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.
Chris Barker insists he will be fully focused on helping Argyle beat Barnsley on Sunday, even if his former club are relegated as a consequence. "It's true that I've got a lot to thank Barnsley Football Club for as it was them who started me out on my career," he said. "But, if I'm selected to play on Sunday, I won't have mixed emotions. I'll be going out there to help Argyle win. Obviously, I'm hoping that Barnsley will stay up, but I also want Argyle to get a home victory – there have been too few of those this season. My main concern is that Argyle do well, both on Sunday, and for next season." Signed as a left-back, Barker has earned praise partnering Marcel Seip in the centre of defence recently, which he doesn't mind, either. "I don't care where I play, to be honest, I'm just happy to be out there doing my best," he added. "I know Plymouth has a reputation as being one of those grounds no club wants to go to, but we've let that slip, unfortunately, this year. It seems to have gone the other way, where we're decent away but disappointing at home. We're in decent form overall – the Doncaster home defeat aside – we've had two clean sheets in our past three games, beating Coventry 4-0 at home and draw 0-0 at QPR last Saturday. What we need to do now, starting on Sunday, if you like, is to get back that reputation of a tough side to beat at home."
Paul Gallagher has been called up to the Scotland 'B' squad for their friendly with Northern Ireland on May 6th.
Argyle reserves won 4-1 at Cheltenham Town yesterday afternoon and secured the Combination Wales and West Division title. The fixture doubled up as a Youth Alliance fixture, so both clubs used their under-18 squads. The goals were scored by Sean Kinsella, Josh Grant, Liam Head and Ryan Leonard. Paul Sturrock said: "It was a decent performance and it's pleasing for us to have won the reserves' league." Mike Pejic said: "Overall, we have done quite well this season with a small squad. We have actually introduced seven under-16s and one under-15 into the group, so we have been developing a number of schoolboys. That has been one of the main features of the season. If we had beaten Swindon at home the other week, instead of drawing 1-1, we would have finished top of our league." Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Gerring, Brett, Trott, Edwards, Kinsella, Young, Grant, Mason, Head. Subs – Clifford, Harper-Penman, Rickard
Paul Sturrock has not ruled out any of Argyle's five loan signings returning to Home Park next season. He said: "That's something I'm going to look into now very quickly. I'm hoping to pick up meetings with the managers who have helped me out this year. And I'm going to go around a lot of the other Premier League clubs and, hopefully, have a bit of lunch with the managers to see where they are coming from for next season." Sturrock believes it is possible Craig Cathcart could return on loan next season. He said: "I don't think, at this time, that he will be smashing the door down for a game at Man United. He's the one I haven't really had a face-to-face with. But I have talked to the other four, so I know where they are all coming from. Whether we are able to get them back will be in the lap of the Gods. Fletcher is a free agent so I'm sure he will listen to what we have got to offer." David Gray has also impressed at Argyle but faces fierce competition at Manchester United. Sturrock said: "David would be the first to admit there have been one or two games lately where he hasn't played to the standards he can achieve. But I thought he was excellent on Saturday. He was back to his best again."
Paul Sturrock has promised that Argyle will be going all out to win their game against Barnsley on Sunday. He said: "There is no way we are going to go out and not be competitive. We have got a duty to be respective of the situation. I would expect the same from anybody else, were we in that situation. There might be one personnel change, but that will be all." Asked directly whether Rudy Douala would start against Norwich, Sturrock replied: "You will just have to wait and see."
Paul Sturrock has no plans to resign as the manager of Argyle. When asked yesterday whether he thought he would still be in charge in August he replied: "That's a great question. I intend to be the manager of this football club in August. I have got no thoughts of retiring and I have got no thoughts of going upstairs. I did say this was the hardest job I had ever taken over in football on my first day back here, and nothing has changed. I have got a job of work to do now and I can start to see a wee shape to the team. But, at the end of the day, there are lots of things I have got to get right over the close season. I'm going to make sure I have a holiday this year. It was a big mistake I didn't have one last year. But there are a lot of things I have to put in place at this football club in the next three weeks." Sturrock admitted he had not put his stamp on Argyle since starting his second spell as manager. He said: "When I came in, everything was topsy-turvy because we were trying to make the play-offs that season. We have battled away since then, and I have maybe put off my plans on how I think this football club should be run. But that will now happen. There are going to be changes." Should Sturrock get his way, several out-of-favour players will be leaving the club this summer even though they are under contract. He said: "I don't want experienced players sitting here with glum faces. People are always disappointed when they aren't part of the plans. Things haven't worked for some of the players who I have brought here, and I want them to find new homes and play regular football. That's the only way it should be done. The biggest problem is that we are over-budget at this minute in time, and the only way we can get into budget is by moving some players on. You have also got to remember that we have got to bring some players in. I'm going to be talking to a lot of players, probably on Friday and Saturday, and airing my thoughts on their situation at this football club. Once I do that, I want them to appreciate that their job over the close season is to find themselves another club." There continues to be speculation about the future ownership of Argyle and Sturrock hopes that issue will be resolved sooner rather than later. He said: "I think the stability of the football club is quite important, and there have been a lot of rumours going about. It would be nice to think that if there are going to be things happening that it's all done before next season starts." Yasuaki Kagami made a short visit to Plymouth earlier this month and when Sturrock was asked what discussions he had had with him he said:: "I don't think there is anything to talk about at this minute in time. The important thing was to make sure we were in this division because there is more value to Argyle in the Championship than there is in League One. Had we been relegated, there would have been a £2.5 million drop in TV money. It's bad enough trying to win football games, but you also had it hanging around your neck that you could put your football club into severe debt."
Argyle's season has followed the path predicted by Paul Sturrock. "I pre-warned people at the start of the season of how difficult it was going to be," he said. "This year has been the first time we have had the last of the old team, apart from the goalie. Other managers have all benefited from that team, plus they brought in some good players as well. It was a mix and match of them all. Even last year, Paul Wotton was about, Lee Hodges was still playing quite regularly, Paul Connolly was playing. All of a sudden, people were walking into Plymouth who had never been here in their lives before, and some had never played Championship football either. What I have found out is that moulding a team in this league is very difficult. This is a league where you can get hurt by an individual, so it is difficult to do what we have done and stay in the league." The middle of the season was the most difficult spell in Sturrock's managerial career. "I never thought I would taste the bad run we had," he said. "That spell was a real gut-wrencher. No manager who goes through one win in 13 cannot be realistic, but I was still confident that we could turn our season around. We went to Wolves and came out of it and, from Wolves onwards, we have been reasonably competitive. It is a difficult league. Coventry haven't won a game in their last 12. If you were to look at most teams, they have all had that kind of run. Bristol City had a bad spell as well. That is just the league - anybody can beat anybody else. Over the last six to eight games, we have been very settled with the selection, which has been a benefit. There have been lots of plusses. We have some young players. Some of the players we have, who have never played in the Championship will benefit from the year's play."
Paul Sturrock has admitted that the desperate scramble to sign players is his biggest regret of the season and he is determined not to repeat that next season. "I would not rush into the signings at the end of the windows," he said. "Panic right through the football club, and we're not the only club, means, at times, you make decisions on footballers that are rushed and you finish up making a mistake or two. I've had several mistakes. That's football, but it is something I will not allow myself to do again."
Argyle have arranged a pre-season friendly against Skelmersdale United as part of the deal that took George Donnelly to Home Park last month. The game will take place at Skelmersdale on Saturday 18th July with a 3pm kick-off.
Argyle's Championship status for next season was secured when Reading beat Norwich City last night. Paul Sturrock could not bring himself to watch but did get score updates from his wife Barbara. Sturrock said: "It's a huge relief for everyone involved with the football club that we are staying in the Championship. I'm especially pleased for the players because they have worked very hard throughout all the ups and downs of the season. They have responded properly over the last seven or eight games because we have gone to some difficult places and got results. I didn't watch the game. I sat in one room while my wife and a friend were in another one. I heard a lot of shouting in the second half so I could tell Reading had scored. My wife came in and told me it was 1-0, and she then returned later on and said it was 2-0 with 10 minutes to go." Sturrock is already planning for next season. He said: "I have got the summer to get things sorted out so we are ready for the start of next season. That process will start this morning. It would have been nice if we had been safe four or five weeks ago. But we live to fight another day and a lot of our young players will have learned a lot from this season."
Romain Larrieu was overjoyed as Argyle were assured of Championship survival after Norwich City lost to Reading last night. He said: "I watched the game on TV and I was as tense as if I was playing in it. Reading did a great job for us, as Ipswich Town did when they beat Norwich the other Sunday. It's massive for us to be staying in the Championship. I know what it took to get the club to where it is now. I think there are a lot of things we have learned about ourselves this season that we will need to rectify. It was always going to be a tough season. A lot of new players came in last summer and it's really hard to gel as a team when there are so many changes. We have got a young squad now and they will only be the better for having had this season in the Championship." Larrieu promised the players would not be taking it easy next weekend, especially as Barnsley can still be relegated. "We have to be very professional because we need to finish with a win so we can take that into next season," he said. "Hopefully, we can play with some freedom now and give the fans something to shout about."
Karl Duguid chose not to watch Norwich's game against Reading last night. He only found out the final result when Carl Fletcher sent him a text message after the final whistle. Duguid said: "I couldn't have sat there and watched it. I told my wife not to let me know what the score was. But I found out the result when Fletch sent me a text saying, 'Come on you Royals'. It was brilliant. We probably should have done it ourselves on Saturday though because I felt we did enough to win the game and get the job done." Had Norwich beaten Reading, Argyle would have required at least a point against Barnsley. Duguid said: "In that situation, it would have been a massive pressure game but I'm sure the lads would have stepped up to the plate. I think we have benefited from having a settled side over the last six or seven matches. We aren't going to outpass some of the teams in this division but the lads have been working really hard." Paul Gallagher shared the relief and elation. He said: "It's fantastic news for the club and for the fans. I had been back up north for a couple of days and I didn't get back to Plymouth until the start of the second half. I had been getting phone calls when I was on my way down." Gallagher's goals have proved crucial to Argyle's survival but he insisted: "I can't score them on my own. I needed my team-mates to set them up. My 13 goals might have helped, but everybody who has scored this season has helped. At one stage this season we looked dead and buried because we couldn't win a game. But then we went on a great run, which included beating Wolves at their place, which was massive for us."
