A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Argyle’s youth team will face FA Youth Cup winners Arsenal as part of their pre-season programme. The game will be on July 17th at Arsenal’s training ground at Bell Lane, London Colney at 1pm. They will also play Manchester City at Alsager College on July 24th at 11am, Reading at the Royal’s Finchampstead training ground on July 31st at 2pm, Cardiff City at Truro City's Treyew Road ground on August 7th at 12.30pm and Aston Villa at their Bodymoor Heath training ground on August 15th.
Yasuaki Kagami is expecting to complete his takeover of Argyle by early June according to newspaper reports. It is thought an agreement has now been reached where Phill Gill will sell his stake in Argyle’s holding company to Kagami. Gill declined to comment but George Synan, a director of Shonan Management Corporation, confirmed that the future of the club should be resolved soon. Synan said: "We are looking to close the deal in early June. There are many aspects that need to be worked out but we think we are there. As soon as we are able to provide more concrete information we will." Kagami, Synan and a business associate are thought to be making a three-day visit to Plymouth next week to put the finishing touches to the takeover.
Argyle will receive a £500,000 payment from Hull City as part of the Peter Halmosi transfer deal after they avoided relegation from the Premier League yesterday
Paul Sturrock has challenged Krisztian Timar to put a frustrating season behind him and win back his place in the Argyle defence. He said: "The challenge for Kris now is to put all his energies into focusing on the opening day of next season and winning his place back. He has had an unfortunate time with some things that were out of his control. The injury coming when he had just enjoyed the season of his life was an example of football biting you in the backside. Then he was sent off and so was suspended when we won 2-1 at Watford, a victory which set us off on a good run that made it difficult for me to make changes. The form of Marcel Seip and Craig Cathcart - the Young Player of the Season - meant they kept the shirts." Another piece of misfortune for Timar occurred later in the season, when Cathcart was injured at Blackpool. Timar was not on the bench at Bloomfield Road and Cathcart's replacement, Chris Barker, turned in a performance that saw him play at centre-back for the final few games. Sturrock added: "That's football. There was probably no-one in the dressing-room who wanted last season to end more than Kris, and probably no-one looking forward to next year more than him. The past is the past. When the players come back for next season, all the shirts are up for grabs."
Argyle are closing in on the signing of Carl Fletcher and reports suggest a deal could be completed when Fletcher returns from holiday in early June. Luke Summerfield is also very close to agreeing a new two-year contract and the deal should be finalised next week. Lloyd Saxton and Damien McCrory have been offered new one-year contracts and the club are awaiting decisions from them.
Argyle are reported to be interested in Slovakian international defender Maros Klimpl, who is currently on loan to Motherwell from Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland. In addition to Klimpl, Argyle have also been linked with Algerian international striker Kamel Ghilas who currently plays for Spanish second division side Celta Vigo.
Paul Sturrock believes Argyle will benefit from the promotion of Torquay United back to the Football League as it opens the way to loan out players to the Gulls, especially some of Argyle's young players. Sturrock has already had talks with Torquay manager Paul Buckle and chief executive Colin Lee and he said: "We are going to have another meeting after next season has started. We have all seen how well Ashley Barnes has come on since going out on loan to Eastbourne. It was a great benefit to him and I think it's definitely the way to go. Our reserves' league is disjointed because the games are not played regularly. There's no substitute for playing in competitive matches on a Saturday." Sturrock also welcomed the promotion of Exeter City to League One. He said: "I'm very pleased for both Torquay and Exeter. It's a great benefit to the South West, which had been in the doldrums a bit."
Damien McCrory has been called-up by the Republic of Ireland for next month's UEFA Under-19 European Championship qualifying tournament in Belgium. Ireland will play Sweden, Switzerland, and Belgium with one place available for the group winners in the finals, which are being held in the Ukraine in July. Club colleague Ryan Brett had also been at a training camp in Dublin for the past three days but did not make the final squad. Joe Mason was also asked to attend the training camp, but had to withdraw at the last minute due to illness.
Krisztian Timar has been told he can leave Argyle should another club come in for him. It is thought Timar became increasingly frustrated about his lack of first-team opportunities during the course of last season and with Sturrock under pressure to reduce the size of his squad Timar has been told the club are ready to listen to offers for him.
Ryan Brett believes he could not have had a better tutor during his two years as an Argyle apprentice than Mike Pejic. Brett said: "I think it has been very helpful for me that Pej was a left-back and I'm a left-back. He has taught me a lot of things one-to-one and it has pushed me on as a player. Pej played for England so I really couldn't have asked for anyone better to learn from." Brett has been a lifelong Argyle supporter, so being offered a six-month professional contract by was a huge thrill for him. He said: "I'm still buzzing, really. It's what I have wanted all along. I have worked so hard for it. Now I have got it, I need to push on again. I used to have a season ticket, and I went to all the games – home and away – and now I'm here, where I want to be. The manager wants me to knuckle down, work as hard as I can and impress him as much as I can. I want to play as high as possible and try to be the best player I can be. I have trained with the first team a few times, now and then, and it has been good. It's a lot more difficult but I like playing with them. They are a good bunch of lads so I have just got to get stuck in when pre-season training starts."
Ben Gerring has revealed how he used his inclusion in the first-team squad for the pre-season tour to Austria last summer as extra motivation to make the senior ranks. He said: "It was brilliant. The whole experience was just phenomenal. It was really good for me to be around the first-team players and in the atmosphere of how they work. It was just a shame I didn't get to play over there because of the medial knee ligament I got in a training match. Sometimes, when you are in the youth team you maybe don't take things so seriously. But when you are out there it's just a whole different ball-game. They are all out there for one reason, and that's to win. It was good being around that atmosphere." Gerring has been pushed hard by Mike Pejic since starting out as an apprentice in July 2007. He added: "It has been a long, tough two years and I'm just glad it's all over and done with now, and in good respects. I have got what I worked to get. It has been a pleasure working with Pej because he's ruthless but you get the best from him." Gerring was first recommended to Argyle by youth development officer John James, when he was aged 12. He said: "John James lives locally to me and he saw me playing for Chelston. I was in the centre of excellence until I was 14, and then I came back again when I was 16." A six month contract only gives Gerring a short time to try to impress Paul Sturrock, but he is ready for the challenge. He said: "As long as I try hard and do my best, that's all I can ask for."
