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.
Argyle have announced that the clubs youth team are being sponsored by city firm LTC Group87 for the next two years, the first time in the club's history that the under-18 team have had their own shirt sponsor. The club said that the 'lucrative' deal would help take youth team players through the ranks to the first team and will help fill the gaps in any budget shortfall for the youth team this season. Mike Pejic wants to extend his search for up and coming young players beyond Devon and Cornwall, and the surrounding areas. He said: "One of the things myself and Gordon Bennett wanted to do every season is to increase and get better, but if your budget gets less, it will be more difficult to do that. We've got lads from Jersey and Latvia and we need to look at players abroad – at the Balkans even. It's a world league now – things have changed since when we were just getting local talent." Pejic has already made it clear that if Argyle develop into an Academy for young players – rather than a Centre of Excellence – they will benefit from playing a better class of opposition. He said: "With this budget, hopefully we can become an Academy. Some of the games we play now are up and under, and we can teach that in about two seconds. We need to be playing against proper Academy teams." Mike Burr, managing director of LTC Group87, said the deal with Argyle would also benefit Elburton Villa. The Argyle youth team will use part of the sponsorship money to secure a two-year lease of Villa's ground at Haye Road, where they will play their home games in the Football Youth Alliance on Saturday mornings. Argyle's youngsters have shared Bolitho Park with Plymouth Parkway for the past three seasons but Parkway's reserves have been promoted and are now in a league which requires them to use their own main ground for home games. The Argyle deal will allow Villa to go ahead with their plan to install floodlights at Haye Road by the end of October. Burr added: "We were approached to see if we would be interested in supporting the youth team, which came out of the blue. We have always supported local football teams and this means we can help promote the youth team and promote our company."
Argyle’s Head of youth development, Gordon Bennett, is negotiating with the club's potential new owners for a £2million Academy for the club. He said: "There has been an initial meeting with the representatives of the proposed new regime. I did raise the matter and made it very clear to those representatives exactly what would be required for an Academy to be achieved. They are totally aware of what is needed." It would cost Argyle at least £2million to build Academy facilities, plus £700,000 a year to run it, but would allow young Argyle players to play better-quality opponents, such as Arsenal and Manchester United, than they do at their present Centre of Excellence level. Bennett spelled out the benefits of Academy level football during the unveiling of a new sponsor for the youth set-up and said that out of 72 clubs in the Football League, 51 had Centre of Excellences, while the rest had Academies. He told the Press conference that he and Mike Pejic were using Academy methods when working with their Centre of Excellence players.
There will be an extra competitive edge when the Argyle squad start pre-season training next week as Paul Sturrock is planning on taking only 22 players to their Scottish training camp from July 19th-24th. The club currently have 30 professionals so some of them will have to stay behind and Sturrock will decide who to take to Scotland based on what he sees during the first three weeks of pre-season training. He insisted that age and first team experience would not come into it and said: "I will be taking 22 players to Scotland and there are 30 reporting back for training. They will be all told their job is to make sure they are on the bus. If somebody doesn't do the business and he's a regular player, he won't be going. That's football." The squad start pre-season training next Wednesday, but Sturrock and his staff will be at Home Park on Monday and Tuesday. He said: "We are going to have a lot of in-house things to discuss. I'm adding a lot of things to my staff's duties this season, so those two days will be a great benefit. It will enable me to put over my ideas on how I want things done. All that side of it will be sorted out and then Wednesday will be the witching hour for the players." Sturrock is hoping to have friendlies on either July 28th or 29th and Saturday, August 1st, but these are still to be confirmed. One of these matches will be at Home Park. Sturrock said: "At this minute, we have one team that is near enough tied up, and we are trying to persuade another one to play us on either the Tuesday or Wednesday."
Paul Sturrock is confident takeover talks will not hinder his plans to make Argyle a force in the Championship next season. "I am under a chairman and directors at this minute of time that have made it plain what they want me to do," he said yesterday. "I am going down that road. Now, if the takeover happens, then there will be another discussion to be had. At this time we are still soldiering on as far as bringing players here. We're letting them see the place, discuss personal terms and everything else. Of course it would be an ideal world if it was all over today, but I have been in this position many times to realise it takes a lot longer than that. With the situation we are in, I'm sure the board would love players going out before they come in. That said, they realise that football players do not stand still and the building of a football team does not stand still. They have asked me to go down a road and I am going as far as I can before going back to them. Decisions will then need to be made, but at this minute of time they haven't said no to anything." Last week Sturrock confirmed there had been interest in certain members of his squad and that continues to be the case, although no official offers have yet been received for any players. "We've had enquiries for two or three of our players, but that's as far as it has gone," he said. "We have been asked about the availability and the price ranges of certain players. There has been lots of general interest where managers are trying to find out the price and where we are at before they go back to their board and talk. Next week those managers will be coming back from their holidays and starting to focus on their squads, so I think it's an appropriate time to remind people that I have players that we want to move on."
Argyle's first round Carling Cup game at Gillingham has been confirmed as being played on Tuesday August 11th
Paul Sturrock is planning a new approach to trialists for this pre-season. A relatively large number of prospective signings played in friendlies last season, but Sturrock is hoping for a more structured policy this time. His plan involves a closed-door game for a group of trialists, who will be given the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a second look. Sturrock said: "We will have no trialists at all for the start of pre-season. The way I am thinking of doing it this year is to have a closed-door game for anybody that we feel is appropriate to come and have a trial. Last year, I took a trialist for the game at Kidderminster and the boy looked as if he had just walked in off the street. The agent didn't enamour himself to me and the boy actually left the ground before the end of the game, so I don't want to go down that road again. I would much prefer to have a trial game and if I decide some of them are decent in the positions I need, I will take them along to Scotland, so we will look first before taking them on tour. We will try to line up agents to bring players in of the standard required. Picking up players that want to go on trial for the Championship is difficult. There are three positions where I won't be looking for anybody, so there are eight positions where I would have a look. If it is only half-a-dozen, I will put four or five of my lot in and play a practise match. I am not paying any money for people to come in. They will have to fly themselves in and accommodate themselves."
