A Round-up of Argyle News
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Paul Sturrock has confirmed that Mathias Doumbe is currently on trial at Millwall and will play in their friendly against Middlesbrough tomorrow. Sturrock said: "Mat won't be travelling with us on Saturday. He's going to be playing a trial game for Millwall. We've given permission for him to play the game so he's travelled up and trained with them this morning." Sturrock revealed that Simon Walton has also been on trial at Millwall. "Walton has been away for the last three or four days now," he added.
Paul Sturrock is hopeful that Chris Barker will be fit in time for the new season, but admits he may have to do without him. "It's pretty bad," he said, "It's a calf tear. With the pain he's showing and everything else, it doesn't look good. He's having it scanned today or tomorrow. So really, discussing time-frame wise, we won't be able to make a decision until the scans come back."
Romain Larrieu has been heartened by the return of the renowned Argyle team spirit a week ahead of the new season. The lack of cohesion and camaraderie in the dressing room last season was, he said, due to the club being 'in transition', while Paul Sturrock brought in new players. He said: "I think I must have bored people to death last year when I was saying we are in transition. I must have said it 2,000 times, but it's true. It was a difficult situation for the club, but we managed to get through it. This year the manager has had the players for a decent amount of time and he knows them all much better. I don't know, but yes there is something that has happened in Scotland. You can see there is a good spirit among the boys, a good spirit in the dressing room and people are pulling together. It's nice to see because I am not going to make a huge revelation by saying that was not always the case last year. So far this year you can see the signs are there and it's up to us to decide where we want to go." Larrieu is confident the team are getting to grips with the diamond formation and was pleased with the performances against Hearts. He said: "We are pleased with the performance, we managed to keep the ball well and go forward at the same time. That is everything we have been trying to do during pre-season. I think we can take a lot of confidence from the game. We started really well, created a lot of chances in the first half and I did not have anything to do. It was a good exercise in the shape we have been working on all pre-season and it looked good. People wanted the ball, they were showing for the ball all the times, showing some confidence and they were helping each other, talking with each other and it was nice to see because with those intentions those players are as good as any players I have seen here. It is just about intentions because if you want the ball as much as that, then you can play that system really well like we have done. The only thing missing was a goal. This formation is based on passing the ball to each other, working hard and then being a lot more clever when we lose the ball. It was pleasing for me as I was almost a spectator for most of the game, so I could actually have a good look at it. I could see in the players' eyes how much they wanted this formation because that is what matters. It is not just about formations, it is about how much the players want to make it work, that is a big factor."
Bradley Wright-Phillips is keen to start tomorrow's friendly at Swindon Town after completing his first full game for Argyle in the draw with Hearts. He said: "It was nice, a good work-out and things are coming together nicely. That was my first 90 minutes and I felt much sharper. Hopefully, I will get some more game-time. My sharpness is okay at the moment, but it could get a lot better, but it was nice to run out at Home Park. It was a pre-season game and the crowd wasn't like it would be for a league game, people have to work and all that, but I enjoyed it. Hearts are in the SPL, so we knew it was going to be a tough game. The boys worked hard, though, and all that was really missing was a goal in the end. I had a chance, and we had a few others as well, but like I said, all that was really missing was a goal. The manager has got players to play, but if I don't play on Saturday I will just rest up and then look to play in the next match." Wright-Phillips also added that he was now settling into life at the club. "The trip to Scotland was good, it was good to be with the boys 24-7," he said. "And it helped me get to know them a lot better. All the boys are good, but I had help as I've known Jason Puncheon for a while, so it was a bit easier for me to settle in."
Argyle drew 0-0 against Hearts at Home Park last night. Argyle: Larrieu, McNamee, Timar, Seip, Sawyer, Fletcher; Arnason, Paterson, Puncheon, MacLean, Wright-Phillips. Subs – Clark, Duguid, Fallon, Noone (not used - Summerfield, Barnes, Saxton). Attendance - 4,177.
Reda Johnson was unable to play in last nights game as the club were still waiting for international clearance for him. Paul Sturrock said: "I've sent him home to France to get all his stuff, and I'm hopeful that he'll report back in time for the game at Swindon on Saturday. The problem is that he's only had one training session with us today, and he won't have time for another. That's a wee bit worrying, and I'll have to take that into consideration."
Chris Barker was having a scan today on the calf injury he suffered in the warm-up before Argyle's draw against Hearts. Paul Sturrock said: "He pulled a calf in the warm-up, which is a bit disappointing. But, to be fair, I thought Krisztian went in and did okay." Sturrock was reasonably content with what he saw from his side. He said: "I thought we were busy and workmanlike in the first half. The boys stuck to their task of what we were trying to achieve. Our final ball let us down a wee bit, but that's something that will come with the work we do on the training ground. In the second half, you have got to give credit to Hearts. They came into the game and pressed higher up the football pitch. I think the general fitness of the team looked good. We kept going for the full 90 minutes, which is the whole idea of it, and I thought David McNamee started to show signs of what he can achieve. Gary Sawyer looks comfortable at left-back, but the boy Fletcher needs games. It was a worthwhile exercise, and I'm glad the game went on. That was important to us." Sturrock was referring to the fact that there had been heavy rain for most of the day but the pitch stood up to the rigours of the match. Sturrock said: "Obviously, it has been scarred a wee bit and will have to be put back into place. But, for the rain we had, it played very well." Hearts rarely tested Romain Larrieu, but their defence proved resilient too. Sturrock said: "You have got to remember we were playing a team that was third to Rangers and Celtic last season. And they weren't far away from them. It wasn't as if they were 25 or 30 points away from them. It was much tighter than that. They have got some good foreign players and they were a worthy third place. I thought they showed what a solid team they can be. They are a big, robust side and can definitely cause you problems." Argyle's final full-scale friendly is at Swindon Town on Saturday. But an Argyle XI will play at Tiverton Town next Monday, and there could be another game arranged for the following night. Sturrock added: "We have got a lot of players now and we have got to keep them ticking over."
Argyle took on Hearts last night using the midfield 'diamond' formation, and stuck to it for most of the game. Paul Sturrock said: "I wanted to look at it for as long as I could. I changed things a wee bit when I sent Noone on, but I wanted to see how the system worked at home. It has given me food for thought." When asked about the likelihood of the system being used when Argyle meet QPR in their first home game on August 15th, Sturrock replied: "It has a good opportunity, because it's all we've really worked on. We have to come up with something different from what we were playing here last season. It wasn't enough. We let ourselves down too many times, but this year we've pushed the players really hard and they've all responded well to it. They're all trying to be comfortable on the ball and to play to shape."
Reda Johnson has joined countrymen Romain Larrieu and Mathias Doumbe at Home Park but insists that he would have signed regardless of their presence. Speaking through translator Larrieu, he said: "Obviously it is a factor, but I didn't sign because there was French players; I would have signed anyway. To integrate and to know how the club works and how the City is, obviously it does help to have someone who can speak your language." Whilst admitting that he was close to a deal with Aberdeen, Reda revealed that the lure of playing in England is what attracted him to Argyle. "In my mind I just wanted to get into the UK to play in England," he said. "Gaining the opportunity to play straight away in England is why a move to Argyle was so attractive to me. Just looking at the fixtures I feel very lucky to be involved a club that is going to play against those clubs." Johnson added that his main focus now is on getting into the first team and not what may happen in years to come. "I've still so much to learn and so much to prove," he said. "All I can see right now is getting into he first team and then we'll see where that takes me, but it is very hard to project yourself five years in football because you don't really know."
