not used – Letheren, Barnes, Sawyer, Folly, Mason). Attendance - 8,347
Shane Lowry hopes to end his loan spell with Argyle by getting a recall to the starting line-up against Coventry City today, after missing the defeat at Preston because of a one-match ban. He said: "Sometimes this happens, where you get a suspension and someone comes in and takes your place and does really well. I thought Reda Johnson was probably one of the best players on the pitch against Preston. He used the ball really well and he defended really well. I can't really complain if he stays in the team. It was my fault I got sent-off and now all I can do is wait for the gaffer's decision." Lowry was booked early in the second half against Swansea for a foul on striker Gorka Pintado and the pair clashed again in stoppage time at the end of the match. Lowry said: "It was probably the right decision. It was a bit stupid on my part but, hopefully, I will learn from that. The first one was a booking, but I thought the striker was putting his hands in my face throughout the game. With the combination of that and losing as well, I kind of lost my head for about 10 seconds and got sent off. I don't like losing, and the frustration of losing another game built up in me and I kind of just lashed out." Argyle are 23rd in the table going into todays game. Lowry said: "We need a massive three points at home, and I think we can get them if we work hard." Lowry admitted it had been a 'rollercoaster ride' during his loan spell with Argyle. He said: "I have experienced pretty much everything since I have been here, over the past 10 or 12 games. Obviously, I have been sent-off and we have experienced losing, drawing and winning. It has been up and down, but that is what I came out on loan for – to get this experience under my belt. Hopefully, it will stand me in good stead for the future. This has been my first time out on loan, playing competitive football in the Championship. I think I have done alright. I want to get some more games in the future, but I don't know where that will be. I have really enjoyed my time here, and I'm just a bit disappointed we are still in that bottom three." Lowry has also experienced a change of leadership during his time with the club, and added: "Obviously, something like that does affect the team a little bit, but I think it has gone quite well. Paul Mariner is really enthusiastic and John Carver has come in this week and put his point across about what he wants to do in training over the next few weeks. I think it can only be a good thing. It shakes it up a bit and sometimes turns the results around. Hopefully, that will happen here."
Luke Summerfield, whose three-month loan spell at Leyton Orient ends tomorrow, is determined to force his way back into the Argyle reckoning. "I've really enjoyed the three months at Orient," he said. "I came here to play games and I've been given that opportunity. Now I want to go back to Plymouth, see what's about there and hopefully get in the team straight away."
Paul Mariner has described the appointment of John Carver as his assistant as a 'massive move forward' for Argyle and believes his arrival will give the club a boost as they battle to avoid relegation. "First and foremost, we want to get up the table," he said. "The feeling within the dressing room is that we can do this. We have got some very resilient players who have had some serious kicks in the teeth. They have played very well, but just maybe one slight error has cost them. We are trying to put that right on the training ground, and I think it's massive move forward to get a man like John Carver involved with the club. It's absolutely fantastic for me, and we are going to be great working together." Carver will have a considerable input into the work the players do on the training ground on a daily basis. Mariner said: "He will bring everything that I want. He's a fantastic coach and knows the game inside out. We are going to be doing the sessions together. Sometimes I will do it, sometimes John will do it. But the way I see it working is that John will be doing most of the sessions on the training ground because he's absolutely fantastic and why wouldn't I want to use him in that way?" Carver has already done extensive homework on the squad of players at Home Park. He said: "I remember Rory Fallon, who started his career off at Barnsley. We tried to sign him when we were at Leeds. I haven't had personal dealings with any of the players, but I have done my homework and I'm up-to-date on everybody." Geoff Crudgington was the only remaining member of Argyle's backroom staff before Carver's appointment as the No 2 to Mariner. Mariner said: "We are very thin on the ground when it comes to the staff. "It has been a trying week and we have been super busy, but it's all learning. I wouldn't say it hasn't been fun. It has been great fun. The enthusiasm on the training ground on Thursday morning to John's voice was just fantastic."
A company owned by Argyle directors Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan has loaned the club almost £1.5million to 'stabilise' it. Synan said their firm K&K Shonan Management Corporation had, in the past 60 days, loaned £450,000 in 'short-term funding', with another £1million to come between now and January. Interest at 'normal' bank interest rates would accrue on the loan, but it does not have to be repaid until the club can afford to. Synan added that director loans stayed with the club until 'it gets on an even keel' and that the loan was 'money needed by the club' and that the 'additional million' would 'stabilise' it. "Gates are down; the club needs ongoing cashflow support," he said. "We are not running an extravagant operation here. We have cashflow that needs to be met. We are trying to create ways and revenues to sustain it." He said the club's five-year-plan, being drawn up by Keith Todd, would reveal how Argyle intended to increase income. "Keith Todd is working extremely hard to get receipts up and people through the gates," he said. "We want the club to sustain itself in a way that is healthy. Mr Todd will come up with a great plan that makes sense. He's very logical." Synan said talks were already under way with international investors. "We will find the perfect balance of investors," he said. "We have investors at the table right now. It's not just investors; it's people that can add value." Synan also stressed the Argyle directors all 'get along very well. We're all working together. He said: "There is no board rift. We're focused here and know what needs to be done." When asked whether cash would be forthcoming to purchase players, Synan said: "We are committed to supporting Paul Mariner, and what he needs. It's waiting to see what he needs, how much, and we will get together to discuss that.
Argyle are facing a 'must-win' game against Coventry City tomorrow, according to Paul Mariner. He said: "People talk about six-pointers in football, and I think this is one of them. I think there is no harm in talking about how critical these games are for us. We are second bottom of the league and we want to get up the table as quick as we can – and there is no time like the present. Coventry are down where they are, so it's a no-brainer for me that it's an obvious must-win game for us." It has been a rollercoaster ride for Mariner over the past week, but one he insisted he had thoroughly enjoyed. "I have been impressed with how resilient the players are, how enthusiastic they are and how eager to learn they are," he said. "Their thirst for knowledge is there for all to see. It was actually one of John's first comments, coming off the training ground yesterday. That's why we have got every hope this group can come together, with the help of everybody in the club. It's not just the coaching staff, it's everybody pulling together, right from the top, trying to get some points to get up the league." Mariner admitted he was 'extremely excited' about the prospect of his first home match as Argyle boss. He said: "I want us to play well, and I'm obviously very nervous about it. I want the fans to get behind us, and I'm absolutely thrilled John is with me, because I have wanted to work with him for quite some time. I have a great feeling about it, but I'm sure I will have butterflies tomorrow. That's a certainty. It's going to be a special day for me. This club gave me my chance in professional football. I was 20 at the time, and I thought it had passed me by. Now this club has given me another opportunity in a managerial capacity, so it's an incredible feeling for me. I'm very, very proud." Argyle's attendances for their last three matches at Home Park have all been below 10,000 and Mariner added: "We want to get as many fans back as possible. We are no under illusions that we have got a lot of work to do. We aren't in the greatest league position. All we want to do is build, and build, and build. When the players go out onto the pitch, they need to know what their jobs are and where to be when the ball is in certain areas. That's an educational process we are going to go through, and we know this group of players have got a thirst for that knowledge." New coach John Carver expects Coventry to provide tough opposition for Argyle, but believes they can come out on top. He said: "I thought they were hard working and they will be a threat at set plays, especially the long throws. They are well drilled and they have a little bit of flair in the wide areas. They do like to put the ball in the box. They have got a bit of strength up front so we are in for a tough game, but it's one we can go and win."
