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.
Alan Gow and Steve MacLean have 'burned their bridges' with Argyle, according to Paul Mariner. He said: "Steve MacLean has come out publicly and said he doesn't want to play for Argyle. So I think it's very difficult for him to come back." Gow has made similar comments to MacLean and Mariner does not believe fans will be impressed with their attitude. "Our supporters are extremely passionate about the club, and they want people to be fighting tooth and nail for the cause," he said. "If it was me, I wouldn't have made any statements like that, but that's me. I think they have burned their bridges. It's going to be difficult for them to walk into the dressing room, and they have got to try to rebuild a rapport with the supporters, and that's always difficult. It's a case of watch this space. We will have to wait and see." Jim Paterson, like Gow and MacLean, has another season remaining on his Argyle contract but is likely to be allowed to leave this summer. Mariner said: "I haven't spoken to Jim, but I know he has been working very hard to try to get right."
Paul Mariner is continuing to show interest in trialist Jeremiah Ani, a Nigerian striker, who played for the reserves at Reading on Monday. Mariner said: "We have brought him back just to have a look. It's very difficult for him because he hasn't played in battle conditions for six months, but we thought he acquitted himself pretty well on Monday. He has trained with the lads this week and it's always very difficult for people to show what they can do in a completely foreign environment. But he has got the attributes to be a player."
Kenny Cooper has had his season ended prematurely by a knee injury. Cooper suffered a knee injury playing for 1860 Munich in November, and Paul Mariner believes his latest problem is connected to that. When Argyle took Cooper on loan they negotiated an option to sign him on a permanent transfer this summer, but, with his lack of impact at Home Park, they will not be pursuing any further interest. Cooper suffered his latest knee injury playing for the reserves at Swansea City on March 17th. But Mariner admitted he only became aware of the problem two days before the trip to Nottingham Forest. He said: "We noticed in training he didn't look himself, so we asked him and he told us he had been carrying this injury. He has been battling on, so credit to the lad, but, to be honest, he hasn't done himself any favours by doing that. I don't think it's serious, but it's bad enough. When it's your knee, you are thinking about that rather than playing football."
Alan Judge is open to offers after being told he can leave Blackburn Rovers this summer. He said: "I have still got a year left at Blackburn, but I think my time there will be up in the summer. We have talked over the phone, so I know more or less what's going to happen. I will just see what clubs are interested in me. I'm sure I will be moving on because I'm obviously not Sam Allardyce's type of player. But you can talk to him easily, and if you're not his type of player he will help you get the club you need." Asked whether he would be interested in an offer from Argyle, Judge said: "I would welcome it from any club. I will just wait and see what happens."
Argyle are likely to issue a 'hands-off' warning to rival clubs over Ashley Barnes, who has scored four goals in seven games on loan to Brighton. Paul Mariner said: "It would have to be a very good offer to prise him away from us, because we don't want him to go. I haven't had much chance to work with Ashley, but that's something I want to do. He's been in the team and then stepped out, and then we thought it might good for him to go on loan to Torquay, where the reports we had said he played well. Then Brighton came in. I spoke to his agent and texted Ashley after last Saturday's game, congratulating him. Ashley, to a certain degree, seems to be enjoying himself there. I spoke to Gus Poyet the other day and he's pleased with him. Obviously, we're going to have to reduce the wage bill, so all sorts of equations come into play then." Mariner hinted that another young striker, George Donnelly, is perceived similarly by the coaching staff." "George is in the same situation," said Mariner. "I'm sure George, who has only been at the club for one year, will be better for going out there and getting experience." Mariner also admitted the likes of David Stockdale would be out of Argyle's price range and cast doubts on whether Fulham would loan him back to Argyle next season. He said: "It all depends on whether they'd want him to play in League One, because he's played in the Championship." Another loanee to impress Mariner is Alan Judge and when asked if he would like to sign Judge, Mariner replied: "At the moment, yes."
Argyle must decide between Holland and Malta as the base for their pre-season tour ahead of next season. Paul Mariner said, if push came to shove, Holland would be his choice, but he also sang the praises of Malta as a venue. "We've got a couple of irons in the fire pre-season which are Holland and Malta," he said. "I know the national training centre in Malta is a superb field and is not far from all the accommodation. And you're guaranteed decent weather, too. The Holland base is at Papendal, right in the middle of nowhere, which is ideal. I've been there before with Ipswich and it's fantastic. I know Vitesse Arnhem train there. I've been to Holland for at least five pre-seasons, doing the Amsterdam tournament which is very prestigious. The food's right and so's the accommodation. Everything's right. If I had to make a choice I'd prefer to go to Holland, only because it's closer." Mariner said the camps would involve matches for the playing staff, as well as training.
Ollie Chenoweth could find himself among the substitutes for Argyle's game with Peterborough United on Sunday. Lloyd Saxton has a foot injury, so Chenoweth is likely to be on the bench as cover for Romain Larrieu. Paul Mariner said "We wanted Romain to play for the reserves on Monday. But he said he's perfectly fine, so it was pointless risking him because we want him fit for Sunday. Ollie played on Monday and did terrific, so it's likely he'll be on the bench against Peterborough. That's the way it is in football: somebody steps out and somebody steps in." As well as Saxton, Kenny Cooper, Craig Noone, Jamie Mackie, Krisztian Timar, Ryan Leonard and Shaun Kinsella are all on the injured list at Home Park, and will not feature in the squad against Peterborough. Reda Johnson did not train yesterday and is a doubt for the game and David McNamee and Yoann Folly also missed training, after calling in sick.
After a month out of action, Kari Arnason was able to return to Argyle's first team last weekend. "It has been hard," he said. "I wanted to be part of the team, because we were fighting for survival." There much he could do to help his team this weekend either, as Argyle were outplayed. Arnason said: "Forest are a very good team, and they are trying to get into the Premier League. They played well in the first half, but we gave them a lot. A lot of what happened was our fault. In the second half, I thought we had them under control and we might have nicked one or two goals. With a little bit of luck, we might have got one point out of the game, but at the end of the day the better team won. We were chasing the game in the first half, and our back line dropped way too deep and that gave us problems in midfield. We played some decent football in the second half, but we didn't have the luck on our side. There have been situations this season where we have been really unlucky, but it's easy to say things like that now. We have not been good enough." When Arnason was asked how hard the squad had found it to motivate themselves, after relegation was confirmed last Monday, he replied: "It wasn't hard. Our focus was to try to enjoy the game. We had nothing to fight for, other than pride, and that keeps people going. For me, I didn't want to lose to Nottingham Forest, or to anybody." Having been brought to Home Park last summer as a central midfielder, Arnason was converted into a centre-back at the start of the season. On Saturday, he started a game in midfield for the first time, but was switched back to defence just before half-time, following an injury to Reda Johnson. As far as he is concerned, Arnason is happy to stick to defensive duties. He said: "I have not trained as a midfielder all season and, because I have been injured for a month, my back-tracking was not 100 per cent. I thought I was OK when I had the ball, but I prefer playing at the back." Arnason wants to be regarded as a central defender next season, even if Argyle sign Bondz N'Gala on a permanent basis. "That's my preferred spot," he added. "If Bondz is the competition, that's not a problem. I'm willing to take on that competition."
Yannick Bolasie is close to agreeing a new contract at Home Park. The 20-year-old said: "My parents are having a look over the offer, so it is something that I would like to get sorted as soon as possible. But obviously, these things can take a little time. I don't expect it to take too long, though, and that will give me something to look forward to next season after the disappointment of relegation last week."
Carl Fletcher has spoken about relegation from the Championship. "It has been hard," he said. "You pretty much feel like you want to curl up in your bed, lock all the doors and close all the windows, but you have to be professional. We have a job to do, and we have to take heart from clubs like Leicester and Norwich. They've gone down to League One and come back resurgent. We'll have to look at them as an example. It's going to be tough, but sometimes it has got to get bad to get better." Reflecting on the pressures of the last few games, he said: "I don't think my missus would say I've been too good to live with for the past few weeks, but you just have to get on with it. Sometimes the tough times can make you stronger in the future. When the team does not do well, everyone takes it personally – but you don't really think about yourself, you think about the team." Fletcher last played in League One for Bournemouth, six years ago, and feels he knows something about what lies in wait at that level. "It will be a hard league to get out of, but there are a lot of players here at the moment who want to do well for this club. If we can keep that together, have a good pre-season and get off to a good start, then anything is possible." Fletcher also expressed support for the men in charge: "Paul and John came into a tough situation, and they probably weren't able to do things the way they wanted to. It was a kind of needs-must situation. The lads all respect them. They've done well for us. They've brought their enthusiasm to the dressing room, and there's a good team spirit. Hopefully, it will continue."
Nigerian striker Jeremiah Ani featured as a trialist in Argyle's Reserves' 1-0 defeat by Reading at the Madejski Stadium yesterday. The 25-year-old Nigerian under-23 was paired in attack with Rory Fallon, with Chris Barker and Luke Summerfield the only other seniors in the side. With Lloyd Saxton suffering from a foot injury and Romain Larrieu saved for Sunday's last match of the season, apprentice Ollie Chenoweth was given a chance in goal, and he made a number of fine saves. Argyle: Chenoweth, Stephens, Trott, Barker, Richards, Summerfield, Kinsella, Nelson, Rickard, Fallon, Ani. Subs - Clifford, Young, Baker.
The last three totesport.com Combination matches of the season have been abandoned and will not be rearranged. The matches affected are home games with Bristol City and Reading and also an away fixture with Salisbury City.
Argyle have offered free tickets for Sunday's match against Peterborough United to every team in the the Plymouth Devon Junior and Minor League. Chief operating officer Tony Campbell said: "These youngsters represent the future of the city and the club. They are the next generation of the Green Army. We are delighted to invite them and their hard-working coaches to Home Park." Campbell sent out an invite to every club in the league last week, and has already been overwhelmed by interest. He said: "In just a few days, we have heard from so many clubs. It is gratifying that there is so much interest in Argyle among the younger generation."
Argyle beat Yeovil Town 3-1 in the Football League Youth Alliance on Saturday, the goals coming from Jed Harper-Penman, Matt Rickard and Jake Baker. The win extended their unbeaten run to seven games. Argyle: Varazinskis, Nelson, Trott, Richards, Clifford, Harper-Penman, Berry, Young, Baker, Rickard, Sims. Subs – Stephens,Copp.
Argyle are aiming to bounce straight back up under Paul Mariner after suffering relegation, with Joe Mason and Carl Fetcher at the centre of their promotion push. That is 'the goal and...the hope' of Mariner, speaking after the defeat at Nottingham Forest. "There are no guarantees in football, but I don't think we're far off," he said. "I'm 100% the right person to get this club up. I care about this club and know exactly what this team needs to be successful. We're not that far off. If you look at our results, even though we have got a lot of losses, we haven't been played off the park by too many teams. So, if we just tinker with it a little bit, I think we'll be okay." Mariner paid tribute to Mason, who made his first away start at the City Ground. "Joe is definitely a player for the future of this club - he is the future of this club," he said. "He's got a lot to learn, obviously, but he's going to be a very good player for this club." Mariner also believes that Carl Fletcher can be crucial to Argyle's chances next season, and rued the knee injury that disrupted his season late in the campaign. "When he was injured, we missed him," he said. "As soon as he went off after seven minutes against Blackpool, I thought 'That's going to hurt us' because, obviously, his ability, plus his character...he's a fantastic professional. It's an absolute pleasure to work with him." His final remark on the final away game of the season, was reserved for the club's support, 461 of who turned up at the City Ground. "It's staggering how they keep turning up," said Mariner. "It is a real fan club that the Green Army has. We're very grateful to the people that come along and get behind the team."
Argyle lost 3-0 at Nottingham Forest. Argyle: Stockdale, Eckersley, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Bhasera, Arnason, Johnson.D, Fletcher, Judge, Mason, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Clark, Bolasie, Barker (not used – Larrieu, Duguid, Fallon, Summerfield). Attendance - 22,602.