Having returned home from the pre-season tour of Scotland, Paul Sturrock believes that he has developed a greater understanding of just how to get the best from his players, one in particular. He said: "Everybody saw how Rory performed at the start of last season, and everybody saw the way Rory performed at the end of last season. I think Rory would be the first to put his hands up and say it wasn't to the standards he was achieving earlier. If it takes me to take a stick to him every time that Rory goes out; I'll quite happily do that, for the simple reason that when he got riled up, his performance dramatically improved." Sturrock is convinced that his squad are more prepared for the coming season after managing to stay up last year. "There was an awful lot of young players trying to find their feet last year, under the sever pressure of having to stay in this league," he said. "It's difficult at times for people to progress and develop. We're on a learning-curve as a team at this minute in time and I'm on a learning-curve with some of them to just get the best out of them."
Argyle confirmed the signing of defender Reda Johnson today, for an undisclosed fee. Paul Sturrock said: "As far as the financial terms with the football club and the player are concerned, we have cleared all that. I think I'm getting a very solid central defender who has got attributes which will be a great benefit to us. This boy has had only 12 games in his career – and some of those were as a substitute. He has kind of fallen under the radar, but I saw on Saturday that there is definite potential there. Whether that potential floods onto the football pitch quickly, will really be up to the boy and how he adjusts to the English game. But he has things in his game that would be a great benefit to the football club." Johnson sought out the opinion of Glasgow Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra before deciding to sign for Argyle. The pair were both at FC Gueugnon at the same time, and Bougherra played for Sturrock at Sheffield Wednesday. Sturrock said: "Johnson wants to play in England and he wants to play at a high standard. He was a kid at Gueugnon and Bougherra was in the team, but they knew each other from playing in a couple of games for the reserves together. He had a phone call with Bougherra and they chatted about the whole scenario. I think that conversation swayed him to come to England." Sturrock described Johnson as 'very novicey' but has not ruled out the possibility of him immediately challenging for a first team spot. He said: "I will give him every opportunity to show me he's the man for the job. Bougherra was the same type of player when I bought him. He had a naivety and a foreign element to his game but he pushed himself straight into the first team. This boy is no different, and will see how quickly he adapts to the English game."
Paul Sturrock will continue experimenting with tactics when Argyle play Hearts tonight. He said: "I have used two systems since the pre-season started, and I just want to have a wee look at them in the 90 minutes. I want to see if either of them catches my eye at home." After taking on Hearts, Argyle's final full-scale pre-season friendly will be at Swindon Town on Saturday. Sturrock added: "I will probably revert back to our usual away formation in the game against Swindon." Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kari Arnason are set to make their first Home Park appearances tonight but Jamie Mackie is struggling with a slight injury and may not be involved. Sturrock said: "I will have to deliberate whether I take a chance on him or I get it out of his system."
Paul Sturrock has admitted he wants to add another right-back to his squad. David McNamee is Argyle's only recognised right-back and Sturrock wants some competition for him. He said: "I'm still looking in that department. I would like two people for each position on the football pitch. I don't have another right-back so it's quite important I bring one in. I have got a couple I'm working on at the moment, but unsuccessfully, I may add, at this minute." Sturrock also knows he must move players on because of the ever-increasing size of his squad. He has stopped short of closing the door completely on Yoann Folly and Simon Walton, despite leaving them behind when Argyle went on tour to Scotland last week. He said: "Folly took a knock at Parkway and it did not respond to treatment, so his trial did not happen. I'm very hopeful that he'll get himself fit in the next couple of days, and that the trial will materialise. Walton is still here and he's still our player. I never close the door on anybody. It's a bit stupid to do that. He's an employee of this football club and, if I need him, it would be up to me to have a conversation with him and see where we both stand." Sturrock spelled out what the future could hold for any player he wants to move on, should they remain at Home Park. He said: "You keep them informed and in the loop and something might turn up that interests them. It's a long, long season playing reserve team football, or not even playing reserve team football. Cutting a whole year out of your footballing career seems stupid to me. I think there is middle ground to everybody." Sturrock admitted having so many players in his squad caused practical problems for him. He said: "If I have got players coming in at one end and they are not going out the other then it's going to be pretty hard on the training ground to keep everybody warm. I'm probably working a wee bit harder on moving players out at this minute, rather than bringing players in."
Paul Sturrock hopes that Home Park will be able to witness Bradley Wright-Phillips' first goal for the club in tonight's friendly against Hearts. "Bradley is still to get a goal but, to be fair to him, he has created a chance in every game he has played," he said. "I've been very pleased with that side of his game. He definitely has attributes which will be a great benefit to this football club, but the confidence that goes with scoring goals is something that I think might be starting to play on his mind. Hopefully, he'll burst on to the scene goal-wise, and he'll go from strength to strength."
Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee has insisted he has hard no feelings with Paul Sturrock over the imminent signing of Reda Johnson. "I have no hard feelings with Paul Sturrock," he said McGhee. "It's dog-eat-dog in this business." Aberdeen were initially interested in a loan deal for Johnson, before deciding to pursue a permanent transfer. Had they gone for the second option earlier, they would probably have signed him. "It's frustrating because we could have had the deal done for very little money if we had boxed clever," said McGhee. "Unfortunately, we didn't box cleverly enough. We have been unable to reach the requirements of the French club and that has clearly led to Reda's name being punted about. We certainly can't compete with the sort of wages they are paying. We can't come close to matching them, so we just have to accept Reda has gone and move on." McGhee had also been interested in taking Steve MacLean and Jim Paterson on season-long loans and Aberdeen's director of football Willie Miller entered that debate yesterday and, in doing so, revealed the salaries of the Argyle players. He said: "We tried to bring a couple of lads in on loan from a mid-table Championship side, but given these guys were on £3,500 and £5,000 per week, we simply can't compete. Equally, while we will do everything we can to support Mark we have to ensure Aberdeen Football Club is still around in the future."
Reda Johnson has agreed a two-year contract with Argyle, according to newspaper reports. The club have agreed a transfer fee with Amiens, and also personal terms with the player and are awaiting international clearance from the French FA before officially unveiling him. Should all the paperwork be completed in time, Johnson will play for Argyle in their friendly against Hearts tomorrow.
David McNamee is determined to be Argyle's regular right-back for the forthcoming season. He said: "I plan to be right-back all season – as simple as that. I have got no ifs or buts about it. I'm fit, and I believe I will hold that spot down. I got 60 minutes under my belt against the Romanians, who were a decent outfit, and I had a 45-minute work-out on Saturday. I hate coming on as a substitute, because you don't always get up to the pace of the game, but it was good to get another 45 minutes. It's all about getting time on the pitch for me just now and getting the muscles going." McNamee was injured early in pre-season training, and admitted it was his own fault. He said. "It was something I was doing in the gym that I shouldn't have been doing. It wasn't due to sprinting or anything like that. It was something that, for me, at the age I am and with my history, I shouldn't have been doing. It settled down really quickly and they held me back an extra three or four days just as a precaution, but I feel fine now." Prior to signing for Argyle, McNamee suffered from hamstring trouble for two years at Coventry, but he believes he has overcome that. He said: "I didn't have a problem with my hamstring last season, so I'm hopeful with the work I'm doing with Maxie and in the gym, it will be fine this season." Asked about Argyle's preparations for the new campaign, McNamee said: "The team seems to be shaping up fine, but it's always a tough one to say really. Sometimes you see teams struggle their way through pre-season and then, as soon as the season starts, they seem to find their legs. Hopefully, with us getting a few wins, we will carry that on into the season. But everything changes when the first day of the season comes. You are never fully 100 per cent sure how you will do. Fingers crossed, we will be ready." McNamee believes Hearts will provide a good test for Argyle tomorrow. He added: "Hearts have got some decent lads. We had a test with Dundee United last pre-season and I think Hearts will be a slight step-up from that. It will definitely be a good indicator of how far on we are."