John Carver admitted he was surprised by the quality of players in the Argyle squad after his first day at the club. "It was fantastic getting back on the training ground yesterday and I realised I have still got my enthusiasm for the game," he said. "I have watched DVDs of the lads, but it was important to get to know names and faces. I have done that now, and I was quite surprised at the quality we had in the squad, with regard to the position in the table." Carver was at St James' Park when Argyle lost 3-1 to Newcastle United in September. "I was at that game and I thought they were very unfortunate," he said. "I honestly don't think there is much difference from the top end of the Championship to the bottom end. I have told the players if they believe in themselves, as a group, they can get out of this situation. And I saw signs of that yesterday." Mariner took over first team affairs at Argyle last Thursday and immediately targeted Carver as his assistant. Carver said: "Paul called me and I said 'yes' straight away. I was out of work at the time and I was itching to get down here as soon as possible. But these things take time, and you have to get yourself organised, and you have to deal with your family as well. It's not as if Plymouth is just around the corner from Newcastle. I think this is the furthest south I have ever come but, let me tell you, Toronto is a lot further away from Newcastle than Plymouth. As soon as I decided I wanted to come down and join Paul the family were great about it, and I jumped on an aeroplane. My wife didn't actually know I was leaving at the time. I turned up at her work, gave her the car keys and said 'I'm off' because I wanted to get down here as quickly as possible. Thursday is a big day before a game, with regard to preparation, so the earlier I got here the better." Argyle will play Newcastle at Home Park in the FA Cup third round and Carver is relishing the prospect. He said: "I have already had a few texts asking for tickets. I'm sure there will be a few people coming down. It's a game I'm looking forward to, but the most important one is Coventry City tomorrow. That's how I do things – it's the old cliche about taking one game at a time. You have to concentrate on the most important game, which is the next one."
Paul Mariner believes there is still a lot more improvement to come from Jamie Mackie and revealed he was working hard with him on the training ground on all aspects of his play. Mariner said: "I think there is a lot more in him. We are working with him daily on individual work and, obviously, within the team framework. He sets high standards for himself and was a little bit disappointed he didn't get a goal last Saturday. He's a player who wants to improve, and that's what you want from all of your players." Mackie has made 19 starts for Argyle this season, usually with Rory Fallon alongside him in attack. Mariner said: "For me, it's a classic partnership. You have got Rory who can flick things on and hold the play up, and you have got Jamie with the pace in behind to try to break open the defences. What we have been trying to work on with them has been the other side of the ball. That's going to help the team by keeping them higher up the pitch. They are the classic duo – the big fella and the not-so-big fella who's very quick." That partnership has meant limited opportunities for Alan Gow. Alan Judge played behind Mackie and Fallon in a new 4-3-1-2 system last week but Mariner thinks Gow would be suited to that attacking role as well. Gow had been set to play for the reserves in their home game against Salisbury City at Home Park on Tuesday but he did not arrive at the ground in time because his flight to Plymouth after a couple of days away was delayed. Mariner said: "We are trying to create a culture here where everybody knows what's going on when we are doing the sessions. Everybody needs to know if they are going to go into a certain slot what their job is, and Alan has been part of what we have been doing. It was unfortunate his flight was delayed. We have had a talk to him about that. Alan Gow is a talented player and, to me, it looks as though this type of system may help him, but Alan Judge did very well last week, as did numerous players in the second half. So I think, at the present moment, you have got to say Judgey has got that position."
Paul Mariner has hailed Plymouth's achievement in being included as part of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. He said: "It's fantastic for everybody that was involved in putting the bid together. I must say, I really don't know how they did it. They put an incredible bid together in such a short space of time. If my little one per cent, or whatever it was, helped then great. I'm absolutely thrilled for everybody involved. It's going to be fantastic." Mariner believes there will be many spin-offs for Argyle, whose finances have been under strain recently. He said: "It's going to help with sponsorship, it's going to help with investors and it's going to help with a lot of things. The main thing we are interested in is the team. We are hoping it's going to help the team. Everybody has seen the plans for the new stadium, and it looks quite spectacular." Keith Todd was one of the prime movers behind the successful bid. He, and the club, have come in for criticism from some supporters for spending too much time on the World Cup bid and not enough on the team's struggles this season but Mariner defended Todd. He said: "I know there has been criticism of Keith Todd, and people have been saying he's only interested in the bid and he's not really interested in the club. I can honestly say that is so far from the truth it's unbelievable. This man works tirelessly for the club and his frequent-flyer and train miles must be incredible. He comes down to Plymouth, then he goes back up to London for meetings and then he's back the next day. Keith needs a lot of credit for what's going on at this football club." Mariner thought the local media and fans had played their part in the World Cup campaign. But he added: "Keith has spearheaded this incredible bid and now the fans of this club, and the people of Devon and Cornwall, are going to reap the benefits of that. There are going to be hundreds of millions of pounds pumped into this area. I genuinely think it's going to be wonderful for everybody concerned, from the humble corner shop all the way up to the hotels. You name it, it's going to be fantastic."
Plymouth was yesterday chosen as one of 12 cities in England to host World Cup matches in 2018, should the bid be successful. Paul Stapleton said: "Some people said we'd never get this – now they've got to believe us. The England selection panel had the courage to do the right thing. I could have kissed someone when the decision came through. There was a wave of emotion for everything that has gone into our bid and everything it means for the region. Hundreds of people have been involved in this. It has brought people together from across Devon and Cornwall. Now we have to show FIFA the shovels in the ground. We need the transport infrastructure, the stadium and the hotels." The bid director, Argyle's Keith Todd, has already announced plans to increase Home Park to a 46,000-seat stadium for the tournament. He said: "What came across was how united a team we were. It was unbeatable. We know we've got to improve things on the pitch and we've got to connect with the fans. We have to do things differently. This has already generated massive national interest." Doug Fletcher, the bid chairman, believes there would be a huge legacy not just in bricks and mortar, but in health and social benefits. He said: "Babies born now will be eight and a half when the World Cup comes to Plymouth. They will have lived with it all their lives and it will stay with them. This is a really great Christmas present for Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall. There will be a huge lift for the local economy. We've seen the evidence in Germany 2006 of how great that benefit will be. We are looking to start the legacy benefit because that is so important to FIFA. This will raise people's aspirations. Hopefully they will think about sport, and maybe get out and kick a ball or pick up a racquet."
Paul Mariner has the right sort of selection problems ahead of Saturday's game with Coventry City. Mariner is confident of having David Gray and Shane Lowry in his squad, to challenge Kari Arnason and Reda Johnson in central-defense. Mariner does have injury worries though over Rory Fallon, Darcy Blake and Jim Paterson. He said: "David Gray trained today and he looked fine, as did Shane Lowry. I'm in the fortunate position in that we've got some selection problems – and it's just the way I like it. We've got people fighting for positions, which is the nature of the beast in football. Darcy Blake has got a heel injury that's still sore. And we've been nursing Rory Fallon a little bit because of an Achilles tendon injury which he's had for a while. When I first arrived here, he had the injury and the physios are looking after him. But we're not nursing him too much." Mariner has admitted the 'fantastic relationship' between himself and captain Carl Fletcher will be crucial in the coming months. He said: "I like his professionalism, his manner and his attitude. I like the way he conducts himself and how he interacts with board members, coaches, youth team players and players who are on the fringe. He's a pretty special human being as far as I'm concerned."
Former Newcastle and Leeds coach John Carver has been appointed as Paul Mariner's assistant at Home Park, and will be officially unveiled in his new role today.