Alan Judge believes Paul Mariner will be the best choice to lead Argyle to success next season. He said: "I'm sure the gaffer would be the man to take the club forward next season. What you see is what you get with the gaffer. He's always enthusiastic. When I watched a re-run of the game against Newcastle on TV, you could see him in the corner of the screen jumping about. He wants to head and kick every ball with you, and that just sums up the gaffer. He wants to be out there helping you." Mariner and John Carver both have two years remaining on their contracts with Argyle and Judge added: "John has got the experience of working for Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle. John is a brilliant coach and it has been a good upgrade to this club to have him here." Judge admitted dropping out of the division was 'not a good feeling'. He said: "I think it started to sink in straight after the final whistle, when the Newcastle fans ran onto the pitch. Words can't describe what it feels like. It has just been a horrible season for us. It hasn't worked out." Judge has had peaks and troughs in form this season but, overall, he has been one of the club's best players. He said: "Whatever club I play for, I play with my heart on my sleeve. I always give everything I have. There are a great bunch of lads here and I felt we deserved a bit better, but it wasn't to be." Argyle struggled all season because they could not come up with consistent results and their longest unbeaten record was only a mere three matches. Judge said: "We couldn't get it going and that sums up our story. We haven't been good enough and we know it. It's our fault and the club will just have to do better next season."
Keith Todd says he fully expects Paul Mariner to be Argyle boss next season. He said: "I fully expect Paul and John Carver will be handling first-team affairs next season. Earlier, I had a two-hour phone conversation with Paul over what his plans are and the best way to go forward. Paul knows why we've not succeeded this season: we haven't scored enough goals. That was obvious again on Monday against Newcastle — we had chances but couldn't put them away. That has happened all too often this year and needs to be addressed in time for next season. There have plusses and bonuses in the form of youngsters like Joe Mason, Reda Johnson and Onismor Bhasera. This and all other footballing decisions at this club will be considered, discussed and resolved at the end of the season, not before." Todd conceded the new board members had still to win the war of hearts and minds with Argyle fans. "We want Argyle to bounce back at the first attempt if possible," he said. "Making Argyle a formidable proposition on the pitch next season is top priority. We're determined the club regain their place in the Championship — that's a must. We want to rid ourselves of last Monday's feeling, which was gutting for everyone involved at this football club. I've been imprisoned in the US until next week. I heard every kick and word Sparksy uttered on Monday night. I don't want to go through that again after suffering when we lost to Burnley and went down to Division Three 12 years ago. Like then the feeling was utterly demoralising and I can assure the fans I and the rest of the board suffered the same agonies. As a board I don't think we've fully won that battle yet with the Green Army, that we're fans. If we haven't it's not through lack of trying or caring, but it's something we need to work on." Todd defended the contentious decision to pay tribute to Newcastle clinching the title after Monday's final whistle. He insisted Argyle's stock had risen 'throughout the worldwide footballing community' as a result of the sporting gesture, which included the playing of 'We are the Champions'. "I've had emails from fans criticising the decision, but we've had far more in favour," said Todd. "We played with spirit and showed we could take defeat with dignity. The fans were also just as magnanimous to Newcastle fans. We have a lot to be proud of for giving Newcastle a sporting send-off."
Krisztian Timar is unlikely to be fit for the start of next season, according to Paul Mariner. Timar suffered a torn hamstring when playing for Oldham Athletic in January, and Mariner said: "Krisztian started jogging on Thursday. In actual fact, we were playing a small-sided game when he was going around the field and one of the lads passed the ball to him! He's not allowed to kick it yet. It's just running straight. It's going to be a long journey for him because it was a horrific injury, but it was nice to see him jogging. I would doubt he will be fit for the start of next season."
Argyle are on their way out of the Championship, but their players will not be allowed to go through the motions in their penultimate match of a long and hard season. Paul Mariner said: "These two games coming up are very important. There's still a lot at stake. Everybody wants to do well, and everybody wants to show what they're made of. We're going to have to prove our worth over the next couple of games. There's a level of professionalism to be maintained. We need to show everybody that we're made of the right stuff." Mariner also wants his players to reward the supporters who have backed his side, especially away from home. He said: "We have a fan-base who have really stuck by us since I took control. Even though we haven't been winning, they've stuck by us home and away. We think, to a certain degree, we're starting to build and give people hope for the future." With Jamie Mackie unlikely to be involved today due to a calf injury, Joe Mason could get a chance to show what he can do against Nottingham Forest, unless Mariner decides to use Rory Fallon or Kenny Cooper alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips. Mariner said: "Mackie is probably going to be out, so we have a decision to make. Do we go with a big guy and a little guy, or do we go with Joe?" There will be no call-ups for Ryan Leonard or Sean Kinsella, though. Mariner explained: "Kinsella and Leonard have been injured. It was Kinsella's first session on Thursday, and Leonard is not back in training yet. They haven't played enough football, and I think it would be grossly unfair to put them into a situation like that. We know what they can do. They don't have anything to prove to us, and we've offered them contracts for next season."
Every Argyle player felt the pain of relegation last Monday, even the ones whose time with the club is about to come to an end. David Stockdale said: "Nobody wants to get relegated. I felt just as bad as anybody else did in that changing room. As soon as we finished the game, the gaffer said the rebuilding process starts now. We've had a good week's training, and we've said that we're going to be professional on Saturday. I'm sure the lads will be professional the week after, as well. I'm sure they'll stay mentally strong, and I hope they bounce back next season." Despite the distress of relegation, Stockdale has no regrets about his time at Home Park. He said: "I could have stayed at Fulham and sat on the bench, but I needed to get out and play. I'm glad I came here. I wouldn't have changed it for the world. It hasn't been the best finish to the season for the club, but it's been a great experience for me. I've had the experience of the highs and the lows. I was the first one to point out that I had a dip in form, but there's no player, even in the Premier League, who doesn't have a dip over the course of a season. You have to be honest with yourself. I said to the gaffer that I'll get out of it, and he stuck with me and I showed him that I can do it." Working with Romain Larrieu has been a pleasure for Stockdale, who said: "Romain is the ultimate professional, and for ten years I bet everybody in Plymouth would say that. I pushed him on, hopefully, and he definitely pushed me on. When I hit that loss of form, he was right on my toes. I wish him all the best for next season, because he's been a great professional for this club and a great ambassador for the people of Plymouth." Stockdale will head back to London next week to resume his Fulham career. "I want to go back to Fulham and show that I can keep the form that I've shown here, and be a part of the squad there until the end of their season," he said. He knows, though, that he may be sent out on loan again next season but that his employers are likely to want him to play Championship football, rather than League One football with Argyle. "I'd consider every option, but, with no disrespect, I think Fulham might want to see how high they can get me," he added. "If we had stayed up, coming back here would be my first choice, but I've got to play at the highest level that I can."
Carl Fletcher and Jamie Mackie are both fitness doubts for Argyle's against Nottingham Forest tomorrow. Paul Mariner said: "Fletch's knee is swollen and he went for a MRI scan yesterday. I'm not sure, but I think his knee blowing up is a totally separate thing from before." Mackie, meanwhile, could miss out because of a calf injury. Mariner said: "Jamie is very doubtful for tomorrow. He has been playing with a calf injury, and it's really painful for him."
David Stockdale will make his last appearance for Argyle tomorrow. Paul Mariner said: "I think it has gone very well for David. He's a young goalkeeper and he knows he has a lot to learn. He had a little blip in form where he was getting some criticism and he rose to the occasion. We knew he would because he's a very strong character. I think his spell here has been great and, I have to say, Romain has been exemplary in his professionalism. He's a class act." Larrieu has been on the bench for each of the matches since Stockdale came into the side. "He really cares," said Mariner. "He has taken on a mentor role with David as well, helping him with stuff. That's a measure of the type of person he is. He's just a great bloke."
Argyle have offered 12-month professional contracts to second-year apprentices Ryan Leonard and Sean Kinsella. Paul Mariner said: "We know what they can do. They haven't got anything to prove to us. We have offered them contracts and it's up to them. We want them to sign, obviously."
Paul Mariner paid tribute to Paul Sturrock yesterday, after Argyle confirmed that the former manager was no longer part of the club's staff. Mariner said: "He goes as one of the greatest. He has done some fantastic things at this club. He's a great mate of mine, I thank him deeply for asking me to come over, and I wish him all the best." Sturrock revealed two years ago that he was suffering from a mild form of Parkinson's disease. Mariner believes that some effects of the treatment for the illness had hindered the him for a while. He said: "I think he's the first to hold his hand up and say that things didn't go well for him in his last few months in charge. Personally, I think it was because his medication wasn't right. We know he has a serious illness, and we sympathise with him for that."
Paul Mariner is starting to prepare for life in League One and he knows that Home Park is going to be a very different place next season. "We're already looking at next season," he said. "We have our ideas about players coming in. We have a list of about 40 players that we've been tracking, but it depends on the financial situation. We really don't know what will happen yet. There's going to be a financial loss which we'll have to take into consideration. We're going into League One, and we're going to lose almost £2 million. That's a lot of money. There are going to have to be cuts, we know that. We can't go on in the way that we have been going on. We've just lost £2 million. How can we continue in the same way? It's simple mathematics." Mariner knows that Argyle may have to part with players before they can add to their squad. "We're in a situation where we have some high earners, and it seems that players tend to be picked out from teams that go down," he said. "We're preparing for that. I would guess that we're going to have trim the squad. It's a fact of life when you go down a division. I have a conference call later today with Keith Todd, who has been stuck in the States because of the situation with the airlines. We're going to go through all the players. It's obviously a very important conversation, a massive discussion." When Mariner was asked if he expected to witness the departure of current squad members who are under contract for next season, he replied: "I wouldn't be surprised. You have to cut your cloth accordingly." Mariner was then asked about Damien Johnson, who was signed from Birmingham City in January and is under contract for another two years. Mariner was asked if Johnson had an 'escape clause' in his deal which could be activated. The response was: "I expect him to be here next season."
Paul Mariner expects to continue as the first team boss of Argyle next season. He said: "At the present moment, I have got no doubt I will be picking the team next season. People can speculate, and people do speculate. As far as I'm concerned, I'm comfortable with what has happened. Only the people within the inner circle know what restrictions we have been working under. All I can do is my best. There is nobody more disappointed than myself about what has happened to the club. I have not been my normal self over the last couple of days." Asked whether he had any regrets about his time in charge, Mariner replied: "I can't dwell on the past. All I can influence is the future. I'm not a person that dwells on the past. The facts are there for everybody to see. So people will read into that what they want." Argyle have won only one of their last six matches and failed to score in any of the others, so the games against Nottingham Forest and Peterborough give them a chance to end the season in positive fashion. Mariner said: "There is a level of professionalism you want to maintain, and we actually want to finish on a high note. We want to show people what we are made of. There was a blip against Watford, but I thought we were very good against Newcastle. We just couldn't finish off our chances. I have had emails and texts from people all over the world, never mind the country, who watched the game and they said we gave a very good account of ourselves. We want to maintain that through to the end of the season, and I think it's going to happen. The players really want to finish on a high." Mariner also wants to reward the fans for their support during a very difficult season. He said: "We have got a fanbase at this club who have really stuck by us since I took control. Even though we haven't been winning, they have been superb, both home and away. We are very aware that, to a certain degree, we are starting to build and give people hope for the future."
A young reserve team lost 1-0 to Bideford in the Devon St. Luke's Cup semi-final last night. Mike Pejic said: "One moment of poor defending cost us the game. Three of our players let their lad control the ball, turn and shoot unchallenged from the edge of the box. Apart from that, we had at least 50% of possession. The game is part of a learning curve for our apprentices and schoolboys. Hopefully, they will learn that they must be switched on at all times if they want to progress in the professional game. Overall, I've got a lot to be pleased about. The lads are in the middle of a lot of games on top of one another, with little time to recover, and we did well on the night against one of the most successful adult teams in the region." Argyle: Saxton, Stephens, White, Trott, Clifford, Harper-Penman, Young, Nelson, Copp, Smith, Coombes. Subs – Richards, Baker (not used - Pearce, Berry, Chenoweth).
