A Round-up of Argyle News
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Burnley striker Alex MacDonald has returned to Home Park for a second loan spell. The 22-year-old, who played against Argyle in Tuesday's Capital One Cup tie at Turf Moor, returned to Plymouth today, transfer deadline day, to sign a loan deal that makes him available, initially, until 6th October. He said: "When I spoke to the manager about coming back down, I didn't hesitate. It's a pleasure to be here again. It's been a whirlwind few days, but I'm happy it's done and I'm back down here. I'm looking forward to getting back on the pitch here. I was having a good laugh with the lads on the pitch on Tuesday, but I didn't see it as playing against my old mates. I was just doing my job for Burnley." Macdonald added: "I'm here to help out, and however long I stay for, I hope I'll be a success again. Last year was good. I enjoyed my time down here. It's a lovely place and a great club with great fans and a good manager."
Midfielder Ladjie Soukouna has been told he can leave Home Park as Carl Fletcher tries to free up money to spend on strengthening his squad. Soukouna signed a two-year contract with Argyle last summer, after impressing Peter Reid during a pre-season trial. He made 17 starts and five substitute appearances last season, scoring one goal, but has yet to play this term. Argyle have alerted other clubs to the 21-year-old's availablility by circulating his name. Fletcher said: "If we can move Ladjie on it frees up some money for us. It's probably part of the management side I have not really experienced too much in my time. It's quite a funny feeling, telling players they are not part of your plans at the club. It's only my opinion at the end of the day, and it's not to say Ladjie is a bad player or anything like that. But for what is required here, we need to look at other ways of getting players in, and we need to generate that money first."
Isaac Vassell has joined Bideford on loan. The Cornish youngster joins team-mate Jed Harper Penman at the Robins until 1st December.
Onismor Bhasera has been included in the Zimbabwe squad for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at home to Angola on Sunday 9th September. It means the 25-year-old, capped 18 times by his country, will miss the game at Torquay United the previous day.
Carl Fletcher is committed to Argyle passing the ball as much as possible and thought a young side showed what they were capable of in the game at Burnley on Tuesday. He said: "Simsy did well. He's only 18 and he was in there with Conor who is 21 and Youngy who is 19, but they are all good technical players. They are all good with the ball at their feet and they are the kind of players I like. I know you have got to have a good mix and a bit of both, but someone who is big and strong and can kick it really far is not my cup of tea." Durrell Berry made his first start of the season after recovering from a knee injury and put in a solid display. Despite his spell on the sidelines, he was still going strong in extra-time. Fletcher said: "He did well, but I had a lot of players who did really well. All of them, in fact. They put a shift in. It is tough when you come away to a team above you, and who are going to have a lot of possession. But all the players stuck in together and there was a real belief among them, so there were lots and lots of positives. After the amount of miles we have had to do, I was really pleased with the way the lads performed, and they should be proud of their efforts." Burnley took the lead in the 37th minute but Argyle were the better side in the second half and got their reward when Robbie Williams equalised with a 90th minute penalty. Fletcher said: "We needed to change a few things at half-time, and we did. The key thing for us was not to panic when we went a goal down. I think it was pretty much their only meaningful attempt. We spoke about it at half-time and said if we could stay in the game at 1-0 we could maybe change things up in the last five or 10 minutes, which we did, and got the reward of the penalty."
Onismor Bhasera has been has been called up to the Zimbabwe squad for their game against Angola on September 9th, meaning he will miss the game with Torquay United the previous day.
Carl Fletcher was proud after seeing his side knocked out of the League Cup on penalties by Burnley. "The lads did really well to come to a Championship side away," he said, "especially after the amount of miles we have had to do in the last few weeks, and perform the way they did. I was really pleased. They should be proud of their efforts. For us to lose is very disappointing because we could have won it in normal time, or even extra-time, but the lads should take a lot of credit for the way they performed. They are all disappointed, but they shouldn't be for the way they performed and the way they conducted themselves. It is tough when you come away to a team that is above you, they are going to have a lot of possession, but they all stuck together and there was a real belief there amongst the squad, so lots and lots of positives. You come to a big club like this and sometimes you get a bit nervous, but we settled into the game and got better and better as it went on. The key thing for us was not to panic when we went a goal down. I think it was Burnley's only meaningful attempt. My goalie had nothing to do in the whole game, really, in terms of saves. It was important we didn't lose our heads then, and we spoke about it at half-time, saying that, if we could stay in the game, maybe we could change things up in the last ten minutes – which we did, and we got a reward with the penalty." Fletcher handed a first start of the season to Jared Sims in a midfield that also included Conor Hourihane, Luke Young and Johnny Gorman. Fletcher said: "I'm very lucky. I've got some good players. They are all technically good with the football and it was pleasing that, at the times we had to pass it and keep it, we did. They should take that on with confidence. They are the kind of players that I like. I know you have got to have a good mix, but someone who is big and strong and who can kick the ball really far is not my cup of tea." Argyle were without Darren Purse, through injury, and Fletcher also chose to rest Paul Wotton. "He's just really old, so he had a bit of a rest!" added Fletcher. "He's had a lot of games in the last few weeks and a lot of miles, so we felt it was best to leave him back in Plymouth." There were no recriminations from Fletcher after the penalty shoot-out. He said: "Penalties are a flip of a coin, really. You don't want the players to be nervous or have any fear, so you just tell them to strike the ball well and hit the target, which all of my players did. They all struck the ball really well. On another day, we could be saying we had five good penalties, but the Burnley goalie was a little bit one step ahead. He just read them and dived the right way."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Burnley in the League Cup, losing 3-2 on penalties, the goal scored by Robbie Williams after 90 minutes. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Nelson, Blanchard, Williams, Hourihane, Young, Gorman, Cowan-Hall, Chadwick, Sims. Subs – Bhasera, Lecointe, Lennox (not used – Chenoweth, Richards, Gurrieri, Feeney). Attendance – 4,119.
Carl Fletcher has revealed he tried to sign Alex MacDonald in the summer, after the striker spent the final two months of last season on loan at Home Park. Argyle could not come to an agreement, however, and MacDonald is expected to play against them for Burnley in the League Cup tie at Turf Moor tonight. Fletcher said: "We spoke to Alex in the summer and just couldn't get where we needed to for both parties to agree. He's a nice fella and it will be good to catch up with him tonight." Meanwhile, Fletcher has admitted he is trying to bring in players at Argyle as well as move some on. He would not go into any more detail about that, however, such as which positions in the team he wanted to strengthen. The transfer window closes on Friday, and Fletcher said: "We need to bring players in, and we need to get rid of players. That's what we have been trying to do since May really, so it's no different." Fletcher has already loaned out one of Argyle's first-year professionals, Jed Harper-Penman, to Bideford and he could be joined by Isaac Vassell. Fletcher said: "Penners has gone to Bideford and I think Vass might be going there as well. It will be great for both of them." Jordan Copp could also be sent out on loan to gain experience. "I think it would definitely help his development to play some proper men's football," added Fletcher.
The return of Robbie Williams has given Carl Fletcher a selection dilemma ahead of the League Cup tie at Burnley. Williams came on at half-time on Saturday at Oxford, pushing starting left-back Onismor Bhasera into midfield. "It's probably where we are strongest for competition in any area of the squad," said Fletcher. "Baz does well when he moves forward to left-wing. I know he likes to play left-back and feels that's his number one position, but, like last year, if needs be for the team and we feel he can do a job there, we'll put him there. It's whatever we feel best for the team and what we need, attacking-wise, or in possession, or defensively. Baz is Baz. He's a little bit off the cuff and exciting. He's an athlete. He's quick and he's strong. He's a little bit erratic at times, but that's why he's effective."
Carl Fletcher probably knows more about Burnley manager Eddie Howe than anyone, but even he does not have a clue what Argyle should expect from the League One Cup tie at Turf Moor tomorrow. Fletcher and Howe were team-mates who lived together at Bournemouth more than a decade ago, and they meet on Tuesday as opposing managers, having spoken only briefly since the draw. "I spoke to him after the draw and he suggested we should both play," Fletcher said. "I told him that'd I think I'd last about two minutes. He's got a lot of options, so I don't want to waste too much time trying to second-guess him. He's got some good quality players at his disposal and can obviously change a few things from the weekend and rest a few players, or maybe keep it the same. So, like we do for any game, we try to prep for what we need to do and concentrate on what we need to do." Although he admires what Howe has achieved, Fletcher is not planning out his own career on what his friend has achieved. "I don't think you try to copy anyone," he said. "He's done really well in management, especially with Bournemouth. He's fervent and a winner. He doesn't like losing to anyone, let alone me. Any manager wants to do well, to aspire to certain things, and I'm no different, but it's a lot of hard work, and a lot of ups and downs along the way, but you have to keep plugging away." Argyle are big underdogs, but Fletcher said: "We're looking forward to it. Burnley are a good Championship side who, a couple of years ago, were in the Premier League. It will be a real tough test for us, but one to look forward to. Nothing is really expected of us, no-one is expecting us to get a result, so there's no pressure. We had a similar game against Portsmouth, it was a no-lose situation. It's nice to go up there and be able to concentrate on what we need to do."
Robbie Williams scored Argyle's first goal of the season at Oxford on Saturday, and despite the rough start to the campaign believes they have nothing to fear from the season. He said: "We were maybe unlucky not to get something from the game, but we can't afford to give teams two goals to start with. They were poor goals, which cost us. We kind of dominated the second half and could have maybe got something but, as I say, you can't give a team as good as Oxford a two-goal head-start. They are a good team and are going to be there or thereabouts, but I think we went toe-to-toe with them in the second half." William's fellow full-back Durrell Berry also came on at half-time, as Carl Fletcher tweaked the formation. "It spiced things up a bit, changed things round a bit, and gave us a bit more belief," said Williams. "We had nothing to lose because we were 2-0 down. It showed we can do it, and we can play against the best team in this league. We have got nothing to fear." Williams' goal came from a direct free-kick and he revealed that he had to persuade Paul Wotton to let him have a go. "Every free-kick, I fancy myself," he said. "I wish we weren't 2-0 down and it was the equaliser. The wall did fine, but I like going over the last man's head and hit it with a bit of swing. It was a good free-kick. Paul fancies himself but I don't think he can reach, these days! I said 'Paul, I can do this, go around the wall.' So he let me take it and it was a good result in the end. We are just disappointed we gave them two sloppy goals to start with and gave ourselves a mountain to climb." Williams aims to keep his place for Tuesday's Cup tie at Burnley, and added: "I had a word with the gaffer last week and he said he was trying things. I've missed the first three games. Hopefully, now I can stay in the team. You need to start well in any league. We are only three games in, and have got a big game this week against Northampton at home and Torquay away after that. They are two massive games. If we nick six points, or four points, the Oxford game gets forgotten about. We'll see. We've got nothing to lose on Tuesday night against Burnley away. Then we'll look forward to next Saturday."