Craig Noone is waiting to find out how big a role he has to play for Argyle under Paul Mariner. At Preston last Saturday, Argyle started the game with two strikers, three midfielders, and an attacking player in between the midfield and the strike force and Mariner has indicated that he intends to use the same system against Coventry City. "I think, with the personnel we have at the club at present, this is a system which can help us," he said. "I think it's tailor-made to suit certain players." If Noone wants to start games, he may have to adjust his play to suit the formation, rather than waiting for Argyle to adjust their system to suit him. Mariner added: "You can make out a case that Craig could play off the front two. You could make out a case that he could play on the left side of midfield. He's a fit lad. It's all down to how people pick up the gauntlet."
Argyle reserves lost 2-1 to Salisbury City at Home Park this afternoon, the goal scored by Cillian Sheridan. Argyle: Letheren, Nelson, Timar, Barker, Clifford, Folly, Kinsella, Paterson, Donnelly, Sheridan, Rickard. Subs - Gerring, Young, Baker (not used Gow, Chenoweth). The positive side to the defeat for Paul Mariner was the return to action after five months out for Chris Barker. The downsides were a poor second-half performance and a recurrence of a hamstring problem for Jim Paterson. Mariner said: "We have got to take into consideration that a lot of players haven't played for a long time but it was an extremely disappointing result. They looked a little bit ring-rusty to be perfectly frank and I don't think too many people will be knocking on my door tomorrow to be requesting a place in the first-team. We were going to take Barker off at half-time but he felt ok, so I listened to the physiotherapist who said, 'if he feels good, let him go'. Paterson's looks as though it's a recurrence of an old injury. When you've had a hamstring, you're obviously conscious of it and Jim's an experienced professional. As soon as you feel something coming, you can sometimes catch it. It didn't look as though he did catch it. He looked to stop pretty quick, which is unfortunate."
Paul Mariner has made light of a Football League embargo on Argyle's transfer dealings. He said: "I am perfectly happy with the situation. I have been made aware of it. It didn't affect anything that we did prior to the window closing and I'm told that it will not affect anything that we do in January. The more people get to know me they will realize that I am guy where the glass is half-full rather than half-empty. I have always been an optimist. I have always looked on the bright side and, at the present moment, I'm focused on working hard with the players, and I'm enjoying doing that."
Argyle have been banned from making player transfers as a punishment for failing to pay debts. The Football League has issued the embargo because the club failed to pay creditors on time. Argyle has said it is a technicality, and claims the situation will be cleared up by the end of December, ahead of the transfer window in January. Keith Todd said: "There is a temporary embargo but it has no bearing on our transfers. We will be in the market in January in the normal course of events. It relates to a historical issue and a technicality. It is not a problem." Mr Todd said he did not wish to disclose what the reason was for the embargo being introduced, but added: "It is just an issue which needs to be resolved. It will get resolved and we will be fully in the market in January. It will be cleared. It is unfortunate that it has happened but it is absolutely not an issue. It has not affected how we operate and will not affect us in January."
Paul Mariner has refused to rule out a return to the first team at Argyle for Marcel Seip, who has been on loan with Blackpool since the end of September. The loan runs out at the end of December and although Mariner would not comment directly on the prospects of Seip playing again, he did admit: "There is a possibility that anybody who is in the squad could play."
Paul Mariner will attend Argyle's reserve team game against Salisbury City at Home Park today. Among those set to play will be Krisztian Timar, Cillian Sheridan and Chris Barker, making his long awaited return from injury, but David McNamee and Steve MacLean will not play. McNamee had an operation on a broken bone in a hand on Friday, and MacLean's future still seems to be away from Home Park. When asked why MacLean would not play for the reserves today, Mariner replied: "Because of my choice at the present moment." Meanwhile, Mariner wants to recruit some backroom staff as soon as possible because he is currently solely responsible for coaching the first team squad. He said: "I could do with a couple of extra pairs of hands, to be honest. There is a lot to do on the football side." Mariner's first match in his new role ended in defeat at Preston, but he still took a lot out of the experience. He said: "I will probably never say this again, after getting beaten 2-0 in a game, but I really enjoyed myself on Saturday. I love being around these guys."
Paul Mariner wants to renew loan deals to keep David Gray and Shane Lowry at Argyle into the New Year. Both loan deals will end after the game against Coventry City on Saturday but cannot be renewed until the transfer window reopens on January 1st. Mariner said: "We have spoken to the players and they totally understand. We will take it forward as quickly as possible. I would like them back. I think they are tremendous boys." Lowry served a one-match suspension when Argyle lost at Preston North End on Saturday and Gray was ruled out of the game after suffering a hamstring injury in the defeat by Swansea. Darcy Blake replaced Gray at right-back. Mariner said: "We put David through a rigorous fitness test on Friday because of what we wanted to do with the team. We needed the full-backs to bomb on." Mariner hopes to have Gray available again for the visit of Coventry. "The medical team tell me there is a very good chance," he said. Decisions must also be taken soon on the futures of Blake and on-loan Celtic striker Cillian Sheridan. Asked about the pair, Mariner said: "The answer is watch this space. I don't want to be evasive but I can't really tell you."
Chris Clark believes Argyle must try to build on their improved second half showing in the defeat at Preston North End on Saturday. He said: "The second half was just a massive lift – and you could see little bits coming in the first half. We tried to play with a smile on our faces, after what had obviously been a difficult week for everyone, and I think you could see in the second half that we enjoyed it. We came off the pitch disappointed with the result, but we created a lot of chances. We hit the bar twice, and that probably sums up our luck at the moment. Rory and Jamie also had chances, so there are positives to take from it." Clark played on the right-side of Argyle's midfield against Preston, only his fifth start of the season. He said: "I think the new system suits a lot of us. We were solid in the middle, with myself, Doogie and Fletch. And it gives protection to the back four. They limited the number of chances Preston had in the second half. It also gives us a base to go forward. With Judgey behind the two strikers it gives them a little bit extra. It's something I'm sure we will work on and I think everyone is going to enjoy playing it." Clark was a first half substitute for the injured Yoann Folly when Argyle lost at Swansea City last Thursday and was thrilled to stay in the side against Preston. He said: "It was good for my confidence to play again on Saturday, after coming on as a substitute on Tuesday night. I really enjoyed it." Next up for Argyle is a crucial game with 19th-placed Coventry City at Home Park on Saturday. Clark said: "We have got to take our second half performance against Preston into that game, and be positive. The fans will be behind us – they always are."
Plans for Plymouth Argyle's new £50 million stadium have been released. Assuming that Plymouth is chosen as a World Cup host city, the 46,000-seat stadium will be built in three stages, but Phase One – to increase capacity to 27,000 – will become a reality whatever the outcome. Keith Todd said the new stadium could be built even if the city's hopes of World Cup glory were dashed, because the club hoped to turn it into a major regional sport and entertainment venue. The first phase would begin at the end of next season, whatever the World Cup bid outcome. Phase Two, for an extra 8,000 seats, and Phase Three, taking it to the full 46,000, would happen in time for the 2014-15 season, he said. The design is by Populous, the firm behind the new Wembley Stadium, the Lansdowne Road Aviva Stadium in Dublin and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. "The expectation is that the current grandstand will be replaced at the end of next season," Todd said, adding that the first phase would cost about £20 million and the whole stadium would be 'the best part of £50 million'. "All the funding elements are being put together at the moment and the commitment on the funding will come together during next year, we're confident about that. In the event we don't get the World Cup, we'll still go forward with Phase One. Depending on the success of the club and the venue, we could decide to go ahead with the other two phases. I'm very excited." The existing pitch will be replaced next summer with a tougher surface that will allow much greater use of the ground. "We're intending this as a venue for music and entertainment for more than just the present two days in the summer. We're also intending to have big rugby matches here."