Jamie Mackie has blamed Argyle's relegation on a collective failure among the playing staff. Mackie said the dressing room needed 'to look at themselves' and reflect if they could have done more to avert the club's drop. However, he would not confirm whether he would be in the Argyle starting line-up next season. "At the end of the day, we've all got to take a good, long look at ourselves," said Mackie. "People will be doing a bit of soul-searching, looking at what they could have done. Everyone needs to have a good look at themselves collectively, and we need to have a look at each other. When people look at the league, we're down and haven't been good enough. The Championship is a very unforgiving league. Newcastle are a very tough team and if you had looked at the fixture list after Christmas you knew if we brought it down to these last few games, it would be very hard for us to stay up. We knew we'd be playing some strong sides in the run-in. In the end the best team have gone up and, the two worst have gone down. Whoever comes third from bottom will be the third worst team in the league. That's how it works – it's not about luck or this, that or the other. To be fair, we battled back, and people thought, 'Can we do it?' But really we have been short this season." Asked about his own future, Mackie said: "It's far too early at the moment and not appropriate – it's all about the club. That'll be spoken about at a future date, I'm sure." Mackie felt there were lessons to be learned from the experience of fighting relegation and believes Argyle had the players to make a decent fist of trying to win promotion at the first attempt. "In the long run, I think I'll probably become a better player on the back of the experience," he said. "I would have liked to have gone through my career without being relegated – it's not a learning experience I'd want to take from it. Personally, I'm a winner and it's hard to take for me." Paul Mariner had called for a reaction from his players following their poor performance at Watford and Mackie felt they had displayed desire on Monday, but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal. He said: "Their 'keeper made some good saves, but, like the gaffer said, if we're not clinical enough teams like Newcastle will punish you. They're a top team and are deservedly back in the Premier League. We've got some good young players coming through. But in the here and the now we've come up short – everyone needs to look at themselves and reflect on it. We've lacked all over the pitch. To a man, we've got to look at ourselves and see where we can improve."
Argyle finally confirmed the departure of Paul Sturrock today. In a statement issued by the club this morning, Sturrock said: "While I enjoyed my new role and responsibilities, I am a football manager. That is what I do. Therefore, I have decided to seek a return to management. Plymouth Argyle has been a huge part of my life, and will always be close to my heart, but now is the right time to move on. I would like to thank everyone with who I have had the pleasure to work in my time at Home Park. I have made many lifelong friends. Also, I could not take myself up the road without paying tribute to the Green Army for their incredible support." Keith Todd paid tribute to Sturrock's contribution to the club. "Paul Sturrock is a Green legend, right up there with the Plymouth Argyle greats," he said. "It has never been anything less than a pleasure to work alongside him, and to marvel at the depth of his knowledge of football. We wish him well in his future career, and look forward to doing battle with him down the line."
Paul Mariner was inconsolable after Argyle's 2-0 defeat by Newcastle United on Monday night saw them relegated. "I feel terrible," he said. "We haven't lost a family member but it feels a bit like that. I have been associated with going down at Portsmouth, and I wasn't too pleased about that. This is something which is a bitter pill to swallow, but work has already started to rebuild the team and get it back where it belongs." Argyle had put in a dismal display at Watford but were clearly up for the task of taking on Newcastle. Mariner said: "I thought we started extremely well. We asked the players for a reaction after the Watford game, and I thought the reaction was absolutely fantastic. Getting the captain back was a massive bonus for us. He was driving us forward all night. I thought Damien Johnson and Fletcher were again spectacular in the centre of midfield. But the difference between the two teams was the finishing." Newcastle took the lead when Andrew Carroll headed home a corner from Danny Guthrie and their second goal came 8 minutes later when Wayne Routledge latched onto a precise pass from Joey Barton. Mariner said: "I would tend to agree that Andy Carroll's looping header should have been stopped by somebody on the post. The second goal was a fantastic through ball and a tremendous finish." Bondz N'Gala's missed opportunity from a corner typified Argyle's season-long struggle to score goals. Mariner said: "The lads have worked extremely hard on the training ground, on their set pieces. We do make a lot of chances for ourselves from set pieces. Our movement is fantastic. We do get numerous opportunities in and around that penalty spot – the second six-yard box as they call it – and we are just not clinical. My hat goes off to the lads for getting in there, but when you get in there you have got to finish." Mariner thought Argyle gave a good account of themselves, even though they were beaten. He added: "You can see when we get the ball down we play some decent stuff, and that's with a team that was absolutely clinging on to hope. It was an extremely high pressure environment for those lads. I know we have gone down and it's very disappointing, but I'm pleased with the way they played."
Argyle's youth team won 2-1 at Exeter City on Monday, the goals scored by Jed Harper-Penman and Jared Sims. Argyle: Chenoweth, Stephens, Nelson, Trott, Clifford, Harper-Penman, Berry, Young, Copp, Baker, Rickard. Subs – Richards, Coombes, Sims
Argyle will be playing in League One next season after losing to Newcastle United last night. Paul Mariner said: "It is a horrible feeling been relegated. But we have got to think about the future now. We have to make sure our fans understand that we will be in it to win it next year." Mariner, however, admitted it will take a while to get over last night's disappointment. "I think it is going to be a low for us for a few days," he said. "We genuinely thought we could get out of this. But we were just left wanting. A lack of goals has cost us. You have to put the ball in the back of the net at this level when you have opportunities." Mariner felt his team gave it everything last night. He said: "We asked for a reaction from the players and we got one. The lads gave it everything and the fans played their part. They were fantastic."
Paul Mariner has declared his intention to help the club get straight back into the Championship. He said: "We thought we could get out of this situation, but we've come up a little short. If anybody knows me they know I've only ever been associated with success. I'm a winner and now we've got to start to rebuild for the future. I feel the pain of the supporters because this is the club that gave me my first start. The reason I came here was because of the vision that the club can get into the Premiership. Now we've got another couple of hurdles before we do that but I firmly believe that we can do it." With two games still remaining, Mariner said he would endeavour to make sure the club finish the season on a high. "We need to go to Forest and win, and Peterborough need to come here and we need to beat them," he added. "We need to finish off on a high to show our fans that we are determined to bounce back." And signalling his intention to stay and bring Championship football back to Plymouth, he said: "We obviously need to look at the staff and we need to address certain situations, hopefully I'll be asked to do that. I want to do it."
Argyle can become stronger through the adversity of relegation, according to Roy Gardner. "Like all Argyle fans, the board of directors is bitterly disappointed that we have suffered relegation," he said. "We are proud of the way that our team fought to the end, and that our great fans never gave up on us, but, ultimately, we fell short. Of course, we need to regroup and to take time to review the events of this season. However, while it will benefit us to identify areas which contributed to our downfall, we cannot afford to dwell on them. What is most important now is how we react to this relegation. If we can learn from our shortcomings, then I have every confidence that we can be stronger for the experience, and bounce back next season. I and my fellow directors chose to come to the club because we had a vision of bringing Premier League football to Plymouth. This might seem a long way away today, but we believe we can fight our way back. We have already been in discussions with Paul Mariner about next season, and these discussions will continue. We also intend to develop the ground in a way that will make match-day a better experience for our fans and also to increase the possibilities for generating revenue on non-match days. A new stadium is an essential part of our forward-planning and reflects the scale of ambition at the club. We expect to start redeveloping the stadium, beginning with replacement of the old South Stand, at the end of next season."
Paul Mariner paid tribute to the Green Army after the club were relegated last night. "The fans have been absolutely fantastic to us," he said. "We've said from the start that it's the team on the pitch that gets a reaction from the crowd. We couldn't ask for any more. The fan-base at Plymouth Argyle is extremely strong. I know they will come back if we can get winning team, and an attractive team. We'll get the new field; we'll able to get the ball down. We've got players that like to get the ball at their feet and go at people. I'm sure the Green Army will be very strong next season. If we keep the team together, I'm extremely hopeful."
Argyle are relegated after losing 2-0 to Newcastle United at Home Park. Argyle: Stockdale, Eckersley, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Bhasera, Duguid, Johnson.D, Fletcher, Judge, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Bolasie, Mason (not used – Larrieu, Fallon, Barker, Arnason, Clark). Attendance - 13,111.
Bondz N'Gala is set to make a permanent transfer to Argyle this summer. Paul Mariner is confident of concluding a deal for N'Gala, who is being released by West Ham United. Mariner said: "I think the partnership of N'Gala and Johnson, looking through a crystal ball, is going to be a strong one for the club." When asked how the talks were going, he replied: "Very well." Mariner continued: "He has obviously been taught well. His feet are good for a big fella, and he's always on the training ground, working at his game. He's just a terrific young man, he really is." N'Gala's arrival at Home Park was followed soon afterwards by Onismor Bhasera. Mariner said: "I think what has happened with the back four, with Bas and Bondz coming in, is that Reda has elevated his game. Reda has taken on a leadership role with the group, which bodes well for the future." N'Gala signed on loan for Argyle last month, having trained with them for a short spell in January. Mariner said: "When he came in initially, he was taken back by West Ham and he wasn't available. We kept pursuing it and then he did become available. To be perfectly frank, he was cover for Arnie, but Arnie gets hurt and Bondz is thrown in at the deep end. When we signed him, I thought he would do well, but I didn't think he would be asked to play so many minutes. I must say, he has acquitted himself extremely well. He's already a very good professional."
Paul Mariner has admitted he wants to see Karl Duguid and Romain Larrieu stay at Home Park. Both have contracts which end this summer, but talks about new deals have been taking place. The details of the contracts are likely to be dictated by whether Argyle are in the Championship or League One next season. Mariner said: "Karl Duguid knows exactly where he stands, and so does Ro. We have got to wait, and they are completely happy with that situation. There is no doubt I want them here. They have both got a lot to offer. They are great pros, and are everything you would want in a player. I think it will be close to getting done before the end of the season." Yannick Bolasie has also been offered a new contract and Mariner added: "He has an offer on the table, but we haven't heard back from him."
Argyle will be relegated from the Championship should they lose to Newcastle United at Home Park tonight. Should they lose to Newcastle, the most points they could end the season with is 47, and with Sheffield Wednesday hosting Crystal Palace on the final day of the season, at least one of them is guaranteed to finish on more than 47 points. A win or a draw for Newcastle will see them crowned as the Championship winners. Paul Mariner said: "What we are both fighting for are two totally different things, so it's all teed up to be a fantastic game. It's there for all to see what's on this game. I have been very impressed with Newcastle. I think Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood have done an unbelievable job. Being the favourites to get automatic promotion, straight out, is not easy. The expectations are extremely high, but I think Chris has managed the whole situation very well. The players have applied themselves incredibly well, and they seem to be the only team in the division with different gears they can go through." Newcastle will be hot favourites but Mariner said: "The mood among the players is extremely positive. The betting before the game is the way you would expect it, but there are 11 guys playing against 11 others, and you just don't know what's going to happen. There are a lot of things that have got to fall into place for a very good Plymouth Argyle performance. But I don't see any reason why we can't do that tonight."
David Stockdale will make his final Home Park appearance tonight as his three-month loan spell will end after the trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday. His deal cannot be extended any longer than that, so he will not be available for the season-ending game against Peterborough United on May 2nd.
Carl Fletcher is set to return from injury against Newcastle United tonight. Paul Mariner stopped short of confirming he would start the game, but did say: "Carl Fletcher has trained well this week." Luke Summerfield is also available after recovering from a hamstring injury and is set to be included among the substitutes tonight.
The Argyle squad and coaching staff attended Plymouth Albion's 19-14 win against the Cornish Pirates at Brickfields on Friday night, having been invited to the game by Albion's chairman of rugby Graham Dawe. Paul Mariner said: "We have trained very hard this week, and had a great night at Plymouth Albion on Friday. Graham Dawe invited us down and it was fantastic. I want to thank them for their hospitality. It was absolutely second to none. Everybody was there, staff included, and I'm glad they won. They will be coming to our game and, hopefully, we can do the same." Argyle's game with Newcastle is being broadcast live on Sky Sports, but Mariner hopes that will not affect the attendance too much. He said: "They might see the best team in our division get their championship, or they might see us pull off an upset. There is quite a lot hanging on it, and I think the fans are fully aware of the situation and they will come along."