Argyle have confirmed they will play Torquay United in a pre-season friendly at Plainmoor on Wednesday, July 15th at 7.45pm.
Paul Maxwell has agreed a new contract with Argyle up to the summer of 2012. Maxwell said: "I have been here 10 years now – 13 if you count my time as a player. I suppose you could say Argyle is in my blood. It's all I know. There have been some ups and downs, but there have been a lot more ups than downs. For me, I have always said that being a physio is the next best thing to playing. It has kept me involved in the changing room." One of Kevin Hodges' first decisions after he took over as manager was to appoint Maxwell, who added: "I will always be grateful to Hodgie for giving me that opportunity. I missed playing – I still miss it to this day – and at 26 I thought, 'You never know, I might get a game here and there'. It does seem a long time ago now, but the championship-winning seasons seem a long time ago as well. I have made a lot of good friends over the 10 years. People like Mick Heathcote, Paul Wotton and Paul McGregor." Maxwell has, in the past, had a dual role of being Argyle's physio and fitness coach but the coaching staff are now responsible for that, and he concentrates on his medical duties. There are two injuries which stick in the mind of Maxwell from his time as Argyle physio, the knee ligament injury to Paul Wotton and a broken ankle suffered by David Worrell in 2000/01. Maxwell said: "It was a long process bringing Wottsie back from his cruciate knee ligament injury. But probably the most difficult one was when Dave Worrell had a triple fracture in his ankle joint. Fortunately, they were two people who knew the way I worked and allowed me to push them and didn't really moan or complain. Dave's was a bad injury but he came back in rapid time, and that was down to him pushing himself each day." Maxwell has ambitions of working in the Premier League at some stage and his dream job would be at Liverpool – the club he supports. He said: "It would be great to be in the Premier League with Plymouth. If not, it will have to be with Liverpool! If Rafa gave me a call I don't think I could turn that down."
Joe Mason has spoken of his pride at being offered a professional contract by his hometown club. He said: "I'm very proud to be a professional here. It's my local club and I have grown up watching them. If I could play for the first team it would mean a lot to me and my family." Mason revealed that Mickey Evans had been his favourite player over the years. He said: "Mickey Evans is a legend. He's from Plymouth and he went to my school as well." Mason admits he owes a lot to Mike Pejic. He said: "Before I was under Pej, my knowledge of the game wasn't really that good, but he's second to none with his knowledge. You can't help but learn from him and I appreciate everything he has done for me." Mason knows it will take time for him to settle into the senior squad and also realises he may be sent out on loan before he gets a chance for a first team call-up. He said: "I will try to get in with the lads as much as possible in pre-season and just see what happens. I will do whatever I'm told by the manager, to be honest. If I'm asked to go out on loan, I would go out and try my best. And if it means moving away, from home, that's no problem. I have trained with the first team quite a bit, to be fair, and it has helped me to get to know them. They are a nice bunch of lads." Mason scored 16 goals in all competitions for the under-18’s this season, and was also the reserves' top scorer on eight, which has fuelled his belief he can make a successful step-up to the first team. He added: "I definitely think I can score goals in the Championship, given the chance, but I know I have got to work hard to get there in the first place. I will see how next season goes, and if I get in the first team I will try to score goals."
Mike Pejic has seen three members of his under-18 squad ascend to full professional status at Home Park this month and he feels that one of the trio still has a lot to do to prove that he can forge a long- term career in football. Joe Mason has received a one-year deal, while Ben Gerring and Ryan Brett have had to make do with six-month contracts. Pejic has admitted that Gerring has not been a perfect pupil. He said: "Ben Gerring has been a challenge. When I first came here, I had seven days to pick out players for apprenticeships that year. Ben was missing for the first two days – he was in America with his father. When he came over, he only trained for half a day, and then he had another day when he looked quite good. Then I saw him on his third day, and I thought that the kid had raw potential. I could see a Sami Hyypia, at Liverpool, type of player in him, and I thought he was worth taking on for that reason alone." It has not been plain sailing since then. "We've had no end of problems with him, on and off the pitch," Pejic added, "but that's a sign of immaturity. That's what you have to put up with. It takes all types, so I've put up with that. He has been a problem in training at times, so I've had to sort that out. It's only in the last two months, probably, that he has delivered the sort of consistency I've been expecting from him for nearly two years, but all the time I've felt it has been worthwhile, pushing the kid, because he's worth it. Hopefully, now, the penny has dropped with him. Sometimes you lose them, sometimes you gain. He hasn't liked it, sometimes, but it's my job to deal with them." Pejic also feels that Gerring and Brett would have been better served with longer contracts. He said: "I would have liked them to have had 12-month contracts, because I don't think you can do much with them in six months. Brett needs two to three years." Brett has played at left-back and in central defence and Pejic added: "He is very composed under pressure, and he very rarely gives the ball away. His distribution is excellent and his defensive duties have come on through playing at centre-back, but he's a left-back for me. He's quite strong and he's fit, but he's very lean and he needs one to three years of work on his body shape and his conditioning." Of Mason Pejic said: "He's an out-and-out striker, but he's quite an intelligent lad and he has taken on board all the tactical aspects of the game. I've given him an education in all the attacking positions. He has played wide right, wide left, sitting off the front, playing up front in a pair and playing up front on his own. He is a goal scorer, and he has come good. He too needs to continue with his strength training and his conditioning for the next three years or so, but I do think he's strong enough for Championship football. He glides across the pitch, he's a quick and effective runner, and he's good at maintaining speed. His control under pressure is exceptional, he has little back-lift and he can finish from outside the area. He also gets goals inside the box, because he's on the move all the time."