Reda Johnson made only his second start for Argyle on Saturday after signing from French club Amiens in the summer, and Paul Mariner was delighted with his contribution. "I thought he was outstanding", he said. "I really had no hesitation in putting him in there because he's an aggressive young man. He has got a very nice left foot, he has got pace and he attacks the ball. There is not a lot he can't do, and that's just his first game, so I'm sure he's relatively pleased with his performance. I was extremely pleased with his performance, as I am with Arnie. I thought the two of them were terrific." Mariner added: "You ask any of the great managers in the world, their teams are built on a solid back four. That's what every good team needs. We need to get a steady back four going."
Argyle reserves will play Salisbury City at Home Park in the Totesport.com Combination tomorrow, kick-off 2pm.
Despite their fourth defeat in a row and being thoroughly outplayed in yesterday's first half, new 'effective' manager Paul Mariner was brimming with praise for his players last night. Whatever was said at half-time, it was a very different second half performance as they became more accustomed to a new 4-3-1-2 shape that had been introduced only a couple of days earlier. "The players have been absolutely incredible this week, a traumatic week for a lot of us," said Mariner. "We changed the system. We have devised a system that's going suit the players we have got. We worked on it for one hour on the training-ground. Obviously we had meetings, but you can't play this game on blackboards. I saw enough in the first half - we had a about seven-minute period, which I know is not a great deal in 45, when we actually started to put some stuff together. We went in at half-time and I was completely honest with the players. I thought we needed a bit more quality on the ball and that we would stick to the system." He went on: "I believe in the players. I think this is their system. I had a conversation with the captain, with Fletch, as we came out - I have a fantastic relationship with him - and there was no need to change it. They responded magnificently. I thought the second half was a joy. I saw players playing with incredible energy. Their passing was good; technically, everything was coming together; and we actually put Preston under a great deal of pressure. I can't speak highly enough about these players. They are young men. They haven't been around the block as much as some of us. When you lose the manager and someone else comes in and you've got 36-48 hours before you play an away game and have just lost three on the belt, there is a lot to think about." Mariner continued: "We have lost 2-0. It's not a great feeling as far as that is concerned, because I'm used to winning. I love winning. But, from what I saw, I think it put a smile on the faces of supporters who have travelled a great distance, and it definitely put a spring in the step of the players. So, I'm obviously concerned about the defeat and the way we conceded the goals were pretty poor - almost schoolboy errors - but what I saw and what the fans saw was not bad. I think - I hope - the way that we are playing will create more opportunities in the attacking third, therefore more crosses will come in, so more balls will bounce in the box, and then the percentage game with some intelligence behind the system." Mariner kept the pressure on Preston during the second half by withdrawing both full-backs, bringing on midfielders Jim Paterson and Craig Noone, and dropping Carl Fletcher into a three-man defence. "Nooney gave us a Spark and Jim Paterson gave us great experience," he said. "I have never asked them to play 3-4-1-2 before. I am pleased to be around them and I think there is some mileage in these kids. I'm pleased with the day's work - I'm extremely pleased with the second half."
Argyle lost 2-0 at Preston North End. Argyle: Larrieu, Blake, Johnson, Arnason, Sawyer, Duguid, Fletcher, Clark, Judge, Fallon, Mackie. Subs - Noone, Paterson (not used – Letheren, Folly, Barnes, Gow, Mason). Attendance - 12,231
Argyle are set to be without right-back David Gray and midfielder Yoann Folly against Preston North End this afternoon because of injuries sustained in the midweek defeat at Swansea, and on-loan centre-back Shane Lowry must serve a one-match suspension. In the absence of Lowry, Benin international Reda Johnson could get the chance to make only his second start for Argyle. However, midfielder Carl Fletcher is also an option because he has had past experience of playing in the centre of defence. Either Darcy Blake or Karl Duguid will play at right-back as a replacement for Gray, whose loan from Manchester United ends next weekend. Chris Clark was a 21st minute substitute for Folly against Swansea and is the most likely to replace him in the starting line-up today. Mariner said: "It's not so much a skeleton crew, but people are going to be called upon to help us out." Striker Steve MacLean and defender David McNamee were both out of favour under Paul Sturrock, but there is a possibility the two Scots could both be considered for selection by Mariner at some point. "Everybody on the playing staff is available," said Mariner.
Shane Lowry's loan spell with the Pilgrims will end after the home game against Coventry City next Saturday. Argyle will be keen to renew a deal for the 20-year-old Australian when the transfer window opens on January 1st, but there has been speculation that Championship rivals Sheffield United could try to take him on loan to Bramall Lane instead.
Paul Mariner has given a glowing endorsement to the squad of players he has taken over. Mariner said: "The spirit of these lads, the resilience of these lads and the character of these lads is quite remarkable because they have gone through a lot – and they are going through a lot. In training on Thursday morning, it was as buoyant as I had seen them for a long time. They look as though they are ready to go." Victory over Preston in Mariner's first match in charge of the Pilgrims would be a massive boost for all concerned at the club. Mariner said: "Obviously, one game doesn't turn around your season. We had a fantastic win up at Middlesbrough, which we thought would give us a platform, but it didn't. The truth of the matter is we aren't leaking goals, and the players have certainly worked very hard on the training ground to try to plug whatever holes have been cropping up. It would be enormous if we could get a point or a win today – absolutely – but it's a long-term thing. It's about getting the cohesion and all the things that coaches talk about for teams. We have just got to get it going."
Club captain Romain Larrieu has insisted there is still time for the Pilgrims to beat the drop. Larrieu and on-field skipper Carl Fletcher were giving their reactions after manager Paul Sturrock was removed from carrying out first team footballing duties on Thursday. Larrieu said: "It's up to us - the experienced players - to guide those who haven't been in this position before. It's up to us to stick together. If we pull in the same direction, there's enough quality to stay up, I'm sure of that. We need to keep playing together and working hard – it's the only way out. There's no need to push the panic button yet, because there are a lot of games left and a lot of points to fight for." Larrieu made it clear he had been around long enough to appreciate that if a manager is replaced, it was best to try and move on. In a personal view of the situation, Larrieu said: "You'd have to ask every player what they think, but when one goes, it's because of something that hasn't been done on the pitch. But you can't dwell on that. It's gone; it's history. You've got to face up to what you've not done well and improve." He added: "I think the mood is good among the players – people want to get on and get the points we need to move us up the table." Larrieu said the first team coaching changes had given a lot of Argyle players a lift. He said: "It is a new beginning and players will be thinking 'Can I prove myself and get in the team?'" Carl Fletcher admitted the removal of Sturrock from his first-team responsibilities had been a shock. He said: "It's always a shock when a manager goes. Obviously results haven't helped. At the end of the day, we're judged on results, which haven't gone for us. We've had three 1-0 defeats in a row, but had things gone for us, we could have been sitting here discussing a six-match unbeaten run. Whatever things have changed, you have to get on with it and stay focused – the most important thing is 3pm on a Saturday." Fletcher added: "We know what it's going to take. The new gaffer told us when we had our get together. We've got to stick together, right from the cleaning ladies to the managing director. It's a challenge to prove ourselves, not something to be afraid of or feel it's too daunting. We have got to stand up and be counted. A few results can start things snowballing and that can take you anywhere."