Argyle's youth team drew 0-0 with Yeovil Town on Saturday. Argyle: Varazinskis, Stephens, Nelson, Trott, Richards, Harper-Penman, Berry, Young, Baker, Rickard, Sims. Subs – Clifford, Copp, Coombes (not used – Chenoweth).
Argyle have confirmed they are scrapping the Mayflower Enclosure at Home Park next season. They will no longer rent around 3,500 temporary seats, which have been placed on the terrace. The club say they have taken the decision in advance of the planned demolition of the Grandstand at the end of next season but also admitted that not renting the temporary seating would save them around £100,000. Argyle announced their season ticket and single match admission prices for next season this morning. The cheapest matchday ticket for an adult next season will be £20, a rise of 33 per cent. Tony Campbell said: "Subject to the necessary planning permission being granted, the club intends to demolish the Mayflower Grandstand at the end of the 2010/11 season to make way for a new stand as part of a world-class stadium. The decision to close the Mayflower Enclosure is needed for two reasons. Firstly, in order to ensure the smooth relocation of supporters from the Mayflower into other areas of the ground, we are spreading this across two years. The lower Mayflower will close at the end of 2009/10 and the upper Mayflower will close at the end of 2010/11. We believe this will lessen any resulting upheaval. Also, the Mayflower Enclosure is a huge drain on the club's finances. We are paying getting on for £100,000 a season for seating which, on this season's gates, is an expense we cannot justify. We know some fans will be disappointed at having to relocate from the lower Mayflower next season, but this was always going to happen and we hope fans used to sitting in the Mayflower Enclosure will not be too inconvenienced by moving a year earlier than those in the upper seating. We have set aside a short period of time, before tickets go on sale to new purchasers, exclusively for current Mayflower Enclosure season ticket holders to choose a seat elsewhere in the ground. We also appreciate one of the reasons people enjoyed sitting in the Mayflower Enclosure was the freedom they enjoyed because it was unreserved seating. Therefore, we are making blocks 17 and 18 unreserved seating for 2010/11." Argyle are introducing a premium seating ticket next season, which will cost £24 for all fans, adults and concessions. That is the same price as adults have paid this term, but it represents a steep increase for concessions. However, non-premium seating tickets have been cut compared to this campaign. They are priced at £20 for adults, £14 for 65s-and-over and under-23s, and £6 for under-18s. Under-10s will also continue to be allowed into games absolutely free, as long as they, and an accompanying adult family member, are season ticket holders. Campbell said: "Our pricing structure for 2010/11 has been designed with one eye on the new stadium. When that is built, all central seating between the two penalty areas on both sides of the ground will be premium seating areas. Putting that into place for next season in the existing stadium as a forerunner introduces fans to the concept, with the added bonus they will not be charged any more than 12 months ago. The news is even better for most fans who opt to sit outside this premium seating area. They will be able to do so at a reduction in price from the current campaign."
In his two and a bit years as an Argyle player, Chris Clark has seen more hard times than good times. The team only just avoided being relegated last season, and the situation now looks even worse. Argyle were poor in last Saturday's defeat at Watford, and Clark said: "We went into the game with a lot of confidence, from the way that we had been playing previously, but we just didn't seem to get going at all. We didn't have a spell during the match where we looked comfortable. Losing at home to Middlesbrough put even more pressure on the Watford game, but it's something you have to deal with as a player. You almost have to try to enjoy the moment, enjoy the pressure, but there was a lot of frustration after the game, individually and as a team. We knew straight away that we hadn't played well." Monday's match will offer a different scenario. Argyle will be taking on Newcastle in the knowledge that few people will expect them to win. "Newcastle are in a position where they can go out and enjoy their football," Clark said. "The pressure is off us, but we still have to go about things the right way. We have to be positive. We just need to go out and enjoy it. Sometimes, performances can be a lot better if you can play with a smile on your face. It's our last chance, and we want to come off at the end feeling a lot happier than we did after our last match." The players have been trying to keep morale high, in the face of adversity. Clark added: "We've all stuck together, no matter how the results have gone."
Paul Mariner wants to stay at Home Park whatever the outcome of the current campaign. He said: "Of course, I love this place. I want to be here passionately, I care about what I'm doing." But Mariner acknowledged his future with the club is dependent on the board. "It's up to the bosses," he said. "I want to be here and I think what we've done since we've been here, if you look at the record, is not too bad. This is where I'm employed and this is the club that gave me the start and also a start in management. And I want to prove to the people, to the fans, to the board, to everybody that we can do this job and I know that we can." And Mariner is still hoping Argyle can pull off a great escape. He said: "We've got to play two of the best sides in the division. To pick up points from those two teams is going to be difficult. Is it impossible? No. You don't know in football and especially in this division, I defy anybody to predict what's going to happen."
Paul Mariner is investigating reports that Steve MacLean and Alan Gow do not want to return to Home Park next season. Both have been quoted in the Scottish media over their reluctance to play for Argyle next season, even though they both still have a year's contract left. Mariner said: "I have a very good relationship with Alan and Steve and I know exactly where we stand. Obviously, we can't talk face to face at the moment, but I think it's prudent I make a phone call – both players are under contract with this football club."
Paul Mariner rates Carl Fletcher as 'very doubtful' for Monday night's game with Newcastle United. Fletcher had recovered from the badly gashed knee which he suffered in the defeat by Blackpool but hurt his calf in training and could not play against Watford. Fletcher was missed in the 1-0 defeat but Mariner added that he was struggling to explain why Argyle had played quite so badly in a game they needed to win. He said: "I would have expected them to come out flying, but they looked like they'd never seen each other before. For the most part, we have competed well in every game." Mariner accepted that his players may have been affected by the pressure of effectively having to win at Watford. He said: "The only thing I can think about is the pressure. It's the same set of lads. All the ingredients were there for it to be a horrible football game: sunny, bumpy, sloping pitch, windy, the whole shooting match. As pros, we've seen that at this time of the year for donkey's years, so I have no clue why." On Monday, Argyle will be up against a Newcastle team who are on the brink of clinching the title. "It could work in our favour," Mariner added. "They could well be champions by the time we play them, the game will be on Sky, and it's just the sort of game any player would want to play in." Responding to the disappointment has been top priority for Mariner this week, and he was delighted by a superb training session yesterday. "It is not so much a case of after the Lord Mayor's Show but they were fantastic yesterday," he said. "It was probably one of the best sessions we've had. We did some work on possession and the back four, and we're going to do more work on the back four because the team hasn't been finalised. It was a terrific, high tempo session."
Argyle beat Barnstaple Town 3-1 last night to reach the semi-finals of the St Luke's Cup, the goals scored by Jed Harper-Penman, Jack Stephens and Dan Smith. Argyle will now travel to Bideford for the semi-final and could face either Tiverton Town or Exeter City in the final. Argyle: Saxton, Stephens, Clifford, Young, White, Trott, Harper-Penman, Berry, Coombes, Copp, Smith. Subs – Richards, Pearce, Baker (not used - Chenoweth, Rickard).
Kari Arnason could be an unexpected addition to Argyle's squad for the game with Newcastle United on Monday. A torn hip muscle had seemed likely to keep Arnason out for the rest of the season, but he has returned to training this week and has an outside chance of playing. Paul Mariner said: "Kari Arnason is touch and go, and Carl Fletcher is touch and go. Arnason was training yesterday, but he came in sore today so we stepped him out of training. He says he'll be able to train on Saturday." There were mixed reports on the fitness of some other members of the squad. Mariner added: "Craig Noone is still away, after his knee injection. Luke Summerfield is back in training, but David McNamee, Ryan Leonard and Sean Kinsella have not been training."
Argyle have opened discussions with Yala Bolasie over a new contract and Paul Mariner is also hoping to start negotiations with Romain Larrieu and Karl Duguid regarding new deals. He revealed that Larrieu may have a coaching element to his contract. Mariner said: "Bolasie has something on the table and we're waiting on contact from Keith Todd regarding Duguid and Romain. A coaching element to Ro's contract has been talked about."
Argyle's hopes of having a new training facility up and running in time for next season may be dashed. The club have assessed several possible sites during the past two years and look likely to end up with a training base at University College Plymouth Marjon. They were hoping to finalise a deal in time for the start of the 2010-11 pre-season but that now looks over-optimistic. Paul Mariner told a fans' forum last week that the move may be delayed by up to a year. Some of the facilities at the site will not be ready this summer, and it is understood that Argyle are envisaging a phased transfer of their training activities to the college over the course of two years. Eventually, playing and some non-playing staff may be based at the campus, with Home Park only being used by the club on match days. Argyle are pressing ahead with other infrastructure projects, despite the threat of relegation, which would see their television revenue shrink from its current level of £2.5 million per season to £640,000 per season.The Home Park pitch will be replaced as soon as the current campaign has concluded. A Fibrelastic Turf pitch, under which the grass roots flourish in a mixture of soil and rubber, is due to be installed in time for next season.
Argyle have declined to comment on speculation that the temporary seating in the Mayflower Enclosure at Home Park will not be hired again next season. It is thought that could save the club around £100,000. Should they decide not to rent them for the 2010/11 campaign, the club will not be allowed to open the terrace to supporters, whether the team are still in the Championship, or are relegated to League One. When asked whether a decision had been taken not to re-hire the temporary seating, Rick Cowdery said: "The future of the Mayflower Enclosure is part of our overall ticketing strategy for next season, full details of which we aim to put out this week."
Argyle reserves drew 0-0 at Forest Green Rovers last night. The failure to score was a frustration for Geoff Crudgington, who said: "We started very well. We could have been well clear in the first 30 minutes but we need to be more clinical in front of goal. The second-half was a poor game and that's what happens if you don't score when you're on top." Despite the end result, Crudgington was delighted with schoolboys Jack Stephens and Jamie Richards, who were ably supported in the back four by the experience of Chris Barker and Romain Larrieu. "They have got a great chance of making it," he said. "They have got to develop as footballers, and as young men, but we think highly of them. We wouldn't play them in the reserves otherwise. Ro and Barks showed an excellent attitude with the schoolboys at the back." Former Argyle winger Dan Smith was included in the squad. Smith was released at the end of last season but has offered to help out because of Argyle's heavy schedule of reserve and youth team fixtures to complete. Argyle: Larrieu, Stephens, Trott, Barker, Richards, Mason, Folly, Young, Smith, Fallon, Cooper. Subs – Nardiello, Baker (not used - Saxton, Clifford, Rickard).
Argyle have an away game at Barnstaple in the quarter-finals of the St Luke's Cup on Thursday and are expected to send a side combining some first team squad members with youth team players.
Bradley Wright-Phillips is facing the prospect of relegation for the second consecutive season and so knows all about the hurt that brings. "I don't know if I will be able to take two of those," he said. "If you love football, relegation is one of the worst things that can happen to you. To me, as a player, I can't think of a more hurtful thing than that." Wright-Phillips had one of Argyle's few chances in the defeat by Watford but neither he nor Jamie Mackie were a factor in the match. Wright-Phillips said: "It's a bad result. We needed to win today. We weren't our usual selves. We didn't pass it, and we didn't come out of the blocks. I don't know why. These things happen. Even Manchester United play badly sometimes. It's just how it goes. We came here and had a job to do. We had three points to get, and we didn't get them. We aren't down yet. We have got to get up and dust ourselves off."