Ashley Barnes and Jamie Mackie earned praise from Paul Sturrock for their performances against QPR. He said: "I thought they put themselves about and any chances we had were created by those two by being workhorses up through the middle. Jamie made one himself for Gallagher late on in the game through his persistence. Barnesy really needs a goal, that's the problem with him at this minute in time. If he gets a goal, then I think he will push on from that. But he was strong, he held the ball up and linked us up." Barnes had an opportunity to score moments before he was substituted and Sturrock added: "To be fair, I think somebody just got a foot to it before he got in there. He's the sniffer type of striker and the more experienced he becomes he's going to score a lot of those goals. I have got no doubts he's going to be a really good player for us." Alan Judge had another fine game and Sturrock said: "He was minging last week but, other than that, he has done very well for us. I'm very pleased with him. He has worked his tail off. He has played in some difficult games and come out the right end with some decent performances."
There is a crucial match for Argyle tonight – and they are not playing in it. Karl Duguid said: "There are a lot of Reading supporters in our changing room now. Monday is a massive game, but if that doesn't happen for us then it's down to us again. It's all in our hands and it's what we do, not what everyone else does." Paul Gallagher and Jamie Mackie both had opportunities to score the winner at QPR but could not take them and Duguid said: "We know what Jamie does for the team is superb. Sometimes he creates something out of nothing. You saw that when he played up front on his own at Preston and it was a one-man show. That's what he is all about, and Ashley Barnes is exactly the same. Barnesy has run himself into the ground again today, and hasn't got the goal that we are all dying for him to get. But you couldn't have asked for any more. Yes, it finished 0-0, but we have created the better chances and I don't think Ro really had a save to make." Duguid himself had a chance early on but he could not finish off a cross from Mackie. He said: "It was just a tap-in, but it bounced up and hit me in the knee. That's the way it goes. It's a draw – it's not a loss. It's a good performance. We put in a bad performance last week, but we have come here and put that right and shown what we are all about. I think we probably deserved more out of the game but we haven't got that, and a point is better than nothing."
Paul Gallagher will not be able to play for Blackburn Rovers before the end of the season because of UEFA rules on long-term loans.
Argyle won a crucial point at QPR yesterday and are now just another point away from securing their Championship status for a sixth successive season. Paul Sturrock said: "The players responded to the criticism they got, which was wholesale, I can promise you. It was the first time that I have ever criticised any player I have been involved with in the papers but I think they merited it. If you take the experienced players out, we have a sprinkling of youngsters who can be inconsistent to say the least, and have let themselves down with the mental approach to some games - last Saturday, definitely. It happens with young players sometimes. They listened to the hype of how they had played in the last three games and went out and waited on it happening, which kicked us in the teeth. They could have quite easily capitulated after last Saturday, but they are made of stronger stuff and I think that coming here under difficult circumstances and getting a result was very, very pleasing. I'm happy with the performance, but I'm gutted we didn't get the win. We played very, very well. I put a lot of pressure on these players and, alright, we fell short of the win, but we made sure we got a result. I can't ask any more than they gave. There could have been an apprehension in the team but they came out and battled through the whole 90 minutes. They came off a bad result and a bad performance last Saturday, to a difficult place to come - QPR have got good home form and quality players - and our goalie has not had a real save to make in the 90 minutes. The boys worked very hard as a unit, defensively. They are gutted because they put so much into the game. We have created so many chances and not taken any of them." Jamie Mackie just failed to score in the last minute of the game. "I thought the last minute there was going to be our season ending, but it wasn't to be," said Sturrock. "I thought he should have squared it - wee Judgy was coming in - but strikers are strikers: had that gone in, he'd have been a hero for many a season. People get very excited when you are in this sort of situation and the few people that I wouldn't have expected to snatch at things did. When you're in this position, everyone gets a wee bit tight. It's not like Gallagher not to hit the target in three or four attempts today." Sturrock rejected the suggestion that QPR players might have been easing off in their final home game. "They have got quality players all over the pitch and they didn't want to walk away from their last home game with a defeat," he said. "I think the important thing is we have got to take some positives. We don't want to be dwelling on it. We got a result of sorts and now it's up to one of the other teams to close the gap on us."
Paul Sturrock is hoping to avoid a tense final day of the season. Argyle's place in the Championship will be confirmed if Norwich fail to beat Reading on Monday. He said: "Let's wait and see what happens on Monday. I won't watch the game. I'll be cutting the grass or playing on the golf course – anything to keep away from the radio or a way of hearing the score. I would love to have charged over the line. It looks like we're going to whimper over the line, but the important thing is that it's in our own hands. We started the day with three teams below us – Norwich, Barnsley and Nottingham Forest – and we've ended it with them still below us. It's a four-horse race and I'm confident."
Karl Duguid was reluctantly satisfied after the draw at QPR. "The lads performed really well," he said. "Obviously, we wanted the three points, but it wasn't to be. We performed well and a point is better than losing. We have probably created more chances today than we have for a long time away from home. We will take great confidence from that into next week's game. We know we're a good enough team, but our home form has let us down this season. Away form has been very good, and we know, with better home form next season, we could pushing for better things. It is a massive game on Monday, which could help us out."
Argyle drew 0-0 at Queens Park Rangers. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Barker, Seip, Sawyer, Judge, Duguid, Fletcher, Gallagher, Mackie, Barnes. Subs – Fallon (not used – Saxton, Timar, Clark, Douala). Attendance - 14,779
Argyle's under 18's won 3-1 at Swindon Town yesterday, the goals scored by Joe Mason (2) and Josh Grant
Alan Judge believes his loan spell at Argyle has improved his chances of making the grade with Blackburn Rovers. He said: "It has been a great experience. Most players of my age go on loan to clubs in League One or League Two. But I was lucky enough to get a loan deal to a Championship club. It has been great for me and I have hopefully shown to the Blackburn boss that I can cut it in the Championship and he might give me a chance in the Premier League when I go back. If we win today, I still want to play against Barnsley because I would love to play at Home Park once more." Dublin-born Judge's all-action style of play has made him popular with the supporters. Judge said: "I didn't expect to be a fans' favourite, to be honest, so I'm pretty happy. It's a great feeling when you get the ball and the crowd just reacts to you. The fans have really got behind me." Blackburn will have three more matches after Judge and Paul Gallagher return to the club, including a season-ending home game against West Bromwich Albion on May 24. Judge said: "Blackburn are a bit short on players because they have got a lot of injuries. So I'm hoping when I go back the manager might introduce me to the team and give me my debut in the Premier League. I have been on the bench for them in the Premier League, but I'm just waiting for my first bit of action. They play West Brom in the last game of the season and, hopefully, if they are safe the manager could throw me in and see what I can do." Judge, meanwhile, has not ruled out another loan spell at Argyle next season should he fail to break into the senior side at Blackburn. He said: "I would never turn down first team football. I can't see myself going back to sitting on the bench, or being in squads, and not playing every week. I would be happy to come down here again."
Argyle have extended their Early Bird 2009/10 season ticket price offer by an additional eight days. The offer – a freeze on 2008/09 prices – will now be available until close of business on Saturday, May 9. Michael Dunford said: "We have listened to supporters, some of whom have told us they wish to keep their options open until they know which division we are playing in next season. In view of this, we felt it would be fair to extend the Early Bird offer until after our game against Barnsley."
Argyle have agreed what they are calling 'the most commercially attractive deal in Argyle's history' with Adidas, who become exclusive suppliers of all their playing, training and replica kit over an initial four-year period. The new home kit which will be revealed before Argyle's final home game of the season on May 3rd and will be available for pre-order immediately afterwards. Michael Dunford said: "We are delighted to be teaming up with Adidas, a global brand renowned for excellence. It is a fantastic coup for the club. Our partnership represents the most commercially attractive deal in Argyle's history and I believe it will be a fruitful and mutually rewarding experience for both parties. Our fans will also benefit from the high standards of quality and design that are synonymous with Adidas, in terms of replica kit, replica training wear and leisure wear."
Argyle can ensure Championship survival by beating QPR tomorrow and Paul Sturrock is hoping to avoid any doubt going into the last weekend of the season. He said: "As long as we mirror-image Norwich in terms of results this weekend, then it's happy days. But I don't want to limp over the line. I would like us to do our business to get over the line. It would leave a nice taste in our mouths for next season if we were to win the last two games." QPR have an impressive home record and their players will be trying to impress as the club searches for a new manager after the dismissal of Paulo Sousa. Sturrock said: "It's a difficult place to go because QPR have got good home form. If their players want to stay there they have got to impress their owners. It's a difficult place to go, but no more difficult than going to Birmingham when they needed the points to stay in the top two, or when we went to Wolves." Argyle will have to improve considerably on their display in the defeat by Doncaster Rovers last Saturday. Sturrock said: "That game isn't forgotten. I will make sure it's not forgotten. I think I have got to use it as a tool. We have got to appreciate we are an attitude and workrate team. That's the kind of team we are. And when you are that kind of team, you have to have that cutting edge all the time, as far as attitude and workrate is concerned. We thought it was just going to happen for us last Saturday, and the team that had played against Blackpool, Coventry and Birmingham didn't turn up. Their bodies were there, but the mental side of it wasn't there."
Paul Sturrock has revealed the importance his bench will play in the game at QPR. He was impressed with the performances of several players in the reserves win over Swansea and has not ruled out their selection. "The bench will be an important feature this weekend because there was a reserve game earlier in the week and I feel two or three of the performances on show probably merit inclusion," he said.