Paul Mariner has insisted he is not afraid of the challenge facing him now that he has taken over first team affairs at Plymouth Argyle. He said: "I'm confident in my own ability. I'm a very good communicator and we have a group of players we want to help." Mariner is in the process of trying to bring in staff to work with him. He said: "I'm already in discussions with the board about that. They are extremely supportive. They haven't given me any timeframe but, obviously, it's an urgent matter." It is thought that Mariner will continue to be titled as Argyle head coach for the foreseeable future because Paul Sturrock has a contract as manager until the end of next June and it has not been paid up. Keith Todd told Sturrock of the board's decision on Wednesday night, in the aftermath of the Pilgrims' third consecutive 1-0 defeat. Todd and Mariner had a 9.45am meeting with the Argyle squad in the boardroom at Home Park yesterday. That was followed by a briefing from Todd and Sturrock to the club's non-playing staff. Mariner took the Pilgrims' squad for training at Harper's Park, before he attended a 12-noon media call to announce his elevation in status. "I know the measure of the challenge, but if this morning's training session is anything to go by, we will be okay," said Mariner. He added: "I actually got very emotional during the talk with the players because Paul Sturrock, to me, is a fantastic football brain and a fantastic coach." Todd described Sturrock as being 'realistic' about the situation the club, and he, found themselves in. "I don't think anybody can challenge the fact that Paul Sturrock has got Plymouth Argyle in his heart," said Todd. "Whatever mistakes may have been made, and whatever opinions there are, he has always put the football club first, and he understands the reality of this game. It was time to move on."
There is no exact timescale on how long Paul Mariner will be responsible for all football activities. Argyle deputy chairman Paul Stapleton said: "At this point in time, we can't use the word 'permanent'. Paul is here and he's taking over first team affairs. We know he might need some help sooner rather than later, which we are going to look at, to try to get Plymouth Argyle away from the foot of this league. We have a board meeting on December 22 when we are all going to be in Plymouth and we will discuss the matter further then." That will be attended by London-based chairman Sir Roy Gardner and, possibly, Yasuaki Kagami, the club's Japanese director. Stapleton said: "Sir Roy is coming down and we hope we will have Mr Kagami as well, because it's important we make the right decision going forward. Let's put it this way – Paul Mariner is in the prime position – but this has all happened rather quickly. You might say, 'You should have been planning for it', but once you take the decision you have got to act. Paul Mariner agreed to accept the role of being in charge of the first team, and we will take it from there and see what evolves. We will have our board meeting on December 22 when there will be further comments to make." When Mariner was appointed as Argyle head coach it was with the intention of him eventually becoming manager, but the club would probably have preferred to wait until the summer, and Sturrock's contract ended, before making the change over. Todd said: "I think it has been a pretty open secret where this was going to end up. The decision was when to do it." Mariner added: "I'm extremely happy to take over. It's a little earlier than I thought, but I wouldn't be sat in this seat if I didn't think I could do it."
Keith Todd paid a moving tribute to Luggy after yesterday's announcements. He said: "Paul Sturrock is very realistic about the situation. He feels personally disappointed that his leaving this time has been triggered by results. He hasn't once flinched, either pre or post-decision from putting Argyle first." Todd added: "Like all of us, the players had an emotional feel for Paul Sturrock and for all he's done and the situation he's in. But they were very realistic and professional. They understand it's time to move on and they've got great respect for Paul Mariner. It's a strange old game, isn't it? Sometimes when there's a new dawn, a new awakening if you like, the players will come out in support. We've had some good sessions with them, Paul and I today, just talking through the way we want to be. But we'll have to see what happens on the pitch."
Keith Todd says that one of Paul Mariner's first tasks will be to both trim and strengthen the Pilgrims' squad in January's transfer window. Todd did not appear to rule out paying off the remaining contracts of players who were no longer part of the Argyle first-team. "There are too many players and that's not good for them and it's not good for the team," he said. "We'll take each situation on its own merits, but it makes no sense for a player or for the club to sit around if he's not in the core squad, whatever his contract may say. Paul Mariner will be reviewing all the options he's got open to him, including those players who are out on loan. Then our intention is to move reasonably decisively to narrow down to the core team to move forward." Asked if that would mean existing squad players having to leave before Mariner is able to bring new signings in, Todd was non-committal. He said: "Well, we didn't operate that way in July, so it's not necessary we'll do that in January." Todd admitted the club would be taking steps to make the club and its appearance more attractive to potential new recruits. "We understand that Argyle's geographical position is a problem, which is behind other aspects of what we're trying to do, like training facilities, the stadium," he said. "Those things are all part of the attraction. With due respect to the present Home Park, it leaves a lot to be desired from a training point of view. That all plays into whether people want to come here. To coin a phrase from our World Cup bid, Plymouth 'is a beautiful location' – when people come here they want to stay."
Deputy chairman Paul Stapleton believes Paul Sturrock should be held in 'high esteem' by the club's supporters. He pointed out that Sturrock had effectively led Argyle to two league title triumphs, in 2001/02 and 2003/04, during his first spell as manager. Stapleton, who stood aside as chairman after a transfer of power within the Home Park boardroom in the summer, praised Sturrock's contribution to Argyle over recent years. "It's a sad day for me because I have brought Paul Sturrock to this club twice," said Stapleton. "We would like to thank Paul for his considerable contribution to Plymouth Argyle Football Club over many years. He was the manager, effectively, when we had two promotions. We trust he will be held in high esteem by all Argyle fans to what he has contributed to us." Sturrock will continue with Argyle in a business support role, working with executive director Keith Todd on a series of off-the-pitch projects, such as improving the training facilities. Stapleton said: "This is a point of debate, but it could be a longer term role. Obviously, he has now got a period of time in which to show the board he can move from a football manager's role to a football club related role. I made a comment a few years back that when Paul Sturrock was first here he was almost like a chief executive in the way he approached everything. I'm sure members of staff will verify that fact. It might be a natural progression really, but we are reviewing it."
Keith Todd has strongly denied the club's attempts to become a host city for England's 2018 World Cup bid had been a distraction for the board of directors from the team's poor results this season. He said: "I have answered that more times than I care to remember. The World Cup needs to be taken in context. It's going to be a great asset, if we pull it off, to Plymouth Argyle Football Club. It hasn't distracted us for one minute in terms of what has been happening on the pitch. I don't do the coaching. That is operated completely cleanly. I know people keep on wanting to put a link between the two, but the World Cup bid hasn't at any time got in the way of what has been going on on the pitch."
Keith Todd has revealed that Argyle's new five-year plan will probably be unveiled shortly before Christmas. An announcement is expected after a meeting of the board of directors on December 22.
Paul Sturrock's second reign as manager of Plymouth Argyle ended today. It was announced at a midday press conference that Paul Mariner will take charge of the team with immediate effect. Argyle Chairman Roy Gardner said in a statement: "The board has decided to make this move following the continuing poor set of results. Paul Mariner will take charge of all football matters until further notice. We are convinced that we have the capability to improve our performance and remain in the Championship." The statement also said that Paul Sturrock will continue with the club in a business-support role, working with Argyle Executive Director Keith Todd.
Argyle's FA Youth Cup ambitions came to an end in extra time last night after a 1-0 defeat against a talented West Ham side at Home Park. The visitor's 104th minute winner was a crual blow to Argyle's youngsters who, despite a predominantly defensive gameplan, gave as good as they got against their illustrious opponents. The match almost didn't take place after an electrical fire at the base of one of the floodlights at around 2pm. Three fire crews were soon on the scene to put out the flames. The floodlight, which was in the corner of the Grandstand and the Devonport End, was so badly damaged it could not be used for the cup tie. However, both sides agreed the game should go ahead, even though that part of the pitch was in near darkness. Argyle's line-up: Oliver Chenoweth; Curtis Nelson (Jack Stephens 90 mins), Ryan Leonard, Jordan Trott, Connor Clifford; Matt Rickard, Sean Kinsella, Luke Young (Dan Hart 108 mins), Jake Baker; Lewis Coombes (Sam Sawyer 74 mins); Liam Head. Substitutes: Jamie Richards, Raivo Varazinskis.