Paul Mariner was at a loss to explain Argyle's dreadful display as they lost to Watford on Saturday. He said: "I think the word I would use is puzzled. The first thing we do is we self-assess, and we wonder about the preparation. Before the game we thought we had the preparation right, but the performance we put on would say that wasn't the case. We were happy to come in at 0-0 at half-time. I thought Watford were bright and were on the front foot. They did exactly what we wanted to do, but we didn't do it." Mariner has tried to be as positive as possible throughout his time in charge of the team, but even he seemed deflated after the defeat. He said: "I'm not critical of anybody in particular. I'm just critical of the group. All of us have got to rise to the challenge. I don't think their goalkeeper had a shot to save. To be fair, David Stockdale didn't have a great deal to do either. It was a little bit scrappy, but games like this are often like that. The first goal in games like this is always massive. When we went a goal down, I thought we actually started to play a little bit better." Mariner was angry Argyle were caught on the break for Watford's winning goal. He said: "It was a free-kick for us, in the middle of the field. The ball was pumped in, and they broke on us. How many times has that happened this season? And we actually spoke about it at half-time. We told the players we couldn't get done on the break, and we did." Eckersley returned to the starting line-up after recovering from an ankle injury and slotted into the side at right-back, with Karl Duguid moving forward into midfield. Mariner said: "We brought Eckers into the team to be solid. He hasn't played since that horrendous tackle up at Scunthorpe, and he looked a little bit rusty. So that's what we chopped and changed at the end. We just tried to find any way we could to break them down, but we couldn't do that." Alan Judge came on as part of a double substitution, which also saw Joe Mason take over from Yannick Bolasie. Mason played behind the two strikers and Judge formed part of a three-man midfield, alongside Chris Clark and Damien Johnson. Mariner added: "We had attacking players on the field. We tried Judgey in there as a three, and Mason underneath the two. Then we put Mason wide. We did everything we could, but you have got to say Watford were good value for the victory."
Karl Duguid will be making sure his team-mates do not fester after Saturday's defeat at Watford. "You can't sit there and sulk, because there's a massive game in ten days," he said. "That's what it's all about now. The Watford game is gone. We can't look back and worry about it. We've still got a chance. We are still capable of getting out of the relegation zone. We can't worry about the Watford game, thinking it was a bad performance, because we've got a massive game around the corner and that's what we've got to concentrate on. We'll be upbeat and we'll be very positive and we'll go for the win against Newcastle next Monday. We've got three massive games now. It's down to us, really, we have got to bounce back. We have got to try to win every game and that's what we will do. We're going to push all the way. We're in a position to get out of it." All three of Argyle's remaining opponents have little to play for, but Duguid does not necessarily see that as a positive. He said: "They could be so relaxed and play some flowing football, just passing the ball about and really enjoying themselves, or they could come and be on their holidays. We're not going to think that. We're going to think it's another massive game. Newcastle want to win the league with as many points and as many goals as possible; Nottingham Forest is the same; and Peterborough have just got a new manager in - players are going to be trying to impress Gary Johnson in the last game." While Duguid has experience to draw on for the games ahead, some members of the squad have not been in this position before. "That can work for you, and it can work against you," Duguid said. "It can work for you because they have no fear, and they just go out and express themselves. The young boys in our team have played a lot of games this season and, mentally, it might be a bit tough, but that's what football is all about - you have got to be mentally and physically strong, and that's a learning-curve. They have done great for us this season, there's no doubt about that. All the young boys, and the older ones, have got to get ready for next Monday. That's all we are worrying about now. We're fighting for our lives. We have got to put everything into the 90 minutes and hope we get the win. Today, all the other teams have lost - they might lose all the rest of their games so we'd only have to win two. We worked hard, but it wasn't the performance we wanted. We get ourselves in a position where we can get out of trouble, and then we'd take advantage of it, which is disappointing."
Argyle's youth team drew 1-1 with Swindon Town on Saturday, the goal scored by Matt Rickard. Mike Pejic was pleased with the performance and said: "We were down to the bare bones, due to injuries and Paul Mariner deciding he wanted Jack Stephens and Jamie Richards to rest ahead of the Reserves' game at Forest Green. Games against Swindon are A-grade matches - they are always difficult opponents. This time they were also older and much more experienced. Our young lads did well and thoroughly deserved their draw," he added. Argyle: Chenoweth, Hart, Trott, Pearce, Clifford, Urwin, Berry, Young, Connor, Baker; Rickard. Subs – Copp, Coombes (not used - Harper-Penman, Sims, Varazinskis).
Paul Mariner expects a reaction from his team after their defeat at Watford. Mariner also admitted that survival hopes were slim. He said: "There's no two ways about it. They were slim before today, but it's not changed that much. The only thing is that we've got a game less to get the points." However, he promised that he and his players were not about to raise the white flag. "There is definitely going to be a reaction from this performance," he said. "I know that for a fact. Yes, we've got Newcastle on Sky, it's a massive event and they can win the Championship, blah, blah, blah, but you don't know what is going to happen in the division. So, until it is impossible for us to stay up, we will be fighting. We need to show to our fans, who, again, were fantastic, what we are made of." Asked to explain a lacklustre display against Watford, Mariner said: "The word is 'puzzled'. We're puzzled by today. The players are working out - as we are, as a staff - what happened. We have got to perform better than we did today. The first thing that we do is self-assess. We wonder about the preparation. Obviously, before the game, we thought we had the preparation right, but the performance we put on today would say that wasn't the case. It's probably the worst performance since the Queen Park Rangers performance away from home. I'm not critical of anybody in particular. I'm just critical of the group. All of us have got to rise to the challenge. The game was a little bit scrappy, but games like this are scrappy. I'd be shocked if the players weren't nervous but, as a professional, when you are playing in big games, the nerves generally go away and you just play. That's when the training kicks in - I didn't think that happened today. At half-time, we were happy to come in at 0-0. I felt Watford were bright and were on the front foot. They did exactly what we wanted to do, and we didn't do it. The first goal in games like this is always massive, even though, when we went a goal down, we played a little bit better. It came from a free-kick for us, middle of the field, ball pumped in, and Watford broke on us. How many times has that happened this season? We actually spoke about it at half-time, that we cannot get done on the break, and we did." Argyle were without Carl Fletcher, who has recovered from his knee injury, but recalled Richard Eckersley. "We always miss the captain," said Mariner. "We have missed him since the seventh minute of the Blackpool match. Carl would have been fit, but, in training this week, he did some jogging and tweaked his calf. He should be alright for next week. Eckers is a Premier League player and I felt we could be solid defensively, with the pace of Bolasie, Wright-Phillips and Mackie up front. He hasn't played since a horrendous tackle at Scunthorpe, so he is a little rusty."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Watford. Argyle: Stockdale, Johnson.R, Eckersley, N'Gala, Bhasera, Duguid, Johnson.D, Clark, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Judge, Mason, Cooper (not used – Larrieu, Fallon, Barker, Folly). Attendance - 14,246.
Argyle are targeting their third consecutive away win when they play Watford today. Paul Mariner believes the pace of Jamie Mackie and Bradley Wright-Phillips, as well as that of Yannick Bolasie, was a telling factor in the wins at Ipwich and Doncaster. He said: "I think the simple fact of the matter is that teams do open up a little bit at home, and because of the pace we have got in the squad now it tends to put them on the backfoot a little bit on the break. We have been put to the sword at home through fast breaks, and, to be fair, we have done that to some teams when we have been away as well. That's why you have got to be on your guard at home. We talk about people doing their jobs and being in the right spots, and it's not coincidental at all that if people go to sleep on their assignments you get hurt." There is a lot at stake for both sides today, but Mariner is excited about the prospect of the must-win match. "It should be a tremendous game," he said. "Again, it's about what Plymouth Argyle do. We have got to be on our toes, we have got to do our jobs and we have got to be intelligent with our decision making and with our set-ups. All the things that have really kept us in most games this season." After the trip to Watford, Argyle face Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Peterborough. Mariner was asked whether he thought Argyle would be aided by the fact that all three clubs would not have much to play for, and he replied: "It's entirely possible, but if they play in a relaxed, cavalier way they could be very dangerous. There are a couple of ways of looking at it. All we have got to do is prepare our players as best we possibly can. The players are fully aware of what they need to do. I expect it to go down to the wire. I think Peterborough could be an extremely vital game for the club." Mariner has not set a points target to try and avoid relegation, but it is likely three wins from the last four matches would be needed. He said: "Ideally we would like 12 points but, being realists, that's probably not going to happen. So we have just got to keep picking points up and hope other teams slip up." Argyle's results have been up and down over recent weeks but supporters seem to have enjoyed the team's more attacking style of play. Mariner added: "I have had a lot of mail from fans and they like what they are seeing. Maybe we are just a little short in certain areas, but it's not for the want of trying."
Paul Sturrock is reported to be close to severing his ties with Argyle. Sturrock has remained at the club in a business support role as he had a contract until this summer but now looks set to leave earlier than expected. A press conference is expected early next week
Paul Mariner has praised the contribution of physio Claire Taylor, who has left Argyle to start a career in the military. Taylor worked with the under-18s squad before taking on first team duties after the departure of Paul Maxwell earlier this season. She carried on that role until the recent appointment of Paul Atkinson. Mariner said: "Claire has been absolutely fantastic for us. When we have been under-staffed, she has worked every single hour God sends to prepare the players and get them fit and healthy. So I'm indebted to her for her service and I wish her all the best. I hope we see her around again. The players and the staff are very thankful for what she has done for us."
Carl Fletcher wants to make up for lost time and help Argyle in their time of need this weekend. Fletcher has missed all but five minutes of the last four matches because of a gashed knee suffered early in the loss to Blackpool. He said: "We were going into that game looking to get three points, and it was very disappointing. On another day, the tackle would have hit my shin pad and I would have carried on and been all right, so it has been a very frustrating time for me. There's nothing like playing, especially at a time of the season like this." Fletcher described the current state of his knee. He said: "It isn't too bad. The stitches came out on Monday. It's healing all right, so fingers crossed." When he was asked if he was going to need a protective bandage in order to play, he replied: "That will be down to the physio. We'll see what he says." Fletcher is adamant that the team are not ready to surrender their place in the Championship. "We're still in with a shout," he said. "It's a massive game for us on Saturday and, if we get three points, we're right back in the mix. Everyone is positive, and we're ready for the challenge. We're away from home, which probably suits us. Our away form is quite a bit a bit better than our home form, so we're looking forward to it." Watford will be tough opponents for Argyle today, and Fletcher added: "They will be disappointed at the way they have slipped down the table. From their early form, they looked like a very good side. They have some very good players. We're in the relegation zone, and everyone outside the football club expects us to go down. There's no pressure on us. All the pressure is on the other teams, big teams like Watford, Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace. They probably had expectations which were a lot higher than those down here in Plymouth." When asked about how the Argyle squad have been preparing for such a huge game, Fletcher said: "You can't look into it too much, otherwise nerves would probably get the better of you. You have to try to treat it as any other game. Obviously, we know the situation and the importance of the game, but these are the kind of games in which people can stand up and be counted in. These are the games that you want to play in and test yourselves in, and show that you can do it under a lot of pressure and when it really matters."
Argyle's list of absentees at Watford today includes Kari Arnason and Craig Noone but Richard Eckersley has recovered from an ankle injury and Carl Fletcher's gashed knee has healed enough to bring him back into contention. "Eckersley and Fletcher will come into the picture a little bit more this weekend," Paul Mariner said. "We won't have anybody else back, but two very important players could be available this weekend. Fletch is the captain of the team, and a very influential player. If he's fit, he plays, while Eckersley looks as though he's close to 100 per cent. We'll see if we can slot him in." Chris Clark has done well in central midfield in Fletcher's absence and he is unlikely to lose his place. "Clarky has done a fantastic job for us," Mariner said. "We've had a lot of football in a short space of time, and Clarky has been at the forefront of that. We're assessing how the players are feeling, but I would think he would play on Saturday." If Fletcher does play Clark is likely to revert to a wide midfield role. He could end up competing for a starting place with Yannick Bolasie, who has been playing on the left recently. Bolasie's impact on games has lessened slightly over the last couple of games, but he has thrived on the training ground this week. Mariner said: "He looked fine. He looked very bright. He did some of the things that people enjoy watching on Saturdays, like his trademark dribbling techniques. He looked sharp, as did all the lads. We have not seen any signs of battle fatigue this week."