Phill Gill has stepped down from the Argyle board after completing the sale of his shares in Argyle's holding company to Yasuaki Kagami. In a statement issued last night, he said: "A huge amount of dialogue has taken place regarding investment and the future well being of the club, both in public and inside the boardroom. Further speculation has surrounded the inordinate amount of time it has taken to conclude this transaction. It would not be appropriate for me to fuel either debate but ultimately in business, as it is in life, it is important to judge people by what they do, not what is said. Regardless of whether a takeover is concluded, I would like to wish everyone connected with the club every success and, like every other fan, look forward to further exciting times ahead." Gill sold some of his shares earlier this month, and the remainder were transferred yesterday. He said: "As an ordinary fan from Newton Abbot, I am very fortunate to have lived the dream over the last eight years. My family and I have a huge number of memories and special times to look back on in what has been the most successful period in the club's history. We are also lucky enough to have made a lot of friends and also very privileged to have experienced many things that most people will never have the opportunity to do. I have also played my part behind the scenes and I am very proud that I have been able to do what I originally wanted to do, which was to make a difference. However, the Championship that we entered in 2004 is vastly different from the Championship of 2009. I have stated privately for some time that it is clear that to continue to progress, the club needs new investment, vision, direction and guidance. Next season it is without question that this league will be one of the toughest in Europe. Everyone connected with the club, from whoever sits in the chairman's chair to the Green Army, will have a massive role to play. What's in the past is just that, and I would urge every member of the Green Army to look forward to the future and get behind the team like they did in the first few years at this level – just as I intend to do from my old seats I occupied for many years. Having spent a long time on the 'business' side of the fence, I know how much of an impact strong and positive support has on the players and what a tremendous boost it gives them. Recreating 'Fortress Home Park' could be enough to make the difference between that vital point that keeps us up or, more hopefully, sees us get into the play-offs." Chairman Paul Stapleton said: "I would like to thank Phill for his contribution to the Board and for his dedication to the team, on and off the pitch. Phill has been a member of the board with me since we took over from Dan McCauley in August 2001 and has played an important part in the growth of the club since that time. I wish him every success and happiness for the future."
Paul Sturrock has confirmed that he has received inquiries from other clubs about five of his players but would not name the clubs or the players concerned. He said: "In the last two days I have had phone calls from certain managers about the availability of certain players, for permanent deals and for loans. It's encouraging, but some of the deals don't suit us. There are a lot of discussions to go on yet with certain football clubs, managers and agents." In some cases, Argyle are being asked to loan out a player to another club and continue to pay part of their wages. Sturrock added: "Some of them aren't good deals. They aren't benefiting Plymouth Argyle." Sturrock would not comment on what he describes as 'transfer speculation' but did say: "I have talked to several players about whether they would like to come to Plymouth Argyle. We have had a couple of players down and they have had a look at the whole place. At the same time, I'm working very hard trying to move some of our players on. As I have said all along, I don't want experienced players playing reserve team football. They should all be playing first team football. So the quicker some of these players move on the better. I don't want to be caught out like I was last year and finish up signing two players on the Friday before the first game. I would like to think that before we go to Scotland we will have brought in a couple of players, but also moved four or five players on. That, in an ideal world, is what we are looking to do." Sturrock admitted a situation could arise where he would try to bring in a player before any others had moved on. He said: "I would have to go to the board of directors, and I think they are experienced enough to appreciate that we want the right people to come to this football club. We know the areas we want to target and if they become available then I would have to have a discussion with the board to determine what the story is."
Argyle will have an official club captain next season, for the first time since Paul Wotton left Home Park. Romain Larrieu, the clubs longest- serving player, will have that honour but will not wear the skipper's armband. Paul Sturrock said: "Romain has been involved here for a long time, and he has been a very good ambassador the club. I've talked to him, and he will be the club captain. I am not a great believer in goalies being team captains, so he will not wear the armband, and he knows that, but he will be the club captain. He will be the organiser of things off the park."
Argyle have arranged two friendlies for their pre-season tour to Scotland next month.They will play Scottish First Division club Livingston at their Almondvale Stadium on Monday, July 20th and will then take on Romanian side FC Unirea Urziceni, at a venue still to be confirmed, on Wednesday, July 22nd.
Lloyd Saxton has signed a new one-year contract with Argyle. Paul Sturrock said: I have seen development in him. I'm very pleased with his development. It's difficult for a young goalkeeper. It takes a long time to gain the experience you need. He will be on the bench next season and play in reserve matches. That will help him come along."
Paul Sturrock will be keeping a close eye on Yannick Bolasie in pre-season training. Bolasie has yet to play for Argyle but impressed during a loan spell with Barnet, who are now said to be keen to sign him, at the end of last term and Sturrock wants to see how much improvement Bolasie made during his time away from Home Park. He said: "As far as I'm concerned, he will be back for pre-season training on July 1st. Everybody has their price, but he's still a player in development and I want to have a good look at him. He did very well at Barnet. We watched all our players at least six times each last season and I got rave notices about him so I can understand where the Barnet manager is coming from, but I haven't heard anything from him."
Paul Sturrock has insisted Argyle will take a lot of confidence into their season-opening game against Crystal Palace. He said: "I would have liked to have had a home game to begin with. Your first game of any season is always vitally important because you are looking to get away to a good start. We did very well at Crystal Palace last year, so we will approach the game with confidence." The first match of the season at Home Park will be on August 15th against QPR and that will be followed by another home game, against Cardiff City, on August 18th. Sturrock said: "Our first two home games are with sides that we did okay against last season. We drew against QPR and beat Cardiff, and it would be nice to do at least as well again. We have got to make Home Park a difficult place for people to come to. It was too welcoming at times last season, and that cost us dear. I'm looking forward to Sheffield Wednesday coming down early in the season. They did very well at the end of last season, finishing very strongly, and will be a handful. Everything I'm doing now, and all the players' preparations, will be geared to being match sharp for August 8." Argyle's games against Blackpool will be eagerly awaited after Ian Holloway was appointed as their new manager last month. Sturrock said: "I would imagine the Green Army are getting out their maps and travel guides for some of our more mouth-watering trips already. Newcastle and Blackpool have a wee tasty look to them. In a way, it doesn't matter when you play these teams. You have got to play them all, home and away, at some time in the season. The Championship is one of the best and strongest leagues in the world and we have got 46 contests to relish. We saw last season that, on their day, any team can beat any other. It's so competitive."
Newspaper reports suggest that Keith Todd CBE, one of Britain's leading figures in the telecommunications industry, could join the board of directors at Argyle should Yasuaki Kagami take control at Home Park. Todd is chairman and chief executive officer of FFastFill plc and is also non-executive chairman of Amino Technologies plc and Magic Lantern, a private new media company supplying the broadband market. Todd has links with Sir Roy Gardner, who could become Argyle's non-executive chairman. The pair held senior financial positions for GEC subsidiary Marconi Space and Defence in the 1980s.