Reda Johnson was the trialist who played for Argyle in their win at Morecambe on Saturday. Johnson was born in France but has represented Benin at international level and is currently with French third division side Amiens. The defender had a trial with Aberdeen earlier this month, and they are thought to be keen on signing him also.
Paul Sturrock will not be following up his interest in Zoltan Szelesi. He said: "He hadn't played competitively for two months and then played two games in four days. That definitely showed, and that's why I pulled him out at half-time. I did feel he might have hurt himself in some way." David McNamee will start at right-back when Argyle take on Hearts at Home Park on Wednesday. Sturrock said: "David has got a lot of football to catch up with. There is definitely a lack of sharpness in his game so far. He needs games, so he got 45 minutes against Morecambe and he will start on Wednesday."
Paul Sturrock is busily trying to secure the services of the mystery French defender who played as a trialist in the 2-0 victory over Morecambe on Saturday. Sturrock would not name the player, who is contracted to another club and had been highly recommended to him. Sturrock spoke to the player, and his two representatives, at length after the game but was not prepared to make any comment.
Argyle's interest in Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam has reportedly cooled. Rangers want a £500,000 transfer fee for Adam and combined with his wages that will almost certainly put him out of Argyle's reach.
Lloyd Saxton faces a lengthy lay-off because of a broken bone in his right wrist. Paul Sturrock revealed that Saxton was actually injured shortly before the squad set off to Scotland last week but with no time to sort out a replacement he still went on the trip. Having now returned to Plymouth he will need surgery and Sturrock admitted his preference was taking a young keeper on loan from a Premier League club as cover. He said: "We are a goalie short because the boy Saxton is now going back to have an operation on his wrist. It will take him out from three to six months, which is disappointing for me because I think he did very competently today. He definitely showed a confidence in his performance, and saving the penalty will do him the world of good. The problem we have now is we have got to find somebody who will be adaptable enough to handle performing if Ro maybe had a wee, niggling knock. But getting a keeper who comes into that kind of category is very difficult. In an ideal world, I would like a younger keeper, who would gain experience by sitting on the bench and playing for the reserves. And, obviously, if Ro was injured in a game, he would go on and do his business for the team. I would have to deliberate then whether we kept going with him or whether we brought an experienced keeper in."
Paul Sturrock believes his squad felt the benefit of their week's training-camp in Scotland as they beat Morecambe yesterday. He said: "I think the work we've done on the training-ground definitely showed in our sharpness, I didn't feel the first half was to the standards that we achieved in the second half. Strangely enough, we've looked stronger every game in the second half. We'll keep working on the sharpness of the team, and the finishing, just trying to get a rhythm going." Lloyd Saxton's strong performance was tempered by the news that he will miss about three months to address a wrist injury. "Lloyd's first game in Torquay was a bit ring-rusty but he showed a confidence in his performance today," said Sturrock. "Saving the penalty will do him a world of good. Now we the problem we have is we need to find somebody who will be adaptable enough to be able to handle performing if Ro had a wee niggling knock. We may need to use the loan market to cover ourselves." Zoltan Szelesi started the game after but only played the first 45 minutes, leaving Sturrock with a decision to make on the trialist. He said: "Szelesi's going to go home and I'm going to have a wee think about it over the next couple of days, talk to Sloop about his thoughts and see what he says, see what the coaches think, and then I'll deliberate on my thoughts. He's not played a competitive game in two months and now he's played two games in four days and that's why I pulled him out at half-time." David McNamee, a second-half substitute yesterday, will play against Hearts at Home Park on Wednesday. "David's got a lot of football to catch up with," said Sturrock. "There's definitely a lack of sharpness in his game so far. He had to get on today to get that 45 minutes and he'll start the game on Wednesday."
Tony Campbell and Ollie Rayner will hold key positions in Argyle's new off-the-pitch management structure following the announcement that Michael Dunford is leaving the club. Campbell will be responsible for marketing and sponsorship matters, while Rayner will deal with financial aspects and player contracts. Keith Todd said: "What we have done is split up the two core off-field activities. One is what I call the income and experience team, and I have put those two words together very deliberately. Income is not just about getting money from people. It's about giving customers, whether they are fans or corporate sponsors, a great experience. That team is going to be led by Tony Campbell. We are also going to have a finance and commercial compliance team, and that will be under Ollie Rayner. He will have responsibility for money management, the contracts and all the FA regulatory details that Carole Rowntree does very well for the club. She will be part of Ollie's team." Rayner comes from Plymouth and has previously worked with Todd in London. Todd said: "Ollie's father actually has an accountancy practice in Plymouth, so it's a natural fit. He's a very experienced financial person and will strengthen the club with his knowledge and ability. Some people dismiss planning but, fundamentally, the ability to execute depends on having a good plan to start with." Todd, meanwhile, will oversee the club's communications department, which is headed by Rick Cowdery and more onus is being put on Argyle's head of youth development Gordon Bennett. Todd added: "We are intending to run the youth development department as a business unit in its own right. We are planning on establishing links in Asia and the United States, and we have asked Gordon to do that for us."
Argyle won 2-0 in todays friendly at Morecambe, the goals scored by Gary Sawyer and Jim Paterson. Two trialists played in the game, Hungarian right-back Zoltan Szelesi and a centre-back named as Brian Spring. Argyle: Saxton, Szelesi, Timar, Spring, Barker, Clark, Paterson, Puncheon, Mackie, Barnes, MacLean. Subs - McNamee, Seip, Sawyer, Summerfield, Fallon, Wright-Phillips, Fletcher (not used - Larrieu).
Paul Sturrock will give trialist Zoltan Szelesi a second-chance to impress in the friendly at Morecambe. He said: "It was difficult to make an assessment - Unirea play a different style to most of the teams we play in our league so it was difficult to judge him on a British footing. I'd like to see him in the hurly-burly of English football, which I'm sure will be stiff test for him." Carl Fletcher looks set to play despite suffering a toe injury in training on Tuesday. "He's fine," said Sturrock. "We'll have to see if there's any reaction from training. If there's no reaction, he'll come on at half-time." David McNamee, who made his pre-season bow after a calf injury when he started aginst Unirea, will also see some action. Sturrock said: "I'm watching him because, obviously, he's missed a lot of the games. He played for an hour the other night. I felt it wasn't appropriate to put him in again, but he'll play a part in the game." With two weeks to go until Argyle start the new season at Crystal Palace, Strruock knows what he is looking for. He said: "Development, as far as performance from the individual and from the team is concerned. We're tampering a wee bit in this game from what we've been doing in the last two or three games, Not a great deal. We should be able to handle it. I'm looking for that sharpness that has been missing in most of the games so far. The important thing is that we realise that the next two weeks are vitally important for the first game against Crystal Palace - the individual performances, the team performance and the results all go hand in hand."