The Argyle board made no comment about the proposed takeover of the club after the monthly board meeting yesterday, and issued only this brief statement: "The largest part of the board meeting was taken up analysing last season with the manager, and looking ahead to next year. We talked about player lists, analysed targets and discussed plans and objectives for the future. The rest of the meeting was taken up with normal, routine, boardroom business."
Paul Sturrock is optimistic that Luke Summerfield will still be at Argyle next season. Sturrock admitted discussions about a new contract had been ‘dragging on’ for some time and said: "You know what football is like. There are all sorts of reasons behind it. They have an opinion, we have an opinion and we go back and forth. It's one of those things. He is a young player and it was only the end of the season that he fell out of the team. He has had a long hard season. He has bridged the gap and shown he is going in the right direction."
Argyle are close to finalising a pre-season game at Torquay United, possibly on Wednesday, July 15th. They are also planning on having games on July 20th and July 22nd during the training camp in Scotland but Sturrock admitted sorting out the opposition was not easy. Argyle are also hoping to play a pre-season friendly against a Premier League club at Home Park, possibly on August 1st. Sturrock said: "None of those teams can give us a 'yes' or a 'no' at the moment on whether they would come down here."
The Argyle squad have gone off on their summer holidays with a busy gym schedule to follow. Paul Sturrock held individual meetings with his squad at the end of the season and they were all given fitness targets for the next two months. He said: "All the players had an individual meeting with me and letters went out stating what I am looking for. Their weight training schedules have been issued and the weight they finished the season with is what we are looking for when they get back. Most of them are committed to working right through the summer, especially on their upper-body strength." When the squad returns for pre-season training on July 1st, Sturrock is planning to experiment with different venues. "I am now trying to arrange some training areas," he said. "This year, I don't want to do it all at Harper's Park. I want to break out around Devon like I have done in the past. There are a couple of areas I am going to have a look at to see if they're up to standard."
Paul Sturrock is hoping several of his out-of-favour players will move elsewhere during the summer but does not believe much will happen in the next month. He said: ""The market is dead. It always is at this time and it's never going to change. Managers you want to get in touch with seem to mysteriously drift in the wind. At this juncture, I am building a wish-list, but that list can only be worked on if the wish-list of moving players on works as well. There have been one or two enquiries for some of my players but that is as far as the debate's gone. If somebody really wants to be first in line…and I have had one manager who is very keen. It normally hots up a couple of weeks before pre-season, so I don't envisage anything happening until mid-June. I have obviously sent out faxes to a lot of football clubs. I've not named anybody; just debated that there would be people available."
Mike Pejic has admitted he thought midfielder Brian McCaul should have been offered a professional contract by Argyle. Pejic is now trying to fix up McCaul, as well as Lewis Edwards and Josh Grant, with other clubs. He said: "I put four players forward out of the group, but three were taken on. Unfortunately, Brian McCaul hasn't made it, but we will do what we can elsewhere for him now." Pejic sees it as another part of his job to assist Edwards, Grant and McCaul in their search for new clubs. He added: "I have already had meetings with them. I have spoken to one or two coaches at other clubs to see if I can make any in-roads for them. We have also had contact from people in America who are interested in giving them scholarships if they want to take that route."
Joe Mason has been tipped to challenge for a first-team call-up at Argyle next season by Mike Pejic. He said: "I'm sure he will continue to work hard, and I will continue to monitor his progress and do extra sessions for him. Joe is a goalscorer and everybody is after goalscorers. I would think one or two people will have noted his name down already. Hopefully, he can make an early breakthrough into the first team. He certainly wouldn't be fazed by it. I think he will be ready next season. As long as he continues with his strength and conditioning programme he shouldn't have a problem." Mason was among the first-year apprentices at Argyle when Pejic started his first full season as the head of youth coaching. Pejic said: "When I first saw him, he was a quiet and very shy lad. An introvert really. But he got on with his job quite effectively and has made steady progress over the last couple of years. Joe worked really hard, especially in the first 12 months when it's always difficult for the first-year apprentices with the tough training programme we give them. He didn't get into the team until Christmas, and when he did he was playing out of position. I put him in different roles – wide right and wide left – as part of his football education. Since then, he has played up front as a lone striker, up front as a pair and off the front behind a lone striker. I think that has been important for his development. He has a slight frame but he's still quite strong because of the strength and conditioning work he has done. His fitness levels and endurance are quite high and he has got good speed. He glides across the ground. He's always on the move in the penalty area, which is the sign of any good goalscorer, but with the strength he has he can finish from outside the box as well."
Argyle are continuing their attempts to sign Carl Fletcher on a permanent basis. Paul Sturrock said: "The chief executive and the agent are chatting to see what the story is. Carl has shown an interest in coming to the football club, but there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge." Fletcher will be discussed at the monthly board meeting tomorrow, so too will be the futures of out-of-contract players Damien McCrory, Lloyd Saxton and Luke Summerfield. Dan Smith has already been told he will not be offered a new deal and Sturrock said: "At this stage of his career, I feel Dan needs to be playing first team football week in week out and I can't give him that."