Paul Sturrock knows Argyle will not find it easy when they travel to Gillingham in the first round of the Carling Cup. He said: "It's disappointing the distance we have got to travel. It's one of the furthest away we could have got. But we will have to be professional in our approach and go there and get a result. I would like to have a good cup run. We haven't had one for quite some time and it would benefit the club's finances. It would have been nice to have had a home tie, but there you go. That's football." Argyle have not played Gillingham in the League Cup before but have not won on any of their last 10 visits there in the league and the FA Cup. Sturrock said: "I'm told we haven't won there in 28 years but records like that are there to be broken. It will be a difficult game for us, though, because Gillingham were promoted last season and will still be on a high when we play them."
Argyle will start next season with an away game against Crystal Palace on August 8th and their first match at Home Park will be on August 15th against Queens Park Rangers. The full fixture list is available on the clubs official website.
Jim Paterson is being linked with a move to Aberdeen. Newspaper reports in Scotland today suggest Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee wants to sign Paterson on a season-long loan.
Argyle have been drawn away to Gillingham in the first round of the Carling Cup. The tie will be played week commencing August 10th.
There has been a further hitch in Yasuaki Kagami's attempts to take control of Argyle. It had been expected that Phill Gill would stand down from the board when they held their monthly meeting at Home Park yesterday but it is reported that the transfer of Gill’s shares has not been completed yet, and he remains a director for the time being.
Argyle hope to confirm their programme of pre-season friendlies by the end of the week. Four away games have already been lined up – against Truro City on July 13th, Torquay United on July 15th, Skelmersdale United on July 18th and Morecambe on July 25th. The club are hoping to have two matches during their training camp in Scotland and also want games on July 28th and August 1st. Paul Sturrock said: "Hopefully, by the end of the week we will be able to let the supporters know about all of our pre-season games."
Shonan Management Corporation now hold a bigger stake in Argyle's parent company than any other individual or company, according to George Synan. He said: "We have increased our holdings in the club this past week, making us the largest individual shareholder in the club, and we are very close to increasing them again. These transactions are with the individual shareholders. The discussions are going well, and we are trying to work out agreements that work for each individual party. We have no reason to believe that these agreements will not be concluded shortly." Synan insisted that Paul Sturrock will remain in his job if the proposed takeover goes through. The same applies to Gordon Bennett, the head of Argyle's youth department, and youth coach Mike Pejic. Synan added: "Paul is still the coach, and Gordon and Mike will continue in their positions as well – all with our full support."
Paul Sturrock is sounding out potential new recruits for Argyle as he plans ahead for next season. Midfielder Kyel Reid, who has been released by West Ham United, visited Plymouth for talks last Wednesday and out-of-contract Southampton striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is expected at Home Park this week.
Paul Stapleton has revealed his three-pronged way forward for Argyle. He said: “We have always had principles that we adhered to but, for some reason, they went slightly awry last season. I know the manager has said he doesn’t want to talk about last season ever again, but that’s easier said than done. We have got to learn from the lessons of last season, such as the signing of Emile Mpenza. If we do learn from those lessons, like anybody in life, we will be better for it, and we will take that with us going forward.” An increase in salaries last season coincided with a further decline in attendances at Home Park, leaving Argyle in a difficult financial position. Stapleton said: “We spent too much on wages. We didn’t know the gates were going to drop like they did. Therefore, we have now got to trim our squad because, at the end of the day, we have got too many players. It’s very important we do that. The manager knows that and he has been trying to do it. He knows there are a number of people he has brought to the football club that, unfortunately, he has got to move on. But it’s not easy to get rid of players you don’t want.” Argyle added a player to their squad last week with the signing of Carl Fletcher on a two-year contract and Stapleton added: “We have got to trim the squad and, at the time, remember we have got to have a team that is competitive in the Championship. Hence, the reason why we have signed Carl Fletcher before we have got rid of anybody, which is a leap of faith in some respects but he was somebody we didn’t want to lose out on. We felt when he came to the football club he brought leadership qualities, good footballing skills and a maturity to the midfield. We have entrusted Paul with sorting out the player situation and bringing in new players for this season.” Argyle ended last season with several well-paid players either on the bench or not even making the squad. Stapleton wants to see players move on before any others are brought into the club. He said: “If there are people who didn’t play many games for us last season and they can go and play for another football club, therefore reducing our wage bill with or without a transfer fee – depending on the nature of the player involved, then that has got to be good business for Plymouth Argyle.”
Paul Stapleton has insisted there is 'no acrimony or bitterness' despite the delay in the proposed takeover of Argyle by Yasuaki Kagami. He said: "When George Synan came over we had dinner a couple of times and went to Paul Sturrock's house and had a chat. We have got a good relationship with George and Mr Kagami. Mr Kagami obviously hasn't been here that much, but he's a very nice person and when he comes over we get on very well. I have seen George a lot of times. The only problem with him at the minute is he has never seen us win yet, so I think he may be banned! George has got a lot of ideas and he's very pleasant. The relationship is also very good with Tony Campbell, who is their advisor. The one difficulty at times is the time difference between here and Japan. That hasn't helped. But the relationship is very good and there is no acrimony or bitterness." When Synan was in Plymouth last week he was accompanied by a group of American businessmen and Stapleton added: "I missed the Americans, unfortunately, because I was away. I would liked to have met them, with their concepts of youth coaching. As far as I'm led to believe, the Americans have no wish of getting involved with the board of the football club. As I say, it's a pity they left the day I got back to Plymouth. Their ideas seem very good. The link with Chelsea seems very good, and our aim is to develop our youth facilities for children in the south west. If all this is part of it, then great. I can see an academy-type situation developing."