Paul Mariner has been thrilled with the support his side have received from the Argyle fans recently and he has called on them to be loud and proud when the team take on Watford tomorrow. He said: "They are the 12th man for us. The fans were great on Monday at Home Park. It was just a pity we couldn't win for them. They were behind us all the way and, hopefully, they can do it again for us at Watford." Mariner is meeting members of the Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association London Branch tonight. He said: "I'm meeting the London branch tonight. Hopefully, I can drum up a bit of support. It does surprise all of us, on the playing side, how many people do make the journeys to games from Plymouth. It's quite remarkable, and we are grateful." Watford boss Malky Mackay will be without some key players but Mariner knows that whatever team he sends out will still pose a stern test. However, with so much uncertainty surrounding Watford's team selection, it is difficult for Mariner to try to work out who will be playing against his side. He said: "I'm sure Watford will field a side that will be going for the win. I don't think they will go away from what they normally do. I would be shocked if they did that. We will be thinking on our feet, as a staff, when the game kicks off, and if we can make some adjustments we will."
Argyle will continue with Jamie Mackie and Bradley Wright-Phillips as their strike pairing for the game at Watford tomorrow. Paul Mariner said: "I think it's difficult to change because Brad and Jamie have done extremely well together. They have scored goals and assisted on goals. That formula has been fairly successful for us, particularly away from home, with the extra pace Brad and Jamie have got. So it's difficult to warrant a change in that regard." Mackie returned from training early yesterday after taking a kick on a calf, but will be fit to face Watford. Mariner added: "Jamie just got a kick on the calf, and we didn't want him walking around." Argyle are also set to be boosted by having Carl Fletcher available for the trip. Mariner said: "Fletch is the captain, and he's very influential. If he's fit, he plays." Richard Eckersley also comes into contention after recovering from an ankle injury. Mariner said: "I think Eckersley will come into the picture more this weekend. We had a decent session yesterday morning and he looked as though he was close to 100 per cent. Considering all the games we have had, we will see where we can slot him in."
Romain Larrieu is convinced Argyle have what it takes to escape relegation. Larrieu, who has been on the bench for the last 18 matches after the signing of David Stockdale, said: "It's not easy watching games, rather than playing in them, but that's football. I try to help the team as much as I can in a different way, which I'm not going to say I have enjoyed, but I know I need to do it. I have been at this club for a long time now and I don't want us to go. I know what it has taken to get the club into the Championship and it would hurt enormously if we were to go down. I have trust in the boys. There has been a belief there all winter, during the tough times we have been through. They won't give up until someone says 'it's over' because that's the type of boys they are, but I really do think we have a chance of staying up. Obviously, we would have loved the results to be better, but I don't think there have been many bad performances. I think we still have what it takes to stay up. And that would be massive because of everything we have been through lately." A defeat at Watford tomorrow would leave Argyle facing an almost impossible task to stay up. Larrieu said: "It's a very important game, there is no way around it. We have been in this position for too long to remember, but it's a position we have learnt to deal with. They are under pressure because they don't want to be where we are right now. They know if we do well tomorrow, they will be right in it for the very first time, and the middle of April isn't a good moment for that to happen. Obviously, this is a massive game, but we have played one massive game after another recently. I know the boys won't be overwhelmed by it. They will just try to put in a performance, especially as we have been decent away from home again this season." Argyle have won on their last two away trips, beating Ipswich Town and Doncaster Rovers. "Coming from behind to beat Doncaster was an unbelievable result," said Larrieu. "It was a difficult game in the first half, but we started to get on top in the second half and then lost a goal. You think 'oh no, here we go again', but fair play to the boys, they reacted well and we got what we deserved in the end. I think we will have plenty of confidence going to Watford. We have taken every game as it comes, and that's what we need to carry on doing. There is no need to think 'what if we do this, or what if we do that?' It's all about getting three points tomorrow. With Watford being where they are, we would love to peg them back and force them to win their game in hand."
Craig Noone has signed a one-year extension to his contract, taking him through to the summer of 2011. "I'm happy to sign it and I'm looking forward to playing again next season," he said. "I want to play games every week and, hopefully, keep a place in the team. I've just had an injection in the knee. It's going to be fine, its just inflamed tendons, which needs rest. There are no operations or anything for it, just injections and rest." Looking over his season, Noone is despondent over the start, but is happier about more recent times. "I've shown Paul Mariner what I can do and he gave me a couple of starts. I've done well and played well against Leicester, and scored, so that was my highlight for the season." Noone had a cortisone injection this week in a quest to alleviate his pain, and he will not rejoin the squad for a while. "Nooney is going to be shut down for at least a week," Paul Mariner said. "He has gone back up to Liverpool just to get away from things. We won't be able to call on him for ten days, at least." Noone's re-signing leaves Argyle with seven players who are out of contract in June. They are Romain Larrieu, Karl Duguid, Yannick Bolasie, Lloyd Saxton, David McNamee, Gary Sawyer and Yoann Folly.
Paul Mariner is looking to move on from Monday's defeat to Middlesbrough. "We were obviously bitterly disappointed," he said. "There were a couple of turning points in the game. We can discuss the team until we're blue in the face but the fact of the matter was we just couldn't break them down. We were obviously pushing and sent Stockers up at the last gasp, and got done on the break, so 2-0 doesn't look good on paper. It was a very hard fought game and we have got to come back firing on all cylinders on Saturday. I felt we could get something out of the game. Middlesbrough are a decent team but we matched them for the most part. We gave away a poor goal and one error seems to undo us. The penalty was obviously a turning point with the time it was. If we go in 1-1 at half-time, who knows what's going to happen. We gave a good of account of ourselves but we lost. We need to tighten up and we know what we need to do."
Argyle cannot escape from the relegation zone this weekend, but can give themselves a fighting chance of doing so with a win at Watford. "We have to get something out of Saturday's game – ideally, a win," said Paul Mariner. "At home, we can't seem to win, but away from home we seem to be more comfortable, probably because teams come out at us a bit more. With the pace we have in our team now, that tends to put on them on the back foot a bit more when we break. We've been put to the sword at home at times with fast breaks, and we've done that away from homes to some teams as well," the head coach added.
Argyle could receive a major boost ahead of Saturday's match at Watford with the news that Carl Fletcher is close to a first-team return. John Carver said: "Fletch is progressing very nicely. He's looking better and better every day. So there's a chance he'll be involved. He's our captain and a leader and is very effective at what he does for the team. He's also a strong character which is something we need when there's pressure on the team. There's even more at stake now, because there are only four matches left and you need all your big characters to be out there on the pitch." But Carver said there is little chance Craig Noone, who has been sidelined with a knee injury, would be available. He said: "Craig has had a cortisone injection in his knee today and we'll have to see how that reacts and what happens. He's bound to be a bit sore, because it's bound to need two or three days to settle down. Then he'll have to do a bit of work on it, so I can can't see him being available for the weekend. He got a knock on it against Barnsley, but he hadn't done much training leading up to it, and he's not done any training since. After two to three weeks you start to you lose your physical fitness, so he'll need to do some work to be in contention for the weekend."
Argyle are giving a trial to former Manchester United and Liverpool youth player Michael Nardiello. The former England youth player was released by West Brom in 2007 as a result of a rare injury that went undetected and turned into a condition called osteitis pubis, which effects the pelvis. John Carver said: "He's been out for two years, and that's his first 20 minutes since then. So that's a huge positive. It's difficult. As soon as we up the tempo, he has a few days when he has to recover and rest. But we said, 'Look, why don't you give it 20 minutes against Swindon'. We're going to take care of him, because once upon a time he had a bright future ahead of him and it's not costing us anything and he's quite keen to come in and train with us. We've still got a lot of football left, with reserve-team games, so he'll be an extra body for us to have a look at."
Argyle Reserves beat Swindon Town Reserves 1-0 at Home Park yesterday, the goal scored by Kenny Cooper. John Carver said he had been pleased with the players and that the exercise proved invaluable for the senior pros on the fringe of first team duty. "I think it's a while since Rory's had that much football and also Kenny Cooper," he said. "Barks is coming back from his hamstring problem so it was good for him to get 90 minutes with four games left. And it's the first time that we've seen Yoann Folly since he's come back on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge. You can see, with Bradley and Mackie, that we've slightly changed the way we've been playing, so it's been difficult for Rory and Kenny to come in. But - who knows what could happen to one of your strikers? Sometimes two of your strikers. We've got the game with Watford on Saturday and they've got three big injuries from Monday plus two suspensions - something like that could happen to us and they'd been thrown in. So they've got to be right and they've got to play. It's the Devil and deep blue sea - we don't want to play too many senior pros in reserve games in case they get injured, but they need football, they need to play at a certain level, so that, if they are called upon, they can step straight into it. Kenny got himself a goal, and the one thing about Kenny is that he works hard, but he only had another one chance, where the goalkeeper pulled off a decent save. He caused one or two problems running in behind - which I told him to do at half-time - but he hasn't had a great deal of opportunity in the first team and that's simply because of how well Jamie and Bradley have done." Argyle: Saxton, Stephens, Richards, Connor, Leonard, Barker, Folly, Kinsella, Cooper, Fallon, Urwin. Subs – Rickard, Young, Nardiello (not used - Chenoweth, Trott).
The prospect of Argyle's must-win game at Watford on Saturday holds no fears for Karl Duguid. He said: "Watford is a massive game, but what a great game to be involved in. All the lads are looking forward to it. We are relishing trying to get the club out of the situation we are in, and we will try our hardest to do it. Watford is huge for us, and, to be fair, our away form is very good, so we will go there with confidence." Argyle's defeat by Middlesbrough was their 10th game in a 31-day period, which ended with a record of three wins, three draws and four defeats. Duguid said: "I don't think the team changed too much in that time, so it just goes to show what great fitness levels the lads have got, and the hunger we have to keep the club in this division. We are still not out of it, and we now have a massive game against Watford." Duguid paid tribute to Paul Mariner and John Carver for taking the pressure off the players as much as possible. He said: "The gaffer has been great since he came in. He is so positive, and him and John just let the lads enjoy themselves. They let us have a laugh because they don't want us to be down in the dumps because of the situation we are in. There is no point being like that because you will be down before you know it. John is one of the most organised men I have met, and the gaffer kicks every single ball. Psychologically, he keeps us going." Duguid admitted the encouragement and the preparations of Mariner and Carver meant the players could focus fully on their performances. He said: "It's up to us then as players that once we cross that white line we go and do it. I'm sure everyone can see we are trying to do that. We got clapped off again on Monday, which was great support from the fans. They didn't boo because they can see we are trying our hardest to get out of this situation." Although defeated on Monday, the scoreline was hardly a fair reflection on the contest. "We're really disappointed," admitted Duguid. "In the first half we had some good opportunities, our set-pieces were causing them quite a few problems. It was obviously a shame with the penalty, but that happens. Judgey has been great for us and some of the deliveries he put in were superb. We got caught with a sucker punch on their first goal. We knew they were going to have a bit of possession, but I don't think they caused us any real problems like that. Their main threat was Robson with his left foot and his deliveries, but our threat was our set-pieces and our deliveries. The difference, I suppose, was they scored off their set-piece and we didn't. As for the second goal, that was just a farce. We were going for it right at the end, but that is just the way it goes sometimes."