Carl Fletcher believes Argyle were unlucky not to gain a point from their second-half comeback against Oxford. He said: "Our overall performance with the ball was good. In the first half, we were fine on the ball; off the ball, we were not where we needed to be, and that was disappointing. In the first 20 minutes, we were fine; there were no real issues. We were comfortable and we knew that, if we could keep it tight, slow the game down, the Oxford fans would show a little bit of unrest. We had just started to do that before we conceded the goal, and sometimes you lose a goal and you lose concentration and focus, and panic a little bit. In possession, and in the second half, it was pleasing how we performed. We were unfortunate not to get a result. Our overall performance with the ball was really good - we kept it and had some good options. A lot of it wasn't just punting it forward. We moved it around well and found little gaps and, on another day, we could have got a result. I thought Conor and Youngy in midfield were really bright and enthusiastic, with some good technical skill. We came back and, in the second half, we must have had 70-80% of possession and played the whole game in their half. I'm just disappointed we couldn't get another goal towards the end, but, performance-wise, we should take a lot of positives. We battled for the second half, definitely. In the first half, we were disappointed how some individual battles went."
Carl Fletcher is waiting on a fitness bulletin on Darren Purse, who hobbled off the pitch during Saturday's defeat at Oxford. "He's had a bit of a calf problem for the last two weeks, and he's been playing on with it," said Fletcher. "It just got a little bit too much for him. We'll assess it and see how it is." Fletcher opted to drop Paul Wotton, who also took over as captain from Purse, into central defence and he has not ruled out a more permanent role there for Wotton. He said: "He slipped in there seamlessly and did really well. He'll play there if needs be, but we'll see how Pursey is first."
The introduction of full-backs Robbie Williams and Durrell Berry at half-time of Argyle's visit to Oxford almost proved to be a major turning-point in the game. Carl Fletcher said: "Willo and Durrell both did well when they came on. I was pleased to see their hunger and desire. We've been unfortunate with Durrell. He's been back a couple of weeks but he's not match fit and we've not been able to get him any reserve games or match fitness. He'd never have lasted a full game, so it's ideal for us for him to get 45 minutes. Willo's been really unlucky. He's worked really hard in pre-season and there's real tough competition for places. He's got his head down and worked hard and you can see today he's got a real desire to get in the team."
Argyle lost 2-1 at Oxford United, the goal scored by Robbie Williams after 74 minutes. Argyle: Cole, Nelson, Purse, Blanchard, Bhasera, Gurrieri, Wotton, Hourihane, Young, Cowan-Hall, Feeney. Subs – Williams, Chadwick, Berry (not used – Chenoweth, Gorman, Lecointe, Lennox). Attendance – 6,906.
Darren Purse admits he owes a lot to Oxford United for the time he spent there early in his career. He said: "I was only at Oxford for 18 months but it was a really nice family-orientated club, very similar to Plymouth. They have a good hardcore of support and, when I played there, the London Road end of the Manor Ground was always noisy. I really enjoyed my time there and I played with some very good players who helped me a lot with my game. It taught me the professionalism that was needed to make a good career out of football." Purse knows Oxford will provide difficult opposition for Argyle today, but is not daunted by the prospect. "I know they are top of the league," he said. "I had a sneaky look at the table the other day. I think they are one of the teams you would have put up at the beginning of the season of having a good chance of getting in the play-offs, if not automatic promotion. Not too many teams will go to the Kassam and get a win. But if we can play anywhere close to our potential I think we can get a positive result there. We didn't play particularly well at Dagenham. I thought we were a million times better last Saturday, and we got beat 2-0. We need to play a lot better than we did on Tuesday if we are going to achieve anything this season. We went to Dagenham to get three points but, after our performance and the way the game panned out, it was good to come away with a draw and a clean sheet."
Carl Fletcher has taken it easy with his team this week, after their long trip to Dagenham & Redbridge. The team coach had to take diversions as the squad returned to Plymouth following the draw, finally arriving at Home Park at 4.30am. Fletcher said: "We got back from Dagenham at about half-past-four I think, so we had Wednesday off. Hopefully, the lads have caught up on their sleep. Training was not too physical or strenuous yesterday, and it won't be today either. We will just make sure we are physically and mentally right. We knew what was coming up with all the travelling and the lads were made fully aware of it. You just try to make the best of it. It is what it is, and you can't do anything about it. If they can get a bit of shut-eye on the coach then the lads will do it. If not, you try to catch up on your sleep on your days off." Argyle are still without Rene Gilmartin, Durrell Berry, Jamie Lowry and Rhys Griffiths due to injuries. Berry has been sidelined since early in pre-season and has not played in any games yet. Fletcher said: "We are still monitoring him day to day. We don't want to bring him back too quickly and then he breaks down again. It's a case of making sure that once he's back, he's back for good. Not back and he's out again." Griffiths is making progress in his recovery from a calf injury but it is reported that the visit to Oxford will come too soon for him.
Oxford United are the early leaders in League Two, with back-to-back wins behind them, but despite that, and the fact Argyle were soundly beaten there last season, Carl Fletcher is not worried. He said: "Oxford have got some good players and have not been far off the play-offs the last two seasons since they were promoted from the Conference. I'm sure they will be looking to push on again this season, so we know it's going to be a real tough test for us. It's a big pitch, a nice stadium and it's a real good club, and we will be looking forward to going there." When Argyle drew at Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday five of their starting line-up played in the 5-1 defeat by Oxford last October. "It's one of those things you learn from, and you try to use it to your advantage," Fletcher added. "We had a real young side out. Matty and Simsy played up front, and we also had Durrell, Youngy, Nelse and Ben Gibson. They were all teenagers. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we did alright for an hour, but we let our heads drop a little bit and, at the time, Oxford were really strong and had some good players, like they do now. The lads that played last season who are still involved will definitely take a lot from it. We want to go there and make sure we give a good account of ourselves and we are 100 per cent where we need to be."
Carl Fletcher admitted Argyle were fortunate to hold on for a draw in their game at Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday. He said: "We nicked a point. They missed some chances, but we have got to learn from it, put it to one side and move on to Oxford. Sometimes these things happen in football. It was our first away game. We didn't have any overnight stays in pre-season. It can be a number of things. But the important thing is we learn from it, just put it to one side and move on to Oxford. The lads kept going. They kept working hard and put a shift in for the team. Things didn't come off for is but sometimes you get that in football. Sometimes you just have to knuckle down and get what you can out of the game, like we did on Tuesday." Jake Cole made a series of excellent saves, during the game, and Fletcher added: "Jake made some important saves. He did great. The one in the first half was a real good save. I'm really pleased for him because he has worked hard in pre-season. It's a whole squad game and every person out on that pitch is vital, and that includes the man at the back. I think a lot of credit has got to go to Dagenham for the way they played. They put us under a lot of pressure." Argyle started with Nick Chadwick and Matt Lecointe as their strikers, and replaced them during the game with Paris Cowan-Hall and Warren Feeney. All of them found it difficult to make any inroads into the Dagenham defence and Fletcher said: "It was hard for the strikers but they kept working hard and kept trying to do the right things. Like I say, some days are just like that. You just have to take what you can get. The positives are that we got the clean sheet and got a point away from home. We played ten times better on Saturday and didn't get anything from the game, and on Tuesday we were a lot worse and got a point. That's just the way football is."
Jake Cole believes a summer fitness programme is paying dividends for him now the season has started. He said: "I trained in the off season and did a lot of swimming, running, jogging and weights. I have come back strong and ready to go, as I always do. I gave it a good go in pre-season and now I'm looking forward to what we have got ahead." Argyle kept a clean sheet on Tuesday, despite being put under a lot of pressure by the Dagenham & Redbridge, and Cole said: "Defensively, we had to deal with a lot of balls into the box. I was quite busy as well. I was happy with the performance of the back four and myself. It's always good to keep a clean sheet away from home, but I think we can play a lot better football. I was disappointed really because I think we could have gone there and got three points if we had been on it. We dealt with everything they threw at us, but you don't want that happening. We conceded a few silly free-kicks in dangerous areas as well, and you know Dagenham are going to put it in the box. I thought Pursey and Max were very solid. And I managed to make a few good saves, so I was happy." Cole was particularly pleased with a save early in the game because it was the first time he had been called into action. He said: "I think it was one of my first touches of the game, so it was good. It gives you a boost and sets you off nicely. I was pleased with myself. I thought I did well." Cole wants to see Argyle build on that clean sheet when they visit Oxford United on Saturday. "Hopefully, we can go there and be defensively sound and get a goal," he said. Ollie Chenoweth was on the bench as cover for Cole against Dagenham because Rene Gilmartin has been sidelined by a knee injury. Carl Fletcher said: "He has just got a little niggle in his knee. It's not too bad and he could train with it, but it's not going to get better quickly by doing that."
Carl Fletcher was honest after seeing his team draw 0-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge last night. "It was an off night for us, tonight," he said. "We got away, nicked a point. Sometimes these things happen in football. You just have to wipe your mouth with it, take what you've got, a point at Dagenham is never easy, and make sure we move on." Asked about positives he could to take from the game, Fletcher said: "We got a clean sheet, a point away from home. We played ten times better on Saturday than we did tonight but didn't get anything from that game. We were a lot worse tonight and got a point from it. A lot of credit has got to go to Dagenham; the way they played put us under a lot of pressure. The lads kept going, working hard, and putting a shift in for the team. Things didn't come off for us but, like I say, sometimes you get that and you have to knuckle down, see the game out, and get what you can out of it, like we did." Fletcher also took some satisfaction from the form of Jake Cole, who made several superb saves. "Jake did really great, the one in the first half was a real good save, but I felt he could have held a couple!" Fletcher said. "It's a squad game and everyone on that pitch is vital. That includes the man at the back. I'm pleased for him because he's worked really hard in pre-season." Argyle nearly stole the points in the final minute of injury-time, when Paul Wotton fired a free-kick through Dagenham's wall. Fletcher added: "He hit it well, just straight at the keeper. I really thought we were going to nick it, the way we got away with it beforehand, but it wasn't to be."
Argyle drew 0-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge. Argyle: Cole, Nelson, Purse, Blanchard, Bhasera, Gurrieri, Wotton, Hourihane, Young, Chadwick, Lecointe. Subs – Cowan-Hall, Feeney, Gorman (not used – Chenoweth, Williams, Soukouna, Lennox). Attendance – 1,878.