Paul Stapleton has admitted he is still not sure when, or if, the proposed takeover of Argyle will be completed. He said: "We will know a lot more at the board meeting on Monday. One director is likely to step down, but that hasn't happened yet." Neither Yasuaki Kagami or George Synan will be at Home Park on Monday but Kagami's representative Tony Campbell will attend the board meeting on his behalf. Stapleton said: "They haven't told me of any plans to visit Plymouth next week. The possible takeover will be discussed in detail at the board meeting on Monday. We will have a good chat about where we are in the process." Asked whether he was frustrated by the delays to the proposed takeover, Stapleton replied: "Yes. My aim has always been that, if it was going to be the right thing for the club, to get it done and dusted before next season. Then we could have our ambitions high and everybody pulling in the same direction. Delays happen in business. Of course they do. We have just got to make sure now that we do the right thing. If that takes a bit longer because there are foreign companies involved, and whatever, then we have to understand that as well, but it can be frustrating at times. I'm confident something will be sorted out before the season starts." Asked whether there was a possibility there might not be a takeover after all, Stapleton said: "Yes. You just never know. I remember watching a televised game when Paul Sturrock was at Swindon. They showed three Portuguese guys sat in the directors' box, wearing Swindon ties, who were about to buy the club. The next week they were gone." Argyle fans have become frustrated about the lack of information surrounding the takeover, but Stapleton said: "We have run the club successfully for eight years and we are trying to make sure now that things are done for the benefit of the football club going forward. Some of these things are at a delicate stage and have to be kept confidential. Anyone who is in business will understand that. When the time is right, we will say exactly what we have done and why we have done it. At the end of the day, we are custodians of this football club and we have looked after it very well. We are trying to make sure the next phase continues in that vein." Should Kagami complete his takeover, there could be a new role at the club for Stapleton because Sir Roy Gardner has been approached about becoming the non-executive chairman of the club. Stapleton said: "To be fair, I don't know very much about that. I have seen the reports in the Press. If you google his name, he's obviously a very prestigious person. He was the chairman of Manchester United's holding company. We will just have to wait and see. If those sort of things are true, you would prefer them to be announced when and if a deal is done, rather than before a deal is done. Paul Sturrock said to me the other day he has seen so many of these cases where they have never come to fruition. So he's totally dealing with me at the minute on transfers in and transfers out, and that will continue to be the case until something changes." Stapleton became Argyle's chairman in 2001, and has been a director since 1998 and insists his passion for the club remains strong and hopes to be part of a new board of directors should Kagami take control. He said: "If the takeover happens, I would think I would still have a significant holding of shares. In which case, I would hope to be a key member of the new board going forward."
Graham Coughlan has refused to be drawn on the speculation about him making a return to Argyle. He said: "I can't say anything about it because I'm under contract to Shrewsbury Town. They are only rumours and I will have to play it by the book. I will have to see what goes down and if anything happens I will be able to say something. I haven't spoken to the chairman at Plymouth or to Paul Sturrock, and I'm going away on holiday tomorrow."
Paul Sturrock is refusing to rule out a return to Home Park for former loanees Craig Cathcart, David Gray and Alan Judge. Sturrock has briefly spoken to Alex Ferguson about Cathcart and Judge and said: "A lot of managers are away on holiday at the moment, including Alex and Sam Allardyce. Fergie went away immediately after the Champions' League final but he gave me a courtesy call before he left. Talks about those players are on the back burner until their managers come back from holiday. The good thing is these players went back with good reports about Plymouth Argyle. Fergie told me his players had been waxing lyrical about their time down here."
Paul Sturrock has confirmed there has been interest from other clubs in Simon Walton. He said: "We have had one or two clubs interested in Simon, but he and his agent have made it plain that it's inappropriate to them at this minute in time. I think a good pre-season is important to him before they make any decisions. At this juncture, he wants to get a good pre-season into him at Plymouth Argyle. That's what the story is. I think he will try to be impressive in the friendlies, and if that doesn't work out then we would have to sit down and have another conversation." Sturrock held one-on-one meetings with all of his players af the end of last season, the one exception was Walton because he had been on loan to Blackpool. That led to Sturrock meeting with him at a hotel in London last weekend. Sturrock said: "He was one I didn't have a conversation with him at the end of last season. I wanted to speak to everybody face-to-face, and there was an opportunity to do that with Simon because I was up in London. Simon asked if we could meet up there, instead of him coming down to Plymouth." Walton played all of his first team matches for Argyle in midfield, but before his loan spell with Blackpool he lined-up as a centre-back for the reserves on a couple of occasion and Sturrock has not ruled out using him there in the future. He added: "We have had that conversation – midfield or centre-half? The debate is open at this minute in time, but I feel he has got a lot to work on as far as being a centre midfield player is concerned. People forget he has played at centre-half for most of his career, and he played against us as a centre-half in one game for QPR. He has shown a naivety as a centre midfield player, which has cost him his place at times. Him and I have got to have another discussion when he comes back for pre-season training to decide whether he will be in midfield or at centre-half. It's nice to have the two choices."
Graham Coughlan is being linked with a return to Home Park in a coaching role. Paul Sturrock has refused to confirm or deny the speculation but insisted that none of his backroom staff were about to move on. He said: "I don't discuss speculation, in any form, about players, staff or anything else. I think it would be very upsetting to Shrewsbury Town Football Club to have such rumours flash about at this minute in time. And you have got to remember that Graham Coughlan is a registered footballer with them." Of the current backroom staff at Home Park, Sturrock said: "They will all be at this football club for next season." There have also been rumours about Mike Pejic possibly leaving Home Park this summer, but Sturrock quashed them too. He said: "Pej won't be leaving the club. I can put that to bed. As far as I'm concerned, he's the youth coach and will still be the youth coach at the start of the season."
Paul Sturrock was delighted to hear that Reading and Southampton have been added to the Combination Wales & West division for next season. He said: "Well I'm quite pleased in a way, but I'm a bit disappointed as well because I was hoping some of the other teams would stay in. I would have liked Torquay, Bristol Rovers and Cardiff to come back in because then we'd of had a very competitive league. We're also committed to maybe going a touch further and maybe going to those teams that have come out the leagues and getting some fixtures. I want as many reserve games as possible for the first team players to take over next season. I don't want the scenario where we've got two games one month and one game in the next month. I want to make sure that we have a regular game for the players that are not involved in the team."
Damien McCrory agreed a new one-year contract with Argyle and Paul Sturrock admitted he will keep his options open as far as McCrory was concerned. McCrory has played for the reserves, and for Port Vale during a loan spell last season, as a left-back and on the left-side of midfield. Sturrock said: "Sloop thinks Damien could be a very good left-back. I'm coming around to believing that he could be a very good left-sided player, a bit further up the pitch, or a left-back. I'm not going to put him into one position. I'm going to work him on both. Damien went from being a youth player and then all of a sudden went to playing for Port Vale in League One. He came back a much better player for it and the progression he's showed from the time he left to the time he came back, if he can progress again like that I think that after the pre-season training we're going to have quite a player on our hands." McCrory played at left-back for Ireland under-19’s in a 2-1 victory over Sweden on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Sturrock confirmed that Lloyd Saxton is still considering a new contract from the club. He said: "Lloyd has been made an offer and he's thinking about. I had a word with him before I went on holiday and let my thoughts be known. He's a development player as well and it's now up to him to make a decision."