Craig Cathcart looks to have played his last game for Argyle as he is still sidelined by a medial knee ligament injury he suffered at Blackpool on April 4th. Paul Sturrock said: "It's touch and go whether Cathcart will make Barnsley. With the time he has been out, and the situation we are in, it would be a big ask, but I would like him down here. I'm trying to arrange that he comes under our physio next week so he's about the place because he has contributed for the whole season."
Paul Gallagher and Alan Judge could end up playing for Blackburn Rovers in the next month. Gallagher said: "Paul Sturrock has told me he has had a letter from Blackburn saying me and Alan Judge are being called back after the last game of the season. Maybe they are going to involve us in the last few games." There has been much speculation all season about Gallagher's future beyond the end of the season and he is still up in the air about where he will be playing next term. "When the summer comes, I will know more," he said. "That's all I can say really because I haven't thought about it. We are in a little bit of a fight here and I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. I don't want to look too far ahead. I want to try to keep Plymouth in this league – the same as every player in that changing room." Gallagher hopes he could be involved before the end of the season for Rovers though. He said: "Touch wood, there is a chance of that. I think Judgey and me have done ourselves justice down here. We have come here and done well, and when you look at Blackburn, they are struggling a little bit at the minute. They have got some top quality players, but I think quite a few are out injured, such as Santa Cruz and Roberts. Hopefully, Judgey and me will go back and the manager will give us a chance to prove that we might be good enough to stay." Blackburn have been keeping track of Gallagher and Judge while they have been playing for Argyle and their reserve team manager Iain Brunskill was at the away games against Preston North End and Blackpool. Gallagher said: "I think he comes to quite a few games, but I haven't really seen him myself. With them calling us back, I think we must have done something right." Gallagher was substituted near the end of the defeat by Doncaster Rovers last Saturday because of a dead leg but is set to line-up against QPR. "I got caught on the knee in the first ten minutes, and I ended up with a dead leg," he said. "As I came out for the second half, it just seized up. I couldn't run, really, but because I just want to play football I didn't really say anything when I should have. The team were carrying me a bit, because I was struggling, but I want to play every game I can. I've had ice on it, and a few tablets, I've kept training, and I've just tried to run it off." He added: "We know we have to go out and give a good performance and, hopefully, get a good result on Saturday. We let ourselves down last Saturday big-time, we shot ourselves in the foot, and we'll try and put it right. If we win, that's us safe, and that's what we're going to go out and try to do. We know what we have got to do. We have got a good away record and we will go there looking to get something out of the game." After a busy Easter schedule, Gallagher thinks fatigue kicked in against Doncaster. "Everyone wanted to play, because we'd been on a good run, but I think the Doncaster match might have been a game too far for us," he said. "I don't want to make excuses, but I think quite a lot of us looked tired. We also have quite a young team, with not much experience in this league. We have young lads like David Gray and Alan Judge who are used to reserve-team football, but have not played a lot of competitive football. But all credit to Doncaster, they came here with a plan and they stuck to it and they got a result. That's gone now. We've got a big game to look forward to, we've had a good week in training and we'll go out at QPR and give everything we've got. We know the fans are coming to London in numbers, and we want to do our best for everyone at the club. I think we let the fans down last week, but for the three games before that I think we were terrific in the way we went into games and in the results we got. We need to get back to doing that, and show that last week was just a one-week slip-up."
Rory Fallon has thrown down the gauntlet to Paul Sturrock by insisting he won't let him or the team down if he's selected. Sturrock has insisted the side which lost to Doncaster Rovers deserves a second chance but Fallon hopes he will change his mind and freshen things up for Saturday's game at QPR. After scoring twice in Tuesdays reserve game Fallon said: "I live off service, really – I know I can finish off goals. It's just getting the service and those two balls on Tuesday were just made for me – that's my game. When I get balls like that, I don't usually miss them. Personally, I would like to change things up a bit, but that's his decision. We have a good reserve team and me, Clarky, Doumbe, Summers, we've all played a lot of games this season. He shouldn't be afraid of putting us in – we wouldn't let anyone down. I think we need to use the squad a bit more, personally. All I can do is go out there and give my 100 per cent both in training and on the day of the games, when or if I come on – that's all I can ask, really. It's up to the gaffer to pick me – I can't do anything more. He has to put in who he thinks is best for the role to do that." As for the game at QPR, Fallon said like everyone else at the club he is rooting for a victory. He said: "It'd be nice if we don't leave it to the last game of the season. We've all got to pull together as a club to stay up, that's our main objective. By that I mean people not involved, people on the bench, just everyone – our fans, management, everything. We need a big performance on Saturday. It's not for want of trying as I think the boys have worked really hard throughout the whole season. Perhaps we've overworked and don't keep the ball enough, we need to be playing football. I don't like it up in the air, I like it on the floor and we've got to try to keep the ball sometimes. After all, the team with the most possession is the happiest. Personally, I think we're doing too much running and it shows as we just look knackered. That's what the display against Doncaster was – a tired performance. Giving the team two games in three days is a lot to ask, in my opinion."
Paul Sturrock has called on his players to secure their Championship future in style. "I do not want to limp over the line," he said. "I would like good solid performances with results from the last two games. If you win your last two games, everybody is on a high and looking forward to the start of the season, and you are also still in this league. I do not want to be relying on other people. I would like to finish the job through our own endeavours."
Argyle reserve's will clinch the Combination Wales and West Division title if they can beat Cheltenham Town in their final game next Tuesday at the Gloucestershire club's Quat Goose Lane, Cheltenham training ground. The game will again double as a Puma Youth Alliance fixture, which means that Argyle's Under-18's will make up the side.
Argyle reserves beat Swansea City 6-2 at Home Park yesterday, the goals scored by Rory Fallon (2), George Donnelly (2), Craig Noone and Rudy Douala. Argyle: Saxton, Leonard, McCrory, Doumbe, Gerring, McCaul, Clark, Summerfield, Fallon, Douala, Noone. Subs – Donnelly, Mason, Head (not used - Chenoweth, Brett).
Paul Sturrock will give his players the chance to redeem themselves at QPR on Saturday. Sturrock will stick by the team who under-performed in Argyle's defeat to Doncaster Rovers last weekend. "I'm quite prepared to give the players the opportunity to redeem themselves after the disappointment of last Saturday," he said. "I'm hoping this has been a wake-up call of the situation we're in and that the players will go out and rectify the problem on Saturday. There will not be many changes to the team for this Saturday's game at QPR. I think it's only appropriate that these people, who took us through a pretty difficult time, are given a second chance. There might be one or even two changes, but the team will be along the same lines. Obviously, it was a big disappointment last Saturday, particularly when you've won 4-0 the weekend before. Then when you slide to a 3-0 defeat it sets everybody's mind racing – especially a football manager's. He then has to look and see what went wrong, and who did this and did that. We've had meeting after meeting with staff and everyone else and we browbeat ourselves. In the end, I still believe it was the mental approach – the players had the total thought that they were safe. The players were down in training on Monday. I think they realised what had transpired during the game against Doncaster last Saturday. They weren't themselves compared to how they'd played in the previous three games." Sturrock admitted he disliked criticising his players publicly but felt, because of the manner of the performance against Doncaster, he had been left with no choice. "I'm not a great believer that I should be castigating my players," he added. "But in the heat of the moment it can be exasperating and left me feeling annoyed. All those feelings went through me last weekend. But I don't take back any of it, although it's very much a one off. Very few times have I been that type of manager. But it had to be said. I honestly believe it was a let down for everybody connected with this football club. And the catalyst for that was the team. Q.P.R are a very good team at home. They have got a very good record and a few people coming back from injury, who will probably want to finish the season off on a high. I am taking nothing for granted but, if we went to Birmingham, where points were invaluable to them, and we came back with a point, I see no reason why we can't do the same at Q.P.R."
Paul Sturrock will expect to see Argyle's attacking players produce a far better performance at QPR this Saturday than they did against Doncaster Rovers. Sturrock made it plain after the game that Jamie Mackie, Ashley Barnes, Paul Gallagher and Alan Judge had not hit the heights that they had reached in the previous two games. He said: "Those yards that Jamie Mackie and Ashley Barnes ran the other day, they did not run those yards on Saturday. Too many times, our full-backs got blocked because they were waiting for our strikers to do what they had been doing in the last two or three games, but it didn't happen. The boy Gallagher and the boy Judge did not get themselves in the game like they have been doing either." It was not to be Argyle's day, as Sturrock knew only too well. "I could have ten men up front and a goalie and it would not have made any difference, because we were fighting a losing battle," he added. "We huffed and puffed in the second half, but nobody really wanted to put the ball in the net like they had done in the previous couple of games." George Donnelly was given his debut 25 minutes before the end of the game and Sturrock admitted that it was a tough assignment for him. "I was doing him an injustice, putting him on in that scenario," he said, "but at least he had three attempts on goal. He is not ready for a start but, as a bit-part player at the moment, who knows?" Donnelly was on the bench because of the unavailability of Rudy Douala. Sturrock said: "Rudy was injured on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, and I just felt he had not trained enough."
An agreement on the takeover of Argyle by Yasuaki Kagami is close to being reached according to reports and there is even a possibility it could be confirmed before the game against Barnsley on May 3rd. Kagami and his advisor, George Synan, were in Plymouth last week for further talks about buying a controlling interest in the club. Kagami did not attend the defeat by Doncaster Rovers on Saturday because he was on business elsewhere but Synan was among those sat in the directors box. So too, was Tony Campbell, who brokered the deal which led to Kagami becoming one of Argyle's directors. Synan was at Home Park long before kick-off on Saturday and, accompanied by Campbell, he met many supporters. He visited the Far Post Club, for example, and promised more fans' involvement should the takeover be concluded. One of the plans is for supporters' representatives to attend board meetings. Synan was also introduced to some of the Argyle squad in the players' lounge following the game.