Karl Duguid believes Argyle's pre-season tour to Scotland has been a successful team-bonding exercise. He said: "Last year we went to Austria and it was a little bit earlier in the pre-season. We were training three times a day and it was more like a prison camp, to be honest with you. It was a lot harder. On this trip, we have had more games and I think the lads are bonding more. There is a lot more to do around here. You have got the golf course and the computer room. A load of us went to the cinema the other night, so I think it's more of that kind of trip. We probably didn't do enough of that last season. We all feel that we needed to get to each know other on a different level. All the lads have had a good time, and the training has gone well." The University of Stirling has proved to be an excellent base for Argyle. Duguid said: "The facilities are great and the rooms in the hotel are lovely. Like I say, it's completely different to what Austria was, but I think it is important to get away so the lads do get to know each other." Duguid admitted the Argyle squad was a lot more settled now. He added: "A lot of people came in before the start of last season, including some different trialists, and it was very unsettled. That probably continued into the start of the season, where the manager didn't really know his best team and things like that. I'm sure he has got an idea of what he wants to play by now. Fletch has come in, but he was part of the team last season anyway. The Icelandic boy has just come in, but he has just fitted straight in, actually. He seems a nice lad and he speaks good English, which is a massive plus. It's hard for them and hard for us when players don't really speak English and they don't understand things." Duguid thought team spirit would be very important for Argyle this season, as they compete against clubs with far more resources. He said: "I think everyone being together as a team is going to be very important this season. Obviously, the manager wants to bring his squad down to whatever amount and I think it will be a very tight-knit group." Sturrock has been experimenting with different formations in pre-season as he searches for an option to use in home matches other than 4-4-2. Duguid said: "The manager is looking for a Plan B this season, but I don't know what he's going to start with. I think he's just looking at different things so we have got something else to fall back on. At home last season, 4-4-2 didn't really work for whatever reason. So I think he's just looking at different things because if we do change our system during a game then everyone knows what to do. There is nothing worse than not working on something and then you go into it in a game. Everyone ends up running around everywhere and not really understanding their position. I think the manager wants every player to get used to what to do if we do play in those positions."
Paul Sturrock has come to the realisation that Craig Noone is an out-and-out winger after trying him out in a couple of different roles during pre-season. He said: "Nooney has proved to be a wide left player. I have tried all sorts of other permutations for him, but that's what he is."
Paul Sturrock has tipped Graham Stack to be a success at his new club Hibernian. Stack has admitted there were 'personality differences' between him and Sturrock but the manager insisted there were no hard feelings on his part. Sturrock said: "At the end of the day, Stacky has got to play in somebody's first team. If you look at his track record over the years, he has gone from being back-up at one club to back-up at another one. I wish him all the best and I'm sure he will be a great success at Hibs." Sturrock would not be drawn on what the 'personality differences' were. He said: "We are professional men and we are in football. That's all I really want to say about it. As I have said all along, it's important to his career that he plays in somebody's first team now. He has got a great opportunity to do that and I wish him all the best." Sturrock will now be hoping that Yoann Folly and Simon Walton will follow Stack out of Home Park. He added: "Everything is ongoing at this minute in time. I'm still looking at bringing players in, so it's a bit of everything. I think Folly has been away in France for the last couple of days. I have not heard back yet."
Argyle are being linked with Glasgow Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam, who watched Argyle's win against Urziceni on Wednesday. It is also reported that Paul Sturrock has been trying to line up a second trialist to play in today's match against Morecambe.
Romain Larrieu can continue to perform at a high level for at least another five years according to Geoff Crudgington. He said: "You would think a minimum of five years, provided he stays clear of injuries. That's the key thing. Ro's a fit boy and he looks after himself away from training as well. So these days, I don't think anybody can put a limit on it. It's very often dependent on staying clear of injury, really." Larrieu was named the club's player-of-the-year last season and Crudgington thought the recognition was well deserved. He said: "It was very pleasing because he has worked so hard for so long. He has worked his socks off ever since he has been here, to be fair to him. He's brilliant to work with." Larrieu's fine form came after he had waged a successful battle against testicular cancer in the previous couple of years. Crudgington said: "I don't think people understand how much something like that effects you, physically and mentally. I'm sure I didn't at the time. He didn't really play a game for the best part of 18 months. So to come back and have a season like he did, I thought was brilliant. I was really pleased for Ro, and his family, because obviously they were under a lot of strain as well." Larrieu signed for Argyle in November 2000, and has worked with Crudgington on a daily basis for much of the time since, who believes he has shown a lot of improvement over the years. "He has just matured, I suppose," said Crudgington. "It does happen to all of us. We all grow up eventually. The things you go through, and the mistakes you make, it's all experience. It's just a learning process. You never stop learning as a goalkeeper really because the game changes slightly, all the while." Crudgington did not, however, think Larrieu's form of last season was the best of his career, describing 2001/02 as his best season. He said: "That year, I think he had 28 clean sheets, which is phenomenal for anybody. But, having said that, he was playing in a successful team at a much lower level. Last season, he was playing in a not-so-successful team at a very good level, so it's very difficult to compare really. He's certainly as good as ever, I would say." Crudgington also works with Lloyd Saxton and has been pleased with his progress. He said: "Lloyd is doing ever so well. He has probably needed an extra year to mature and start growing up, physically as much as mentally. We are quite pleased with him at the moment." Although there is a considerable difference in age and experience, Larrieu and Saxton work well together in training. Crudgington added: "Ro is a good guy and he's quite happy to help Lloyd out."
Rory Fallon was kicked, shoved and mauled by Unirea Urziceni defenders on Wednesday, but stuck to his task and scored the winner in the 2-1 victory. Despite the punishment he took, Fallon enjoyed his night's work. He said: "It was a good win for us. They played a lot of football and we couldn't cope in the first half, but, as soon we changed formation, we came back and we really showed a lot of guts. We never did that – come from behind to win a game – last season. It's good for us to show that we can do it. In the first half, we were a bit lost, but in the second half we played a lot of good stuff. It was a tough game for me, but that was good as well, because it's a physical game in the Championship. It was good to get another 90 minutes in, and I'm feeling sharp and feeling good. I know I can score, it's just about getting chances and putting them away. I just pray it can continue." Fallon was also pleased to see Steve MacLean thrive in his attacking midfield role. He added: "It was an awesome goal from Steve, and he's looking good in what is probably a new position for him. He can keep the ball for you, and he did well." Asked for his verdict on his pre-season preparations so far, Fallon said: "I'm really happy with my pre-season. I'm just trying to get as fit as possible. I know that, if I'm as fit and as strong as possible, not many people can hold me back. It's up to me to get as fit and as strong as possible, and the rest will fall into place."
Argyle confirmed today that Graham Stack has been released.
Argyle today announced that Michael Dunford is leaving the club. The club statement said: Following an internal management restructure, the role of Chief Executive Officer will no longer exist from July 31, 2009. As a result, and as a consequence of that restructure, the current CEO, Michael Dunford, will leave from that date. Michael has worked tirelessly for the club since he joined in January 2005 and has, throughout, been an excellent ambassador for all the club has stood for. The Board would like to publicly thank Michael for his work on behalf of the club and its fans, and wish him well for the future.