Paul Sturrock has said that he will use the pre-season to take a look at Craig Noone and George Donnelly. He said: "The pre-season will be a big considering factor and then I'll make a decision on what the best way to develop them. Nooney shows an excitement in his game for fans last season and the boy Donnelly looked a handful when he turned up but the proof will be in the pudding with pres-season training and with friendlies.
Paul Sturrock has voiced his support for Luke Summerfield after he agreed a two-year contract extension earlier this week. Sturrock said: "We are talking about a young player who started more than 30 games last season. When we played Arsenal in the FA Cup, Arsene Wenger gave him a glowing report when we chatted afterwards. And don't forget Luke trained with Chelsea for a week a couple of years ago. I feel he gets the short straw when it comes to the way some of the fans react to him, and that's a big disappointment for me." Summerfield was a regular in midfield last season until the arrival of Carl Fletcher in mid-February but he did not play in another game after that. Sturrock added: "What has happened to Luke also happened to Steve Adams, who was another local lad. I think Steve was unjustly done by, at times, by a certain section of the support. People have to remember Luke is still in development. He did very well in a lot of games last season, winning man-of-the-match awards. He had poor games as well, no doubt about that, but I think Luke would be the first to admit that. The important thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that he's showing progress." Goalscoring is one area in which Sturrock hopes to see an improvement from Summerfield next season. Sturrock said: "Luke had a lean spell in front of goal last season. I think he lost a wee bit of confidence when it came to his shooting. That's something we will be working on with him at the start of next season. There are one or two other areas of his game I would like to see him improve on. But I wouldn't have given him a new contract unless I believed he could reach the standard we have seen now and then on a consistent basis."
Argyle will take part in a newly-formed under-21 cup competition next season. It will be run by the Combination and feature sides from all three divisions of the reserve team league. The competition will not be regionalised, meaning Argyle could be drawn away to any competing club and a goalkeeper will be the only over-age player permitted to take part.
Damien McCrory has agreed a new one-year deal with Argyle. Paul Sturrock said: "Damien went out on loan last season and he did very, very well. He played at left back and wide left and won rave reviews. That shows the benefit of putting players out on loan. He's now got another year to show me that he merits being given a further opportunity."
Carl Fletcher believes there will be no repeat next season of Argyle's struggle for survival. Paul Sturrock's pursuit of Fletcher has been well documented and after completing his move to Home Park yesterday he said: "He can stop calling me now! I'm delighted to be here and thanks to the manager for bringing me down here and giving me the opportunity to play some football. I enjoyed myself at the end of last season and was lucky enough that Plymouth wanted to keep me. At the time I arrived here, the team were having a bit of a bad run, which can happen to any side. After the first couple of days, I saw there was a good quality squad here and everyone was willing to work hard for one another, so I think it was just a matter of time before we got results. It was a bit disappointing finishing fourth from bottom, but the way the season went that was the main objective going into the last few months. I think we will be looking to push a lot higher up the table this season." Fletcher knows it will not be easy for Argyle but he insisted they were capable of more than holding their own. He said: "Norwich, Charlton and Southampton were relegated last season and they are massive teams who have been in the Premier League in the last couple of years. It's a very tough league – a very tough one to get out of and a very tough one to stay in. It just takes a bit of consistency and a bit of organisation. But Burnley have come from more or less obscurity and they have been promoted to the Premier League now. If you can get the same kind of spirit and organisation, and get on a roll with wins, then anything is possible." Fletcher played in the Premier League for West Ham United and still has ambitions to return to the top flight. He added: "I wouldn't be playing week in, week out, going through pre-season again, just to turn up every week. We want to achieve things. It only takes a little spark here and there, and a bit of togetherness, and you can go on and achieve anything. It's a lovely place to live down here and I'm looking forward to the new season." Argyle will start their preparations for the campaign when pre-season training starts on July 1st. Fletcher believes that will be an important time, both for himself and for the rest of the squad. He said: "I think it's about my 11th pre-season and they don't get any easier, no matter what people say. I'm getting older now and know what my body needs, and it's a lot more than it did when I was younger. It will be alright once you get into it and get focused on it. I think, these days, it's very important to get a good pre-season underneath your belt, for the whole team to take into the new season."
Carl Fletcher is hoping that his move to Home Park will help his international ambitions. Carl, who has won 36 international caps, was omitted from the Welsh squad for their World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan, with John Toshack critical of some of his senior players, Fletcher included. Fletcher said: "I read a few of the comments he made when they were away concerning the senior lads: from my point of view, it was disappointing to hear those things from someone who I respected as a person. Every Wales game, I have played, I have tried to do my best. Every time I put on a Welsh shirt I tried to go out and do 100%, tried to do well, tried to do what was asked of me to the best of my ability. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but to hear discouraging comments wasn't very nice. Obviously I am very disappointed, but that's the manager's decision at the end of the day and I can only try hard to get back in the squad. If things go well for Plymouth, anything can happen."
Carl Fletcher joined Argyle today after agreeing a two year contract. Paul Sturrock said: "I tried to get him at the beginning of last season. He influenced the club when he came in February, and, if I had managed to get him in the summer, we would have seen and benefited from that influence. He has great leadership qualities, he leads by example, and has been the captain of Wales. I am delighted to have him at the club and look forward to him being an ever-present in the team next season." Paul Stapleton said: "When Carl became available, the board had no hesitation in approving his transfer even though we have made it clear to the manager that the squad needs trimming. He was a key player for us in the latter part of last season, and the board and the manager were very keen to bring him back. He is an experienced international and has fine leadership qualities."
Luke Summerfield today agreed a two-year contract extension with Argyle.