Maxime Blanchard welcomes the chance for Argyle to make amends for their defeat by Aldershot Town in on Saturday, when they visit Dagenham & Redbridge tonight. He said: "I think everything is hard in League Two. You really have to earn your points. It's a good thing there is a game tonight, so we don't have to think too much about Aldershot. We will take the good points out of that game and put it into the one against Dagenham." Blanchard has played at Victoria Road once before, for Tranmere Rovers in August 2010. He said: "It's a difficult place to go, but I think that's the kind of game we need right now, a proper war. Hopefully, we can get something out of it. It can't come quick enough." The trip to Dagenham will be the first of three consecutive away games for Argyle but captain Darren Purse is not worried about that prospect, quite the opposite in fact. He said: "I actually quite enjoy the coach journeys, and having a game of cards and all that sort of stuff. We did okay away from home last season, especially at Accrington Stanley and Wimbledon. We need to get our away form back to how it was at the end of last season and, hopefully, pick up a couple of results on the road."
Carl Fletcher has revealed how Argyle have prepared for their game at Dagenham & Redbridge tonight. After the final whistle on Saturday the players carried out a warm-down session on the pitch and were back at Home Park on Sunday morning. The squad then set off for east London yesterday lunchtime. Fletcher said: "It was just to get their legs moving again. It's easier to get them in, be around the place and do what they need to do. There was a little bit of structured stuff, but everyone has their own personal things they like, whether it's massage or ice baths or short jogs. It could be anything." Argyle then had a training session at Home Park yesterday morning before the players boarded the team coach. Fletcher said: "We did a little bit of prep with the possible team for Dagenham, and mentioned a few pointers on what we expect from them and what we expect from us so the players started to focus on the game. I think you have got to be careful. We have got so many games in a short space of time, and a lot of travelling. It's important, mentally, we are not bombarding the players with too much information. The physical side you can deal with, but sometimes it's draining mentally if you go from one game, thinking about one formation and what you need to do, straight into the next one." Some managers would have arranged a training session for this morning, close to where they stayed overnight, but that is not an approach that Fletcher favours. He said: "Some teams do have their players in on the morning of a game, but I prefer to let them rest. Sometimes a rest is as good as a training session. We will have a walk together this morning, just so no-one is laying in bed all day. We will get out and get some fresh air. Then we will have lunch and team meetings throughout the day to make sure we are ready for quarter-to-eight." While disappointed by the defeat against Aldershot, Fletcher insisted there were positives to take from the match. He said: "The interesting thing on Saturday was that, performance-wise, we were a lot better than when we beat them at the end of last season. Sometimes in football you don't always get the result which matches the performance. We kept the ball, created chances and pretty much had full control of the game, but it just wasn't to be." Fletcher reported no new injuries among the squad.
Argyle will be seeking their third win at Dagenham & Redbridge in 16 months when the teams meet tonight. Carl Fletcher said: "It was a great win for us there last season. It was a last minute goal and emotions were high. It was a good day for everyone involved and, hopefully, we can do something similar tonight, but we know it's going to be a tough game. We have to make sure we are ready for it." Fletcher is an admirer of the work manager John Still has done at Victoria Road over the last eight-and-a-half years. He said: "Dagenham have done so well, and a lot of credit has got to go to the management staff for the way they set their team out and execute what they need to do. We know what to expect and we will have to make sure we are bang on it. I think they are probably a bit more versatile now than they have been in recent seasons and, obviously, their personnel has changed. That always seems to happen at the lower levels because you get so many free agents. We are looking forward to the challenge of trying to get a result and trying to perform well. If you don't enjoy that, then you are in the wrong kind of business."
Carl Fletcher blamed poor defending for Argyle's defeat by Aldershot Town on Saturday. He said: "When you play in League Two, it's important you don't give away free-kicks because it's a chance for a team to put the ball in your box. I was disappointed with the way we defended that and the penalty as well." Asked about the penalty incident, Fletcher said: "I will have to look at the DVD." But he then added: "I think the ref has had a very disappointing day. Our lads have worked their socks off for seven weeks and then you get somebody who spoils it." Fletcher had no complaints about the desire of his players, but that was not enough. He said: "Goals change games and a couple of mistakes have cost us. Overall, the lads worked really hard. We had plenty of chances and there was some good play. We just couldn't get the ball in the net against a very strong, resilient Aldershot team. But it's the first game, and we will get over it and move onto Tuesday night." Aldershot's centre-backs were particularly dominant in defence, and Fletcher added: "I think they have changed a lot over the summer. They have maybe gone more physical than they were last season. It was hard work for us, but the lads kept trying to do the right things. We just couldn't get that break." Two of Argyle's six summer signings were in the starting line-up against Aldershot, Johnny Gorman and Andres Gurrieri, and Paris Cowan-Hall was used as a substitute. Fletcher knows it will take time for the signings to really make their mark, and said: "The season as a whole doesn't get summed up on one or two games. It's a long, hard road and everyone is in it together. We are going to need a full squad of players to help us do what we want to do. There will be good days and bad days, and changes, and people playing and not playing. But like I say, it's going to take everyone to push in the right direction." Argyle responded well after conceding the first goal, and had some decent chances to equalise before half-time. Fletcher said: "Apart from the goals, we didn't have any other problems. We were in control of the game really, but goals change games and that what it's decided on. I think if we had got one goal we could have gone on, but it wasn't to be. All credit to Aldershot, they defended resolutely and kept their shape well." There was an attendance of 7,020 for the game and Fletcher was grateful for the support. He said: "It was really good – really delighted. It's just unfortunate we couldn't get a result for them."
Darren Purse has admitted lessons need to be learned after Argyle lost to Aldershot Town on Saturday. He said: "The first goal summed it up. We talked on Friday about what they are good at and set pieces are what they are good at. We gave away a silly foul and we never picked up at the free-kick. As soon as they scored, they showed us how to win a football match from being 1-0 up. It's probably what we did to a lot of teams last season when we were fighting for our lives to stay in the League. We need to learn and fast. We were by far the better team, but we can't give cheap goals away from free-kicks and expect to walk away from games winning." The penalty decision came after Purse inadvertently played the ball into the path of Aldershot striker Rankine. Purse said: "There were things from that we can work on as well that need to get sorted. The penalty killed the game. I think at 1-0 we still could have got back into it, but after that we were chasing it a little bit too much and went too one-dimensional. If we had played the way we did in the first half, we still could have got back into the game. But when you are 2-0 down and you want to try to get back into the game, you tend to go that bit longer and it just didn't drop for us." Argyle had not lost on the opening day of a Football League season since August 2002, and Purse added: "If there is a time to lose a game, it's your first one and not your last one, when you need a result. That's a positive way to look at it. But, as a player, I'm a little bit down because we should be looking to beat teams like Aldershot at home. You can't choose the way games pan out. The way the game panned out, I would have been happy to walk away with a draw, but that wasn't to be either." The attendance at Home Park was 7,020 and Purse took heart from that. He said: "The fans were brilliant. They stuck with us and, hopefully, from the first half display they have seen we are trying to do things right. But we did go a bit too long in the second half and made it easy for their centre-halves to mop everything up. I think what they did do well, they killed the game off. That's something for our younger lads to look at when we are away from home."
Warren Feeney came on as a substitute against Aldershot, but could not help the team come back from a 2-0 deficit. "We knew what Aldershot were going to be like," said Feeney. "We didn't get the first goal, and we were chasing the game. It was unfortunate, Paris put a great ball in at one point and it went just over my head at the back post. I think the frustrating part was that we gave away two stupid goals. One thing we pride ourselves on is set-pieces, and unfortunately we let their guy in for a free header. The second one, I don't want to comment too much on. In my opinion, I didn't think it was a penalty, but at the end of the day the ref has given it. Nobody wants to give goals away. It's an important part of the game, set-pieces, and we'll sit and look at the video to see where we went wrong." Argyle have no time to lick their wounds with a trip to Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow, and Feeney added: "Regarding the game on Tuesday, we've got loads of games coming up, but we take them one at a time, and it's a chance for us to bounce back at Dagenham. I felt that for the 20 minutes when we came on we looked better, and there was a bit more enthusiasm about us. We've got beat, but we'll pick ourselves up, and, from my point of view, hopefully I'll get a game Tuesday."
The Argyle youth side beat Oxford United 3-0 at Haye Road on Saturday, the goals scored by Mason Hughes, Solomon Wheatley and Colin Watson. Argyle: Walton, Watson, Moxham, Elcock, Bradley, Summers, Wheatley, Allen, Berry, Moore, Hall. Subs – Hughes, Asumadu-Sakyi, Hutchinson (not used - Miller, Hannah).
Carl Fletcher admitted it was frustrating to see his side lose yesterday. "Goals changed the game for us," he said. "A couple of mistakes today have cost us. Overall, the lads worked hard, we had plenty of chances and most of the play but we just couldn't get that break. It's frustrating, but we'll get over it and move onto Tuesday night. Apart from the two goals, we were in control and didn't have many problems at all but as we know goals change games and that's what happened today. I think if we could have got one goal then we would have gone on to win it but it just wasn't to be. Credit to Aldershot, though, they defended resolutely and kept their shape well." Both of Aldershot's goals came from set-pieces, a free-kick conceded by Onismor Bhasera in the fourth minute, and a penalty conceded by Bhasera and Maxime Blanchard. Fletcher added: "I'm a bit annoyed really. In League 2, you can't just give away free-kicks because it's a good chance for them to get the ball in your box. But I was disappointed with the way it was conceded and the way we dealt with that, and also the penalty."
Argyle lost 2-0 to Aldershot Town at Home Park. Argyle: Cole, Nelson, Purse, Blanchard, Bhasera, Gurrieri, Wotton, Hourihane, Gorman, Chadwick, Lecointe. Subs – Young, Cowan-Hall, Feeney (not used – Gilmartin, Williams, Soukouna, Lennox). Attendance – 7,020.