Argyle beat Unirea Urziceni 2-1 in last nights friendly, the goals scored by Rory Fallon and Steve MacLean. New signing Kari Arnason made his first appearance for Argyle and trialist Zoltan Szelesi was also included in the line-up. Paul Sturrock put the win down to 'a good attitude and a good team-spirit'. He said: "You could see a quality in them in the first half. It's one big pitch and it was difficult to get close to them but we changed a wee bit in the second half, got in their faces a touch more and upset them a wee bit, and it worked for us. Something had to be done. We had to make it simplistic a wee bit more, to stop them from starting the game at the back, and that worked. First half, we looked as if we were worried about them; second half, we came out with a different, positive attitude, and turned the game." Rory Fallon, riled by the close attention of the Unirea defence, was a handful for the opposition in the second half, something Sturrock would like to see in the upcoming season. He added: "I'm going to put Rory in a dark room for somebody to batter the hell out of him before the kick-off, and then I think we might see the Rory we saw tonight! It proves to me there is a mental approach to the game that Rory hasn't overcome. Saying that, he could have got sent off tonight. They couldn't handle him, plus, all of a sudden, the back four couldn't dictate the game and had to play long balls." The victory came two days after a defeat by Livingston, but Sturrock is pleased with his squad's progress. He said: "If we had managed to nip another goal against Livingston, I would be really, really content with the way we are starting to shape up. The result was against Livingston was a disappointment. I didn't think the perfomance was too bad, but everybody judges games on wins. I didn't think we played well tonight in the first half, but, at the end of the day we've won the game. I'm pleased for them all. I'm actually pleased for the work they've put in. There was a good attitude and a good team-spirit. I was a wee bit worried how we were going to react. Unirea are going to play in the Champions' League, and have spent an awful lot of money on their players." Argyle: Larrieu, Szelesi, Doumbe, Seip, McNamee, Arnason, Duguid, Noone, MacLean, Wright-Phillips, Fallon. Subs – Paterson, Barker, Clark, Mackie (not used - Saxton, Puncheon, Barnes, Timar, McCrory).
Paul Sturrock has been enjoying Argyle's stay at the University of Stirling – despite the varying weather. He said: "The food has been fantastic, the facilities are excellent and the people here are desperate to make sure you enjoy your stay. The nice thing about it all is that it's pure Scottish weather. You can get soaked, you can freeze and you can roast all in the same day!"
Paul Sturrock wants to take another look at trialist Zoltan Szelesi. Asked about his performance against Unirea last night, Sturrock replied: "I thought he was competent. I would like to see him against British opposition, but I don't know when his flight is. If he could hang about until Saturday, it would probably be a good idea to have another look." Sturrock admitted Szelesi had improved after a shaky start. He said: "It must be very difficult for somebody to come in and play when he doesn't know anybody." Kari Arnason played for the first time since joining Argyle. Sturrock said: "Arnason was running in quicksand after about 65 minutes and he was up to his neck by the end of it. It was difficult for him because he doesn't know the names of the players and his fitness levels aren't the best. But he went about his job and did it nice and simply. I think we are going to see him attacking things in both boxes as well once he gets totally fit." Carl Fletcher was ruled out of the game after suffering a toe injury in training yesterday morning.
Jim Paterson has spelled out his desire to stay at Argyle, despite interest from Aberdeen. He said: "To be honest, the manager hasn't said a word to me. I have read the speculation in the papers as well, but Paul Sturrock is my manager and he hasn't told me anything. The only thing the manager has spoken to me about is the shape of the team. So until Paul Sturrock tells me otherwise, I'm here to fight for my place." Paterson is content off the pitch, living in the moorland town of Tavistock. He said: "I like it in Tavistock. The family are settled there and everybody loves it. The only person that was grumpy towards the end of last season was me. That was just because of the frustration of not being involved. I was in the stand and the team weren't winning. But we are still in the Championship, it's a new season and it's a clean slate. We are all fighting for places again. It's a chance to get another opportunity and get back in the team. Towards the end of last season was probably the most frustrating part of my career. It was disappointing not being involved. It was the first time it had ever happened to me. I was sat in the stand and I didn't enjoy it, I will be honest. So I'm putting in the hard work to hopefully open his eyes and try to get back in the team." Sturrock has praised Paterson for his performances in the midfield 'diamond' during pre-season and the player has enjoyed his new role, which seems to be bringing the best out of him. He said: "It has suited me quite well. We tried it for a couple of games last season and it didn't work. I think the manager is trying to find a formation because at home we were a bit predictable. We are getting the ball down and passing it through midfield, rather than maybe taking the direct route to our strikers." Paterson has found the Championship to be extremely competitive. He said: "I have met a couple of people while we have been up here – Steven Pressley, for example – and they have asked me about it. No disrespect to the SPL, which is a good league, but there are massive games in the Championship every week. We have got Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the Championship this season, which has added another two massive ties to it. Then you have got good teams that have come up, such as Peterborough. Every week is a difficult game in the Championship." Argyle start their league campaign at Crystal Palace on August 8th and Paterson added: "We need to start fast. We owe a lot to the home support. We were disappointing at home last season. We're not going to make any excuses, but we are back with a clean slate again on zero points."
Hibernian manager John Hughes has confirmed his interest in Graham Stack. He said: "He is one that's on our radar. There are three or four on our radar. Graham was one I tried to bring to Falkirk. He started off at Arsenal and then lost his way a wee bit. He is fantastic with the ball at his feet. He has great distribution. He is a great shot-stopper, he fills his goals well and, most importantly, he is a real strong character. But there are one or two others still sniffing about."
Romain Larrieu hopes his side can use tonight's friendly with Unirea as a learning curve in the art of European football. He said: "I know obviously, from where I am, the way we like to play football in Europe; they will be passing the ball and we'll be trying to get it back. It's what we do with the ball when we do get it back because they should be good at passing it - that is how they play football over there. When we are going to get it back, we are going to have to show composure." Larrieu believes the chance to play against European opposition is one that the team can benefit from. "It's going to be a good work-out for us," he said." That is why it's good to play a team from Europe in pre-season because it gives you a different type of exercise. It should be a good experience."
Trialist Zoltan Szelesi will play at right-back for Argyle in their friendly against Unirea Urziceni tonight. Szelesi trained with the squad for the first time yesterday morning and his inclusion in the side will see David McNamee, who has recovered from a calf strain, play at left-back. Carl Fletcher will also return to action after a similar injury. Paul Sturrock expects Urziceni to provide difficult opposition. He said: "The one good thing about the game is that it's going to enable us to work a wee bit harder on pressing the ball. They are going to have it a lot of the time and play a European style, with a slow build-up and then, all of a sudden, be quite quick. So we are going to work on that side of it, and make sure we start to develop an understanding of the change from when we have the ball to when the other team have the ball." Sturrock is not worried about playing opponents with a style so dissimilar from the Championship. "They will pass the ball, which enables me to work on some things," he added. Kari Arnason will not be involved against Urziceni as Sturrock wants to check on his fitness before giving him a run-out. He said: "Arnason won't play until I see a general fitness in him, but I have seen enough in training to tell he has a range of passing and will be a benefit to us. He has a pre-season to do, which he hasn't done yet with any football club."