Chris Barker admitted Argyle's performance against Doncaster was not good enough. He said: "We're back in the mire. We've gone from needing one win from three games to needing one win from two, so it's still in our own hands, but it was very disappointing today. We have to dig in now. We have a long week ahead of us, starting on Monday, and we have to go to QPR and perform and get something out of the game." QPR will have nothing to play for, which could help an Argyle side who beat Coventry City 4-0 in similar circumstances last week. "We could do with that again, because we played very well against Coventry," Barker said. "As long as we play like we did against Coventry and Birmingham, we'll be fine, but we can't carry on performing like we did today. It might bring us back to basics. We're fighting for Plymouth now and we're fighting for our own careers as well. Nobody wants to get relegated."
Paul Sturrock was very critical of his players after their lacklustre showing against Doncaster Rovers. He said: "I knew results wouldn't go for us after that performance and disappointment. But we have a week's grace to get ourselves back on track. There will not be dramatic changes to the team. I'm settled in my mind on who's going to play, and it's up to them now. I'm going to take the pressure totally off my shoulders and lump it straight onto the players. I have told them how bitterly disappointed I am about their mental approach to the game. It has cost us dear. Now I want to see through their standards in training and, also in conversations with certain people, that they are appreciative they let this football club down today." Argyle had picked up seven points out of a possible nine going into the game against Doncaster. Sturrock added: "We had scored six goals in three games and you think you have turned a corner and then, all of a sudden, you get slapped in the face. We have got to go to QPR and be strong willed now. We seem to be a team that has got used to getting kicked in the teeth and then dragging ourselves out again. If we can get this team back to being mentally attuned to being the underdog, I'm quite confident we will get a result."
Argyle under-18s drew 1-1 with Swindon Town at Bolitho Park on Saturday, the goal scored by Joe Mason. The result ensured that Argyle cannot catch Swindon, who will win the Youth Alliance South West Conference. The game doubled up as a Combination reserve game and the draw sees Swindon and Argyle locked together on 32 points at the top of that table. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Gerring, Brett, Edwards, Young, Head, Mason, Grant. Subs - Harper-Penman, McCaul (not used - Troupe, Clifford, Evans, Rickard)
Argyle are facing a nervous final two weeks after losing 3-0 at home to Doncaster Rovers yesterday. Sturrock said: "How do you legislate for that? A week ago in our last home game we beat Coventry here 4-0. The difference is that today we went out there and waited for it to happen rather than making it happen. I like to think I am a fair manager and will hold my hand up if I think I have contributed, mistake-wise, in the build-up to a game or whatever. Not today. The build-up to this game was no different to the last three unbeaten games. This is probably the most irking scenario I have ever been involved in. To come from the high of the last two weeks, to being kicked in the teeth like this. We have a lack of goals. We have scored six goals in the three games before today and you think you've turned the corner, but then you get slapped in the face. This is the disease of Plymouth Argyle. We were flying high, fifth in the league and looking at games coming up that we felt we should win easily and the results would keep us in that position. We lost every one." Sturrock added: "We have a week's grace. I knew results would go against us after that performance but we have a week's grace to get ourselves back. There will not be dramatic changes to the team. I am settled in my mind with the 11 that are going to play. I am going to take the pressure totally of my shoulders and lump it onto the players. There comes a stage in footballer's lives when they have to stand up and be counted, and this is one of them." Asked about the final two games, Luggy replied: "It is all going to get a bit naughty."
Argyle were comprehensively beaten, 0-3, by Doncaster Rovers at Home Park this afternoon. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Seip, Barker, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Duguid, Gallagher, Barnes, Mackie. Subs – Donnolly, Fallon, Clark (not used – Saxton, Timar). Attendance - 11,100.
Paul Sturrock wants 19-year-old striker Ashley Barnes to focus on his football for the final two weeks of the season. Talks have been taking place over a new contract for Barnes, whose current deal with the Championship club ends this summer. But for the time being, Sturrock's attention is solely on making sure Argyle win their fight against relegation. Sturrock, however, is keen to sort out a new contract for Barnes after his rise to prominence over the past two months. The manager said: "The games have come thick and fast and I would rather he concentrated on the football rather than the contract discussions."
Argyle will play their penultimate home match of the season today when they take on Doncaster Rovers (3pm). A win for the Pilgrims could be enough to see them ensure Championship survival, depending on the results elsewhere. Sturrock admitted the sooner Argyle were safe from relegation the sooner he could start making proper assessments about recent signings Rudy Douala and George Donnelly. Douala, the 30-year-old Cameroon international striker, has played only once since signing a short-term contract last month. Sturrock said: "It has been difficult for Rudy. It's the same scenario as when Emile Mpenza turned up – the team is winning. He's very novicey to what we are looking to do, and the games have been very tight to, all of a sudden, get him on the pitch." Sturrock has not had any talks with Douala about his future beyond the end of this season. He said: "The only way I could do that is if I can see him in battle conditions." Donnelly, 20, has yet to make his debut for Argyle since signing from non-league Skelmersdale United last month. But the striker impressed Sturrock when he played for the reserves in the 3-1 home defeat of Salisbury City on Tuesday. Sturrock said: "I was very pleased with him the other day." The Pilgrims' boss suggested Donnelly could get a first team chance before the end of the season, should Argyle escape the threat of relegation. Sturrock said: "I think a wee taste, whether it was coming off the bench or starting a game, would be appropriate. He needs that just to show him the standard."
Emile Mpenza has returned to training after recovering from illness. But it still seems highly unlikely the 30-year-old former Belgium international will play for the Pilgrims again. His lucrative one-season contract ends this summer, and will not be renewed. Sturrock said: "Mpenza has been breaking himself in gently with the youth team." When it was put to Sturrock that Mpenza would probably not play for Argyle again, he replied: "I will never say never. But, at the end of the day, the people who have got the jerseys at this minute have a strong grip on them."
Argyle's under-18s could take a giant step towards retaining the South West Conference title of the Puma Youth Alliance League when they meet league leaders Swindon Town at Bolitho Park this morning (11am). Due to difficulties in fitting the outstanding reserve team match between the two clubs in the crowded end-of-season fixture list, the respective competitions have agreed that the result will also count in the Totesport Combination, Wales and West Division. Current reigning Puma champions Argyle trail the Robins by eight points but are the only team in the Youth Alliance with any chance of overtaking the Wiltshire club – provided they win all their remaining three games. The Pilgrims travel to Swindon for the return fixture next Saturday and have a home match against Cheltenham Town on Tuesday, April 28 (2pm). The Wales and West Combination title, with three games remaining, is an even closer contest with Swindon and Argyle level on 31 points but the Robins have a slightly superior goal difference.
Paul Sturrock says he knows 'very little' about the possible takeover of Argyle by Japanese businessman Yasuaki Kagami. Kagami and close advisor George Synan, accompanied by an interpreter for Kagami, watched Argyle's first team squad in training at nearby Harper's Park, before attending a lunch in the Home Park boardroom, to which Plymouth City Council leader Vivien Pengelly was invited. Chairman Paul Stapleton was the host, along with boardroom colleagues Robert Dennerly, Phill Gill and Tony Wrathall. Sturrock had an informal meeting with Kagami and Synan last night. The Argyle manager was asked what he knew about the possible takeover of the club when he met reporters earlier in the day. He replied: "Very little. Only what I have read. But I'm sure if there is anything concrete in it, I will know sooner than later. "I have been at too many clubs with too many takeovers, so I'm getting used to it now." Kagami was making only his second visit to Plymouth since he was appointed as an Argyle director in April 2008, following the purchase of a 20 per cent stake in Argyle's holding company by one of his companies, Tokyo-based Shonan Management Corporation. There has been no comment from anyone at Argyle about the visit of Kagami and Synan, and the visitors have also remained silent about their trip.
Ashley Barnes has won the battle to be credited as the scorer of Argyle's first goal in the 4-0 victory over Coventry City at Home Park last Saturday, the young striker's first goal in his 12th appearance for the club. Barnes and Gary Sawyer were both adamant after the game it was their goal. At the time, Barnes was reported as the scorer by the Press Association after a debate among journalists. Argyle's head of communications Rick Cowdery admitted there was no conclusive evidence to overturn that verdict. He said: "The general view at the time was that Ash scored the goal, and that is how it was reported by the Press Association, who are the accepted authority on these matters. Since we haven't got any footage of the goal that proves anything conclusive, we don't have any basis to make representations to the PA to have the goal taken away from him. As we discovered when Norwich City defender Simon Charlton was wrongly credited with a goal actually scored by Nick Chadwick a few seasons ago, the process for re-assigning the scorer of a goal is a long and fairly arduous one. The PA would probably require unequivocal proof to change their records now, and that is unlikely to be forthcoming."
Captain Karl Duguid has hailed the impact of Carl Fletcher since his arrival at Home Park. Fletcher, on loan from Crystal Palace, has now played 10 times for Argyle. In each of those matches, his partner in the centre of midfield has been 31-year-old Duguid, and they have struck up a good understanding. Duguid said: "Fletch has come in and has helped us to steady the ship in there. I think Summers did very well. He has played a lot of games for his age, but the gaffer probably wanted a little bit more experience. In the situation we are in, it's tough for a young lad like Luke to keep performing the way he had been doing. With Fletch coming in, it's another voice in there as well because we are short on voices in the team. He's also a good organiser, which we probably needed, and he has done great for us, to be fair. I know the gaffer had been trying to get him for a long while, but he eventually got him and it has paid off." Duguid added: ""I have come up against him many a time, when he was at Bournemouth and I was at Colchester, and he's a very good player. It seems to have fallen into place for us and worked from the start, which is good. But I think that's probably because we are both talkers and we both try to organise. If I'm out of position, he will talk to me, and vice versa. We talk to each other a lot, and that helps." While Duguid and Fletcher have brought solidity to the centre of midfield, strikers Ashley Barnes and Jamie Mackie have introduced pace and endeavour. Duguid said: "They are causing havoc. I think they would chase crisp packets! I wouldn't want to play against them, to be honest with you They will run into brick walls for you. They are both very quick and strong lads. What more do you want? Putting Mackie up front with Barnesy has been a great combination. We know sometimes the ball is going to bounce off them, or they are going to run it out of the pitch, but you accept that because you know they are trying to do the right things." He added: "I think they are enjoying it. Mackie is a bubbly lad. He just loves playing football, and I think Barnesy is proving that as well now. They haven't scored a great amount of goals, but they have caused so much havoc for defenders." Duguid also believes that Paul Gallagher and Alan Judge have benefited from the work of Barnes and Mackie. He said: "With the other teams' defences being forced back that bit further, it has allowed them (Gallagher and Judge) to come in and score goals. I know Gall has scored goals throughout the season, but with Barnes and Mackie pushing on, it's giving the two wide men some space. Judgey has benefited from it as well."