Argyle have released winger Dan Smith
Paul Sturrock has offered professional contracts to three of the second-year apprentices at Home Park. Joe Mason, Ryan Brett and Ben Gerring are the players chosen and Sturrock said: "This is the worst day in my footballing calendar. It is a horrible situation because I have to break young hearts, but these are the decisions I am paid to make. I applaud all the second-year apprentices for their incredible hard work and wish those not staying with us the very best for the future." Head of Youth Development Gordon Bennett added: "All eight apprentices - including Ashley Hodgkinson and Greg Moseley, who have been on work-experience loans at other clubs in the last couple of months - should be congratulated on their achievements, on and off the pitch, during their two years at the club. In the FA Youth Cup, in season 2007-08 they helped Argyle reach the sixth round for the first time, and, last season, they made it to the fifth round for only the third time in the club's history. Then, in the Puma Youth Alliance, they have only lost two league games over the two seasons put together. They were champions in 2007-08 and runners-up last season, and if they had won one of the games they drew, they would have been champions again. At college, too, they have become the first-ever cohort of Argyle apprentices to achieve a 100% success rate in their Technical Certificate, NVQ in Sporting Excellence, Key Skills and FA coaching qualifications, and we are very grateful to Mark Gammon and Aaron Cusack, their tutors at Kitto YMCA training centre, for their assistance with this aspect." Head of youth Mike Pejic admitted he would have preferred to have kept the players within an apprenticeship framework. "Obviously, I'm very pleased for the boys who have been awarded contracts and wish them well," he said. "But at the same time I'm disappointed for the lads who didn't get offered deals – it's never a pleasant situation. Our youngsters have shown, though, particularly in their fine FA Youth Cup runs over the past couple of years, that they can step up to play against the best in their age group. But turning professional is a big leap for any young player and, ideally, I'd rather they continued their apprenticeship for another three years. Too often young professionals get lost in the first-team squad, whereas, if there was an 18-21 age category built into the structure, then as a coach I'd have them six days a week. In my view, it's a national problem as the drop-out level is quite high within that age category. Nevertheless, I wish Joe, Ben and Ryan my congratulations and wish them all the best." Brian McCaul, Lewis Edwards, and Josh Grant have all been released.
Paul Wotton has been inducted into Argyle's Hall of Fame after supporters were asked to vote for their favourite player, manager or coach to add to the Team of the Century which was chosen during the centenary season in 2003/04. Wotton admitted he is 'absolutely thrilled' and said: "It was some good news at the end of what has been a terrible season. I had a phone call from Rick Cowdery and he told me about it. It was a bit of a surprise really but, obviously, it's a great honour. Everyone knows what I feel about the club and what I feel about the city. I still look out for Argyle's results and take a keen interest in what's going on down there. My mum and dad, and my wife's family, still live in Plymouth, so I keep up-to-date with all the news. So I'm absolutely thrilled to have been voted into Argyle's Hall of Fame."
A decision on which of Argyle's second-year apprentices will be offered professional contracts could be made today. Joe Mason seems set to be taken on by Paul Sturrock but it remains to be seen how many of the other apprentices will be offered deals. Mike Pejic said: "I had a meeting with the manager last Thursday and then a second one with him yesterday. We are going to have another meeting this morning and I think a final decision will be taken after that." The players waiting to learn their fate are Ryan Brett, Ben Gerring, Lewis Edwards, Josh Grant, Brian McCaul and Tom Brooks.
Paul Sturrock has called on fans to be realistic about Argyle. As part of his end of season message, he said: "There is one aspect of the fan-base which I would like to chat about - realism. I love fans who want the team to play in the Premiership. It's the aim of this football club and I'd love to be the manager who did it. Hull have had a taste and now we are one of the only major cities that hasn't had a taste. I would love to see the faces out there if we can do it. We are climbing a big hill to get to the top, and it will be a shape-team, an organised team, that takes us there. That doesn't happen overnight. To be fair, the fans are not daft. We have an 11,000 average this year. They look at people being bought by other football clubs. Just up the road, there was a boy bought from Crewe for £2 million, which basically is more than I spend, dramatically more than I spend, on six or seven players. Over 46 games, the fans know what the story is and, financially, say whatever we want, if we are going to be competing in this league, if we are going to be going in the right direction in this league, it will be through an organised team - younger players, blossoming as footballers and coming together. As a summary of the season, I'm disappointed with the position we finished in the league. It's been a hard season with all sorts of problems and it has affected the running of this football club, but, I believe history will prove I have done a good job this season. We have had personnel changes like you wouldn't believe, and we've still stayed in this league. We can build on this. My beliefs are that we can put in a solid team here and be a solid unit, and established as we are at the moment - an established Championship team. If that's not enough for the fan-base, then so be it. In the end, this is where Argyle have lived in history over the years. We have lived in this area of the league and the top area of the league below us. Until one day we get 25,000 people in that stadium, until a new stand is generating revenue, until that day that a training ground is revamped totally and youth development is reaping the benefits, we will bite and scratch - for the simple reason, that is the team we are. I'm sorry if some fans will take umbrage to this conversation because in a way it will flatten their expectation levels. I do believe that there are eight to ten thousand out there who realise that finance is everything in this day and age. In the end, that dictates a lot of the scenarios that unwind at Argyle. Paul Sturrock has come here to do the job. He didn't know it was going to be as hard as this, didn't know we were going to have all the ups and problems this season, but realises now there are certain things he needs to change and other things he needs to appreciate in this league, and we will be better equipped for the challenge of next season. It was important to have this discussion, as people have opinionated an awful lot about things and I'm hopeful that I might have cleared things up."