Kari Arnason's first aim is to get into 'top shape' as soon as possible. He has been training on his own, and with former club Vikingur in Iceland, before his trial with Argyle last week. "I have done a little bit, but not enough," he said. "I went to the club in Iceland where I played from five to 19 and I trained to get my footwork going because that's the first thing you lose when you are on holiday. Then I ran a lot by myself and did weight training. Stuff like that." Arnason is relishing the prospect of playing in England. He said: "The atmosphere at games in Sweden is quite under-rated. Djurgarden are one of three teams based in Stockholm and the derbies are insane. There are 40,000 people there and you can't hear anything. I'm used to that, but it's different in England. It's total madness, so I'm looking forward to it, definitely. They have been showing English football on TV in Iceland for many years, and everybody watches it." Arnason is the second player from Iceland to sign for Argyle, the other being Bjarni Gudjonsson. Arnason said: "Gudjonsson's best friend is a good friend of mine. He was around the national team when I was first called up. "He dropped out soon afterwards so I didn't really get to know him personally, but I know of him."
Most of the Argyle players who started Monday's game against Livingston will start on the bench or be given the night off against Unirea tonight. The starting XI though is likely to include some who came off the bench on Monday, like Rory Fallon and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Paul Sturrock said: "Rory and Bradley looked like they could be a good pairing." Steve MacLean also performed well, at the front of the midfield 'diamond'. "Steve has been one of our best performers this pre-season," Sturrock said. "He came on against Livingston on Monday and changed the game. I'm not writing anybody off. I've got to pick the best 11 players I have for the game at Crystal Palace." Sturrock was not too upset that his team lost for the first time this summer on Monday. "I don't care about results at the moment, I just want to see that they've learned from what we're doing in training," he said. "Monday's game showed me what needs to be done in training, as far as sharpness is concerned, and it showed me that we need to have a bit more self-belief when we pass the ball."
Argyle lost 2-1 to Livingston in their friendly last night, the goal scored by Luke Summerfield. Paul Sturrock said: "There's a sharpness missing in this team with the work we have done so far. Our finishing isn't what you would call the best at the minute. We are creating a lot of chances and not hitting the target. The boys are complaining they are a wee bit leggy so we have got to get down to the sharp stuff and the quick feet. As the game unfolded we got better, so it shows our general fitness is in decent nick. But you can't legislate for two mistakes like our centre-back made and expect to win football games. At the end of the day, it's a lesson learned." Carl Fletcher and David McNamee both missed the game due to calf strains and Kari Arnason was not included in the squad as Sturrock wants to check on his fitness before giving him a run-out. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Timar, Barker, Sawyer; Summerfield, Paterson, Clark, Puncheon, Barnes, Mackie. Subs – MacLean, Fallon, Wright-Phillips (not used - Saxton, Seip, Doumbe, Leonard, McCrory, Noone).
Graham Stack could be about to sign for Hibernian according to newspaper reports and Yoann Folly is believed to be in France this week, trying to arrange a move to a new club.
Paul Sturrock is not offering Simon Walton much hope of a return to favour at Argyle. Sturrock said: "Simon and I have had a good discussion about his whole scenario. I think it's vitally important he appreciates the situation, and we will take it from there. He wants to play at centre-back and I feel there are people who are ahead of him there. But if certain people got injured, or anything else, he's available. Everybody was told that 22 players, performance-wise, would be taken on the tour and Simon has been left behind. I think there have been people in that position who have played better than him." Walton will be put through his paces at Home Park this week, alongside first-year professionals Ryan Brett, Ben Gerring and Joe Mason. Sturrock said: "We have got a coach and a physio in to take those players. They will be doing double sessions most days. And if we had a problem with injuries here, we could probably fly up a couple of them."
Hungarian international right-back Zoltan Szelesi is believed to be the trialist on his way to Argyle's training camp in Scotland.
Paul Sturrock has high hopes for new signing Kari Arnason. He said: "He will be an asset in both boxes. He has good honest qualities. An agent contacted us about him and that opened the door for him to play in the game for trialists at our training ground. He was the stand-out player. He was the one that took your eye straight away, and he scored as well. He has played various positions for his country and his club sides. He can play at centre-back, wide right or as an attacking midfielder. He has a good range. If we can put a total fitness to him, I think we will have a player on our hands. He brings height to the team as well."
Kari Arnason joined Argyle today, agreeing a one-year contract, and admitted the lure of playing football in England was a huge factor in his decision to join the club. He said: "I have been wanting to come to England for a long time, and now this is the perfect opportunity for me. I want to see what it's all about. I like the mentality of English football. I like hard work, and physical football. I think it suits my game. There were offers from Germany, but my priority was to come to England. I pointed my agent in that direction. He found about about the trial game at Plymouth." Arnason has played as both a sitting midfielder, a position which he played in the friendly against Truro last week, and as a box to box player. When with Djurgardens IF he won the Swedish Double under manager Siggi Jonsson, a former player under Paul Sturrock at Dundee United. He said: "In Sweden, I played a more box to box role, then in Denmark the coach used me as a sitting midfielder, so I have been doing that for two years now. But it is not like I am stuck as a sitting midfielder. I would like to get into the box and head a few goals in, to be honest. We were champions in Sweden and won the cup, and were in Europe the year after, the Champions' League qualifiers, although we got knocked out early. Whilst I was in Sweden, I started playing for the national team. I scored against Sweden, which was pretty sweet, as it was on my home ground."
Bradley Wright-Phillips has revealed his two main aims for the pre-season trip to Scotland are to work on his fitness levels and score some goals. Wright-Phillips made his first appearance for Argyle at Skelmersdale United on Saturday and said: "I just need matches. Hopefully, I can get some more under my belt this week. I had been training with Southampton since June 22nd, but I just hadn't played any games." Bradley only signed for Argyle last Wednesday so the tour will give him a chance to get to know his new team-mates much better. He said: "The boys have been good to me. It hasn't been bad at all. I think we are much closer now after the long trip up here yesterday. It's not going to happen overnight but they have definitely made it easy for me." Wright-Phillips played for 62 minutes against Skelmersdale alongside Rory Fallon and added: "I felt sharp for the first half an hour. After that, I died out a bit. I have got a bit of a back problem at the moment, although it's nothing too serious. It was good playing alongside Rory. He's a target man so I tried to play off him. You had MacLean in behind, who can see a pass, so it was fun. To be fair, it doesn't matter who you play with up front, as long as you stay close and talk to each other. It's as simple as that."
Argyle are reported to be signing Icelandic international midfielder Kari Arnason. He is understood to have flown into Glasgow last night, with a view to linking up with the squad after a medical, and the tying up of some transfer formalities. Arnason played in the specially arranged trial match at Harper's Park last week and also featured in the second half against Truro City last Monday.