Japanese businessman Yasuaki Kagami has arrived at Home Park for a meeting with Plymouth Argyle's board. Kagami and his close advisor George Synan watched the players train this morning before heading for the club's boardroom at lunchtime for talks with the other directors. It is not clear whether Kagami and Synan will be at Home Park for the match against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday. It is believed that talks about Kagami's K&K Shonan Management Corporation buying a 51 per cent stake in Argyle's holding company have been taking place over the past couple of months, and there has been speculation that a deal could be completed before the start of the next season. Kagami, president of K&K Shonan Management, was appointed as one of Argyle's directors in April 2008, following his purchase of a 20 per cent stake in Plymouth Argyle (Holdings) Ltd.
Argyle fan and celebrated broadcaster Sir Clement Freud has died at his London home, aged 84. Sir Clement, who enjoyed a distinguished and busy career in print, radio, politics and even cookery, was the grandson of pioneering psychologist Sigmund Freud. He first became a household name in the 1960s and 70s when his lugubrious expressions caught the public's attention in Minced Morsels dog food adverts. His family arrived in Britain as refugees from Nazi Germany in 1934, and at eight year old, was immediately sent to Dartington School, near Totnes. It was there that he decided to take a local club 'under his wing'. He remained a Pilgrim throughout his life, frequently mentioning the clubs in his columns and radio and TV appearances.
Plymouth Argyle has announced its continued partnership with Ginsters. The two have signed an agreement that sees the Westcountry-based snack-food giant extend their shirt sponsorship until the end of the 2010-2011 campaign. Chairman Paul Stapleton said: "We are delighted that Ginsters have agreed to continue their association with Plymouth Argyle for another two years. The fact that this is one of the longest shirt sponsorships in professional football in this country speaks volumes for the relationship between the two. We have worn the distinctive Ginsters logo on our shirts for seven seasons now, a period that has coincided with the most successful era in Argyle's modern history. It is good that two Westcountry brands with national recognition can continue to support each other to mutual benefit." Larry File, Ginsters communications manager, said: "Back in 2002 we said that we hoped to build a long-term partnership with Argyle, and this extension to the contract shows our continued commitment to the club. The last few years have been a very exciting time for Argyle, and we hope that our support will help the club to achieve even greater success over the coming seasons. We have always been keen to support our local community and, with Home Park less than 14 miles from our bakery, this must be one of the most 'local' sponsorship deals in professional football."
Romain Larrieu says that the team must not take their foot off the pedal, even if they do enough to stay in the Championship on Saturday. Larrieu said after the match at St Andrews: "One more win will surely be enough to keep us up, that's why this Saturday's game is so important. We've got three games left, having played some good teams. The game at Blackpool was very tense, and then we won at home against Coventry and if we win the first one against Doncaster, it would be good to win the others and end the season on a high. It gives you some form to take into the next season, if you can do that."
Argyle reserves beat Salisbury City reserves 4-1 at Home Park yesterday, but were so much in control they could have netted twice their eventual tally. The goals came from Sean Kinsella, Ryan Brett and two from striker Joe Mason. Mason's brace, including a razor-sharp finish that put the Pilgrims a goal up, will only have enhanced his reputation, and if hard work and the willingness to chase lost causes means a tick in Paul Sturrock's book of ones to watch, then new boy George Donnelly would have been awarded a hatful. The star man, however, was winger Craig Noone, who was a thorn in City's side for the entire 90 minutes. Argyle: Lloyd Saxton, Ryan Leonard, Damien McCrory, Sean Kinsella, Ben Gerring, Ryan Brett, Dan Smith (Lewis Edwards 71), Yoann Folly, Joe Mason (Liam Head 71), George Donnelly, Craig Noone. Substitutes (not used): Tom Brooks (gk), Josh Grant, Jordan Trott.
Paul Sturrock took a lot of positives from Argyle's 1-1 draw away to promotion-chasing Birmingham City yesterday. Sturrock said: "I have got a disappointed squad in there (the away dressing room). It says something that we have come to a place like this and feel disappointed we maybe didn't take three points. But this is a quality team we were playing against, who are chasing a place in the Premier League. They played Wolves with 10-men last Monday and won the game 2-0. They are all good-touch players. But I think we are starting to shape a team together. We have picked up seven points out of the last nine and we are looking the part again. People are doing what we are asking them to do, exactly to the letter of the law." Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was convinced Argyle should not have been awarded a penalty for Taylor's challenge on Mackie. He claimed the incident occurred outside the 18-yard area, and television replays appeared to support his argument. Sturrock said: "I'm told by the TV people it wasn't a penalty. But there have been three or four times this season where we haven't been given penalties we should have had. So we will take the Lady Luck that shone on us today." Striker Ashley Barnes will not feel fortune was on his side, however, as he had two 'goals' disallowed for offside. Both opportunities came after striker Mackie had powerful shots beaten away. Sturrock said: "I couldn't tell you if he was offside or not. That will be a debate later on, but Jamie has got himself in the right areas and those two are starting to get a blend together. But I shouldn't individualise things because it was a very strong team performance."
Argyle reserves play Salisbury City in the Totesport.com Combination at Home Park this afternoon (2pm).
Argyle have cancelled their traditional supporters' end-of-season awards evening because of low ticket sales. The event normally takes place after the final home game of the season, but with the Pilgrims fighting a Championship relegation battle this season, it was decided to bring the evening forward to the penultimate home game against Doncaster this Saturday. Just 33 supporters had bought tickets for the event so, with only a few days left before the scheduled night, it has been called off.
Argyle drew 1-1 with Birmingham City at St Andrews this afternoon, the goal coming from a Paul Gallagher penalty. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Barker, Seip, Sawyer, Judge, Duguid, Fletcher, Gallagher, Barnes, Mackie. Subs – Fallon (not used – Saxton, Timar, Clark, Fallon). Attendance - 19,323.
Argyle are in buoyant mood as they prepare to take on promotion-chasing Birmingham City at St Andrews today, and left-back Gary Sawyer admits that the recent two-week international break has worked in their favour. Sawyer said: "The boys are doing really well at the moment and spirits are high. I think the international break helped us massively. Sometimes it does you the world of good to have that break. It's not the best for the top teams, who are doing really well and winning every week. But if you are losing every week it helps you to have a little break and get on the training ground. We had two full weeks to hammer it out on the training ground and see what we could do. We have come back strong and the boys are happy now. I think we just need another win to stay up." But Sawyer is under no illusion about the size of the task facing Argyle this afternoon. He said: "It's a massive game, but it's a chance for us to get some more points. Birmingham are near the top and I think they will come onto us, which will make the game quite open. We could hurt them if we go forward, so it's a good game for us to have. Obviously, Birmingham are a great side. Everyone knows that. But I think if we do things right, we have got as much chance as them." Manager Pauld Sturruck is looking to maintain a sttled side for the remainder of the season. He said: "I think people have taken on board my thoughts about set pieces now. They are being attacked the way I want them to be attacked, and the service coming in has been different class. Judgey's home performances have been different class. He has a zest and a will to win that has rubbed off on others. But it's difficult for him to play shape away from home. He's not that type." Judge was one of three players taken off by Sturrock in the 74th minute in a triple substitution. Sturrock said: "I think taking the three of them off was appropriate. The front two had run a lot of mileage, and they are going to run a lot of mileage come Monday. I have got to decide how I go about things on Monday. There might be one area I might think about. I have just got a feeling in my bones at the minute that one change would be a benefit."
Argyle's 14th minute opener against Coventry on Saturday was claimed by both Gary Sawyer and Ashley Barnes. It was credited to Barnes, but the two Argyle team-mates were still disputing the incident long after the final whistle.
Argyle's U18s beat Oxford United 5-2 at Bolitho Park on Saturday with a hat-trick by Joe Mason and two from Liam Head. Argyle: T Brooks, C Troupe, J Trott (C Clifford 61), S Kinsella (J Harper-Penman 52), B Gerring, R Brett, L Edwards, L Young, L Head, J Mason (M Rickard 61), J Grant. Substitutes not used: D Evans, C Levet. Argyle are now eight points adrift of league leaders Swindon Town with a game in hand but their next two games are against the Robins. Next Saturday is the first of the crunch games against Swindon and is sure to pull a good crowd to Bolitho Park as nothing less than victory will do for Mike Pejic's side.
Paul Sturrock was delighted to see his side dismantle Coventry in a one-sided first half yesterday. Sturrock said: "I knew we had something like this in us. We have had our home games where we have hit bars and posts, had goals disallowed. Something that I did not expect was to be 4-0 up at half-time. We have got a home game plan and the boys have worked very hard at it. I think we showed in our last home game against Burnley signs of what we can do, even though we did not get a result. Today all their hard work and endeavour paid off. They won at Blackpool, which was an important result for us, and now – with two home games come in the last four – we have got an important home win." A fuming Sky Blues boss, Chris Coleman, admitted: "I was embarrassed in the first half. I'd like to apologise to the supporters for making the trip down to Plymouth, taking time off over the Easter weekend to watch that nonsense. Forget the second half. How many times have a team been 4-0 or 3-0 down at half-time and there's no goals in the second half? The game was done, it was over at half-time. It was an unacceptable performance in the first half. I am not happy about losing 4-0 or the fashion we conceded the goals."