Paul Sturrock is fully aware of the challenge presented by managing Argyle in the Championship. "We are a small team, a small fish in a big pond," he said. "We build up football clubs, the club has been built up about three times, and then people come along and cherry-pick - and financially back-up the cherry-picking. This means we are going to be a team that is restructured on a regular occurrence - trying to put together three or four of our players that are then picked up by other football clubs and then having to rebuild again. It's a very, very difficult job. Restructuring football clubs and winning football games at the same time gets easier as you go down the football leagues. Most of the quality teams have quality players, individuals that are not just a team. It proves to me, if I'm talking of we can't afford to pay 9-12 thousand pounds a week, we have to try and build a team. A team that can go out and beat these teams through organisation and hard work - with good attitude-type players. We've attempted to do that this year and there have been signs in certain games this year, that we are achieving that. The inconsistencies we have as a football club are obviously put down to the youthfulness of certain players that we've brought in. That can bite you in the bum on a regular occurrence. We were always going to be transitional. We were always going to be hot and cold. I might be lucky and pick up four or five other kind of players that all of a sudden gel in and we become a Watford of two or three seasons ago, who come to the heights. I've tried to do two things at this football club. One is to bring young lower league players in who will blossom and service the football club, and if they don't, the standards will be increased every year, enabling us to sell them to clubs that are slightly below us; and also, to try and bring in hard and honest players that invariably fit into our budget. We've gone over our budget this season. The difficulty of moving players to this football club means that sometimes you have to sweeten the pot to get some of these players to move here. We were chasing the players the first year I came, fighting relegation early on this season, so it was difficult to change all the other scenarios because I have had other, more important, things on my mind. Now, I have got the summer to put a lot of the things I want to put in place and get back to how this club was run the last time I was here. It's pretty much organisational stuff. It's very much in-house stuff that I want to change totally, so that the club runs as any of my clubs have run in the past."
Argyle's decision to sign Emile Mpenza last summer could be justifiably described as a failed gamble and Paul Sturrock admits the move did not work out as hoped. "This club has been run properly for many years and we did try to speculate with the Mpenza signing," he said. "We did put one player in that kind of wage bracket hopeful that he would be the catalyst to a brighter season. Unfortunately, for all sorts of reasons, that did not materialise. We got glimpses of Mpenza and he did equalise for us against Charlton in the last seconds with his first touch. A real storming performance against Cardiff then whetted the appetite for everybody. The disappointment, obviously, is the injuries, which built up over the season and nullified the performances. In the end we'll talk about four points, and we could have been relegated if he had not contributed in that aspect. It is vitally important that people appreciate that."
Argyle have been criticised for their style of play during the season but it is a criticism Paul Sturrock is reluctant to fully accept. He said: "I would love to be a purist, but the essence is to win football games, and we haven't won enough football games this season. At the beginning of the season, I put a lot of players in my thoughts for a more open passing-type game. I found after the first five games, that we were not to the standards that I expected us to be. Norwich: footballing team; Southampton: passing-footballing team; Charlton: passing-footballing team; Doncaster: passing-footballing team, who have been around the periphery of the relegation battle; Barnsley: passing-footballing team. In the end, that shows if you do not have the quality to be a passing team, you start to struggle as a unit. Now, let's go to the top end of the league. Birmingham: long-ball team; Sheffield United: long-ball team, although accurately down the channels to their front men; Wolves: the same; and Reading: definitely the same. They have one other ingredient. They have real, real quality in the important areas around the 18-yard box, so they can hurt you with Ebanks-Blake, Doyle, Phillips and I honestly believe Sheffield United have an all-around team, a free-scoring team. They also had Beattie half-way through the season who scored a lot of goals. Who is wrong? We are here to try and win a football game - and that's the important thing for me. We have found a wee niche at the end of the season. I still have not found the formula how to really get us progressing as a home team again and that's my important work to be done this summer."
Ashley Barnes has agreed an extension to his current contract, keeping him at Home Park until 2011. Paul Sturrock said: "Ashley came in at an important time of the season. It was a decision I didn't take lightly. I put a lot of pressure on that boy and in the last couple of games that pressure has shown with his performances. He has been asked to do an awful lot and has had that pressure on his shoulders. I was delighted with how he has reacted to that in the first six or seven games. It's been playing on his mind him not scoring a goal, which has made him so eager, he gets himself in offside positions a lot of the time. The way he sniffs around the box he's going to score a lot of those easy goals, the ones off the goalie. I'm very hopeful another year's work on him, another pre-season with him, on a regular occurrence will get him better and better."
Argyle will visit Scotland for their pre-season tour this summer and will also play a friendly at Skelmersdale United. Paul Sturrock said: "We have not tied up two games yet but we are going to play Skelmersdale United up the road. Coming back down we are very hopeful of playing a game on a Saturday, if we travel back on the Friday. We will be based at Stirling University 18th July, play Skelmersdale, stay overnight there, play two games in Scotland, travel down on the Friday half-way, stay overnight, and travel back down on Saturday. We have pitches booked from 10am-4pm. We will be staying on the university campus, so the pitch is a short walk."
Jason Puncheon will be involved in the League One play-offs with the MK Dons and Paul Sturrock said: "He will play in the play-offs. Puncheon is one that I'm very hopeful will have progressed. I was very close to not putting him out again because he did show when he came back playing against Cardiff that he had developed quite well. Weighing up whether Puncheon on the periphery here was a better bet than being on a 24-hour recall after a month. Had I had a problem I could have called him back. I think he's had a huge benefit from having a whole season playing regularly."
Paul Sturrock will be making big budget decisions after the next board meeting at Home Park. The question of players going out of contract this summer will take priority and others have already been told that they will be surplus to requirements next season. Sturrock said: "There was a ton of work that had to be done over the last three or four weeks, which has taken my mind off that side of things. The season is finished now and it is beginning to play on my mind. I've had conversations with certain players that have been told plainly that they are surplus to requirements at the football club. I do not want solid professionals playing reserve football. If you look at the reserve league this year, it's not been that strong. I think they respect you for telling them what you think. They've got a plan now. Some of them still have got contracts and we have to honour them if they are back here next season."
Paul Sturrock targeted the Argyle Board for a special mention in his end-of-season summary. He said: "This football club has a board of directors who have done a fantastic job and a chairman who has done an incredible job balancing the books and having a team that is in this league. It has been very difficult for him. You have got to appreciate these people are local businessmen who don't have the sugar daddies charging in here and slamming millions and millions of pounds into the football club. You've also got to remember these people are liable for debts that are accrued by a football club. I admire every one of them for the job they have done at this football club, for the simple reason that if you're going to be a Championship team, and survive in the Championship, budgets sometimes go out the window for all sorts of reasons. There are only certain people who carry the can for debt, and it basically becomes your directors and your chairman."