Paul Mariner is refusing to give up hope that Argyle can escape relegation. Despite the disappointment yesterdays defeat, he said: "It's the same story. It's about what we do, and what we have got to do. We can't look at what other teams are doing. I still firmly believe there are going to be some twists and turns before the end of the season, and it may go to the wire." Argyle are four points behind Watford and the two teams will meet at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Mariner said: "If there is anything bigger than a six-pointer, this is it." Carl Fletcher has sat out the last two matches because of a knee injury, but Mariner hopes he will be available for the trip to Watford. Richard Eckersley, who was on the bench against Middlesbrough, could also come into contention for a recall to the starting line-up. Mariner said: "We had players that were just not ready to go into that type of battle. Gordon Strachan had the luxury of making five changes. We didn't have that luxury. I can't fault the players. I'm so proud of them. I think they are fantastic professionals." Middlesbrough took the lead in the 22nd minute after Joe Mason was penalised for a foul on Justin Hoyte. Mariner said: "I didn't think it was a free-kick. It was a soft one. But, having said that, if the referee gives it then we have got to defend it. It was a fantastic ball in, by the way, and we just didn't screen the near post as we should have done. It was literally one yard in the wrong place, and it costs you the goal." Argyle could have equalised in the 42nd minute when they were awarded a penalty for handball but Alan Judge had his shot saved. Mariner said: "Poor Alan is beside himself because he didn't tuck it away, but that has happened to the best of them. He was brave enough to take it. He has scored penalties in the past for us and he was confident. When somebody in that pressure situation picks it up, strides up, and wants to bury it, then you go with them." Middlesbrough's second goal did not come until the fourth minute of stoppage time at the end of the contest. Argyle had sent David Stockdale forward for a corner, as they desperately tried to grab an equaliser. Instead, Boro launched a swift counter attack and Jonathan Franks fired into the net from 30 yards, with Stockdale behind the play. Mariner said: "We came out for the second half and just couldn't get any clear sights at their goal. They defended very well and were quite dangerous on the break. Obviously, we got done with a sucker punch at the end, but we had to get something out of the game today. That's why we pushed David up, and it was just unfortunate we couldn't get the ball in the box for him."
Alan Judge says he will not shy away from taking another penalty, despite his miss in the defeat to Middlesbrough. "The lads are obviously devastated, but I'm particularly disappointed because it was my chance. I had that chance to get us back level," he said. "I was confident enough to take it and I won't shy away if it comes up again. Sometimes it's just the way it goes. Maybe we will get another chance against Watford, but it's all down to that game now." Watford are four points ahead of Argyle, and Judge is well aware that a victory on the road could yet prove significant. "If we manage to beat them up there, then it's back in our hands," he added. "We have to go for it. The form table shows we are playing better away from home, so hopefully it will go our way up at Watford." Recent wins at Ipswich Town and Doncaster Rovers have helped Argyle to stay in touch at the bottom. "Those wins gave us massive confidence," Judge said. "On Saturday we beat one of the best footballing sides in Doncaster, and before that we beat Ipswich as well. The way we dealt with those two teams, why can't we deal with Watford the same way?"
Paul Mariner has confirmed Luke Summerfield and David McNamee will not play again this season because of hamstring injuries. But there is a chance Kari Arnason could recover from a hip injury before the game against Peterborough on May 2nd.
Argyle lost 2-0 to Middlesbrough at Home Park. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Bhasera, Judge, Clark, Johnson.D, Mason, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Bolasie, Fallon (not used – Larrieu, Barker, Cooper, Folly, Eckersley). Attendance - 11,770.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, Argyle's match-winner at Doncaster, was happy to share the limelight with fellow goalscorer Joe Mason. "He's got the 'fox-in-the-box' tag with the lads now," said Wright-Phillips. "He's always in and around, he'll sniff out a goal." John Carver added: "It was a great effort by Damien Johnson, parried by Sully, and Joe Mason, who is still developing as a young player, has got natural instincts and he gets himself in the right areas. You can see that from the goal he scores; he's always thinking, following things in, and he did that. Getting in the right areas is a great striker's knack, and that's one gift he has, amongst other gifts. He is going to score goals. He's scored goals at every level he's played at. But we won't get carried away with him. We'll keep his feet on the ground. It's very important he continues to develop. Let's face it - he's got a great teacher in the manager, as strikers go." Mason's introduction changed the game, giving Argyle an impetus they had lacked up until then. Carver said: "We had many discussions on the sidelines because we were looking to improve it, to bring some more energy to the team. It was pretty obvious to me that Joe Mason was going to be the one we were going to call on and we did. He came in and gave us that little injection. Bolasie was looking a little bit tired. He has had a lot of football and has done a great job for us but it was time to bring him out of that situation and bring Joe into it." Onismor Bhasera set up the winning goal with a free-kick which skimmed over the home defenders and left Wright-Phillips with a clear sight of goal. "It was a great ball," Wright-Phillips said. "He did one like that near the end of the Barnsley game last week, so I knew he's got a good delivery. I don't know why, but I didn't get picked up. I just lingered, and it came to me. Credit to Doncaster. They passed it around, and I thought me and Jamie were isolated in the first half. But we played well in the second half, and I thought we got what we deserved in the end." Argyle did not settle for a point. "We can't do that any more," Wright-Phillips added. "In our position, we needed three points." Argyle got what they needed, and now they have to try to do it all over again this afternoon. Wright-Phillips reckoned he had the rest of his weekend all planned. "It's all about preparation," he said. "You have to gets lots of water down you, and lots of sleep and rest. I'll just tell the missus I can't do anything, and she'll have to do it all!"
There has been no time for Argyle's players to dwell on Saturday's win at Doncaster, as they face Middlesbrough at Home Park today. When John Carver was asked if he and Paul Mariner could freshen up their team, he replied: "We might do. We haven't got many options, but we'll have a look at it. We'll talk to the players and see how they're feeling. We haven't got time to work on any tactics and, at this stage of the season, you don't have to get them fit. We'll just have to get them in the right frame of mind and send them out there to do it again. Middlesbrough will be in the same situation, even though they may have a bigger squad." Alan Judge might have to drop out of the squad which won at Doncaster, but Richard Eckersley could be available. Judge was substituted near the end of Saturday's success. "Alan was a bit tired, and he has had a problem with his groin lately," Carver explained. "We've been wrapping him up in cotton wool, and he was shot. He'd given everything. From the reports we've had, Eckersley has not had a response to the work he did yesterday, which is good news. He might be available."
John Carver hailed Argyle's never-say-die attitude after goals from Joe Mason and Bradley Wright-Phillips earned a 2-1 win at Doncaster yesterday. "We've had a lot of belief over the last 12 weeks," he said, standing in for Paul Mariner, who had other business to attend to. "We're up in the top six for away form. We do believe in ourselves. We've got a group of players who are working hard for each other. That's why we say we are never going to give up on this situation. Everybody is ecstatic with the result. The way the game started, we were a bit concerned because we had a real tough game on Tuesday night - the guys put in a lot of effort - and we used the same players. We thought we were lacking just a little bit of energy. But it is very difficult, because we have been playing at a high pace and a high tempo and to maintain that is very difficult if you are using the same guys. The game then settled down. We got to half-time 0-0 and were quite pleased with that; came out for the second half and then conceded that goal. When the ball went through the middle, my first thought was that it could have been offside. Then they had a bit of luck, Bhasera made a great block on it, and it fell back to Copps, who I know well from my Newcastle days and I knew he'd finish it, which he did. But that seemed to galvanise us. A lot of teams can be in that situation and feel sorry for themselves, especially with our league position, but we know the spirit of the guys and we know that they're committed to the cause and we actually started playing some better football, and started giving them one or two problems. After Joe's goal, we thought 'We can win this'. I know we would have taken a point, but we were on the front foot; we were looking to take the game to them. Towards the end, Doncaster hit the crossbar at the end of a great little move - which typified their type of football. We got a little bit of fortune with it. I just said 'That might be the luck we need' and we go down the other end and, from a set play that we spend a lot of time on, get the winning goal. I think everyone is going away from here, back down to Plymouth - fans and staff and players - delighted, but we do know we've got another job ahead of us on Monday when we play Middlesbrough. It's a quick turnaround. Tomorrow's a very important day for us. We'll have our regeneration session; we'll talk to players on the way back see how they are feeling; and then assess it again as late as possible. You haven't got any time to work on any tactics, and at this stage of the season, you don't have to worry about getting fit - it's about getting them in the right frame of mind, getting them out there, and going again. We've caught a few teams up. That's good news, but Paul and myself keep saying that it's about ourselves. All we can do is concentrate on ourselves, and that's what we are doing." After the game, Carver and the coaching staff joined the Argyle players in a post-match huddle. "It came from players," he explained. "We didn't say anything. We just got in with the players. You can see the spirit and effort they have given. They said: 'We have set a standard now - we've got five games to go. We've got a game on Monday, so we take care of ourselves, we do things professionally, ready to go again'."
Bradley Wright-Phillips admitted that he will run until he drops to try to keep Argyle in the Championship, after his injury-time winner at Doncaster. "When they scored, we had nothing to lose," he said. "We're in a position now where we need three points and it gives us that urge to go at them. There is one thing we do if it's not going right for us with the ball - we'll always work hard at closing down defenders and run until we can't run any more. I'll run until I drop. If the manager feels I can't make it, he'll take me off. We've got Kenny Cooper, Rory Fallon and Joe Mason to come on." John Carver paid tribute to Wright-Phillips and knows that his goal was a vital one. "It could be priceless," said Carver. "Since I arrived here, he has worked extremely hard. When I arrived at the club, he had just come back from an injury and we did not have many reserve games for him to play in, so he had a difficult time. But he got his head down, he worked hard, he waited for his opportunity, and he's taken that opportunity. That has to continue." Wright-Phillips reckons the team-spirit will serve them well in the final stretch, especially after learning that Watford, Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace had failed to win. "It's great news, when you hear stuff like that," he said. "Even if they'd won, we have just got to keep on winning. Then whatever happens is what is meant to be. We get written off and we deal with the pressure. We have a good bunch of lads. You can't be down, because you'd lose before you've even started playing. You have just got to take every game as it comes."
Argyle won 2-1 at Doncaster Rovers, the goals scored by Joe Mason after 67 minutes and Bradley Wright-Phillips (90). Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Bhasera, Judge, Clark, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Mason, Cooper (not used – Larrieu, Barker, Fallon, Folly, Leonard). Attendance - 10,179.
Ryan Leonard has set his sights on emulating the success of former Argyle right-back Paul Connolly. He said: "Argyle are my team and I watched them at Home Park when I was growing up. Paul Wotton and David Friio were two of my favourite players, but Paul Connolly was a big inspiration for me because he played in the same position as I did. I think we are the same type of player, and he has been a role model of mine for getting into the first team." Leonard made his debut for Argyle against Blackpool last Saturday and It was an experience he will never forget. He said: "I was born in Plymouth and have followed Argyle all my life so it was a dream really, playing for my hometown club. I have been with Argyle since I was in the under-eights and under-nines. I have just kept going through the years." Leonard was a non-playing substitute in the victory over Ipswich Town and then, four days later, he got called upon by Paul Mariner during the game against Blackpool. Leonard said: "About 10 minutes before I actually went on, he told me to warm-up. I got my shirt on and my heart was racing. Then I heard him call my name, and it was a bit of a blur after that until I touched the ball. But I thought I did all right when I came on. I never expected to get the chance to play in the first team so soon, and it was good fun. Blackpool are a good team with some decent players like Charlie Adam. I think we were a bit unlucky with their second goal, when we were pushing on for an equaliser, but that's just the way it goes." Leonard's grandfather, Ian, is a member of the Devon FA, and has been heavily involved in grassroots football in Plymouth. So, between his father Dave and his grandfather, Leonard has had a lot of support to call upon. "They have been brilliant," he said. "They have been giving me advice to keep my feet on the ground and keep working hard on my game. It's really good, and has helped me a lot." Mariner and John Carver have also been supportive. Leonard added: "They have been really positive to me and told me what I'm doing well and what I need to work on."