Jamie Lowry is making encouraging progress in his recovery from an ankle ligament injury. He said: "The initial indication was I would be out for about three months and I'm just over three weeks into that. But I have had a good progression so far. I was meant to be on crutches for six weeks but I'm back walking, so that's obviously a good sign. Touch wood, I feel like I will be back sooner than expected. It has been really hard for me. Coming to a new club, I wanted to get to know all the players and the staff better, but it's just me and the physio at the moment." A knee injury kept Lowry out of action for Chesterfield from October 2009 to February 2011, so he is used to having to sit on the sidelines. Lowry said: "It's something I'm used to but, at the same time, it's not something I want to be doing ever again really. I'm not a very good watcher, to be fair. It just gets me more excited about playing, and makes you want to come back quicker. I do love my football. I watch any game on TV, no matter who it is. It just makes me more eager to come back. The gaffer said it was just one of those things. I have just got to do my own pre-season again with the physio. Hopefully, I can force my way into the team when I get back fit." Lowry was born in Newquay and is living there with his parents while he settles back into life in the South West after spending all of his career at Chesterfield. He said: "I'm just enjoying being back, and everyone at the club has made me feel welcome. I'm hoping to get back on the pitch and make myself known to the Argyle fans."
Argyle's League Cup second round tie at Burnley has been confirmed for Tuesday, August 28th.
Paris Cowan-Hall was thrilled to open his goalscoring account for Argyle on his debut. He said: "It's always nice to score, whether it be pre-season, during the season, cup games or whatever. I would love to score in every game if I could. Obviously, it's good to score on your debut. The fans have shown me a lot of support via social networking sites like twitter and that sort of thing." Cowan-Hall played in all six of Argyle's pre-season friendlies, without scoring any goals, but on Tuesday he got a touch to a nod down from Maxime Blanchard. Cowan-Hall said: "I remember Max headed it back across goal and I have just reacted to it, and it has gone in." Cowan-Hall had sympathy for the plight that Portsmouth find themselves in. He said: "I was there when they were in that sort of predicament. They have been in administration a couple of times now. I have got a lot of love for that club because I was there for so long. I understand what they are going through, and what all the young boys are going through. It's a lot for them to have to take on, and it's a massive thing for the club to deal with as well. Considering how young they were, they looked very comfortable on the ball and passed it around well." Argyle will try to build on their winning start when Aldershot Town visit Home Park tomorrow, and Cowan-Hall said: "It's nice to win any game, and by three goals is particularly good. It's a considerable margin. We know tomorrow is going to be tougher than that, but we can only play what's in front of us. We were ruthless in the end. You have to be. You want to make it a place other teams don't want to come to. Pursey and the gaffer have both said that. We are going to try to make it a fortress and make it as hard as possible for the opposition when they come down here."
Argyle expect Rhys Griffiths to be out of action for a couple of weeks. It was feared that a calf strain could keep him out for around a month but the diagnosis has proved to be more encouraging. Carl Fletcher said: "Rhys had a scan on Tuesday night. It took a little bit longer than we had wanted because both of the machines at the hospital broke down so we had to wait. It's going to be a couple of weeks yet, so it's not as bad as it could be. It's still disappointing, but we will make sure he's 100 per cent right before he comes back. It's tough for Rhys, though, because he's raring to go."
Johnny Gorman grabbed the first goal of the game against Portsmouth on Tuesday, and Carl Fletcher has been impressed with the way he has fitted in at Home Park. "He's a nice guy and, obviously, it's pleasing he scored on his competitive debut," said Fletcher. "That helps ease the pressure on him and takes the tension away. When I first came down here I scored on my debut as well. I'm pretty sure Paul Sturrock didn't bring me in to score goals, but it's still a nice way to start your career at a club. He has still got a lot to learn and a lot to improve on, as have a lot of players in the squad. But it's good for us we can get someone in who fits in well with the rest of the team."
Carl Fletcher knows it will not be an easy task for Argyle against Aldershot Town tomorrow, although they have taken encouragement from the win against Portsmouth on Tuesday. Fletcher said: "That definitely helps. You can only beat who is in front of you. We will take all the positives, work on the other things and look forward to a real tough game against Aldershot. They had a good run of results towards the end of last season and were just a couple of wins away from getting in the play-offs. Dean Holdsworth is a good manager and a real nice guy as well. We will have to make sure we are good in all areas of the pitch. Dean has been there for a few years now and he has got a good side. We will have to be 100 per cent ready to face the challenge." In the absence of Durrell Berry and Jamie Lowry, Curtis Nelson has been forced to fill in at right-back, and Fletcher said: "Nelse is not a natural right-back, he will tell you that. But his attitude and hard work in pre-season, and his willingness to do what we are asking him to do during training and games, is why he's playing there at the minute."
Carl Fletcher admitted it was important to make sure all of his players stayed in shape at the start of the season, meaning some players will do more work in training sessions than others. He said: "Take yesterday. The ones who played on Tuesday had a different session from the ones who didn't play. But it's important, from a management point of view, we make sure that it is done right, and we keep everyone happy. There are only 11 who can start, but throughout the season there are going to be 50-plus games and we are going to need everyone at some stage. We just have to adjust things accordingly so everyone is doing what they need to do, and if called upon they are ready and fresh to go and the fitness side of it isn't an issue. With Saturday-Tuesday games for a couple of weeks now, you don't spend too much time on the training pitch. You might get injuries and then you have to use the players that haven't been playing regularly."
Paris Cowan-Hall scored his first goal for Argyle yesterday, and Nick Chadwick also got his season's tally underway, but the news was not as good for Rhys Griffiths. Carl Fletcher said: "I'm delighted for Paris to get his first goal. It's what he has needed. He has wanted to do so well since coming down here, really take this opportunity. It was nice for him to get on the scoresheet. It just needed something to fall for him, and instinctively he put it away so that's pleasing. For him and for Chads. Two strikers scoring is good for us. Rhys got injured in literally the last couple of seconds in training yesterday. We'll have to see how that goes. It's a real big blow for us. Rhys has been hungry for this, he's really down about it. But we'll make sure he gets right and get him back as soon as possible." Cowan-Hall was delighted to open his account for the club. "It feels really good to have got my first goal," he said. "Very, very good, actually. Scoring your first goal at any time is good but scoring against your old club is great. Given the situation Portsmouth are in, though, it kind of takes away from it for me really. I feel like I'm kicking a dog when it's down. But it's good to score, no matter who it's against." The win sees Argyle through to the second round for only the third time in 20 years, and Cowan-Hall is pleased to be a part of that. He added: "It's good to have gone through; given the club hasn't done that much recently. It'll be nice to see who we get tomorrow, but as soon as that's done, I'll be focusing on trying to help us get three points on Saturday against Aldershot."
Argyle have been drawn to play at Burnley in the second round of the League Cup. The tie will take place week commencing August 27th. Carl Fletcher is close friends with Burnley boss Eddie Howe but does not expect to get any inside information off his mate prior to the game. He said: "It will be an interesting tie for me because I know Eddie very well. I'll have a little chat with him before the game but I don't think he'll tell me anything because he's a sneaky so and so! I speak to him very regularly anyway so it'll be a good challenge for us and we'll look forward to it. It's a very tough draw, especially with it being an away tie. But it will be a good opportunity for us to go and test ourselves against a Championship side." The game presents some logistical issues for Argyle, with the match scheduled to come after consecutive away games with Dagenham & Redbridge and Oxford United. "With the two away games before, I think we might as well just live in a hotel!" added Fletcher. "But in all seriousness, we know what it's like being down here so we'll have to make sure we change training accordingly because lots of travelling does take it out of you. But it'll be a good game and we're looking forward to it."
Carl Fletcher had mixed emotions after his side's win over Portsmouth last night. "A lot of credit has got to go to the Portsmouth players," he said, "They put a real pride back in the shirt, they've done really well for the football club in really tough circumstances. Tonight was about how the Portsmouth players conducted themselves in the game. There were some real good quality players, and we know what a tough time everyone's going through. It's not so long ago we went through all the same stuff. You feel for everyone, the players, the staff, everyone who works at the club. Hopefully, fingers crossed, they can get something sorted out sooner rather than later, and get it done properly so that Portsmouth are around for many years to come." For Argyle, the victory means a place in the second round of the League Cup for only the third time in twenty-one attempts. Fletcher said: "It was a potential banana skin, and it was all about professionalism and attitude for us. I'm pleased we got the three goals and a clean sheet. Early doors we had a few chances and it was nice to get that first goal just to settle us down a little bit. There are things we need to improve on, but from our point of view it was a tough game tonight. A real tough game, and a no-win situation. Winning the game, a lot of people would expect that. If you lose then you make the headlines. We knew had to be right both mentally and physically. It was a tough game, against some young lads at Portsmouth who showed some real quality."
Rhys Griffiths will have to wait for his Argyle debut, after sustaining a calf strain that could rule him out for up to a month. Griffiths admitted he was not sure what to expect from League Two. He said: "I'm not really a statto, or anything like that, so I don't know many of the teams or many of the players. I'm sure even fewer will know who I am. Teams in the Welsh Premier League set up to stop me, and now I'm going to be a bit of an unknown quantity. I don't want to tempt fate, but my record shows I score goals. But, obviously, I have got that aerial strength, which I'm hoping I can use consistently. When I first started having success in the Welsh Premier League all I cared about was scoring goals. But that has changed over the last few years and I genuinely would rather the team do well than me score." After waiting for his chance to play professional football, Griffiths is determined to make the most of the opportunity with Argyle, even with an enforced wait. He said: "It is a great story. Anyone who knows me, knows how hard I have worked. It really is a lesson for anybody who has got aspirations. The stadium is fantastic and we have got some talented players. I'm getting to know people slowly. I actually thought when I first met Carl that Plymouth were still in the Championship. I consider them a Championship club. That's where they need to be and hopefully over the next year, possibly two, I can help them get towards their goal."
Argyle beat Portsmouth 3-0 in the League Cup first round tie at Home Park, the goals scored by Johnny Gorman after 45 minutes, Paris Cowan-Hall (86) and Nick Chadwick (87). Argyle: Cole, Nelson, Purse, Blanchard, Bhasera, Hourihane, Wotton, Gurrieri, Gorman, Chadwick, Lecointe. Subs – Lennox, Young, Cowan-Hall (not used – Gilmartin, Williams, Soukouna, Feeney). Attendance – 5,318.
Carl Fletcher will be given the time to carry out a rebuilding job at Argyle, James Brent has stated. He said: "If this club ever starts a season without the aspiration of winning and getting promoted, then it's a fairly miserable place to begin from. It clearly wasn't the hope when we took over. It was a prayer we wouldn't get relegated to the Conference. The hope is that we will achieve success this season, but what we have said to Carl, though, is clearly we are rebuilding, and are doing so in the medium term. While we have set Carl's budget at a level that will hopefully get us a squad to compete in the top part of the league, if we don't achieve that this season no-one gets shot. I hear all the time that football is about results. Well, every business I'm in is about results. It doesn't mean when you have a bad period you shoot the manager. So the hope is for great things and the expectation is that it will be a good year of rebuilding. I have a huge amount of admiration for the many folk who look into their crystal balls and tell us exactly where we are going to end up because I'm afraid mine is very cloudy and I couldn't tell you. One of the things which I think is really great about what Carl is doing, and I think this does sometimes get missed, is he's all about building a team rather than a collective of talented individuals. I think that is something which, hopefully, will set this club aside from others."