Craig Noone was given the honour of leading out Argyle for the game against Skelmersdale United and he enjoyed the experience. He said: "I captained Skem when I was here, so to come back and captain a Championship side is unbelievable really. All the lads were giving me stick, saying that I should put the yellow armband around my head." Noone sympathised with George Donnelly over his injury, and the fact he missed out on the game against his former club. He said: "It was unlucky for George, he was the reason we were here, but unfortunately he's out for four to six weeks. He was doing some sprinting in training, and unfortunately he pulled his hamstring. It was just one of those things, I'm sure he will come back better from his injury. I'm living with him and all he goes on about every night is how gutted he is, not just about being out against Skem, but for the whole of the pre-season." Noone had a couple of decent chances to score against Skelmersdale, but could not mark his return to the club with a goal. He said: "It was good to see everyone and play on the pitch where I made my mark really. I played with four or five of their team when I was here. The rest were new, or trialists." Noone admitted the recently relaid pitch had made it difficult from both sides to get into their stride. He said: "The grass was really long, and it was really dry. For me, I couldn't run with the ball. I had to get it and give it so it wasn't ideal." Noone came to Argyle as an out-and-out winger but has moved inside to take up attacking midfield duties in the pre-season friendlies so far. Noone enjoys the role and said: You get on the ball a lot more. It's good to try out different positions and not just be an out-and-out winger." His target this season is a regular first-team place but if that proves to be elusive, he knows that he may have to go out on loan to gain experience. "I'm just going to work hard and see where that takes me," he said. "If I'm in the manager's plans, that will be great. If not, I'll look to go out on loan if I can't get a game here."
Steve MacLean could be set for a move to Hearts according to Scottish newspaper reports yesterday. MacLean and Jim Paterson have also recently been linked with loan moves to Aberdeen but Paul Sturrock insisted there had been no official approach from Aberdeen or Hearts. He said: "I'm reading it in the same papers as you. That's as far as it has gone. I'd love Aberdeen and Hearts to get in touch with me, and then we could have a conversation with them. That has not happened yet."
Yesterdays win at Skelmersdale ensured Argyle remained unbeaten in pre-season so far. However, as the team prepare for a week's training-camp in Scotland the change of scenery will see a change of attitude. Paul Sturrock said: "The judgment on players now starts, on Monday; the serious games start - Monday, Wednesday, Saturday. People will be judged now. I think everybody is up to speed. People who want to play in my team are going to have to start performing on Monday." The game was a first chance to see new signing Bradley Wright-Phillips in action and Sturrock was delighted. "I am very pleased with Bradley," he said. "I thought he showed a lot of good touches and got himself in the right areas. I'm looking forward to working with him." Despite a not-quite-ready newly-laid pitch, with a fair growth of grass, Argyle went about their business in the right way. Sturrock added: "I was a wee bit worried, because the amount of times people get their studs stuck in the ground, and also there was a couple who went over their ankle in the warm-up. To be fair, the players all responded properly and were very professional in their approach. People are getting comfortable on the ball. They all want to take it. We created an awful lot of chances, which is pleasing. We could have been about five up in the first ten minutes. It's normally shooting, crossing and set-pieces that we leave to the end of pre-season, and that's where we're getting now." Sturrock also revealed that Jamie Mackie, Carl Fletcher, David McNamee and Chris Barker, who sat out yesterday, would be ready to feature against Livingston on Monday, and that a trialist would 'probably' play against Unirea. Also, it was confirmed that Graham Stack is not part of the squad on tour as was previously reported in error.
Argyle won 2-0 at Skelmersdale United in todays friendly, the goals scored by Rory Fallon and Jim Paterson. Argyle: Larrieu, Leonard, Doumbe, Seip, McCrory, Noone, Summerfield, Duguid, MacLean, Wright-Phillips, Fallon. Subs - Clark, Paterson, Barnes
Romain Larrieu has returned to training after a thigh muscle injury and could make his first appearance of pre-season at Skelmersdale United this afternoon. Chris Barker is expected not to play against Skelmersdale after suffering a cut above his left eye against Torquay and David McNamee should be able to return next week after a calf strain.
Argyle's youth team lost 6-0 to Arsenal at the Premiership club's London Colney training ground. Mike Pejic said: "Some of our defending was not what it should have been. We have a young squad this year, which is currently down in numbers, so results may not be quite as good as in the past two years. But we are working hard at developing our under-16 schoolboys."
Simon Walton has been left out of Argyle's pre-season tour party as has Yoann Folly. The squad does include Graham Stack though. Paul Sturrock did not discuss in detail whether either Walton or Folly were part of his long-term plans but did say: "I have said all along that there is a clean slate for everyone. Simon has asked to be a centre-half and taking that into consideration, I have other players." Sturrock hopes the tour would further the development of his squad for the coming season. He said: "Obviously, it's a build up as far as the team's concerned – it's important that we get our shape and organisation. We've done Austria and got the t-shirt and I thought it was important for us to have a change. So far, the players have adapted to what we've asked them to do really well and they have responded to a different kind of training to the normal routine we normally do." Today's friendly was set up as part of the deal which brought George Donnelly to Home Park but he will miss the game due to injury. Sturrock said: "His injury is going to put him back a bit – it was important for him to have a good pre-season." Of today's game, he said: "I'm hoping it will be a good standard of performance and played in the kind of spirit I would expect."
Paul Stapleton believes the club's launch of a 'New World Season Ticket' rewards the loyalty of the club's committed supporters. He said: "It's something which has been thought up very sensibly by the commercial team, who have decided it's time to reward the loyalty of the season ticket holders, who buy year in and year out. I think it shows a lot of vision from a football club who rely on gate money as their main income source to offer this incentive to fans. It's a leap of faith in some respects because you could actually be reducing your own income. But the story is that we want the fans to embrace this idea. We hope the fans will realise the benefits of actually renewing their season tickets. And those who haven't bought their season tickets already, can join in this scheme before August 15th and then be entitled to a five per cent discount in 2010/11. I think it's a very good gesture, and a brave gesture financially because you never know what's going to happen. But we are saying to our season ticket holders 'we want you to stay each year' because if we can rely on them then at least we have got a stream of income that we can see coming. In five years' time, the aim is to be in the Premier League. So you could find you will get 25 per cent of your season ticket then, which would be absolutely fantastic."
Argyle have left Home Park for the pre-season tour of Scotland. The squad are staying in the Warrington area tonight before the friendly at Skelmersdale, before travelling on to Stirling University. Paul Sturrock has added youth team full-back Ryan Leonard to the party as cover for David McNamee, and Romain Larrieu has been passed fit for the journey. Absentees include Simon Walton and Yoann Folly. Sturrock said: "We have got some injuries but McNamee will travel, and we are hopeful he will be available for some of the games up there. Leonard will be going to cover the right-back position and Romain will be travelling as well. Walton and Folly are not travelling."
Argyle have finalised venues for their two games during next week's trip to Scotland. Monday's game against Livingston will be played at Bathgate Thistle Juniors ground, Creamery Park and will kick off at 7.45pm. The Unirea match on Wednesday will be played at Balgray Playing Fields, in Chesterfield Avenue, Glasgow at 7.30pm. Both matches are open to spectators and there will be no admission fee for the Unirea game. Balgray Playing Fields are owned by Kelvinside Academy, an independent private school.
Gary Sawyer scored in the 3-3 draw at Torquay United and is looking to improve on his tally of three goals in the Championship last season. He said: "It's nice to score but the main thing is it's nice to be back in action – with all the pre-season games. Obviously it's nice to get another goal but I should have had another one really but I just mis-timed that shot but scoring with the next shot like that more than made up for it. I was really happy with the goal. I think if I can score goals for the club as well that's a massive advantage for the team and for me, as a player, I want to score goals. It's a nice feeling scoring goals. It's something that I have spoken about with the coaches and spoken about with my dad. I want to score goals. I want to join in and play my part as well and it's nice when you can chip in with a couple of goals." Paul Sturrock has said everyone will have their part to play in getting more goals for the team and Sawyer feels he could assist in that department. He said: "The manager has allowed me to go up there and I go up for a lot of the set pieces now, which is nice. It's good to get up there and I scored a couple at the end of last season doing that. But obviously the one I have just got, where they just fall for you, are even better ones to get. I don't practice finishing as much as I could but I do like having a go. I want to get as many goals as I can get – and the more I get is better for everyone. I was always a left winger or striker when I was younger. I was never a defender. I think it comes from that, I always got quite a lot of goals when I was younger. I didn't start playing at left-back until I started taking my football more seriously as I got older. But I still enjoy scoring goals." Sawyer admits having the support of the Argyle fans plays its part. He added: "You want to go forward and it helps when they cheer me on because it makes it even better... especially when you have to get back!"