Ashley Barnes is living the dream, and loving every minute of it. After seeming a million miles from a Championship debut at the start of the season, Barnes has emerged as a regular, and he believes the loan spell at Eastbourne over Christmas was the catalyst. He said: "It has been amazing - starting, week in, week out, in the Championship has been what I've dreamed of. Now I have succeeded, I need to keep my place and work hard. I could have gone at the start of the season but I decided to stay and fight for a place, and obviously I have done that now. I wanted to prove I could play in the Championship. Playing regular games gave me a massive boost."
Argyle scored four goals (Barnes, Mackie, Judge and Seip) in an explosive first half to thrash Coventry and take a another step towards safety this afternoon. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Barker, Seip, Sawyer, Judge, Duguid, Fletcher, Gallagher, Barnes, Mackie. Subs – Clark, Fallon, Douala (not used – Saxton, Timar). Attendance - 12,568.
Paul Sturrock is relieved that recent signing George Donnelly has finally opened his goalscoring account for Plymouth Argyle. Donnelly, 20, grabbed his first goal for the club in the reserves' 4-2 defeat away to Salisbury City on Tuesday. Sturrock said: "Hopefully, getting that first goal will help him now and he will kick on from there. He will need to play better than he did the other night. It was a disappointing performance." The Argyle manager did not make the trip to Salisbury, but assistant manager Kevin Summerfield was there and reported back to Sturrock. Meanwhile, Sturrock is close to deciding which of Argyle's six second-year apprentices to offer professional contracts to. Four of them played in the reserves' defeat away to Salisbury on Tuesday. They were centre-backs Ryan Brett and Ben Gerring, plus midfield pair Lewis Edwards and Josh Grant. The other two second-year apprentices are also midfielders – Republic of Ireland under-19 international Joe Mason and Brian McCaul. McCaul, who was capped by Northern Ireland at under-19 level earlier this season, has recently been sidelined because of hernia trouble. Sturrock said: "I have near enough made a decision on what the call-ups are going to be. There are a couple who still need a game or two to be perfectly fair to them. The wee boy Edwards has been suspended for three games, which has been dragged out over a certain period, so I have got to give him an opportunity to excel. McCaul has had hernia trouble and he's going to have to come in and play two or three games as well."
Craig Cathcart has been ruled out of Easter Saturday's home game against Coventry City at Home Park. The Northern Ireland under-21 international has had his knee put in a brace and the injury will be further assessed next week. In his absence, Chris Barker is expected to partner Marcel Seip in the centre of defence. Cathcart stayed in the North West after the victory over Blackpool so he could have his injury assessed by United's medical staff. Sturrock said: "Craig has had a scan and there is a bit of a strain in the ligament. He has been put in a brace, just to take the pressure off it, and we will be able to assess it in a week's time. It's a blow to be without Craig. I wouldn't have wanted to change the team if at all possible. I wanted to keep, very much, to what we have been playing lately. Now I have just got to decide who's going to be alongside Marcel at centre-back." Krisztian Timar and Mathias Doumbe, who has recently recovered from a hamstring injury, are both options to take over from Cathcart, but it would be a surprise if Sturrock did not continue with Barker in the centre of defence, especially as Gary Sawyer has played well at left-back in recent matches. Sturrock said: "Mat hasn't had a game yet, so it would be a real huge choice to bring him in, but Krisztian has looked good in all the training, so that's the other option." Seip has been struggling with a groin injury recently, but the Dutch defender has continued to play despite that. Sturrock said: "Marcel is fine. He has had a couple of days off and it has definitely benefited him."
Ashley Barnes and Jamie Mackie are set to continue as Argyle's strikeforce against Coventry, with top scorer Paul Gallagher again on the left of midfield. Coventry have a decent defensive record, but Sturrock believes Barnes and Mackie can pose a threat to them. He said: "They troubled the two centre-backs for a team (Burnley) who are fighting for a place in top six. If they can do it to those two, I'm quite happy to think that if they show the same attitude as they have done in the last couple of games, they will do it to whoever is playing against them tomorrow."
A foreign trialist has been training with the Pilgrims this week. The 19-year-old striker played in a practice match involving the Argyle squad at Home Park on Tuesday. Sturrock would not reveal the name of the trialist but said: "He's big, tall and young. He's Italian – that's all I will say about him. I couldn't pronounce his name anyway! He has come highly recommended from a good source. We are just having a look."
Chairman Paul Stapleton met with council officers last night, after news broke of the club's reaction to the Life Centre proposals. Neither side would comment on what was discussed.
The Voice of Argyle, Gordon Sparks, is about to celebrate his 25th anniversary in radio broadcasting. His first commentary was for Hospital Radio when Argyle were beaten 1-0 by Watford in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park on April 14, 1984. Sparksy later moved on to commercial station Plymouth Sound before transferring to BBC Radio Devon in 2001. His 25th anniversary match will be the Pilgrims' away game against title-chasing Birmingham City on Easter Monday. Since his debut, Sir Gordon has commentated on three promotion-winning seasons, three relegations and one FA Cup quarter-final. A total of 21 managers (including caretakers) have come and gone.
Paul Sturrock realises that Argyle's home form, which has produced just five wins this season, must improve quickly if they are to avoid the drop. Sturrock said: "Our form away from home is as good as anybody, but it was in March against Watford when we last won at home. We've got five cup finals coming up and it is up to the players to respond. We've got three home games, against Coventry, Doncaster and Barnsley, and anything we can get away will be a bonus. It's important we get points at home, starting with Saturday." One blot on Sturrock's horizon is a question mark over the fitness of Manchester United loanee Craig Cathcart. Defender Cathcart, one of the best players at Home Park at present, suffered knee ligament damage in the 1-0 victory against Blackpool on Saturday. He is with parent club Manchester United being scanned for the extent of the damage. Sturrock said he had not yet heard how badly Cathcart was hurt. He said: "The problem was that there was a lot of swelling and when that happens, it's hard to take a scan."
Plymouth Argyle has questioned Plymouth City Council's plans to build the Life Centre next to Home Park. Whilst broadly supporting the principle of the sports and leisure development, the club's planning consultants have questioned the council's approach. In an open response to the Life Centre plans, Hunter Page Planning have said: "From the outset, it appears that the designs of the proposed Life Centre appear to have been developed in isolation, without consideration to a holistic vision for a cohesive sports hub or a comprehensive development solution for this part of Central Park. The proposed development appears not to have had regard for the wider vision of the area, and it is considered it may not have had regard to the emerging commercial and sporting uses at Home Park. The club considers that it would have been preferable for the overall vision of Central Park if the proposed Life Centre development and the Home Park development could have been designed in tandem, to create a more cohesive and vibrant sports hub for the city. It is considered that achieving the right mix of complimentary uses will be ultimately be responsible for supporting the future viability of the new facilities developed in this area." Argyle are also unhappy with the proposals for improving transport facilities in the Central Park area. Hunter Page added: "The club believes that an under-pinning master-plan should have been devised from the outset. It is considered that a master-plan would have been able to deal with combined issues such as access more comprehensively, which would have provided more certainty for all the development in this area. At present, the club considers that the proposed access falls considerably short of achieving the optimum approach for both the club and the proposed commercial development for the site." Hunter Page concluded: "At present, the current application has been developed in isolation, and it is considered that this could be considerably enhanced by adopting a more comprehensive approach to all the developments proposed in this area."
Argyle's reserves missed out on the chance to return to the top of the Combination Wales & West Division when they lost 4-2 at Salisbury City last night. Winger Dan Smith was the only member of the Argyle side with any first team exposure. Goalkeeper Lloyd Saxton and striker George Donnelly also made the trip to Wiltshire, while members of the Pilgrims' Under-18 squad formed the rest of their line-up. Argyles goals came from a fine solo effort by Lewis Edwards and a spectacular finish from Donnelly.
Paul Gallagher is prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure Argyle stay in the Championship. With Paul Sturrock is set to continue with Ashley Barnes and Jamie Mackie as Argyle's two strikers, Gallagher said: "You can't sulk like a little baby. You have got to roll your sleeves up and do the job for the team. If the manager wants to play me on the left of midfield, I will play there. If he wants me to play in goal, I will play there. That's the kind of lad I am. There are probably a few people playing out of position, but we have got a good attitude. If we keep winning then the confidence comes back." Barnes and Mackie have not scored in the last two matches, but Gallagher has been impressed with them nonetheless. He said: "They are two of the most honest players I have seen. They chase anything. Jamie is strong and quick and makes a bad ball into a good one, and Ashley holds the ball up well for us and he's only going to get better with the more games he plays. I just hope he scores his first goal soon." Gallagher added: "The fans were brilliant on Saturday. I think they out-sang the Blackpool lot. A few of them came in fancy dress and had a laugh, and that's what football is about. Hopefully, we can have the same again at Home Park, from the fans and the players."
Argyle stayed 19th in the Championship after 20th-placed Barnsley lost 2-1 at promotion-chasing Sheffield United last night. Barnsley could have moved above the Pilgrims on goal difference had they drawn against their South Yorkshire rivals. Instead the remain one point, but they have still played one match fewer than the Pilgrims. The Tykes' extra game is away to Coventry on April 21. Meanwhile, 23rd-placed Southampton snatched in a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw away to Watford at Vicarage Road. They are now five points behind Argyle, but are level on games with the Pilgrims.
The Football League has ordered an independent inquiry into Southampton's finances before deciding whether the Championship strugglers should be docked points. In a statement issued after their monthly board meeting, it said: "The Football League board today considered the position of Southampton Football Club. The League board has instructed its legal advisors to commission an independent forensic accountancy report in order to clarify the legal and financial position of the club, as a matter of urgency. The board will reconvene once that report is available." Joint-administrator Mark Fry has warned the club are likely go bust before the end of the season if a buyer is not found, but said a number of potential investors have come forward. "We have a substantial number of inquiries which we are following up," he said.