Argyle are set to play what amounts to Portsmouth's youth team in their League Cup first round tie at Home Park tonight. Barring a sudden resolution to the delay over a proposed takeover of the club, Portsmouth manager Michael Appleton will have to select largely his youth side. Recently-appointed first-team coach Ashley Westwood, 35, will come out of retirement to play at centre-back and goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, 23, was signed on non-contract forms yesterday, after spending pre-season with the club. Carl Fletcher has sympathy for the plight Pompey find themselves in. He said: "We can relate to what they are going through. It must be a horrible time for everyone involved. We hope they get something sorted, not just for the short term but for the long term because Portsmouth are a great club with great tradition. Michael Appleton is a great manager. You only hear good things about him from the people I have spoken to. You don't work as a coach in the Premier League for as long as he did without knowing your stuff." Fletcher insisted Argyle would try not to be distracted by all the turmoil surrounding Portsmouth, and added: "We are just trying to concentrate on ourselves and we will deal with what we have to when it comes to the game. At the end of the day, it's 11 versus 11."
The game against Portsmouth tonight cannot come soon enough for Paul Wotton. He said: "Let's just get on with it now, and get back to some normality with regular routines and so on. The pitch looks great and it will be the first time wearing the new kit. The sooner it starts the better. I think there will be certain teams who will use the League Cup as another pre-season game, but it's the start of business for us. There are no points to be played for, but it's a game to go and win. We are at home and we are looking forward to it. We have finalised a few bits and pieces in the last week and we are ready." Argyle are not sure what team to expect from Portsmouth because of the continuing turmoil at Fratton Park. Wotton said: "Whatever is put out in front of you, you have got to out and play against it. I'm sure they will have players ready to be signed as soon as they are allowed to. They have had a few experienced boys playing for them in pre-season, such as Brian Howard, Izale McLeod and Luke Rodgers. I think it's nice to be at home for the first game of the season. There is a lot of expectancy this season. Hopefully, we will get a decent crowd and get off to a great start."
After four first-team appearances last season and earning a professional contract, Jared Sims wants to continue his progress with Argyle. He said: "I have really enjoyed pre-season. It was a lot harder than what I was used to in the youth team, but I feel I have done alright. I trained with the first team a lot last year, so I got used to it quite quickly. There has been a lot more running and weights compared to what we did in the youth team last year." Sims admitted breaking into the first team at such a young age had given him the taste for more. He said: "It was good experience for me because of the situation at the club, so I was lucky in that respect. Hopefully, I can push on and try to get in and around the first team this season. It would be nice to play a few games, maybe off the bench. I will see how it goes. There is more competition for places than there was last season, especially up front. I think there is a lot of depth in the squad now." Sims can play in a variety of attacking roles, and has been compared in style to Ian Stonebridge. Sims said: "I like to play just off the front really, but I think I'm quite versatile. When I was growing up, I played in centre midfield. But when I came to Plymouth they put me up front, so I can do both." Sims is one of five first-year professionals in Argyle's squad this season, all of whom are from the South West, and he added: "It definitely makes it a lot easier, and we can all encourage and push each other."
Argyle face Portsmouth tomorrow, a club that currently has only nine youth-team players on their books after they narrowly survived liquidation. Portsmouth have fielded trialists of decent pedigree during some pre-season games, although Carl Fletcher does not know whether any will feature at Home Park. "I think we're going to have to wait for the team-sheet to come in to see who they have got on their books," he said Fletch. "We have been watching them a few times over pre-season and, whoever they have had out, their performances have been real good. They have had some big names playing for them: Jon Harley, Izale McLeod who was at Barnet last year, Luke Rogers, Brian Howard. They are all good players. At the end of the day, it's 11 against 11 on the pitch. Even if they are youngsters, they are going to be very good players. Like we had last year, a lot of the young players will have been involved, playing for and training with the first team. Whoever comes, it is still going to be a very tough game and one that we are going to have to work very hard at to get something out of. The situation is out of our hands, we can't do anything about. The most important thing in the long run, especially from Portsmouth's point of view, is that they have a football club. We are just trying to concentrate on what we have to do. The relationship between Plymouth and Portsmouth should make for a good crowd, and their travelling support rivals our travelling support, so it should be a good atmosphere. We had fans from all other clubs helping us when we were in trouble and it's only right that we help them in this situation they find themselves in. It is quite ironic that we can relate to what they are going through. It must be horrible for everyone involved."
A year later than he had hoped, Andres Gurrieri is ready to start his first season at Argyle. He said: "Peter Reid really liked me but there was a very difficult situation, with the club in administration. We had been talking about a contract with Peter but, at the end, I couldn't stay here because of the administration. I had a chat with Peter and he told me 'Look, Andres, I really want you but I can't do anything for you', so I had to leave. It was a very difficult moment because I was just thinking about playing for Plymouth. I had played in three friendly games. I knew the fans, and I knew the stadium, so it was very good for me, and then I had to change things." Gurrieri found out he would not be offered a contract shortly before the start of the season, which made it hard for him to find alternative employment. He said: "All of the clubs had their players sorted, so that was difficult for me." Eventually he signed for Burton Albion in October after a trial period. Gurrieri said: "The gaffer gave me that opportunity. He was very good with me. So I had my chance and I did very well in the trial games and then I could play for Burton." One of his six starts for Burton came in a defeat by Argyle at Home Park in January. He said: "It was a little bit strange because I had met many of the players before. I was just trying to think about winning. We lost 2-1, but I had a good game." Gurrieri admitted he had no hesitation about returning to Argyle for another trial. He said: "When my agent told me there was an opportunity to have a trial in Plymouth I was happy about that. I said 'yes' straight away. I really like the club and the fans are great. I saw what happened last season and I think they want to change that now and play better, and try to go up. I want to be part of that." Gurrieri added that the mood at Home Park now compared to this time last year was a lot better, with Argyle on a much more secure financial footing under James Brent. "There is a big difference," he said. "You can feel it among the players and the gaffer, and among the people working for the club, and it's good. They had a very difficult time but they were able to get through that. Now we all have to try to get Plymouth to the best place possible. The club deserves that."
Darren Purse has taken over as Argyle captain, and is hoping to lead the club to success. He said: "It's always an honour to captain a football club and I have been lucky enough to do it throughout my career. Hopefully, I can be the captain to lead Argyle to better times than they have had over the last couple of years." Purse sees one of his main responsibilities as skipper to be a link between the players and Carl Fletcher. He said: "I play cricket and captains put people in positions and actually have a say in the team. That's not on the agenda in football. The manager selects the side and he has got the tactics he wants. As the captain, you are probably the go-between between the players and the manager. At the minute, we have got lots of younger players at the football club and some of them can be a bit unsure about going to see the manager. If any of them have got a problem, then I'm always there for them to speak to. If it's something the gaffer needs to sort out, then I can go to him. When you are on the football pitch, it's about encouragement. And if anything needs to be put onto the pitch, the gaffer will usually go to the captain to do that. It's a pretty easy job, really." Another of Purse's responsibilities, and one he takes seriously, is to liaise over personal appearances by the players within the local community. He said: "I do enjoy being captain. It doesn't change the way I play on the pitch. I'm still as mouthy and loud as ever even when I'm not wearing the armband. It's more the off-the-field stuff that does make a difference and puts a bit more of a demand on you. Last season, I was just another player who came down to help the cause. But it's nice the amount of Argyle fans who have come up to me and called me 'skip'. I do enjoy that side of it. I'm pleased the gaffer put that responsibility on my shoulders. I think he said he did have other options, but he likes a centre-half to be captain and I'm glad I fit the bill." Purse missed the final game of last season because of a toe operation, a problem he has had to contend with over recent years, which it seems he will continue to do. But Purse insisted it did not have any impact on his performances on the pitch. He said: "It's a wear and tear injury. I have had it for four or five years now, and had two operations on it, both during the summer, so it has never stopped me from playing games. If I need to during the season I can always have an injection in it and that usually numbs it for a month or two. I had the operation in the summer to see if it could relieve some of the pain I get with it, but it doesn't affect me in games and I didn't miss any training with it last season. It's just a little bit of pain I have to put up with. The operation was a success to a certain degree. I have got a lot more movement in it than I did at the end of last season, but I have still got that nagging pain there. I will probably have to have an injection over the next month or two, but that's part of getting to 35 years of age and still playing football." Playing remains a passion for Purse, who has played a total of 601 games for nine different clubs in his career. Even the demands of pre-season training have not diminished that. He said: "I have loved every minute of it. If I didn't I wouldn't be playing. It's as simple as that. I still love getting up every morning and going training. I'm not one of those players who likes to sit out. I like to do as much as I can and I feel that benefits me throughout the season. There are going to be times when you are playing two games a week that you do need a little bit of a rest as well. But I love being on the training pitch and as long as I enjoy doing that then I will carry on playing." Purse is enthusiastic about the start of another season, and Argyle's prospects. He said: "I'm more excited about this season than most. We have got a squad of players who I think can challenge. We need to get off to a good start and get some confidence behind us, which is something probably lacking at the beginning of the last couple of seasons. It's amazing what winning the first couple of games, or picking up a couple of good results, can do for your season. If we can get off to a good start, who knows where it might take us. If we can carry on the form we had from the second half of last season, and add a few goals to it, we could go close. Some people are saying that it's a season where they would like to finish in mid-table. I don't want to finish in mid-table. I want to get promoted. I haven't got that long left playing, and the reason I came down here in November was that I really fancied us to stay up last season and I fancy us to get promoted this year. We are still building from what has gone on at the club over the last couple of years, but I want to get promoted. It's something that, hopefully, will drive us on throughout this season. Who wants mid-table mediocrity? If you want to be mediocre, then go and play on a Sunday morning with your mates. It's about playing each game to win, and if we can win a majority of our games then we will go close to getting promoted. We have got a youngish squad at the moment, and it's a small one as well, so you do need that little bit of luck with injuries. The club deserves it because of what it has been through over the last couple of years. The fans and the people who work at Home Park deserve a good run at success and, hopefully, this season will bring that." With Purse and Maxime Blanchard forming a formidable pairing at centre-back Argyle conceded only 10 goals in 16 games last season, before Purse was ruled out of the final game. But, he is not taking it for granted that Argyle will achieve a similarly impressive record this term. He said: "No two seasons are the same, no two games are the same. The reason we did so well last season was because we put the work in on the training pitch, and we will do the same this year. You do need that little bit of luck. Luck is a big part of football, but I think the harder you work on the training pitch and in games the more luck you will get. That's the philosophy that's starting to run through the football club now. We won't stop working as hard as we did last season. We are probably working even harder now and, hopefully, we will have the same success." Purse believes considerable strides have been made since he first stepped into Home Park. He said: "In the nine months I have been at the club, it has moved on massively. The owner has come in and he's a breath of fresh air with the way he has rejuvenated the club. Look at the season tickets. He's trying to make the club a bit more professional with the way he has marketed them. You look around Home Park at the minute and there is a new lick of paint everywhere because everybody wants that feel-good factor around the place." The improvements even extend to new wooden dug-outs, and Purse added: "They look amazing. There is not one single football club in the country that will have dug-outs like ours. Everything around the football club is looking good. There are new nets and the pitch has been re-laid." According to Purse, the feel-good factor at Home Park is mirrored by an excellent team spirit within the changing room. He said: "Over the last couple of weeks, we have had 10 lads going to St Mellion to play golf. I don't think you would have had that at the beginning of last season, so there's that camaraderie and everybody gets on. You have your fall-outs in training but that's because everybody wants to win. That winning mentality is buzzing through the football club at the moment." By his own admission, Purse is a good golfer, as are Robbie Williams and Luke Young. Purse said: "The good thing about it is that it's not just the older players who go there. A lot of the young lads, like Matty Lecointe, Jed Harper-Penman and Ollie Chenoweth are coming and joining in. There is a good broad spectrum of players, and it just shows that everybody is getting on. All we need is a night out. I don't think the gaffer will be too pleased about that, but nights out are always good for team spirit, so we will have to try to sort one of them out soon."