Paul Mariner and John Carver have been hard at work preparing Argyle's players for two games in three days over the Easter holiday and neither will accept that the club are likely to be relegated until survival is a mathematical impossibility. "There are two scenarios," Mariner said. "Either we stay in the league or we don't stay in the league, but, because we're the type of people we are, we're not talking about not staying in the league. We firmly believe we're going to stay in the league. There's a positive vibe around the staff and the players. When you weigh it up, it does look dodgy, but we've got six games to play. This is the sharpest end of the season, and there are so many twists and turns that can happen in this division. It's going to be an interesting last few weeks." Mariner, who has a contract until July 2012, holds the title of head coach because Paul Sturrock remains under contract as manager until the end of the season. When Roy Gardner was asked if Mariner's job title might change in the summer, the chairman responded: "That will be discussed with him at the end of the season. He has to concentrate on getting us out of the relegation zone at the moment." The chairman was then asked if he felt that Mariner was happy in his job as head coach. Gardner said: "Paul likes it here, he enjoys working with us, and I actually think he has done quite a good job so far." The coaching staff are already making plans for next season, meeting the chairman and some directors after the AGM this week. "It was a great meeting," Mariner said. "Sir Roy was very receptive to everything that we said. The meeting covered this season, next season, and the staff. I'm in charge of all football matters, and all football matters were on the table. I came out of the meeting feeling great. John and I were bouncing along."
Argyle will be without Carl Fletcher for their games with Doncaster Rovers and Middlesbrough over the weekend. With Fletcher ruled out, Chris Clark will again partner Damien Johnson in the centre of midfield and Paul Mariner said: "When people drop out, people have got to step up. That's the nature of football. But would we like Carl Fletcher playing tomorrow? Absolutely yes." Mariner had been hoping earlier this week that Fletcher would be fit for the trip to Doncaster. "The problem is that the cut is in a very awkward position," he said. "If he was to go into a tackle and bend his knee, it would probably open up again, so we have got to be patient. It's difficult for the staff to be patient because we want everybody available, but that's the way it is. Carl and Damien Johnson have really struck up an excellent relationship between them. They work off each other very well, and bring massive quality to the group. It was a bit of a shock to lose the captain after seven minutes last Saturday, and the team was sort of jolted a little bit. But I thought we did well on Tuesday, to be fair. Clark is happy to play wherever we ask him to play." The earliest that Fletcher could make his return to action, according to Mariner, is the game at Watford next Saturday. The same applies to Richard Eckersley, who has missed the last three matches because of an ankle injury. Mariner said: "Eckers jogged around the training field yesterday, but was not even at 50 per cent pace." Chris Barker could be available for the game against Doncaster after sitting out two games with a hamstring injury but Craig Noone will not make the trip after he was hurt in the closing stages of the draw with Barnsley. "He went on and immediately got a crack on his knee, which didn't help him," said Mariner. "He will step out tomorrow." Argyle are five points from a position of safety with six games to play, starting against Doncaster. Mariner added: "There is a positive vibe around the staff and the players. When you weigh it up, it does look dodgy. But this is the sharp end of the season and there are so many twists and turns that are going to happen in this division. It's going to be an interesting four-and-a-bit weeks."
Onismor Bhasera played his first competitive match for nearly 11 months on Tuesday and is now facing the prospect of two matches in three days over the Easter weekend. Bhasera enjoyed his debut against Barnsley, even though his preparations were far from perfect. He said: "I was a bit tired after the game, but that's my job. For my first match, I was pleased with my performance. Also, the guys were very helpful. They welcomed me and made it feel as if it wasn't my first game. It was like I had maybe had four or five games playing with the lads. They supported me throughout the match and kept on encouraging me." Bhasera's debut was made easier because he had trained with Argyle before returning to South Africa to complete all the formalities of his move. "I had been with the lads for a couple of weeks so I knew them all," he said. "And, like I say, the guys have been very helpful since my first day when I came here. Everyone at this club has been very supportive, and when that's the case it's easy for you to settle down and do your job." Argyle, and Paul Mariner, went to considerable lengths to make sure they secured the services of Bhasera.The defender said: "It's very important, as a player, that you know the manager has got that belief in you. You want to work very hard for him because of that." Bhasera saw Argyle play a couple of games at Home Park, as well as the defeat at QPR, while waiting for a work permit. "Luck hasn't been on our side," he said. "Take the game on Tuesday, when we did very well but we just couldn't manage to get that goal." Bhasera is optimistic, however, Argyle can pick up enough points in the final six games to escape relegation. "It's going to go down to the last match, and we are definitely going to go for it," he added. Bhasera played at left-back against Barnsley with the equally speedy Yannick Bolasie in front of him, a partnership which could terrorise opposition defences. Bhasera said: "Yala is a talented young lad. He has got everything, he just needs to keep on working very hard and the sky is the limit for him."
Chris Clark has been hailed as Argyle's 'unsung hero' by Paul Mariner. "I think he plays well in numerous positions," said Mariner. "That's one of his strengths. He's an unsung hero, and he's one of the fittest lads I have ever worked with. He's also a tremendous pro. For example, when I asked him to play left-back when Barks was out last week he just said 'no problem.' There was no panic. I'm going to pay him a high compliment by saying he slotted seamlessly into central midfield on Tuesday." Mariner also had words of praise for Bondz N'Gala after admitting it was unlikely Kari Arnason would play again this season because of a torn hip muscle. "If we get a game or two out of him I will be shocked," said Mariner. "He has got a grade two tear. But Bondz N'Gala has come in and I think he has struck up an excellent partnership with Reda. Bondz has done fantastically well, and plays a lot older than his 20 years." Meanwhile, Kenny Cooper made a rare appearance for Argyle as an 89th minute substitute against Barnsley. Paul Mariner has explained to Cooper the reasons for his exclusion from the starting line-up, and he said: "It has been difficult to leave out either Jamie Mackie or Bradley (Wright-Phillips) because they have struck up what I think is a very good relationship. The one thing John and I do is that we communicate with the players and try to inform them of what we think."
Richard Eckersley has had his loan spell at Argyle extended until the end of the season. Eckersley has been unavailable since the defeat to Scunthorpe but initial fears of a serious injury have been dismissed.
Keith Todd has insisted that Argyle's Japan-based directors Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan remain fully committed to the club, despite their absence from the AGM this week. Todd said: "I'm convinced that they are committed. I think their understanding of English football has developed over the years, and they are very much part of our thinking. I was with them in Japan in October last year, and I'm likely to be there again in May or June this year to follow through with the plans we have. Some of those plans relate to the commercial development of Plymouth Argyle Football Club in Japan. We're developing the way we relate to Mr Kagami and his business associates. For instance, I'm using their contacts to see how we can introduce Argyle TV to a Japanese fanbase. We want to make it appealing to Japanese people." Todd was asked if Kagami had kept any pledges made to provide financial support to the club this season, and replied: "All of the members of the board have, through the year, contributed to the funding of the club. Beyond that, I'm not prepared to comment."
Argyle have not ruled out retaining Paul Sturrock on their pay-roll next season. Keith Todd said: "Paul has been fantastic, in terms of the smooth transition to Paul Mariner. He has always put this club ahead of himself, and there's an open conversation about what happens next year."
Argyle have just six games to save their Championship status, a huge challenge for Paul Mariner and his team, but belief remains high in the camp. "Circumstances change, especially at this time of the year," said Mariner. "It is an extremely busy time for everybody in this division and, with suspensions and injuries, you don't really know what's going to happen. All we can concern ourselves with is what we are doing. The last time Argyle finished in their highest spot, they did ever so well in their last six games - that's what we got to do. We've got to go on a little mini-run and, the way we are playing, I don't see why not. The fans have got behind the team. We certainly appreciate them trying to get behind the team and it is vitally important we all pull together. The more people that can come the merrier, to create that atmosphere where the players are really motivated, and everyone is motivated. The Green Army is completely behind the team."
Paul Mariner's future as Argyle boss could depend on whether the club is able to escape relegation at the end of the season. That was the frank assessment of Roy Gardner at a press conference after Argyle's AGM yesterday. When asked if Mariner's job was safe even if the worst happened and club was demoted, Gardner insisted the role 'will be discussed with him at the end of the season'. Gardner said: "He's got to concentrate on getting us out of the relegation zone. But he knows he's in that position and he accepts it. But he enjoys it here and likes working with us and I actually think he's been doing a good job."
Carl Fletcher could be available to play on Saturday after sitting out the draw against Barnsley. Paul Mariner said: "The only injured player that may be on the horizon is Fletch. I think he's 50-50 at the present moment, because of where the gash is. It's in a very difficult place on the knee."
Argyle chairman Roy Gardner has insisted that the proposal to take the ownership of Home Park out of the club's hands will be beneficial to the team's progress in the years to come. At Argyle's AGM yesterday, he said: "If we want to go forward with an upgrade to the stadium and develop it into a world-class venue, then we have to take action which will enable us to interest potential investors. That, I fear, can only be done if we put this asset into a separate property company. The football club will have priority rights in the use of the ground and it will pay a market rent for it. No more, no less. The club will benefit, because it will get a fantastic stadium. The whole site around it will be redeveloped into a major sports and leisure complex. The club's operating costs will come down, and we are also in advanced discussions to replace the pitch as early as next month. We won't be able to do things like that unless we have adequate funding. We have looked at it very thoroughly, and I can assure you that this is the best way forward for the club." Gardner was asked where any future profits made by Home Park's property company would end up -the shareholders of the property company, or the football club. He responded: "The profit will be to the benefit of the shareholders of that particular company, but it is extremely important that the hub of the whole activity – the football team – continues to thrive and be successful. It is important for investors in the holding company and the property company to see that the club is receiving sufficient investment to keep the playing squad at the highest level, and the facilities at an appropriate level as well. The club will benefit. It is absolutely crucial to have top-class performers on the field to support all the non-football commercial activities that will be going on." The AGM gave shareholders the chance to discuss the club's accounts for the 2008-09 financial year, which showed a loss of £2.8 million. Gardner was asked if there was any danger of the football club going into administration and replied: "You can never give absolute guarantees, but we are looking very seriously at the budget for next season, based on various scenarios. That does mean pretty serious cuts in operating expenditure, and we are also looking very carefully at the playing squad. It is extremely important that, over the next few months, we work with Paul and John Carver to find homes for these players who are surplus to our current requirements, and that we shed the pretty significant cost of having players on the books who are not contributing to the team's performance. All of that work is going on now, and we will come out with a balanced budget. We will not exceed our cash-flow. We have to cut our cost-base to a level that is sustainable going forward, while still maintaining a quality squad that is going to do well in, let's hope, the Championship. But we will cut our cloth accordingly if we do not stay in the Championship. If we go down, we may have to rely on a couple less players and maybe a few more youngsters." Gardner and his fellow directors held talks with Mariner and Carver yesterday morning, after watching the draw with Barnsley. "We have been talking about the balance of the squad," Gardner said. "We have been exchanging views about the size of the squad, and the content of the squad, and in particular we talked about what we will need next season. I am committed that we will have a talented squad that the manager is happy with, one that will perform to a level that the fans will acceptable. That's a difficult balance, because we do have short-term cash-flow problems, but we are going to come out with a balanced budget for next season and a first-class squad."
Earlier this month 90,000 ordinary shares in Argyle were put up for sale to existing shareholders. The shares were priced at £22.22 each, meaning that the notional proceeds from the offer was a sum just less than £2 million. The share offer has brought in only £17,000. When Roy Gardner was asked if that outcome was a surprise and a disappointment, he replied: "Yes, I was surprised and disappointed. I guess we have a lot of passive shareholders." The club intends to explore ways of making shares available to non-shareholders without going to great legal expense. The rest of the £2 million share issue will now be taken up by the club's holding company. In effect, that will involve Argyle directors converting their loans to the club into extra shares. "It will reduce the football club's indebtedness," Gardner added. "Loans will be converted into equity."
Argyle's youth team won 3-2 at Cheltenham Town on Tuesday, the goals scored by Tom Urwin, Matt Rickard and Jared Sims. Mike Pejic said: "Of the fourteen players we used, five were first-year apprentice and six were schoolboys, so you've got to be quite pleased. We played some good football at times, but the lads are still very naive and need to adopt a more professional approach." Argyle: Varazinskis, Stephens, Trott, Richards, Clifford, Harper-Penman, Berry, Young, Connor, Urwin, Rickard. Subs – Baker, Copp, Sims (not used – Chenoweth).
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