Argyle's miserable season continued at Swansea last night as they crashed to a third consecutive Championship defeat. The Pilgrims have now lost 12 of their 19 league games and, already, the threat of relegation is very real. Only one goal separated the two sides at the Liberty Stadium, but it was a match which the hosts dominated. Their enterprising attacking play was rewarded in the 52nd minute when their two half-time substitutes combined for Lee Trundle to slot the ball into the net. Argyle rarely threatened a goal of their own, although striker Rory Fallon was denied an equaliser in the 63rd minute by a fine save home goalkeeper. The night ended on a sour note when defender Shane Lowry was sent-off in stoppage time at the end of the match. It means Lowry will serve a one-match suspension when the Pilgrims travel to Preston North End on Saturday. In addition, David Gray and midfielder are both injury doubts for that game. Manager Paul Sturrock was pleased with the attitude shown by his players, despite the result. Sturrock said: "This is a difficult place to come to. They have got some very good players who can pass the ball. Their width players are very exciting as well. We just don't seem to be able to get that goal we need. It's three games now that we have lost 1-0 and we have been kicked in the teeth again. I'm gutted for the players because their workrate over these three games has been phenomenal. They have put a great shift in and come out with nothing. We have just got to keep churning and churning."
Paul Sturrock expects his players to tell him things he does not want to hear when the Pilgrims report for training on Thursday. He admitted that, to avoid his post-match team-talk sounding too familiar, he wanted others to have their say. "It's like déjà vu," he said, "saying the same things you have said before. So I thought it was appropriate tonight that the players take stock of the situation; that the management team and the coaches get their thoughts together. We'll come together on Thursday morning as far as where we think we can benefit the team. I hope there will be an honesty from the players. I hope they will tell me not things I want to hear. I want to get right to the bottom of it all."
Argyle Under-18s will be bidding to claim another famous Premier League scalp when they take on West Ham United in the third round of the FA Youth Cup at Home Park tonight (7pm). Mike Pejic's young Pilgrims have an enviable record in the cup having reached latter stages of the competition in the past two seasons. In 2007/08, Argyle reached the quarter-finals after beating academy sides Coventry City, Portsmouth and Birmingham City before bowing out to that season's eventual winners Manchester City. Last year, Argyle's under-18s continued their impressive cup form, defeating Fulham and Millwall in the third and fourth rounds. Their run ended in February when a highly-talented Tottenham Hotspur side left Home Park with a 3-0 victory. West Ham's multi-national youngsters are likely to be just as formidable as their north London rivals and will start the eagerly-awaited tie as favourites. Pejic said: "The lads are definitely up for this match and determined to give a good account of themselves. We haven't got as strong as squad as we've had in the past two years, but we're going to make life as difficult as we can for West Ham. We only have four second-year apprentices in the line-up so a lot will rest on their young shoulders. But we've punched above our weight in this competition before and although it's going to be a hard fixture for the lads, they're determined to do Plymouth and Argyle proud tonight. It'll be a great experience for many of the first-years who will be playing against a some of the best young footballers around at the moment."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Swansea City tonight. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Arnason, Lowry, Sawyer, Folly, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Clark, Blake, Noone (not used – Letheren, Johnson, Barnes, Gow). Attendance - 14,004.
Jamie Mackie is expected to return to the side for tonight's game at Swansea City. Manager Paul Sturrock would not be drawn on his team selection for the match at the Liberty Stadium, but it would be a surprise were Mackie not to be paired in attack with former Swansea striker Rory Fallon. Sturrock said: "Jamie comes into contention. I have got to study Pro-Zone first, but his goal threat is something we are going to have to think about." Loan signing Alan Judge impressed in a new central midfield role for Argyle against Sheffield United, but Sturrock could try a different system this evening. He said: "I thought Judgey did okay on Saturday, but we have got to decide on the formation." Argyle will also be away on Saturday when they play Preston North End at Deepdale. It means that Sturrock could decide to rotate his squad for these two matches. He said: "We have maybe got to think about these games as a pair, and selection may go hand-in-hand with that." One player who will be hoping for a return to the starting line-up in the near future will be striker Alan Gow. The 27-year-old has been in and out of the team of late and was used as a substitute in stoppage time at the end of the game against Sheffield United. Sturrock spoke to Gow when the Argyle players reported for a warm-down at Home Park on Sunday morning. "He doesn't like not playing, but the scenario was explained to him," said the Pilgrims' boss.
Paul Sturrock is desperate to repel the negative vibe surrounding the club. Saturday's late defeat was an obvious disappointment, but Luggy feels the performance was a further sign that the club is moving in the right direction. "We were all in Sunday for regeneration and a chat," he said. "Confidence is a difficult thing to monitor. Had we come in 0-0 on Saturday, we would be waxing lyrical about the performance but we lost a goal, which puts negativity to things. I do feel, and it's strange to say this with the position we are in, we are starting to kick in the right direction. When you're winning football games, formations and personnel are not thought of. When you're losing football games, the microscope goes on everything, and that is the negativity of the position we are in. We are a young team and most of the things I have mentioned about us are starting to come true. We have looked more solid with the defence we have got now and we are blooding a lot of young players and loanees, and bringing them all together. I honestly feel we are beginning to compete much better. The media and the personal taunts some of the players get when they are out and about don't help, but the important thing is for us to stay as positive as we can. There has not been one game this season where we could really say we have been dismantled - Cardiff is maybe the only one. We have attempted to be more competitive and we have got the defensive side correct. It is now important that we are much more positive with our approach going forward. There are things to chat about in the next couple of days and there will be several team meetings before the game at Swansea."
Argyle youth development officer John James has admitted he has high hopes for Pilgrims' teenage prospect Joe Mason. The 18-year-old, who started attending Argyle's centre of excellence in 2000, aged nine, made his debut for the first team on Saturday. James said: "Overall, I thought he did well. It's a big thing for a kid of 18 to get into the first team and I was very pleased for the boy. His passing was good, his linkage was good and he always tried to do something positive when he was on the ball." Although Mason's first senior appearance for Argyle came in midfield, James believes the teenage prospect will make his mark as a striker in the long term. Mason has been a regular goalscorer for the under-18s and reserves over the past couple of seasons. James said: "Joe can play as one of two strikers, or he can play off someone, so he's very versatile. He's just 18 so he's only going to get better with a couple more years of professional football. I think he will turn out to be a good goalscorer." Mason was born in Plymouth and attended St Boniface College before signing as an apprentice for his hometown club in July 2007. He then signed a one-year professional contract with the Pilgrims last summer. James said: "I spotted him playing for SB Frankfort against Elm United. I will never forget it. He scored a hat-trick in that game and I knew there and then that I had seen enough." Mason is the youngest of three brothers who have all been Argyle apprentices, but Dennis and Anthony did not break into the Pilgrims' first team. Mason's elevation to the senior side will come as a massive boost for all involved with Argyle's youth department. James said: "It does encourage you, especially when a local boy like Joe, who has been born and bred in Plymouth, gets his chance."