Owning Argyle has had a benefit which James Brent did not anticipate. Father of five Brent, who has a wide variety of business interests, has been able to spend more time with his children, as they have all become addicted to Argyle since he bought the club out of administration last October. He said: "Argyle takes up a pretty small part of my business time, but it's a relatively high part of my leisure time now, which is the interesting thing. The great benefit I have, which I didn't think I would get when we took over the club, is that my kids absolutely love it. I don't get a lot of time with my family, so the fact they are keen to come to games means I can come to virtually all the games. I'm thoroughly enjoying that because I'm learning from scratch. I didn't understand football at all, or the passion that people have for it, so in my mid-40s I'm learning quite a lot." More than 4,000 memberships have been sold by Argyle, which Brent has taken encouragement from, but he realises a winning team is the best way of swelling attendances at Home Park on a regular basis. He said: "The target was to achieve 5,000 memberships, so we are a bit short of that, but I think it does evidence great support. It's up from 3,400 last season. I have always believed we need to offer a product for people, and that's partly the environment in which they watch the game, and the quality of the food and the drinks, and so on. But, clearly, it's mainly having a team which is winning. Once we start achieving success on the pitch, hopefully we will get back to the numbers that Argyle have historically seen." Brent promised that he wanted more engagement between the club and the fans, and he has set about fulfilling that with the creation of the soon-to-be-formed Plymouth Argyle Supporters Board. He said: "It has been very considered, the way it has been undertaken. So it has taken a bit of time to get it right. But, given the importance of providing constructive challenge to the board of directors, I think that it was right to get the structure right and get the election process right. I, and the board, have had no involvement in it, other than agreeing to fund the cost of the elections, but it seems to be being done very professionally. I'm sure we will end up with constructive but interrogating members of that board." Another initiative is the creation of the Forza Verde 1886 fans' group, and Brent added: "I think it really brings great atmosphere to the stadium, and there is no doubt in my mind it does motivate and drive our players forward. The great thing about the stadium is we can, and should, accommodate fans across the age demographic. We have opened a new family stand with great facilities to help cater for parents and young fans. Then, we have the Devonport End which is particularly noisy and robust. For me, it's very much recognising where our fanbase is and where we want to grow it, and then trying to accommodate each of those groups of fans." Brent and his board are determined to make sure Argyle are run with financial prudence, but that does not mean they are not prepared to back Carl Fletcher when he makes a request of them. Brent said: "We have established a budget for the club, which is our best view on what revenues will be and what the non-playing costs will be. Then we have established a budget for Carl, which will again incur a loss this season, but it will be a funded loss so there is money there to pay for it. Carl asked us to review his budget and find some extra money, which we have done with his help and looking elsewhere. Carl gets approval for each of the players, but he has the choice of the composition of the squad. He's always very good, he explains why he's doing things. I don't say to him I think he should be looking at a centre-forward from one place, or an extra winger rather than a midfielder. Carl is the gaffer and he will build his reputation on the results he achieves. I think it's right for the board to set a budget for him and then support him in spending that wisely." A former banker, Brent has a clear view of the way forward for Argyle, financially. He said: "In terms of this season, there is a loss in the profit and loss account, but the cashflow is estimated to be neutral. That means there is no additional requirement above what has been put into the club. I think, going forward, the hope and expectation is we are planning to build a new grandstand for the club, which will improve the matchday experience. But what we are also planning to do is to create sources of matchday and non-matchday income the club currently doesn't have." Brent believes Argyle's budget compares favourably to the rest of the division. He said: "We do have a big budget, and even when you adjust it for inflation it's much larger than we had in 2001/02, when we won the league with a record number of points. We have a budget which should work in this division, and should probably work in the next division. But what we have said we would like to do is to create a sustainable Championship side, and that does need additional income. The contention I have always had is that it's very dangerous for a club to rely on a benefactor to put in money each year, because one year it will stop. It may be because the benefactor has died, or he has gone bust or it may be because he has lost interest in football. So the sugar daddy approach, in my view, isn't healthy. But if the club is gifted a source of sustainable revenue, there is no reason why, if the benefactor dies, that source of revenue will not continue for a long period of time."
The Argyle youth team lost their first Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference game of the season, 2-1 at Yeovil Town on Saturday. The goal was scored by Andrew Elcock. Argyle: Walton, Watson, Bradley, Summers, Asumadu-Sakyi, Allen, Elcock, Wheatley, Harvey, Hutchinson. Subs - Hannah, Hall, Moxham, Sargent, Rooney.
Work on building a new grandstand at Home Park will take longer than a season to complete, James Brent has admitted. A planning application is set to be submitted to Plymouth City Council, the stadium's owners, by the end of this year, or early in 2013. If that is approved, work on the new grandstand could start during the second half of next year. Brent sees that as an important part of his strategy to make Argyle a sustainable club, by developing new sources of income. He said: "Nothing is guaranteed, but we are very confident we will build the new grandstand and we will do it in the near term. We are hoping to put in for planning at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, and hoping we can have that determined by the early summer of 2013. I would be disappointed if work doesn't commence on the site during the course of next year. What we are looking at doing is trying to phase that in a way which minimises disruption to the fans. But it clearly will have an impact, and the build period for the grandstand as designed is forecast to be 14 months, so it will go across a full season. It's not as if we can start at the beginning of the close season and finish by the end, unfortunately." Brent believes the time is right for Argyle to complete this important project, and said: "What we are clearly hoping to see is that as we achieve success on the pitch, and, as we improve the match-day experience, we will dramatically increase the number of Plymouth Argyle fans. I guess a positive negative is that we are not filling the stadium at the moment by any stretch of the imagination, so doing it now is, I think, a good time, when we do have space to accommodate our fans in other parts of the stadium. It would be a lovely problem to have, to try to accommodate more fans than we have seats. The sources of new revenue that we anticipate are extensive banqueting and conference facilities. It will be the place where businesses can rent out banqueting and conference space, and we can put on dinners, receptions and weddings. There will be new and better corporate facilities for match days, with restaurants and bars, so it will be quite a significant asset. We are also looking at a new club shop which, I think, will be an impressive addition."
Carl Fletcher is glad to see the back of pre-season and is now preparing his squad for their League Cup tie against Portsmouth next Tuesday. He said: "Pre-season hasn't gone too bad. Every game we played in, we tried to look at certain things. Some were good and some were bad, but that's what pre-season is for. It will be nice to get it out of the way really and get down to business, which is why we are all here." Goalscoring was a problem last season and solving that will be one of the keys to the forthcoming campaign. Fletcher said: "We have got a fair few options really. We have got Feeno, Chads, Rhys, Paris, Matty and Simsy, which is pleasing for us. On their day, any one of them, including the wide players as well, can have a big influence on a game. It's good." Argyle's penalty taker last season was Simon Walton, and after mixed success from the spot in pre-season, Fletcher has to decide who will take over the job. "It depends who's playing," he said. "It's the person who wants it the most and wants to score. Usually it's the strikers and I have no issue with that at all. Players generally sort it out themselves. I remember when I was at West Ham both Marlon Harewood and Teddy Sheringham wanted the penalties and they did it alternately, which was one way to sort it out." Argyle's defeat by Preston came courtesy of a goal in only the fourth minute of the match and he admitted the team had been a 'little bit lethargic' early on, but explained there was a reason for that. He said: "We had a tough training session on Tuesday. Obviously, it was still pre-season. But, after we got the first 20 minutes out of the way, and we got our second wind, it was better from us. We looked to settle into it and got stronger as the game went on. I thought towards the end the fitness levels looked pretty decent."
Argyle lost their final pre-season friendly, 1-0 to Preston North End at Home Park last night. Argyle: Cole, Nelson, Purse, Blanchard, Bhasera, Gurrieri, Young, Hourihane, Gorman, Lecointe, Griffiths. Subs – Williams, Wotton, Soukouna, Cowan-Hall, Feeney, Chadwick (not used - Chenoweth, Lennox, Gilmartin). Attendance – 1,504.
Carl Fletcher seemed pleased with his side's preparations for the forthcoming season, following their final friendly last night. He said: "It was a good work out. After we got the first 20 out of the way, it was good. Preston are a strong physical side and are maybe a bit more like what we would face in the league." Argyle came under a lot of pressure from Preston in the opening 20 minutes, a period in which they conceded the only goal of the game from. Fletcher was disappointed with the opening but was happy with the response. "The start was a little bit lethargic," he said. "We had a tough session yesterday but the lads stuck at it and we knew what we needed to do. Towards the end of the game, fitness levels were still looking good so all round I was pleased." Fletcher was also impressed with the performance of his new signings, Rhys Griffiths and Johnny Gorman. "They did alright," he said. "We knew what to expect from both, really. You get what you get from Rhys, he's a big physical lad and it's the same with Johnny, he likes to get on the ball and make things happen so I was pleased with their contribution. It sounds a bit boring but at the end of the day, the more times you put it in the box, the more chance you have of scoring. It's what strikers want and what people want and if you do it more and more you'll score."