Argyle are waiting on the outcome of a scan on the medial knee ligament injury sustained by Craig Cathcart in the game against Blackpool last Saturday. Cathcart hobbled off in the second half and was replaced by Chris Barker. He stayed in the North West afterwards so he could have the injury assessed by Manchester United's medical staff. But, even at this early stage of the week, the United loanee must be a doubt for the visit of Coventry City to Home Park this Saturday. Meanwhile, Sturrock has revealed that injury-plagued striker Emile Mpenza has been laid low by a virus. Mpenza only returned to training from a torn hamstring last week.
Goalkeeper Lloyd Saxton will be among the substitutes for each of Argyle's final five games in the Championship this season. Saxton was on the Argyle bench against Blackpool because manager Paul Sturrock did not want to run the risk of being without any goalkeeping cover in case of an injury to Romain Larrieu, and with the Pilgrims in a fight against relegation, Sturrock will continue to adopt the same policy. Sturrock said: "I would hate to think we lost any points because of not having a goalie on the bench. Earlier in the season, losing three points because of not having a goalie on the bench is not the end of the world, but it would be at this juncture." Saxton is a first-year professional who has yet to make his senior debut for Argyle. He will provide the cover for Larrieu after the out-of-favour Graham Stack was loaned to Wolverhampton Wanderers last month.
Paul Sturrock has informed his players that a substitite place will be a lot harder to come by heading into the Greens' final five fixtures. Luggy has explained that his decision to provide goalkeeping cover has left him with the dilemma of having one less outfield position on his bench. "I've cut myself down to four subs now, which makes things difficult," he said. "It emphasises to me more why I should now name utility players. It makes sense to have someone who is more of a utility, someone who can play a few positions. The bench has nothing to do with performance and a lot of the players should feel disappointed about not being on the bench last Saturday. The standard of everyone's performances has been excellent in both practice and reserve games. That is what I will explain to any of the players that comes and sees me."
The manager will send a young Argyle reserve side to Wiltshire for their Combination game against Salisbury City at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium tonight. None of the Pilgrims' senior players will get a run-out, although striker George Donnelly, the recent signing from non-league Skelmersdale United, is expected to take part. Second-year apprentices Ryan Brett, Lewis Edwards, Ben Gerring, Josh Grant and Joe Mason are all set to be involved. They are all hoping to earn professional contracts with Argyle for next season, and tonight is a chance for them to impress. Head of youth coaching Mike Pejic will take the reserves' side, but assistant manager Kevin Summerfield will be there to check out the apprentices for Sturrock.
Ashley Barnes is still waiting for his first goal for Argyle, but Paul Sturrock has no complaints about the contribution of the 19-year-old striker. Sturrock believes the all-round play of Barnes has merited his inclusion in the starting line-up for recent matches. Barnes has come close to scoring on several occasions in his 10 appearances this season, but his first goal is proving elusive. Even so, Sturrock has been pleased with his performances, especially as they have come with Argyle fighting against relegation. Sturrock said: "I think he has run the line very well and he has linked us up. The one fly in the ointment to him is that he hasn't scored a goal. He had one or two half-chances again on Saturday and things bobbled the wrong way for him, but he definitely gives us a presence up front." Barnes has been paired in attack with Jamie Mackie for the last two matches and their whole-hearted endeavour has been impressive. Sturrock said: "The two of them look as though they are well suited to playing alongside each other. I have been pretty comfortable with them." Sturrock continued: "Some of the other strikers will probably point the finger at Ashley at this minute in time because of his lack of goals, but he has brought other things to the table." Asked whether Barnes was worried about not scoring, Sturrock replied: "He is, because that is what Ashley is all about. But he has added another side to his game. I always thought we would have to work on his linkage, but it has finished up as one of his strengths. The icing on the cake for him now would be to rattle in three or four goals in the last five games. It would be a huge relief for him, and for everybody."
Argyle supporters have until May 1 to take up the option of buying their 2009/10 season tickets by direct debit. The cost can be spread over 10 interest-free, monthly repayments. The 'We'll Be There' season ticket drive was launched at Argyle's game against Burnley at Home Park last month. Packs containing Green membership renewal and new application forms were placed on every seat that day. They contained all the details on prices and deadlines. These packs have replaced the renewal letters that have, in the past, been posted to every season ticket holder. There has been some confusion among supporters over this, but Rick Cowdery, Argyle's head of communications, said: "If anyone wants a pack, they can contact me, preferably via email, and I will help them out." His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Sturrock has called on his side to build on their vital 1-0 victory over Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on Saturday, and focus on picking up another three points against Coventry City at Home Park this Saturday. He said: "If we lose that one, and the others below us get results, we will be back to square one again. I'm glad we are not in the bottom three because sometimes that can work against you. We can be positive with the players now, and we are going to work very, very hard on the things we know. I'm going to stick very close to this team, if at all possible." There could be a doubt over on-loan Manchester United defender Craig Cathcart for the clash with Coventry, however. The Northern Ireland under-21 international suffered a suspected medial knee ligament injury in the second half against Blackpool. Cathcart had to be replaced by Chris Barker in the 56th minute and he stayed in the North West after the game to have his knee scanned by United's medical staff.
Argyle's under-18s drew 1-1 with Bristol Rovers in the Puma Youth Alliance South West Conference on Saturday. Argyle: Brooks, Troupe, Trott (Clifford 66), Kinsella, Gerring, Brett, Harper-Penman (Broomfield 63), Young, Head, Mason, Grant (substitutes not used: Rickard, Levet). In a hard faught game with chances for both sides, Rovers broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute when Ollie Clarke headed onto the bar and midfield colleague George Booth nodded the rebound into the empty net. The Pilgrims equalised nine minutes later with Joe Mason shooting home amidst a goalmouth scramble after Luke Young's shot had been parried by goalkeeper Ben Hardie. It now looks like Mike Pejic's proteges will have to win their final four games, two of which are against current league leaders Swindon Town, if they are to retain the title they won last season. They face Oxford United at Bolitho Park next Saturday before a visit from Swindon, again at Bolitho, a week later. A trip to Wiltshire follows on April 25 before their final game at home to Cheltenham Town on Tuesday, April 28.
Paul Sturrock will be holding a number of first-team training sessions on the Home Park pitch in the next few weeks, which he believes might prove vital in avoiding the drop. "We'll probably train a lot more on our pitch for every home game until the end of the season," he said. "It will give us more opportunity to be familiar with our environment. We will be developing a couple of training sessions on it, including getting the corners worked on again and allowing people to appreciate the width and size of the pitch. Take the boy Barnes for instance. He's a novice on this pitch when you think of reserve games and his time away with Eastbourne." Luggy has opted against fielding an experienced squad for Argyle Reserves' visit to Salisbury tomorrow, admitting he will only be sending George Donnelly, Lloyd Saxton and Dan Smith from the first-team. Instead, he will be hosting another behind closed-doors training session on the pitch. He said: "We're going to maybe have a practice match amongst ourselves. This will be like the one we did the other week and it will enable people to play on the pitch again."
Paul Sturrock believes that safety is in sight for his team after their 1-0 win at Blackpool. The Pilgrims are now four points clear of the Championship relegation zone, and Sturrock is calling for another victory in next week's home match against Coventry to further ease their fears. Sturrock said: "Paul Gallagher produced some quality play today and forced Blackpool into giving away a lot of corners. He proved very good at set-pieces, and our front two were always causing problems and that was nice to see. Survival is now in our hands. Our away form has been championship-winning. Other results have gone our way and it will be nice to pick up another three next week which should see us in the clear."
Gary Sawyer's second goal of his injury-truncated season came four minutes from the end of a game played in windy conditions on a bobbly pitch. "The win's massive for us," said the Greens' left-back. "It gives us a great chance. I think it's in our hands. If we win our games, then we stay up - simple as that. We've got a decent run-in and we need to keep working towards every game now, and take one game at a time. The game was always going to be scrappy - the pitch wouldn't allow it to be a nice, flowing game - and I think both teams are scrapping for their lives, so you weren't going to see a pretty game." Sawyer stole in at the far post to head home a corner from Paul Gallagher, taking advantage of some slack marking to strike. He said: "The geezer who was marking me went off and I don't know if they didn't know who they were picking up, but I seemed to be pretty free when I ran in. We've been doing a lot of work in the week, and I'm delighted to get the goal. I missed the first half of the season because of my injury but I've had a run of games now and I feel better with every one." Sawyer added: "Our fans have been brilliant on the away journeys - they clock up a lot of miles - and it's nice to get a win for them. We've struggled at home this season and I'm not sure why. The away form has been brilliant for us, we've done really well this season." But Sawyer knows the last few games of the season contain many dangers for the unwary. He said: "It's a relief, but we're far from being out it, so we have just got to keep our heads down and keep going like we have done. If we put in a bad performance next week and get battered, then this is nothing. This is done now, it's on the board and it's already forgotten."
Argyle gained 3 vital points at Bloomfield Road this afternoon, beating Blackpool 1-0 with a goal from Gary Sawyer after 86 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Sawyer, Mackie, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Gallagher, Barnes. Subs – Barker, Clark, Fallon (not used – Saxton, Douala). Attendance - 8,103
Paul Sturrock is taking a close interest in the fate of his former club, Southampton. The Saints face an uncertain future after their parent company, Southampton Leisure Holdings PLC, were put into administration on Thursday, with debts of £27.5 million. The first of Sturrock's two spells as Argyle manager ended in March 2004 when he took over at Southampton, and even though his tenure at St Mary's Stadium lasted only eight months, he retains a close attachment to the south coast club. But he knows the financial crisis at Southampton could have a major impact on the relegation scrap in the Championship this season. Argyle, and the other clubs fighting for Championship survival, will not want to see the cash-strapped Saints use a loophole in the rules to avoid relegation. Under Football League regulations, clubs who go into administration incur a deduction of 10 points, but Southampton are hoping that will not apply to them because it is their parent company, not the club itself, which has gone into administration. There is also conjecture over whether any points deduction would apply this season or next term, and there has to be a possibility that relegation issues in the Championship will not be resolved until after the end of the season. Sturrock admitted he was sad to see Southampton in the dire financial state that they are in. He said: "It just shows you what is happening in football in this day and age. The credit crunch has definitely kicked in, big-time, and I think we will start seeing a lot more clubs going to the wall. I don't want to see that happen to any club, especially to Southampton, because there are nice people there. But, at the end of the day, it's dog eat dog in this world. When clubs have attempted to take advantage of technicalities, the League have always changed the rules. I hope it would be no different this time, and that due penalties would apply this season."