Paul Sturrock has called on his players to 'stand up and be counted' after Argyle's latest defeat. The Pilgrims remain 23rd in the Championship, two points off the bottom of the table, after losing 1-0 to Sheffield United at Home Park on Saturday, the fifth time they had been beaten in nine home league games this season. "I have told the players if we keep trying to perform those standards, and if we put that kind of workrate into the games, we are going to win more than we lose. But when you are down in the bowels of the Championship, as we are at this minute in time, these kind of things kick you in the teeth. The character of the team has to be shown now. They have got to stand up and be counted."
Sturrock explained the reasons why he had opted for Joe Mason instead of Craig Noone on Saturday. He said "I just felt the shape we were playing today, and the personnel we were up against, would benefit the boy Mason. When Noone came on, he put two or three things in the box. There were some good crosses we were just slightly behind, or nearly on the end of. There will be some games Nooney will start and some games where he comes on and benefits the team." Sturrock also decided not to play Rory Fallon as an out-and-out striker against United. Instead, the New Zealand international played in an attacking role on the left. Sturrock said: "We tried it against Doncaster and we benefited from it. We take him from their main aerial threat. But I don't think the diagonal ball was played to him enough today. A couple were headed back across the goals by Rory and one fell to Barnesy and another nearly fell to somebody else. It's just getting everybody in the team the idea of how we want to play."
David Gray's three-month loan spell from Manchester United ends on December 19th, but Paul Sturrock has had talks with Gray and his parent club about the possibility of returning to Home Park for a further spell in January. For the time being, Gray is not sure what the future holds for him. He said: "I'm not looking any further than the next game, and just concentrating on playing as many games as I can. My loan is up in two weeks' time so I'm sure we will have some discussion about what to do after that." Gray added: "There are a good bunch of lads here and I like the manager – and I think the manager quite likes me. Obviously, I'm playing every week and, as a young lad, all I want to do is play football."
Paul Sturrock was left to rue what might have been after Sheffield United's late goal in miserable conditions at Home Park yesterday. Just four minutes before James Harper's 88th minute winner, captain Carl Fletcher had powered a similar effort from the edge of United's penalty area but the ball struck the post. Sturrock said: “Football can be cruel sometimes. We lost to a stoppage-time goal at Leicester and we lost to a goal near the end again today. Carl has hit the post with a shot and then they go up the other end and score the winner. That’s football, especially when you are down in the table where we are at the moment. What did please me though was that I was able to field the back four that had been miserly before and I did think there would only be a goal in the game today. If we had got that goal I think we would have gone on to win the game but we didn’t and they did.” The best chances in a dour, weather-spoiled encounter came in the second half. Argyle’s on-loan Aston Villa central defender Shane Lowry headed just over from Alan Judge’s right-wing corner after 47 minutes. United countered 10 minutes later with midfielder Nick Montgomery sending a thumping shot off the foot of the post from 25 yards, and man-of-the-match Alan Judge then bounced a chip off the top of the Blades' net.
Argyle lost 1-0 at home to Sheffield Utd, the goal coming after 88 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Arnason, Lowry, Sawyer, Mason, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Barnes, Fallon. Subs - Noone, Gow, Sheridon (not used – Letheren, Johnson, Blake, Folly). Attendance - 9,231.
Ahead of this afternoon's match, Paul Sturrock talked about the Yorkshire side's return to form in recent weeks. He said: "They are coming off a good win which will boost their confidence. They have got a certain pattern of play, which seems to have kicked in again. That's two wins on the bounce for them now. They know how they are playing and the boy Henderson seems to be a linchpin to it. It's about how we handle him." Sturrock continued: "We have been working on something to try to get a benefit from certain aspects of our play. I have got to weigh up my forward line and who is the best pairing or the best threesome that I can use. There have been lots of options in my mind." Conditions today could be similar to what they were against Barnsley and Sturrock believed Argyle would handle them better this time. He said: "I'm very hopeful the players will have learned from their mistakes. We have worked a wee bit on height and distance as far as clearances are concerned because that was a key factor."
David McNamee faces an uncertain future at Home Park, having made only five Championship appearances this season. Sturrock said: "David isn't up to speed as far as match fitness is concerned, and we just can't get reserve games to get him up to that speed." McNamee's future will probably not be decided until Sturrock knows whether he can extend the loans of Darcy Blake and David Gray.
There will be a minute's applause before today's game to celebrate the life of former Argyle wing-half and manager Neil Dougall, who died on Tuesday, aged 86.
Argyle have been handed a double injury boost ahead of the game against Sheffield United at tomorrow. Kari Arnason and David Gray both returned to training yesterday and are expected to receive immediate recalls. Paul Sturrock said: "We will see what reaction both of them have from training yesterday. But I will not take chances on them because we have got a lot of games coming up in a short period of time. That back four has been miserly and it shows how important they are. So I wouldn't want to have them out for six to eight weeks because we got greedy and tried to force them into a situation. It will be left to them about how they feel. Players know their own bodies. I'm not going to force somebody into a situation. If their eyes don't tell me the truth, I will be able to realise. They both want to play, but it's about what is best for the team."
Craig Noone has been patiently waiting to make his first start of the season for Argyle and hopes to finally get his chance against Sheffield United tomorrow. He said: "If the manager gives me the nod and I do start, then it's up to me not to give him an excuse to drop me. It's what I want to do, and it's what I have been waiting for really. I can only do my best and give 100 per cent." Noone had the taste of regular first team football whilst on loan at Exeter, and now wants to replicate that with Argyle. He said: "I enjoyed every bit of it there. I was playing games and got a taste for it, and also scored a few goals. There's no better feeling than 90 minutes, week-in week-out. That's what I hope to do here soon." Noone insisted it was hard for him to compare the standard of the Championship with that of League One. He said: "I don't know I can tell you that because I haven't played six or seven games in the Championship yet. But the teams you are playing against in League One are very good. I gained a lot of confidence from playing games for Exeter, scoring a couple and getting the headlines now and again. Then I got the recall from the gaffer and it was nice to know I was wanted back here. He had obviously spotted that I had been doing well. I think I have kept that confidence going in training, and in the games I have come on in." Noone was sent on as a substitute against Barnsley last week, before the game was abandoned. "It was a joke, especially for me and Judgey trying to run with the ball," he said. "We had no chance. We just had to boot it and run really. The conditions were awful. When the game was abandoned it was a get out of jail card for us." The recent rain has also saturated Argyle's training ground at Harper's Park, making preparation for matches far from easy. Noone said: "Even running with the ball is difficult because there is lots of water. You can't put any passes together."
The Home Park pitch has been draped in a protective cover all week to prevent a repeat of last weekend's abandoned match with Barnsley. "We will keep the covers on until Saturday morning, if at all possible," said Paul Sturrock. "There are more covers on the way, so we're trying to keep as much rain of it as possible." The rain has also wreaked havoc at Harper's Park and Sturrock admitted he has been forced to modify his schedule for the week as a consequence. "It is hard going at this minute," he said. "You have to temper your thoughts on work with your thoughts on how the legs are. Yesterday, I had to have a look at certain players in certain positions, but today will be toned down to make sure they have the legs for Saturday. There is rain on the way for Friday and Saturday, so I don't want us to run out of legs. The training pitch is getting worse and worse. For the four or five years I've been here over the piece, this reminds me of the first year I got here. We're getting to the stage now where there are no games. Nobody, quite rightly, will play on their pitches at the moment. Everybody's training grounds are so flooded that they are cutting up. There are lot of problems getting games to keep people ticking over. The next problem is that if you start running about in quagmires people start picking up groin strains. People start slipping and hurting themselves, and tackles are not getting timed. We've tried to put quality into the training but it's very difficult."