Bringing players in on loan has been a huge success for Argyle this season and Paul Sturrock is equally pleased with those he has sent out. It is a policy Sturrock is looking to continue next season and he said: "The way we've operated is we brought in Yala Bolasie, Craig Noone, George Donnelly, and you can class Jamie Mackie into that scenario. We've also got Jason Puncheon in and then Jermaine Easter came in from a lower team as well. We've brought a lot of those types of players in and we're trying to mould them into the way we want the game to be played. You're going to have hot and cold spells at certain times. Look at Noone - he was scintillating earlier in the season. They're all going through that and at different levels. Damien McCrory has gone out to Port Vale and come back a better player, so it seems to benefit them. They seem to progress better playing on a Saturday in a competitive game than playing in a reserve game. I'm very much committed to the system and, if in six months these players are not to the standard that we would have thought they could achieve, they still would have been out and played in front of more people, and have a bigger market to get a profit. We've picked up players in the £20,000-£30,000 area. I'm very confident, if we went out now and moved some of these players on, we could make a profit on the deals." Sturrock is hoping to meet up with the players still out on loan in the next few days and added: "I've been in discussion with Bolasie's agent and he should be back at the start of the season. We will see how he has progressed playing in that league. I haven't written off anyone from my plans. Walton will be back, Stack still has another year and again there are conversations I will have to have."
It has been a ‘year to remember’ for Craig Noone. "I didn't expect to achieve what I have done in my first season, it still hasn't sunk in, really," he said. "I'll have a break, then probably start doing a bit of training on my own. After that, I want to get a good pre-season in me and see where that takes me. Hopefully, I will be playing week in, week out in the Championship next season." Already, though, Noone believes he has achieved a great deal in his time at Argyle. "It has just been unbelievable," he added. "I went from playing against Blyth Spartans and Alfreton Town to playing against Birmingham and Reading." It is his goal at the Coventry which remains the pick of his season though. He said: "I look back at that and think it was the best moment in my football career up to now." Noone knows the importance of staying in the Championship and although he did not feature too much in the run-in, he did play his part when called upon. "We have worked hard for it," he said. "Me personally, I haven't been involved as much as I would have wanted. But the lads dug in deep and managed to get us to safety."
Paul Sturrock today began his end-of-season summary by looking at the issue of finances in football, specifically the high wages which are a challenge for clubs like Argyle. Sturrock said: "As a football manager, you get letters, phone calls from people and everything else. I like to answer all my letters and to be fair, I think the important thing is to answer them today - for everybody - rather than send out letters. The first thing I would like to say about the whole scenario is exactly what I said the first day I came here - one hard job. Two managers before me, as I've mentioned before, have moved out really not to try this challenge. One has gone to another football club and has been showing how good a manager he really is, plus having the added advantage of finance behind him. He has proved to everybody how good a manager he is." Sturrock said it was a hard job on the first day of his second spell in charge of Argyle, and it got harder when Sylvan Ebanks-Blake left for Wolves and David Norris joined Ipswich. They were followed by Paul Connolly and Peter Halmosi in the summer. Sturrock said: "The important thing about being a football manager is when you go down a road and come to a football club, and the transfer window's staring you right in the face, the first month you near enough get here and you lose Norris and Ebanks-Blake. When you lose that calibre of player, in the first windows, and I think people must appreciate where they go, the type of teams they go to, but the most important thing is, the type of wage structure they go into. The other two, Connolly and Halmosi, now a Premier League player, also went into the same type of structure. We're talking nine-12 thousand pounds a week. If we are going to progress as a football club, it doesn't take a rocket science to appreciate we have to take a like for like. It means we have to pay nine-12 thousands pounds a week. That is a fact."
Craig Cathcart has spoken of his gratitude to Argyle for giving him the chance to play regular first team football this season. He said: "I have played plenty of games, which is why I came here in the first place – to get match practice. I have played at a good level with a good bunch of lads so I have thoroughly enjoyed it. When I first came here, I had never played league football before. I'm going away having played more than 30 matches and improved my game in all aspects, so I'm really grateful for it." Cathcart picked up the young player-of-the-year award on Sunday and added: "I think it just proves the point that I have come down here and done well. I'm happy the fans voted for me." Cathcart will remember the defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup as the highlight of his loan spell. He said: "Even though we got beat, it was probably that one because those are the games you want to play in as a footballer. I really enjoyed that one, but the whole season in general – playing at home and playing away – has been a great experience. Every week in the Championship you get big crowds and there is more pressure on you. But I have enjoyed that pressure and I think I have coped quite well with it." Cathcart has ambitions of getting a first team call-up at Manchester United but has not ruled out making a return to Argyle next season, should Alex Ferguson give the go-ahead. He said: "I will go back there and have a word with the manager and see what happens. I will just do what I'm told basically. Hopefully, it all goes well for me." Asked whether he would be interested in returning to Argyle for another loan spell, Cathcart replied: "I would never rule it out, but I will just see what my options are and see what's the best thing for me." United reserve team manager Warren Joyce has seen Cathcart in action for Argyle on several occasions this season. Cathcart said: "There have been scouts at every game so I think they have been watching my progress. Hopefully, I have done well enough to maybe get a chance in the first team squad and have a game or two."