Johnny Gorman believes his international experience with Northern Ireland will serve him well at Argyle. "Nigel Worthington saw me play when I was younger and he took me on a tour and I won my first couple of caps," he said. "I stayed in the squad for two years and I have played against teams like Italy and Serbia. So I have got a lot of experience through that, which should stand me in good stead at Plymouth." One of his Northern Ireland team-mates has been Warren Feeney and Gorman added: "I know him very well. He never fails to brighten up anyone's day! He told me last season that Plymouth was a nice place and it was a great club, and everyone tries to do it right down here, which sounds good to me." Gorman hopes to put in good enough performances which will lead to him getting regular first team football at Argyle. He said: "I think the management squad had watched some DVDs of me playing for Northern Ireland and some reserve games last season. They must have liked what they saw and, through speaking with Wolves, I have come down here. I'm really pleased with the move. It's a big club with a big fanbase." Gorman only had his first training session with Argyle on Monday, but his first impressions of the club have all been good. He said: "They seem to want to do everything the proper way. Training has been really good, really thorough. I drove down from Manchester on Sunday, where my family are based. That took about five hours, but I got that out of my system on Monday." Gorman has played three games for Wolves' reserves in pre-season. "They have all gone well, I have felt in good form and my fitness is getting there," he said. "All the lads here seem really friendly, which you don't get with some footballers. I went out for food with some of the lads on Monday night. Everyone sticks together because it's far away from family and friends." The physical nature of League Two football holds no fears for Gorman. He said: "I'm used to that, being at Wolves. Training sessions there are set up to be combative. That's how Wolves play, and Northern Ireland. Hopefully, I will bring that to League Two. I can play on either wing or in behind the striker. Anything attacking, that's me." Gorman is following in the footsteps of Ashley Hemmings, who spent five months on loan to Argyle from Wolves at the end of last season. Gorman added: "I know Ashley very well. He's a couple of years older than me, but I got on with him when I was at Wolves. He told me Plymouth was a great club to come to. He really enjoyed it when he was down here. Hopefully, I will get a good run of games, as many as I can, and see what happens after that."
Carl Fletcher is excited about bringing Johnny Gorman to Argyle. He said: "Johnny is a winger. He likes to get at players and get the ball in the box. It's great for us to have him. He's a Northern Ireland international and we are pleased we could get him. He's predominantly left-footed, but wingers these days can pretty much play on both sides of the pitch." Fletcher admitted Gorman had been on Argyle's radar for some time. He said: "We have had our eye on him since the end of last season. With a new manager going in at Wolves, we have had to do things the right way. I think with loans, a lot of players do a fair bit of the pre-season with their parent clubs and then get to a stage where you can move things forward. He's a nice lad and has fitted in quickly. He's just wants to come in and do well for the team." Rhys Griffiths also completed his move to Argyle on Monday, after impressing Fletcher while on trial earlier in pre-season. Fletcher said: "It's great for both parties. He wanted to be here and we wanted him here, so it's a good combination. He has given up a solid job to be here. He could have carried on playing at Port Talbot and been fairly comfortable working and playing. But he wants to try to push himself and progress his footballing career. He's a good size and his goal record speaks for itself." Fletcher is confident he can make a success of it and when asked whether he had any reservations about Griffiths' age, replied: "No, not at all. He's a self-confessed fitness fanatic, and that takes a lot of dedication when you are playing part-time football and you have got a full-time job. He has had a few games for Port Talbot and one with us so, fitness-wise, he's not a million miles behind the rest of the players."
Durrell Berry returned to training yesterday after sitting out all of Argyle's pre-season friendlies because of a knee injury. Onismor Bhasera also took part after being ruled out of the defeat by Birmingham City by an ankle problem. Ladjie Soukouna was another absentee for the visit of the Blues, but featured for an Argyle XI when they drew 1-1 against Saltash United on Monday. Fletcher said: "Bas and Ladjie are fine, and we will just see how we get on with Durrell. We just have to take it each day with him, see how the reaction to the training and hard work."
Rhys Griffiths has thanked his Fire Service colleagues for playing their part in his 'dream' move into professional football. He said: "I'm glad it's over and sorted, and I can just get on with playing football and trying to do my best for the club because it started to become a bit of a saga, to be honest. It's a great opportunity for me and it's a chance to realise a dream, really. I had to inquire with work whether it was okay to take a sabbatical. I had to go through the proper channels and speak to the proper people, and, of course, decisions don't get made overnight. Also, I had only just signed for Port Talbot Town so we had to sort things with them. To be fair, they were quite understanding about it, but, obviously, disappointed at the same time because they have got aspirations themselves. And then Carl had to sort out things at his end. My sabbatical from work can be for a maximum of two years and a minimum of six months. The South Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been really good. Officially, I'm gone from September 15 but they have been quite accommodating in the meantime as well, in terms of letting me get my shifts covered. And, more than anything, my friends at work have really looked after me." Griffiths has been a fireman for the last seven-and-a-half years. "It's a great job and it's certainly something I want to return to," he said. "I will miss it, there is no doubt about that. We have just got ourselves a rescue boat as well, so we were just getting our teeth into that, but I'm sure it will still be there when I get back. At the same time, I realise I'm lucky and this is a great opportunity for me." Before starting his career with the Fire and Rescue Service, Griffiths did a business degree at university and worked as a personal trainer. He added: "Ultimately, my goal was always to be a fireman or a footballer. Even by the age of 23, when I first started applying for the fire service, I had already given up on being a full-time pro. At that stage, I just wanted to be a fireman and keep playing semi-professional. I suppose this shows you should never give up."
Argyle have signed attacking midfielder Johnny Gorman on a youth loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers until January 6th. The club also yesterday confirmed the free transfer of Rhys Griffiths from Port Talbot Town on a one-year contract.
Andres Gurrieri has revealed he owes his football career in England to his grandparents. He said: "In Argentina, you can watch a lot of English football on TV. We always follow the Argentinian players like Carlos Tevez. I talked with an agent and he told me about the opportunity of coming to England and I said 'yes'. I had been playing in Italy, Spain and Uruguay, but I wanted to have a chance to come to England." The key to Gurrieri doing that was his Italian passport. He added: "Without that, it's very difficult to play here in Europe. My grandfather and grandmother were Italian so thanks to them I could get the Italian passport."
An Argyle XI drew 1-1 in the friendly at Saltash United last night, the goal scored by Solomon Wheatley. Argyle: Chenoweth, Watson, Purrington, Soukouna, Bradley, Richards, Lennox, Copp, Cowan-Hall, Sims, Vassell. Subs – Berry, Summers, Allen, Wheatley, Hutchinson, Harvey (not used – Walton).
Rhys Griffiths completed his move to Home Park yesterday and is eager to transfer the skills he learnt in the Welsh Premier League into the Football League. "I know how to play the position and I am looking forward to using that experience," he said. "Being my age, it gives me the opportunity to grasp it with both hands, rather than think I've got years to come. I've got to make the most of it now. For some reason, it dawned on me in the summer that I've never played league football, and I should have. Whether it's my fault I haven't, or other people's I'm not sure, but, all of a sudden, I became aware that, if the opportunity came, I needed to take it, otherwise it would be too late. I have looked after myself over the years and I feel good. I think there's more to come than what people have seen so far. When you have scored as freely as I have over the years, it's hard to imagine not scoring, but I'm going to be thinking about linking up play and doing the best for my team. If I do that, I am sure the goals will come."
Johnny Gorman has been capped nine times by Northern Ireland, but has played only a minute of league football, something he hopes to change at Home Park. "I was at a Premiership club, and it's hard to break through when you're young" he said. "I've come down to try and get some league games under my belt and make an impact on the squad. I'm an attacking player, either wing. I'm left-footed, I like to get forward as much as I can, set up goals, score goals, create goals. Anything going forward, that's me. I want to impress in training and, hopefully, when the first game comes around, I'll be in the starting 11 or coming off the bench, as long as I'm involved, I'm happy."
Andres Gurrieri has no fears about playing in the hustle and bustle of League Two. He said: "Sometimes in League Two it's very physical. You have to fight for all of the balls. There is a lot of contact. I know I'm not very big, but I'm fast and this is a good point for me. I will just try to take the ball and make things happen. But it's not about me. You have got to think about the team and do your best for the other players." Gurrieri is the first player from South America to join Argyle in their 126-year history. He said: "That's great for me. It makes me feel very proud. I also want to be the South American to win something with Plymouth, so I will try to help the team." Gurrieri was offered the chance to return to Home Park for a second trial by Carl Fletcher last month and had no hesitation in taking it up. He said: "Plymouth is a very nice city and the people have been very good to me. I really like it here. The weather is also much better than in the Midlands so I will enjoy that." The welcome Gurrieri has received from his team-mates has also made the transition easier. He added: "There are many players I met before here and they have helped me get used to the team, and to the new players. When you are foreign, it's not easy, but they have really helped me to be a part of the team."
Carl Fletcher is still looking at ways of further strengthening his squad, but admitted patience could be required, and it might take until the transfer window shuts at the end of August for deals to be done. He said: "We will see how it goes over the next few weeks. The way the transfer market is at the minute, it looks as though things will be done later and later. You will probably see quite a bit of activity even after the season has started." Meanwhile, Onismor Bhasera sat out the game against Birmingham because of a sore ankle. Fletcher explained the decision not to involve him had been a precautionary one, saying: "He was just feeling his ankle a little bit, so we thought it was best we didn't play him."
Carl Fletcher will take the good and the bad out of the 5-0 defeat to Birmingham City. "There were some good things which we did today, and there are some things we need to iron out for August 14," he said. "It's pre-season. There are no points at stake. That's why you have these games, so you see what you need to see and people are told what they need to be told. There were some things we were pleased with and some we weren't. We kept the ball quite well, we passed it, we were looking to get into certain areas. The work-rate that most of the lads put in was good. The disappointing thing from our point of view was that we kind of gifted Birmingham the goals. In any game you play, you want the opposition to work hard for the goals they get. It was step up in class for us, in opposition. They are in the Championship but most of their players wouldn't look out of place in the Premier League so they have got that bit of quality. We learned a lot and got a lot from it, and we can move on to next week." Fletcher was pleased with the form of new signing Andres Gurrieri. "You know what you are going to get from Andres," he said. "He has got a little bit of quality. He looks after the football. Technically, he's good and he worked his socks off for the team."