Paul Sturrock's recent family holiday was regularly interrupted by telephone calls from Scottish journalists trying to persuade him to admit to an interest in the managerial vacancies at Aberdeen and Hibernian. Sturrock had the same response to all such enquiries – that he has a job to do at Home Park and he intends to stick around and get on with it. After his return Sturrock said: "It's nice to know that I'm still thought of up there. I'm very pleased about that, but last year was probably my first season as a manager in which I've had more defeats than wins. That irks me. I want to put that right at this football club. I want to put this football club on the right footing again, and get it going in the right direction. That's a challenge I'm looking forward to. Last season was difficult for me. It was very difficult for me to stamp my authority on the team, and it was the same the season before, because we were chasing the play-offs. Things that I would have put in place were left on the back-burner." Sturrock is determined to do things in a more structured way next season. "This season, starting from day one, we will do things the way I've done them at every other football club I've been at. That starts on July 1st. Nobody will be left in any doubt that I'm stamping my authority on this football club." Argyle hope to have a game against Dundee United during their pre-season trip to Scotland, but no match has yet been confirmed. Sturrock said: "It has been a problem, because some of the Premier League teams looked as though they might qualify for Europe, and they would not be able to play us. A lot of other teams have been involved in play-offs at the end of the season, but now that has been done and dusted. We'll definitely get some games up there, no problem. Michael Dunford has been trying to fix up some games, but there's nothing concrete yet." Argyle are also trying to arrange two more first-team friendlies but it has not been an easy task to find appropriate opposition for the one home match they hope to stage. "The problem is getting a good game here," Sturrock added. "We can't play opposition from our own league, and that rules out most of the teams who are coming down here. Premier League teams are not coming down this far, and they can't give guarantees because of the European competitions some of them are in. It's very difficult to plan anything. I don't want foreign opposition, either. Last year, when we went to Austria, we played people who were completely alien to the way we were trying to play. I don't feel that's appropriate this season. I want British opposition."
Sir Roy Gardner would have only a limited involvement in Argyle should he become the club's non-executive chairman. Gardner would probably only have an involvement of around 20 days a year with Argyle should he accept Yasuaki Kagami's offer and would make visits to Home Park to oversee the running of the club, on behalf of Shonan Management Corporation. Gardner's appointment would be a major coup for Kagami and Argyle. Among his many other roles, Gardner is a senior adviser to financial services company Credit Suisse and the president of the Energy Institute. He was also the chairman of the British Olympics Appeal Committee for the Beijing Games in 2008 and received his knighthood in 2002 for services to the gas and electricity industries. George Synan was in Plymouth last week and held a series of meetings. He and Tony Campbell, Kagami's representative, showed a group of Americans around Home Park last Tuesday. They included Don Sheppard, the president of Los Angeles Futbol Club, one of the United States' leading youth football academies. It is thought Sheppard is not interested in putting money into Argyle but he could be prepared to provide funds to improve training facilities for youth coaching. That could lead to a tie-up between Argyle and LAFC, who also entered into an official partnership with Chelsea in 2008. One of the results of that is a player and coach exchange, while the club is now known as LAFC Chelsea. Kagami has similar plans for giving young players from Japan the chance to train with Argyle so a partnership between Argyle and LAFC Chelsea could be a possibility in the near future.
Damien McCrory was in the starting line-up for the Republic of Ireland Under-19’s 6-1 defeat to Switzerland on Sunday.
Rory Fallon may have an unexpected chance to play for New Zealand in the World Cup in South Africa. Fallon played for England at youth international level while with Barnsley. In 2005, New Zealand named him in a squad for a friendly against Australia in London, but they found that they could not play him because he was over the age limit for a change of international allegiance. A motion to remove the age limit was passed by FIFA last week so Fallon is in the clear to play for New Zealand, if he wants to and if he is called up. The rule change will also allow Yoann Folly to play competitive international football for Togo, if selected. He made his debut for Togo in a friendly against the Democratic Republic of Congo last August, but his Under-21 caps for France meant that he was ineligible for Togo's World Cup qualifiers. The rule change does not permit players who have won full international caps to switch nations.
Sir Roy Gardner could become the new chairman of Argyle should Yasuaki Kagami complete his takeover at Home Park. Gardner, who was chairman of Manchester United PLC from 2001 to 2005, is currently chairman of Compass Group, a contract catering company. If Kagami takes charge at Home Park and persuades Gardner to take up the role, Paul Stapleton could take on another role at the club.
Paul Sturrock is more hopeful of securing new faces for his squad, and moving some players on, after meeting with agents and managers in London over the weekend. He said: "The meetings went very well – we had a chat with six or seven agents and I'm very hopeful. It was very worthwhile. The agents very often have access to managers where we at Plymouth Argyle perhaps don't so much." Sturrock said the first move in getting a player to sign with the club was to get them to visit Plymouth and have a look around, but he said: "Nothing's going to happen until the last third of June, when there will be quite a few phone-calls going on." When asked if he a had shopping list of players, Sturrock said: "Definitely in defence – there is a certain type of player I want to bring into the club. It's a hard and laborious process and you are in the lap of the Gods. It is only the start of the process, because you have players, managers and chairmen away on holiday at the moment. I'll get excited by probably July 1st."
Damien McCrory was a non-playing substitute in the Republic of Ireland under-19’s squad which lost 1-0 to Belgium on Friday night.
Argyle reserves will face Reading and Southampton in the Combination Wales and West Division next season. The two clubs have replaced Cheltenham Town and Yeovil Town and the full make-up of the Wales and West Division is now Bournemouth, Bristol City, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Argyle, Reading, Salisbury, Southampton, Swansea Town and Swindon Town.
Experience is a key ingredient that Paul Sturrock will look to add to his squad before the start of next season. He said: "I really believe that last year, Carl Fletcher, who I had chased from the start of the season, optimised the type of experienced player that we need for this football club. I bought a lot of novicey-type players in like Walton, people forget he's just 21; Puncheon, very inexperienced League Two player; then you get down to Noone and Donnelly, so we've done our work as far as bringing in potential goes. For them to benefit now, I've got to bring in two or three boys who have done it, seen it, and got the t-shirt. That's the type of player we have to bring in - the type with leadership quality." Sturrock insisted that unless Argyle can move on some of the players on the fringe of the first team, bringing in new faces would be difficult. He said: "To be fair, I'm going to be linked with an awful lot of players because I'm going to be talking to an awful lot of players. None of these things can be done without, hand-in-hand, someone going in the other direction. Last year we had four or five boys came in and it didn't work out, so we got four of five others in on loan to compensate that and now we're sitting with 30 pros. The Catch 22 of all this is that the finance is draining the club so we've got to get the squad down to a workable numbers - around 20 or 21 players and hopefully use some of the younger players to help out too. We've always got the loan system if we have any problems."
Paul Sturrock knows he will have to ship out players if he wants to bring in new faces for next season but hopes he does not have wave goodbye to his prize assets. He said: "I'm hopeful that the players that have been on the periphery will move on, for their benefit and ours. I'd like to think there would be a sensibility amongst some of the players about wanting to play regularly. Finance will dictate a lot of what will happen - there will be certain people at this football club who we won't want to lose, but we might have to lose because there'll be a price on their head. I'd be very hopeful that I don't lose the players that form the hub of the team, but I'm a realist to appreciate that finances can dictate a lot of decision-making. I've been a football manager a long, long time and, at the end of the day, I can see the necessity at this time for cash."