Paul Sturrock remains keen for George Donnelly to get more first team experience by going out on loan elsewhere. Southampton and Stockport County both showed interest before the deadline for 'emergency loan' signings last Thursday but Donnelly ended up staying at Home Park. Sturrock said: "George has got something, and Nooney was the same. Nooney has proved to himself confidence-wise now that he's a League One player at the minimum. He was so successful at Exeter and he knows he can handle that standard. That gives a lot of confidence to a player, and the two times he has come on lately he has never looked out of sorts. In fact, he has benefited the game both times. He needs to start a game now to benefit himself and the team."
Argyle are confident of holding onto their top schoolboy talent, despite interest from Premier League clubs. Defender Jamie Richards has been strongly linked with Everton and midfielder Dan Hart is a reported target for Arsenal. Paul Sturrock would not be drawn on the speculation but said: "We know there is a lot of interest in some of our younger players at this minute in time. I have talked to several clubs about them. We are in the middle of negotiations with nine players from the under-16s to sign apprentice forms, and more than half have signed so far. They have 28 days to agree to sign, and we are very hopeful the nine players will be call-ups for next season."
Argyle have announced that supporters who attended last Saturday's abandoned game will be able to watch next month's re-arranged game for free. A club statement said: "Although we are under no obligation to admit supporters from the first game into the re-match for free, we feel this is the right course of action to take. Supporters are the lifeblood of the game, and we think that their forbearance in the face of Saturday's extreme weather conditions deserves this consideration."
Kari Arnason is fighting to be fit for Argyle's match against Sheffield United on Saturday. Paul Sturrock said: "We are working very hard on him. I do feel his influence was missed on Saturday. He's a player who wears his heart on his sleeve. And he makes sure centre-forwards realise they are in a game of football. I didn't feel we put presence on their two strikers at all on Saturday. That was the one of the main reasons why we lost the goals we did. No manager can legislate for some of the mistakes that were made in that game. For example, we didn't clear our lines well enough and it always seemed to come back to us again. You look at the game and say to yourself 'what can I learn out of it?' Well, I have learned a lot out of it, which I think will benefit the team. We won't take a chance on Arnie. If he doesn't make it, I will just have to come up with something else. At the end of the day, Arnie and Shane's partnership at centre-back has been a cornerstone of the decent run we have been on and I don't want to upset that in any way at this juncture." Krisztian Timar played at centre-back alongside Shane Lowry against Barnsley, but Reda Johnson is another option. Sturrock said: "We are working very hard with Reda at this minute in time to get him up to speed as well. He's showing some fantastic attributes that would benefit the team." Jim Paterson is unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to face Sheffield United. Sturrock said: "I think this one will maybe come a bit too soon for Jim. He will come back into the squad if he's fit, but I think he's going to just miss out."
Paul Sturrock has cancelled his players' usual day off this week for extra work on the training ground, following the performance against Barnsley on Saturday. He said: "There is no day off for the players this week. I have got too much work to do with them, and I'm very hopeful we will get out on the grass. It's a response to Saturday because I do feel there are things we have to work on. The players made their thoughts plain after the game as well. They realise they let themselves down, and let the club down, with their performance as a team defensively, and they want to get better." Sturrock spent half-an-hour with his players in the home dressing room after the game against Barnsley, and there was an airing of opinions on what needed to be done. He said: "There was a consensus that work on the training ground had been behind how we had improved over the last two or three weeks – results-wise and performance-wise, and being competitive in games. Everybody – coaches, the players and those who weren't stripped on Saturday – are all in agreement that we have just got to do more work." Sturrock and Paul Mariner have several points they want to try to address in training. Sturrock said: "You can emphasise about clearing the ball. Height and distance has always been the key to good defending. We seem to struggle to clear our lines, so we can work on that, and we can work on crosses coming into the box." Sturrock also believes the squad must improve their composure when on the ball, especially when they are playing at home. He said: "I just feel that, at this minute in time, there is a worry in them about the whole scenario. We have just got to keep working at them. We are playing a lot of two-touch and three-touch games in training, just to get them concentrating on taking a touch all the time."
Paul Sturrock has given his backing to Argyle left-back Gary Sawyer, after he made a couple of errors which have led to opposition goals in recent games. Sturrock said: "Gary is a confidence player, and when he makes these fundamental mistakes it definitely affects him. But he has had some very good games this season and has made a lot of our goals as well. There is no way I'm pointing the finger at any of my players. I do feel, as a defensive unit, that the whole team let themselves down on Saturday."
David Gray's continued hip problem is a concern for Paul Sturrock, although he is hopeful of hearing good news from Manchester United soon. He said: "For David Gray, we're waiting on the doctor and the physiotherapist making a conscious decision. David feels that he will train with the reserves today at United and the decision will be made after that training session. Manchester United always take their players back when they're injured. Had he not gone back for his yearly tests, he would have been under our medical team and probably would have continued. He's gone back there and they've made a conscious decision that his injury could turn chronic, and they would rather safeguard the player. I can see both sides of it. It was a disappointment to us, but, in the long-term, it could be a great benefit to us as well." Meanwhile, Chris Barker and Bradley Wright-Phillips remain weeks away from full fitness. Sturrock said: "Chris Barker is targeting late December or early January as his comeback time. Bradley's a bit behind that because we're taking him very slowly due to the kind of injury he has. We are missing both of them. Barker's influence as a mouth and being able to play the two positions has been a huge blow because he could have potentially been one of our top four or five performers last season."
Karl Duguid has admitted Argyle must learn the lessons from their display against Barnsley on Saturday. Duguid admitted Argyle had been fortunate the weather had come to their rescue. He said: "I don't think at any time this season anyone has put us up against it like that. It's something we can learn from. We will look at that during the week and we have got a massive game against Sheffield United this weekend." Barnsley were understandably dismayed at the abandonment of the game. Duguid said: "It has happened to me before. When I was at Colchester we were 3-0 up at half-time and the game got abandoned. It's just one of those things. Had it been the other way around, and we had been leading 4-1, then they would have been as pleased as we were. We got out of jail, and it's something for us to look at." Argyle had taken the lead against Barnsley in the ninth minute when Duguid scored after a cross from Alan Judge. He said: "We went 1-0 up and we were doing okay. Then, as soon as we conceded a goal, every time they went forward they looked like they were going to score." The referee abandoned the game because he was concerned the worsening conditions were a threat to the players' safety. Duguid added: "You have got to be careful, and the ref doesn't want it on his head that somebody got injured because of what the pitch was like. When Judgey ran with it and got tackled by a puddle, I think that just summed it up. Enough was enough then, and it was the right decision. Barnsley are going to argue against that, because they were 4-1 up. I think if it was the other way around we would have been exactly the same." Duguid was given a new role by Paul Sturrock on Saturday, lining up on the left-side of midfield. He said: "I think in my first season in the Championship with Colchester I probably played 50 per cent of the games at left-midfield. So it's a position I know, but obviously I'm not going to be like Nooney or somebody like that. I came in from the left and scored a goal, but that doesn't even count now."
Paul Sturrock admitted he took ‘a big chance’ on selecting Yoann Folly for a first appearance since January. "I've always known there's a footballer in Yoann but he hasn't shown it on a regular occurrence," he said. "For the last couple of weeks, he's been very much like of old, so that was why I took the chance. I thought he was excellent. I thought the freshness was needed and I think he had proved to me over training and in reserve games that he merited the chance. It was a big chance to take because he hasn't been involved and we've been trying to move him on, but now he's staked a claim and he'll take it with both hands."
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