Argyle’s Player of the Season Romain Larrieu was thrilled with his award, and the seven other supporters awards he won, despite the day being dampened by a loss to Barnsley. "It is a nice feeling when you are recognised and win something," he said. "I really didn't know what was going to happen this season or what I was going to get out of it. To have played over 40 games is a very nice feeling. It's been a tough year emotionally for reasons everybody knows about. Back in June last year, when I was recovering from the injury, I just wanted the season to end. Now that I am here, having turned almost everything around, it is a nice feeling and I'm looking forward to more. I have come back to first-team football on a weekly basis and that's what I wanted from day one. I took every game as it came. My shape and form felt right all the way through pre-season, despite the niggling injuries. I thought my shot-stopping was good in pre-season and I fancied my chances. When I did get my chance I responded in the right way." Larrieu already has his sights turned towards next season but insists the team need to continue their bonding if they are to be successful. "I look forward to next season and coming back here ready to roll," he said. "Obviously this group, whoever may stay, will now have been together for a season and know each other. That is a major point and it can take you a long way in any league or sport. That is one thing that Plymouth Argyle must be relying on in my eyes and it is evident at the club. The team is being rebuilt from scratch and it is hard at the moment to get to know your team-mates but that will change going into next season." Larrieu thought Argyle could have mustered a better result to complete the season. "I'm not very happy", he said. "We played well for 20 minutes and went in front but we seemed to think that one goal was enough, which is not a good attitude to have. As soon as it got to half-time and news came in that Norwich were losing, Barnsley seemed to have a big weight taken off their shoulder. We didn't restart too well and we went down another goal. It might be a blessing that we ended up where we are in the table. It means that everybody can now realise what we need to do. We need to be conscious of, and I think we are, that there is a lot of work to be done."
Paul Sturrock led the tributes to Argyle player of the season Romain Larrieu, calling him ‘a shining light’. He said: "If I had 11 Romain Larrieus...his attitude, dedication to the cause, commitment to the club is a winner. You can't buy that, and he has shown what a true professional can do when he is dedicated and committed. He has been one of the shining lights throughout this whole season. There have been certain games we would not have won if he had not been involved."
Argyle ended up 21st in the Championship after losing to Barnsley yesterday and after the match, Paul Sturrock lamented his side's poor results at Home Park this season. He said: "When you look back at the season, the frustration of our home form has been the big thing for me. Had we had even a mediocre season at home, we would have been six places further up the league and saying we had a fair season again. Take today. We dominated the first 25 minutes and had Judge's shot gone in at 1-0, and not hit the bar, I think there would have been a completely different complexion to the game. As it was, they scored an equaliser and all the old foibles turned up again." Sturrock paid tribute to the fans for their support, despite the lack of results at Home Park this term. He said: "I think the fans have been absolutely superb. Away from home, they have been incredible. At home, through all the frustrations, it would have been very easy for them to turn on this team as a regular occurrence. They have made their concern clear after the games, but during them they have given their backing to the team right through. I'm hopeful we can repay them with performances at home next season." Argyle are currently trying to sell season tickets for the 2009/10 campaign and the display against Barnsley was not a good advertisement for that. Sturrock said: "I did emphasise the important thing was to stay in this league. The effect on finances would have been much more catastrophic had we gone out of this league than whatever the season tickets are. I do believe the majority of our fan base are realists, and those realists will be here next season." Barnsley could have been relegated yesterday, and Sturrock added: "I thought Barnsley looked a bit nervous at the beginning, but their first goal definitely settled them. Also, knowing that Charlton were 3-0 down at the time, I think was a big benefit as well. Had we scored a second goal at 1-0, I do feel the game would have maybe went away from them."
Yesterdays game saw Rudy Douala make his first start for Argyle, but he was replaced by Jamie Mackie in the 50th minute and Paul Sturrock admitted he would not be staying at Home Park next season. Sturrock said: "The essence of him was that sitting on the bench put an edge to one or two of the boys who were playing at the time. I had a look at him today, and I didn't feel he was any better than what we have got. After we lost the second goal I wanted to get Jamie on as quickly as possible. Me and Rudy have got to have a chat tomorrow, but I think it's safe to say I won't be giving him a contract."
Paul Gallagher will return to Blackburn Rovers today still unsure as to what his future holds. Yesterday Gallagher admitted he and Paul Sturrock had already held talks about returning to Home Park next season, but that is all that has happened. "I spoke to the manager and he said he would chat to the board here and see what they can do," said Gallagher. "At this stage, I'm just keeping my options open and I'll sit down with my agent and see what comes along. I'll just go back and train for a few weeks so that the manager can have a look at me. I'm sure, though, he's already made his mind up with what he wants to do with his team next year so, if I have to move on, I have to move on." Reflecting on his spell at Argyle, Gallagher said: "There have been ups and downs. When I first came, I think I did quite well, I scored a few goals and I was playing well. But then January came and I thought I was going back to Blackburn, and it didn't happen. I'll admit I was disappointed by that and let it affect me. I was also carrying a bit of an injury, but then I got my form back again and after that I felt I did quite well. Today's result, though, just takes a bit of the enjoyment off it all." On a personal note though, his goal return will ensure Gallagher will be of interest to several clubs this summer. "I get paid to score goals, so I've hit 13 and got into double figures, so I'm absolutely delighted with that," he added. "I should have had a few more, but to get into double figures is a good personal achievement. I'm just a bit disappointed that maybe we should have finished a little bit higher up the league, especially with the players we've got and the performances we've put in. Thankfully, though, we made sure we were still in this league – that was the most important thing."
Yasuaki Kagami is on the brink of assuming control of Argyle according to reports. An announcement on Kagami's acquisition of a 51 per cent stake of the Argyle holding company is expected imminently.
Newspaper reports suggest that Argyle have already offered a permanent contract to Carl Fletcher who is out of contract this summer and has already been told by Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock he will not be getting a new deal.
Argyle lost 2-1 to Barnsley at Home Park, the goal scored by Gary Sawyer after 14 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Barker, Seip, Sawyer, Judge, Duguid, Fletcher, Gallagher, Douala, Barnes. Subs – Mackie, Noone, Donnelly (not used – Timar, Clark). Attendance - 14,529
Romain Larrieu was today named Argyle’s Player of the Year. Craig Cathcart took the Young Player of the Year award
Paul Sturrock will hold face-to-face meetings with all of his players at the start of next week to tell each them whether they fit into his future plans. He said: "I will be talking to all my players individually on Monday. I will be mapping out my opinions on how they've fared this season and my thoughts on them next season. I will speak to the loan signings as well. We will see what the story is with them and then the ones in contract, and the ones going out of contract. Everything will unfold on Monday. We have been in negotiations with three or four out of contract players. Everybody will know their position at the football club by the end of Monday."