Paul Sturrock insists his vision for the future of Argyle will not be clouded by the proposed takeover of the club. He said: "I've had boardroom changes at Swindon, at Dundee United, Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton. So, at the end of the day, I'm old enough and experienced enough, to be appreciative of these situations. The takeover hasn't gone through yet, although I'll be meeting some of them and obviously the chairman as well. Then I'll have a clearer picture of where we're going as far as that's concerned. But until that green light has been given – I have a board and a chairman I am answerable to."
Paul Sturrock believes that the current financial climate will make the loan market more competitive than ever as he looks to strengthen his squad. Sturrock, who is planning talk to at least 20 agents and players on a weekend trip to London, said: "I think everybody will be after loan signings. I've had a chat with five or six of the Premiership managers now, I've stated my case and they've obviously been receptive to the chat we've had. The next conversation I will have with them will be in early July so, until that time, we've got kick ourselves into pre-season training and obviously think about moving some players out. So, again, as far as the loans are concerned, it will be late on before some of these players are coming in, which is a bit disappointing. Last year, we got caught out a wee bit, it was obviously not ideal - two players came in on the Friday before the first game. We need to see which players are available, and which players would like to come to Plymouth. I would like to see them face to face and have a good chat with them. Late June is when the witching-hour comes - there'll be several clubs that come in for players - but, until that time, we've got to make sure we look at moving several players out and moving several players in. Our finger is on the pulse because we studied the Premier Reserve League in the last six weeks of the season - we blanketed it - so we know exactly of targets for all positions, should we need them. Our homework's been done." Sturrock also said that the financial climate may make it easier to lure players into lower-wage contracts. He said: "I think that the people who are getting paid unbelievable wages for this league will probably have to cut their cloth. They won't and they'll hang out for as long as they possibly can to see if someone will take them on with the same wages, but as soon as they see that nobody is biting, they are going to have to lower their standards and hopefully that will help the football clubs. I pre-planned that we would get the nod from some of the Premiership managers on some loans and also on some that become free and are available, but it looks as though they're all going to wait to check their options. The key to us is moving players on that is vitally important in terms of bringing players in that's another reason why I'm speaking to so many agents this week. Some of the agents are agents of players already at the club and some other agents to see if there are any managers who are looking for the types of players that we might have. The reason why the loans were so successful last year was the time-frame. We had a thought-process on different types of players. We didn't have to go charging out there, we had a chance to go and watch them two or three times in a reserve games before we bought them in. That's more difficult to do with the permanent signings because, obviously, the window comes and sends sheer panic from top to bottom of the football club. This year, that won't happen because the finance of the football club will be determined and the players we bring in will be determined by the players that are moving out."
Paul Sturrock wants the post-mortem on last season to be brought to an end. "The most important thing for this football club is to put last season behind us," he said yesterday. "I think there has been too much negativity in discussions about last season. Last season is in the past, we're still in this league, and some of our players are going to be a year better off in terms of experience of playing in this league. We have to be as positive as possible going into the new season. Mistakes were made, by myself and by many people at the football club last season, but it's time to forget and it's time to look forward now. That's what we have to do. This is a big season coming up for us."
Carl Fletcher is expected to sign a pre-contract agreement with Argyle after he returns from holiday next week. Paul Sturrock would not confirm that the deal was agreed, but did say: "I'm very hopeful there's a deal to be done there. He's back next week." Another of Sturrock's loan signings last season was Paul Gallagher. He has been made available for transfer by Blackburn Rovers, but not at a price that Argyle can afford. "The boy Gallagher has been price-tagged at over a million pounds," Sturrock said. "That's well out of our reach."
The announcement of a contract extension for Luke Summerfield is understood to be imminent and Paul Sturrock said: "That's ongoing, and I hope we'll get it sorted out next week."
Simon Walton wants a fresh start at Home Park next season and has insisted he will be an Argyle player 'until somebody tells me to stop'. He said: "I did all right at Blackpool and I impressed in training. But I haven't had any contact with anyone, so I don't think anything's going to happen there. The caretaker manager and his staff who dealt with me have now all gone, so I think that door's closed now. The only thing to do is to get back down to Home Park on July 1 and work my tail off until somebody tells me different. I am not in a rush to go anywhere. I've got three years left at Argyle and obviously I have plenty of time to see what happens. I'm having a little break and getting away from football for a bit, but before the season starts, I've got to concentrate on keeping myself fit. Last year was a bit of a disaster for me, because I didn't help myself at times. But a lot of people have shown faith in me and I want next season to be a fresh start. Obviously, I wasn't consistent on the pitch, but fingers crossed, that will go right next season. I think people forget that I'm still only 21 and I am learning every day. Next season it will make me a stronger player."
Argyle have again been linked with striker James Scowcroft, who turned down a move to Home Park from Crystal Palace in February. Scowcroft has now been released by Palace.
Other potential investors are set to team up with Yasuaki Kagami in his takeover of Argyle, according to newspaper reports. Kagami is expected to fly in from Japan later this month to put the finishing touches to the deal but some potential investors from North America who are interested in supporting the takeover are currently in Plymouth and were shown around Home Park yesterday by George Synan and Tony Campbell. No details have emerged yet about the identities of the potential investors.
Paul Stapleton confirmed last night that talks regarding the future of Argyle will continue this week. He said: "George Synan is coming over for further talks with the board this week. There have been delays, but not of our making. We really want to set our focus on the new season, on making sure that we compete in the Championship for the sixth season running. We've got to do what's best for the football club. That's why we're taking our time - we have to make sure that the football club is protected. My personal opinion is that, if anything is concluded, it won't be concluded before the board meeting on June 15th."