Paul Sturrock knows the stakes will be high when Argyle play Blackpool at Bloomfield Road tomorrow. If they beat the 18th-placed Seasiders, it would move them to within one point of their hosts. But should Argyle lose, it would put Blackpool on 50 points and on the brink of safety, leaving Argyle trailing tomorrow's opposition by seven points with only five games remaining. On what is sure to be a tense day, there are also relegation 'six-pointers' at Barnsley and Southampton. Barnsley, 19th, face 22nd-placed Nottingham Forest, and Southampton, in 23rd, play bottom-of-the-table Charlton Athletic. The Argyle manager said: "Everybody is playing each other of the lower teams so this is one where you hope there are a lot of draws and we nip a win. That's the kind of way you want to look at it. We have condensed our season into six games, and whatever has happened in the past means absolutely nothing now. It's the future that counts. We have got six league games to go – three at home, three away – and the last one is at home, so it's in our hands." At this crucial stage of the season, Sturrock has a fully-fit squad, including injury-plagued striker Emile Mpenza. "Everybody is now available for selection so there is a real competition for places", the Pilgrims' boss added. But defender Marcel Seip continues to be troubled by a groin injury. The Dutch centre-back has been playing in pain, but wants to see out the rest of the season. Sturrock said: "Marcel is not 100 per cent and we are trying to nurse him through, but the dry conditions are not helping at all." As a precaution, left-back Chris Barker was given a run-out in the centre of defence when Argyle reserves beat Cheltenham Town 1-0 at Home Park on Tuesday. Sturrock said: "I feel he is a similar type to Marcel, rather than the other defenders we have got."
The future of Southampton Football Club is in serious doubt after the club's parent company was placed in administration yesterday. Trading in shares of Southampton Leisure Holdings PLC were suspended on Wednesday. "The finances are interlinked therefore the future of the club is in serious jeopardy," said the club's administrator. "The holding company owns the football club. The football club is an asset." Southampton Leisure Holdings was put into administration with debts of £27.5 million, but as the parent company has gone into administration rather than the club itself, Southampton could avoid a 10-point deduction next season. The Football League are expected to consider the matter at their monthly board meeting next Tuesday.
Damien McCrory and Joe Mason both featured for the Republic of Ireland Under-19s in their 2-1 away win against Slovakia yesterday. McCrory, winning his 7th under-19 cap, started the game and scored one of the goals, while Mason was a second-half substitute. It was the Ireland U19s second game against Slovakia in the last two days, part of their build-up for the final qualifying tournament for the European Under-19 Championships. The first game had seen Mason make his debut at this level.
Chris Barker is prepared to put personal tragedy behind him as he takes up the challenge of trying to help Argyle escape relegation. Barker has had to come to terms with the death of his mother, Pauline, through cancer last month but now wants to focus all his attention on the clubs fight for survival. He said: "We have got a big, big battle and I want to be involved in that. We need every single player pulling together. It was nice to get 90 minutes under my belt on Tuesday. I needed that because I think I have played only once in three weeks. It's down to a mini-league now. We have got six games to go – three at home and three away. Hopefully, we can get as many points as we can, starting on Saturday. It's a big game. If we can win that one, we will drag Blackpool back into it." Argyle had lost three consecutive matches before the international break, but before that they had picked up eight points from four games. Barker added: "We can beat anyone, and we can lose to anyone. That has been our problem all season. We went and beat Wolves away and then we lost to Burnley at home the other Saturday. As long as we turn up and play as we can do, we will be fine. But we need to do it more often, especially at home." Barker's mother had put up a brave fight against cancer. "It has been going on for two years, but the last six weeks it went very quickly, as it can do," he said. The gaffer has been fantastic, and I travelled back down as much as I could do. When we haven't had a game on a Tuesday, I have been training up at Sheffield United because we knew it was near the end. I have missed a couple of games and I want to get back in the team now." Barker played for 71 minutes in Argyle's defeat at Norwich, which was between his mother's death and her funeral. He said: "It was difficult, but it was nice to concentrate on something normal as well. The funeral was the week after, but you have got to move on and that's what I'm going to do."
Argyle reserves beat Cheltenham Town 1-0 at Home Park yesterday, the goal scored by Rudy Douala. Argyle: Saxton, McNamee, Timar, Barker, Paterson, Clark, Summerfield, Folly, Noone, Easter, Douala. Subs – Smith, Fallon, Donnelly (not used - Chenoweth, Trott).
Craig Cathcart captained Northern Ireland under-21s as they drew 1-1 against Ukraine last night and Alan Judge played for the Republic of Ireland under-21s in their 3-0 loss to Turkey. Also, Damien McCrory and Joe Mason both featured for the Republic of Ireland under-19s as they drew 1-1 with Slovakia. McCrory earned his sixth cap and Mason his first.
Argyle have a fully-fit squad for the end of the Championship campaign as Emile Mpenza and Mathias Doumbe both returned to full training yesterday after hamstring injuries. Sturrock is not prepared to rush Mpenza back though and said: "He has been out for six or seven weeks, so to chuck him into a game straight away is just too much. I want to get him match fit. He will get a run-out for the reserves next week." Sturrock gave his squad four days off before they returned to training on Monday and described their mood on their return to work as 'buoyant' and 'up for it'. He said: "We have condensed our season into six games – six big games – and we have all got to be on the same wavelength as far as the way we want to play them. It's the final push. The players were left in no doubt of what I was looking for before they went away last Wednesday. And they have come back ready for the challenge. There are still places to be fought for. We have come off three straight defeats and I want to put a winning team together. All slates are clean, and anybody who wants to play in my team has got to perform either in training, for the reserves or the first team, to show me they are the men to take us where we want to be."
Rudy Douala has forced his way into the first team contention at Argyle. Paul Sturrock has confirmed he will definitely be in the squad for the game at Blackpool on Saturday and did not rule out including him in the starting line-up. "Rudy will travel – I think he has done enough for that," Sturrock said. "He has shown his fitness levels are not that far away, and he's very, very quick. He must have had five shots at goal yesterday against Cheltenham and, at the end of the day, he got the winning goal." Douala signed for Greek club Asteras Tripolis last September, but his stay with them only lasted until January. Sturrock said: "The club he was at in Greece basically didn't pay his wages and he has finished up in limbo-land. It has affected his international career as well. You don't play for Sporting Lisbon, Boavista, Saint Etienne and Portsmouth if you are a dummy. So I knew there was a modicum of ability there. I just wondered whether he could handle the British game. But he has proved to me in the games he has played so far that he has definitely got attributes which will benefit us." Sturrock is not short of strikers in his squad, even before the signing of Douala. But he said: "The problem is there has only been one of them scoring – Paul Gallagher. This boy came on yesterday and it seems to me he wants to shoot at goal all the time." George Donnelly also impressed as a second-half substitute. "George had his best game so far," Sturrock said. "He is learning the role we want from him and he is quick as well. He just needs a goal to get his confidence." Further encouragement was a decent run-out for the likes of Rory Fallon, Craig Noone, David McNamee and Chris Barker. Sturrock added: "I needed to give Rory a run-out as well because he has been on the periphery, and so has Noone. Both of them needed a game today. McNamee looked good and Barker was excellent at centre-half as well. It is a big ask to change the back four again but we are coming off three defeats, and I have got to do something to freshen things up. There have been lots of games in the past where we have had as strong a team as that and their thought processes have not been correct, but every one of them was excellent. Their attitude and their work-rate was different class. I complimented them all after the game. Individually, a lot of them put in some really good performances. The only problem was that when you don't take your chances, you always have that niggling doubt in your mind that somebody's going to nip one. We made a lot of chances and a lot of players were very impressive. Cheltenham played very, very well as well - it was a really good game."
Jim Paterson has endured a frustrating season but his focus remains firmly set on Saturday's game at Blackpool. "Saturday is massive," he said. "The next six games are massive. Everybody wants to stay in this league and build for next season. We are all geared up for Saturday and we have got six cup finals." Paterson played in his favoured left-back position in the reserve win over Cheltenham Town but would be more than happy if Paul Sturrock called on him to play his secondary role of midfield at Blackpool. He said: "We are all competing for places and you could see that today, where everybody wants to be involved and keep the club in this league. It was a good exercise. We have got a lot of boys and everybody needed a run-out. We were playing against a young side and we could have won by more goals. I enjoyed it. Obviously, with the situation at the club, we have got Chris and Gary as left-backs, but I enjoyed the game at left-back. I will take any place where I can get a game - that is up to the manager. He knows I will play anywhere for him. I have just been one of those players this season that sort of fills in when other players have been injured, which has been frustrating, but we have got a big squad and everybody's competing for places. It is one of those things where you have to get your head down and work to get back in the team." The challenge for Argyle at Blackpool is to perform to the standards of which they are capable. "We seem to have put in a lot of disappointing performances against the teams below us," said Paterson. "When you look at our squad and the players we have, the most disappointing thing is that we have gone to places like Wolves and won, and then we go to Norwich and put in a really disappointing performance. In the Burnley game it was all us, and then we conceded. We equalised straightaway and it was all us again. If any team looked like winning, it was us, but we were beaten by a great finish. We all came off scratching our heads, wondering how we managed to come away with nothing, and that seems to have been our season. All defeats hurt but the Norwich game hurt more. In the Burnley game, we have played well and everybody's put in a good performance. Sometimes this season we have just not turned up. If we knew the root of it, we wouldn't be in this position but we have six games left to get our heads down and work."
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