Marcel Seip has delayed a hernia operation until next week so he can play in the against Barnsley tomorrow. Seip has been taking painkilling tablets before every match over the past couple of months so he could continue to play, but will now have the summer to recuperate from the surgery. Seip has been hampered by the injury since January, and missed most of February because of the discomfort. At first, he was able to play games by taking eight painkilling tablets but ended up taking fourteen 30-milligramme tablets before matches, and believes that had an adverse effect on his performances. He said: "I didn't feel anything from my injury after the Wolves game so I still took loads of tablets, but I didn't do my weights because I was playing again. I ended up taking more and more tablets, and I started to make mistakes I wouldn't normally make. I had some bad games I wasn't happy with and that was because I had started to take 14 big tablets. Now I'm doing the weights again and it's getting better. I'm back on eight tablets, which is what I started off with. I'm not blaming my mistakes all on the injury. I had some bad games, like Burnley at home. I was awful that day, but my turning wasn't that quick because I still felt a little bit of pain and it was annoying me." Seip has been pleased at how he has returned to form for the crucial run-in. He said: "My operation is next Wednesday. I know we are safe now but I still want to play, and it's not as painful as it was. If I make any mistakes it's nothing to do with the injury. But a couple of weeks ago, I think it was still a little bit part of it." Despite the discomfort over recent months, Seip made an important contribution to Argyle's fight for survival and he added: "It has been the best scenario for me. I carried on playing and we stayed up, so it's happy days."
Next Tuesday is the day Paul Sturrock admits is the worst in his annual schedule. It will be the day he tells the second-year apprentices at Home Park whether they will be given a professional contract or not. "I have already had a word with Pej," he said. "He and I have had a frank discussion on his opinion on who should be called up, and my opinion on who should be called up. I have decided, after listening to his conversation, that I will leave it to the weekend to deliberate, and I will make a decision on Tuesday, when I will tell the second-year apprentices. It is a horrible job and the one I hate doing. I don't mind talking to seasoned pros about their careers, but talking to second-year youths and sometimes destroying their dreams is the worst thing in the world. Pej is the youth coach and he has got a job of work to try and get as many youth players called up as possible - that is his job. His numbers and my numbers don't tally up, so I have to make a decision on things in the next couple of days. There are a lot of things that come into consideration, along with the actual ability of the player, which is sometimes unfortunate for the individual."
Romain Larrieu is a strong candidate to be named as Argyle's player of the season tomorrow, an accolade which did not look likely at the start of the season. Asked to look back on his season, Larrieu said: "I wasn't expecting much, but I thought I would just have a go. I had a niggling injury which hampered my pre-season and did not really allow me to challenge for the starting line-up. Even though the goalkeeping was there, I could not get my kicking right because of the groin injury I had. I never set my sights on the first game of the season, which was probably very wise at the time, but I knew that the problem was just a niggle and it was going to be sorted inside a month. The only target I had was to play more games than Graham Stack. That seemed reasonable at the time, and now I'm sitting here having played over 40 games this season. Deep inside, I knew I had that in me, but I had to prove it to myself and to everyone else. It has been very positive for me. I have enjoyed it." Asked to compare his work this term with seasons gone by Larrieu said: "My first full season was a good season, and I think I had a great season under Tony Pulis in 2005-06. But some of the performances this season have probably been the best I have played. Preston was a great feeling, even better than a clean-sheet. I had such a range of different saves to make, and I did it almost perfectly, but it is hard to say this was my best season. I think I was responsible for more points in the Pulis season." Argyle can be satisfied about staying up, but it has been a long and hard road to reach safety. "When we started, team-wise, we did not really know what we were going into. We could see that the quality was there from the pre-season, but the team was not there," Larrieu said. "That is normal when you get so many new players, so many players to fit in at once. We knew it could be a struggle, and we had players who were inexperienced at this level. Playing first-team football is invaluable, and some of our team have experienced it for the first time. The summer will be a good time to reflect on the season, and we will all come back ready for work." Argyle take on a Barnsley side who could be relegated tomorrow. Argyle's need for a good result is less desperate, but they still want to win. Larrieu said: "It is always nice to finish with a win. I don't think I have ever lost a last game of the season in which I have been involved. It should be a good game and I hope we can send the fans home happy."
Michael Dunford has issued a stark warning about the financial difficulties facing Argyle and also stated that he believes it will not be any easier for the club next season, either on or off the pitch. He said: "I wouldn't say relegation to League One would have been catastrophic. But it would have had a huge impact on how the club was able to run. The word relief comes to mind but, having said that, I don't think anybody can take any huge pleasure from what has happened this season. All you are doing then is papering over the cracks. I think next season will be just as hard, both on the playing side and as far as finances are concerned. The economy was starting to wane 12 months ago, but I think we will get the full impact next season. It's going to be difficult for the club commercially because a lot of companies are making people redundant and reducing their spending. There is still a threat hanging over all the non-football playing staff at the club. That is going to come to a head in the next couple of weeks when the board of directors decide what positions they are going to make redundant. The board are going to have to take some unpalatable decisions in the summer. And while the manager will be beavering away on his squad, I can't imagine there is going to be a lot of money available to him." Dunford revealed that season ticket sales had picked up after it was confirmed Argyle would still be in the Championship next term but thinks it is unlikely they would match the total sold for the current season. He said: "I hope I'm wrong, but I think we will do very well to maintain a level of 7,500 season ticket holders, for whatever reason. It could be because of the economic situation and some people might be disgruntled about the performances on the pitch. It's going to be a very difficult summer for everybody concerned with the club. All we can hope is the vast majority of our supporters buy a season ticket, and if they can't afford a season ticket they come to games on a regular basis."
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