Paul Stapleton believes Argyle’s flirtation with relegation last season brought home to everyone at Home Park how vital it is to avoid dropping down to League One. In a frank assessment of the 2008-09 campaign he said: "Last year was probably the most draining year we've had since we came into the Championship in 2004-05. In the first couple of years, we flirted with relegation under Bobby Williamson and then we appointed Tony Pulis to keep us safe, but the pressures weren't the same: we'd come with a significant cash-balance and we had average gates of 16,500 - it was a different world then. Last season - following two years of really good positions of 11th and 10th - maybe we had become a bit complacent in our attitude and it's only when you start to flirt with the spectre of relegation that you realise how serious it would be to find yourselves out of the Championship. It really bought home how tenuous our position in the Championship was and the effect that relegation would cause the football club. While there were some highs last season - like Wolves away - there were very, very many lows, which was unfortunate. The losing home games to Derby, Crystal Palace, Doncaster and Norwich were poor games and not the Plymouth team we've come to know and love. We had too many lows last year. I've spoken to the manager about this and told him that's not good enough. Paul is anxious to sort things out and anxious to do things right. Part of last season's problem was the failure of the players that had been brought in to gel into a team. I know it was always going to be difficult with a team in transition but there were so many players bought in who didn't perform in our first team, and that necessitated a number of loan signings, which we suffered for because we've had to spend a lot more money on the team than we thought we'd have to. We wasted a lot of money, which goes against the grain for me as a chartered accountant. It was the worst year for the waste of money and that really, really upsets me both as a fan and the one who is trying to hold the purse strings. We didn't get a return on the speculative nature of some signings - particularly Emile Mpenza and Nicolas Marin, even Rudi Douala at the end of the season. Simon Walton didn't go out on loan until the end of the season. That shouldn't happen in this football club. We've always prided ourselves on being prudent. Falling down the league, coupled with the global downturn in the economy, resulted in a lower gate and caused all sorts of problems on a cash basis."
While the quality of the Championship last season did not surprise Paul Stapleton, Argyle’s performances against teams in their own area of the division did. He said: "We knew the season was going to be difficult, with six teams having a parachute payment. Having said that, we did perform very well in home games against Wolves, Reading and Sheffield United, and we lost to Birmingham when we shouldn't have done, so we did prove we can compete with teams at the top of the league. However, our form against the bottom-of-the-table teams was really, really poor. Whether that was a problem with the attitude of the management or the players, something was seriously wrong. It was very flat in some of the home games. When we went away to Watford and Crystal Palace and even Bristol City, where we played brilliantly, you actually thought there was no problem. Then we went all those games without wins. In my view, the rot set in after we lost 2-1 at home to Blackpool and it seemed to knock us back. We did the same against Charlton, when we only just managed a draw. That's when we got into the mindset that we couldn't come back from a goal deficit. What annoys me - and this is a psychological thing - is that we'd have beaten Barnsley on the last day of the season, we'd have finished 17th. Now, that's hell of a lot of difference than finishing 21st. We could so easily been above Coventry and Derby by being 17th. There's a mindset that we used to have in the football club and we've got to get it back again. I've got to be honest - I haven't enjoyed the stress, and the feel-good factor hasn't been there. I look at our fans who pay their money - and the Directors are all fans, don't forget - the last thing you want to do is be 3-0 down to a poor Crystal Palace side at half-time on a cold Tuesday night. It's not us. Thank goodness we saved ourselves with some fantastic away results but we can't rely on other teams getting only 46 points next year. We've got to make sure we get that 52 or 53 so I'm glad this season's over and am looking forward to next season with optimism and hope of seeing some great games against the likes of Newcastle and Blackpool, with Ian Holloway now. My dream start would be home to Blackpool and then away to Newcastle, catching Newcastle early on whilst they're still trying to find their feet, because they won't find it easy. I'm very hopeful for the new season, as long as we aren't carrying any passengers. We can't afford to have eight players sitting in the stands each week. We have to work out which players will not be any good for Argyle in the future and look to move them on. Then we have to look at bringing players in who will make sure that we compete in the Championship because the last thing we want to do is fall down the league. We want to be in this league, cement our place and then look to move forward when the time is right. That includes investment in players and the grandstand. In my view, Argyle aren't very far from being a Burnley team. We weren't very far from being a Hull team. There is always one of those who come through the pack in a year and there is no reason why we couldn't emulate one of them - if they can do it, I'm sure we can do it. I even get a bit upset by people saying that we are the poor relations of the league. My advice to them would be to be happy that we're in this league - even Reading haven't found it easy and look who's gone down - Norwich, Southampton and Charlton. Those teams were all in the Premiership four years ago and look where they are. On June 17th, when the fixtures come out, look where we are. Let's have a bit of optimism going into the New Year. We're in a difficult league, the most difficult league in the world in some respects because you don't have one or two teams just running away with it. Having said that, let's enjoy it. It is a great opportunity for us to play great teams at fantastic stadiums."
Argyle have confirmed they will play a pre-season friendly against Morecambe. The game will take place at Morecambe’s Christie Park on Saturday, July 25th as Argyle return from their week-long Scottish pre-season training camp.
Karl Duguid thinks there will be a buzz around Home Park if Yasuaki Kagami completes a takeover. Duguid said: "We don't know when the takeover's going to happen. We've been saying it's going to be soon, it seems, since I've been here. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't – but if it does there might be a big buzz around the club in pre-season. That's what we're hoping for. Obviously, the new owners will inject some money into the club and hopefully the manager will have some to spend." Argyle will need to strengthen after Newcastle, Middlesbrough and West Brom were all relegated from the Premier League, and Leicester and Peterborough were promoted from League One. "Each division seems to be getting stronger each season," Duguid added. "League One will have Norwich, Charlton, and Southampton and Leeds in next season. I think our division will be very tough again. Teams coming up like Peterborough and Leicester are going to be strong and spend money, and teams coming down like Newcastle and West Brom will be favourites to go up." Duguid helped Argyle narrowly avoid relegation last season, which would have seen them miss out on £2.5million in television revenue in 2009/10. "When you're down near the bottom it is a bit nerve-wracking, but we accomplished what we needed to do," he said. "It was a strange season really. But, personally, I really enjoyed it, because obviously I played in most of the games." Duguid arrived at Home Park expecting to replace Paul Connolly at full-back but was switched by Paul Sturrock to centre midfield for the trip to Watford on September 16th. He scored in the win and never looked back. "I enjoyed it there in centre midfield," he said. "Obviously I came in last summer as a right-back, but in Austria in pre-season the manager tried out some different things. When the season started things didn't go as well as we would have liked and the manager changed it around at Watford and played myself and Luke in centre midfield, and we both scored. Like I said, I enjoyed it and centre midfield is somewhere I hope to be playing again next season." In mid-February Carl Fletcher signed on loan from Crystal Palace and made an immediate impact alongside Duguid. "I clicked with Carl really well," said Duguid. "We're both experienced players and knew what was needed and what each other was going to do. I already knew Carl from playing against him when he was at Bournemouth and I think we worked really well together. He had that bit of experience which the manager brought in because of the situation we were in." Indifferent home form plagued the team all season, and Duguid added: "Next season it's down to the players to sort that out. We conceded sloppy goals at home which we didn't away last season. Our away form at times was good, but the main thing next season is the home form. If we sort that out and continue to pick up results away, we'll be okay."
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