Argyle lost 5-0 to Birmingham City in today's friendly at Home Park. Argyle: Gilmartin, Nelson, Purse, Blanchard, Williams, Young, Wotton, Hourihane, Gurrieri, Chadwick, Feeney. Subs – Lennox, Lecointe, Cowan-Hall (not used - Cole, Chenoweth, Sims, Richards, Copp, Vassell). Attendance - 2,778.
Port Talbot Town have announced that Rhys Griffiths has joined Argyle on a free transfer, but there has not yet been official confirmation from Home Park.
Andres Gurrieri has completed his move to Argyle, signing a one-year contract. He said: "It's taken a year to arrive here, and I am very, very happy to be part of this team. Last season, for the lads, was a bit difficult and I think they want to change things this season. To be a part of that, to try to do something for the gaffer and for the team, is going to be great for me. I am so happy about that." Gurrieri signed for Burton Albion twelve months ago, following a trial period with Argyle. "I played many games at Burton," he said. "The gaffer, Paul Peschisolido, gave me the opportunity to sign there, and my first experience of England was very good. English football is different, it is fast, it is quite physical, and it is always wet! I learnt a lot about English football. I have adapted to it, so that is good."
Jed Harper-Penman is joining Bideford on a three-month loan.
Carl Fletcher has insisted first-team places are still up for grabs with the start of the new season only 10 days away. "We are not thinking that far ahead," he said, when asked whether he had a team in mind. We are just taking each day as it comes. We have got Birmingham today and are just looking at that, really. We will go from there. We are just looking forward to the game. It's great that Birmingham are coming down. The pitch isn't 100 per cent where we probably want it to be because of the kind of summer we have had. But, hopefully, we can go out there and try to get out of it what we want to." Ladjie Soukouna could be involved against Birmingham despite suffering a leg injury against Tiverton on Tuesday. Fletcher said: "We are monitoring it. It might be one of those injuries which settles down quickly, or might be a little bit longer. We will see."
The Argyle youth team won 5-0 in their friendly at Tavistock last night, the goals scored by Tyler Harvey, Isaac Vassell (2), River Allen and Solomon Wheatley. Argyle: Walton.C, Watson, Purrington, Elcock, Bradley, Summers, Vassell, Allen, Harvey, Copp, Berry. Subs – Hannah, Moxham, Tucker, Jewell, Wheatley, Rooney, Sargent.
Argyle are finalising a contract with Argentinean winger Andres Gurrieri, but there is still no news on whether Rhys Griffiths will sign for the club. Carl Fletcher said: "We are looking to bring Andres in. We will see how that goes. Hopefully, we can get something signed and sealed with him." Gurrieri is a dual Argentine and Italian passport holder, so obtaining a work permit will not be an issue. Fletcher, meanwhile, was reluctant to talk about whether Griffiths would be signing or not. "I know exactly where we are with Griff, but there is no news at the minute," he said. "Hopefully, there will be a decision soon. There are a few little bits and bobs that need our attention. We will see. Once anything happens either way, we will tell everyone."
Darren Purse will lead out Argyle in their pre-season friendly against his former club Birmingham City at Home Park tomorrow. He said: "I spent six years there and all my kids were born in Warwickshire. I loved being at the club and they gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League as well. On a personal note, scoring in a cup final is always massive. But playing in the Premier League is probably bigger than that. We were knocking on the door for four years, and in the fourth year we finally got promoted. To stay up in our first season, when we were favourites for relegation, is probably my favourite memory." Purse has only played against Birmingham once since, and it was a match he would rather forget. He said: "I went back with West Brom and got beat 5-0 so that's not the best memory! It's nice to have them coming to Home Park, and although the results in pre-season don't matter it would be nice to get the scalp of a Championship side." The game against Birmingham will be Argyle's fifth pre-season friendly. Purse said: "It has gone okay. Obviously, everybody was making a big thing about the Yeovil game. Nobody ever wants to get beat 5-0, but there were reasons for that. We played a very mixed side and it was our first game to their third. That showed throughout. We are looking better on the ball at the moment and there is a lot of confidence running through the side. These two games are going to be big tests for us, and if we can get two decent results it will stand us in good stead for the start of the season." Purse scored Argyle's winning goal against Tiverton, with a 90th minute volley from inside the penalty area. "I hit exactly the same left-foot shot in training yesterday and it went about 50 foot over the bar," he added. "It just shows, it's hit or miss with the left foot. It was a good strike and a few of them this season wouldn't go amiss."
Argyle continue their pre-season preparations tomorrow, when Birmingham City visit Home Park. Carl Fletcher said: "When you play the local sides from lower divisions, a lot of it is about attitude and professionalism and I have been very pleased with the way the guys have played. Sometimes you can go into those games and maybe take your foot off the gas but, all in all, generally, we've been okay. It's a different kind of test when you play higher opposition. We're looking forward to the game. It's great that Birmingham are coming down. Hopefully, we can go out there and get out of it what we want to." Ladjie Soukouna is a doubt for Argyle, having damaged a knee against Tiverton. "It's an impact injury so we'll monitor it over the next couple of days and see how he gets on," said Fletcher. "It might one that settles down quickly, or it might be a little bit longer. We'll see." Jamie Lowry has already been sidelined for three months following an ankle ligament injury, and Fletcher added: "It's important we make sure he gets properly healed and we make sure that, both mentally and physically, he's all okay, sometimes it's tough when you're injured and you are spending a lot of hours in the gym with the physio. It's disappointing. He's a nice, honest lad who gets on with things. He's fitted in well with the rest of the squad. He's very professional and obviously wants to get back as quickly as possible."
Durrell Berry is struggling to be fit for the start of the season. A knee injury has kept him out of the four pre-season friendlies played so far and Carl Fletcher admitted Argyle were taking it 'day by day' with him. Fletcher said: "He had a bit of inflammation around his knee so he had an injection, which was a good thing really. While the pain was still going on, we were a bit wary of what we might find after the scan. We have got to monitor it and see how he goes." Asked whether Berry would be fit for the start of the season, Fletcher replied: "We will see. At the minute, we are kind of taking it day by day. We don't want to push him and go back to square one really. The most important thing is we make sure he's right. Sometimes, when you have a bit of pain, you hope it subsides with rest. But once it doesn't, then you have to look into it in more depth and then you can get the problem sorted." Right-back is a problem position for Fletcher at the moment because Jamie Lowry is also injured. Fletcher said: "You like to have a couple of players who can play in each position. Unfortunately for us, both of our right-backs are injured at the minute. Nelse filled in at Tiverton and did great. He looked like he had played there a lot more than he has done, and it was the same with Willo. Willo is quite comfortable on the ball and he's decent enough on his right foot, so we have still got options. That's why we have a squad of players." Argyle picked up another injury against Tiverton, Ladjie Soukouna having to be helped off the pitch shortly before half-time after hurting a leg in a goalmouth challenge. Fletcher said: "I think it's just an impact injury. We will wait and see."
Carl Fletcher is remaining tight-lipped about his interest in Rhys Griffiths and Andres Gurrieri. He said: "I will sit down and have a chat with Andres and see what's what, and then go from there. We know what we are going to get with him. He's technically good, works hard and always wants the football." Griffiths told the South West Evening Post: "I've discussed things with the manager and he said he'd be interested in taking me down there. He's got to go away and discuss things with a few people and I've got to decide if it's something I really want to do. I'm waiting to find out if I can have a career break for this sort of thing. It might all come to nothing. But if I get the chance, it's one I want to try to take."
Carl Fletcher is determined to make sure his squad are prepared as well as possible for the forthcoming campaign, but it is not only match practice that he has focused on. The manager tried out a new formation, 4-3-3, in the win at Tiverton Town on Tuesday. Nick Chadwick led the attack in the first half, with Warren Feeney carrying out the role in the second period. Fletcher said: "We played a different formation against Tiverton. It's something else we are getting used to. We might need to use it during the season, and rather just than throwing it on the players out of the blue, we have done some work on it."
The Argyle youth team lost 4-3 at Elburton Villa last night, the goals coming from Isaac Vassell, an own goal and Solomon Wheatley. Argyle: Walton.C, Watson, Purrington, Elcock, Bradley, Summers, Harper-Penman, Allen, Vassell, Copp, Berry. Subs - Wheatley, Hutchinson, Rooney, Moxham, Sargent, Hannah.
Argyle won 2-1 at Tiverton Town in last nights friendly, the goals scored by Luke Young and Darren Purse. Argyle: Cole, Nelson, Purse, Richards, Williams, Soukouna, Hourihane, Sims, Lecointe, Chadwick, Gurrieri. Subs – Bhasera, Copp, Young, Feeney, Cowan-Hall, Lennox, Wotton. Attendance – 403.
Argyle will be without Jamie Lowry for around three months after a scan revealed ankle ligament damage. Carl Fletcher said: "Jamie has got some ligament damage and he's possibly going to be out for three months. It's disappointing from our point of view, but these things happen. The consultant thought he was very lucky he didn't fracture it. It's a freak injury and there isn't a lot you can do about it. I'm disappointed for the lad because he's such a nice guy and has fitted in well. We will just keep progressing it as best as we can. We will speak to as many people as we can about getting him back as soon as possible but, obviously, we are going to make sure he's right when he comes back. He's feeling really low. When you go to a new club you want to come in and make a good impression, which he has done in the short time he has been here. In the games he has played, his quality and technical ability has shone through. It's a real blow for him but, from our point of view, it's important we look after him now and not just leave him on his own. We will make sure he gets what he needs and stays involved with everyone in the squad. I have been there myself with injuries. There are lots of hours spent in the gym on your own and the physio becomes your best mate. He will have high days and low days, but if we can keep his morale going, hopefully, it will help speed up his recovery."
Maxime Blanchard sat out the friendly against Tiverton Town last night because of a rib injury. The injury is not a serious one, however, and Blanchard took part in the warm-up before the game. Carl Fletcher said: "He got a bang in the ribs at the end of last season against Morecambe and it's the same side. He did the warm-up last night but we just didn't want him to get another bang on it. Hopefully, he can train on Thursday."
Following the win over Tiverton Town last night, Carl Fletcher was in a particularly optimistic mood. "It's good to get the win," he said. "We played a different formation today and we wanted to do it so we can get used to it in case we want to change it up during the season. It was a good workout and I want to say thanks to Tiverton for allowing us to come here. Pre-season has been good. I've played in loads of these games over the years and you have to have your attitude right and we've done that. I'm not too fussed about results but it's pleasing to get the wins and tonight was good. It's only a couple of weeks now until the start of the season and we're getting there."
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