Paul Stapleton has given a glowing endorsement to Sir Roy Gardner, his successor as chairman, and has also revealed that he and Ian Holloway have made their peace. Stapleton believes Gardner is capable of continuing the progression Argyle have made over the last eight years and said: "He's going to bring a no-nonsense, common sense approach, and a business attitude to everything we do. He will look at everything in that manner. And, of course, he has the experience of being the chairman at Manchester United. I can tell you this much, from my two or three chats with him before this deal was finished, he's ambitious to get this football club into the Premier League. Having been there already as a chairman, I know he's very focused and very keen to get Plymouth there." Stapleton's new position at Argyle has thrown up one specific problem for staff at Home Park. He said: "I'm walking past people who have called me 'chairman' for the last eight years and they don't know what to call me at the minute. I have told them 'just call me Paul'. Also, from being involved in the final decision on everything, I'm now part of a process. It's going to take time to get used to that, and I understand that." Holloway was appointed Blackpool boss in May and Stapleton has wished him well. He said: "To be fair, there was a bit of trouble when he left, but that's all behind us now. He rang me about six weeks ago and we had a really good chat. The skeletons of the past were all laid to rest. I wished him all the best and he wished me all the best. He had regretted leaving Plymouth and didn't realise how good it was."
Bradley Wright-Phillips did not feature in Argyle's friendly at Torquay United and his first appearance is likely to be in Saturday's friendly at Skelmersdale United. Before the Torquay game Paul Sturrock said: "I'm going to find out what sort of fitness levels he has. He says he has been training with Southampton since June 22nd, but the proof will be in the pudding. The running I'm going to give him today will be the equivalent of a game and a half, so I don't think he could play at Torquay." Sturrock added, with a smile on his face: "I've got a bet with Bradley. I've bet him his dad won't come to Plymouth to watch him play!" Argyle director Tony Wrathall revealed Argyle had been watching Bradley for some time. He said: "Bradley has a name in his own right. His reputation for scoring goals is his own, and that's why we've got him. We've been looking at him for months. We nearly got him before we signed Paul Gallagher last year."
Paul Sturrock has refused to rule out a move for Kari Arnason. Arnason is no longer training with Argyle, but when Sturrock was asked whether he could return to Home Park, he replied: "We will just have to wait and see."
Bradley Wright-Phillips is first and foremost a central striker, but he was also used a wide attacker by Southampton. Paul Sturrock said: "I've talked to him, and I see him as a centre-forward. I see him as one of our main goalscorers. I'm not saying I won't use him in the other role, if I have to do a system change, but I have committed myself to Bradley that I will use him as a centre-forward. I want him settled in his mind that he's a centre-forward. If there was one ingredient that probably cost us dear last year, we didn't score enough goals." Wright-Phillips said: "For Southampton, I played on the left wing, and the right sometimes. It isn't really me. I'll do it if I have to, because it's a team game, but I'm a striker. That's where I've played since I was young." When Sturrock was asked what sort of attacking partner would best suit Wright-Phillips, he replied: "We've got him at the right time of pre-season, and we have five or six games before the season starts. We have various types of striker at the club, and it's up to him and to the other players to form a relationship. I always look for the best partnership, and we'll see how it unwinds. I could have a big boy alongside him, I could play him up there on his own to use his pace down the channels, I could play him with a player who likes the ball in to his feet, or I could use him as one of two pace players so that both of them are making runs. Hopefully, I've not finished in the transfer market, so I could bring in another type of striker as well." When asked for his past impressions of Plymouth, Wright-Phillips replied: "I've always said Plymouth seems like a good, family club, but, when you see that name on your club's fixture list, it's also been a place that you don't want to play at. I want us to be like that."
Argyle drew 3-3 with Torquay United in last nights friendly at Plainmoor, the goals scored by Rory Fallon, Gary Sawyer and Luke Summerfield. Paul Sturrock was half-pleased after the draw and said: "It was a stiffer test than the Truro game. Torquay are a hungry team that wants to do well. It was another good workout. Everybody had at least 45 minutes and we have worked very hard in the last couple of days. There are a lot of players looking a lot fitter than last season and you can see that in several of the players, and I am quite happy. We have not done any work on set-pieces yet, but I am a bit disappointed to lose a goal from a corner, give a penalty away and not stop a cross from coming in our box. What you have seen in two halves of football is one team that didn't play the way we wanted to play and one team that did. The second-half team had a flow and a shape to it, and understood the style we wanted to play. The problem with the team in the first-half was that Rory is too easy an option - I said that on Monday, and nothing has changed from that. We reverted to type too much. We have got to have the confidence. There were a lot of young boys in the first-half, but it breaks your play up. In the second-half, all the players wanted the ball and were hungry for it." Argyle - First-half: Saxton, Clark, Doumbe, Barker, Brett, McCrory, Fletcher, Noone, Kinsella, Fallon, Barnes. Sub – Nelson. Second-half: Saxton, Clark, Timar, Seip, Sawyer, Puncheon, Fletcher, Summerfield, Paterson, Mackie, MacLean.
George Donnelly will have to sit out the start of the new season because of a hamstring injury. Paul Sturrock has admitted Donnelly will be out of action for between four to six weeks after being injured in pre-season training last week. It means Donnelly will have to miss out on the friendly at his former club Skelmersdale on Saturday, although he will still travel to Lancashire for the game. He will then return to Plymouth for treatment on the hamstring injury, rather than attending the training camp in Scotland.
Bradley Wright-Phillips joins Argyle with a simple plan for success. "I am a striker," he said. "I have been a striker since I was six-and-a-half. I have always seen myself as a goalscorer. I haven't scored as many as I would like but that is definitely how I see myself. At first, I just want to get some games. I want to play more games than I've ever played before and after that, I will set my own targets for goals." Bradley has happy memories of Home Park having scored for Southampton against Argyle in January 2008. "I have scored here," he said. "Pace is one of my strengths and I was onto a through ball - I would like to make it more of a trademark." Wright-Phillips visited Plymouth a fortnight before signing and revealed the conversations he had with Paul Sturrock were a deciding factor in the move. "Paul Sturrock wanted me more than other clubs There were others interested, but I met Paul and there was nobody who wanted me as much as he did, and it comes down to that. I am going to try my best. I spoke to him when I came down before and he said everything I needed to hear, and he showed faith in me. I have shown glimpses and, hopefully, he is the man to get it out of me and, obviously, it is down to me as well. It was one of the things he said that impressed me because it is not often you get a manager who will take a lot of time out with players. Nowadays, it is all about results, but it is good to get coaching as well. I am going to work hard in training and I don't mind meeting new people, although I've know Jason Puncheon since we played Sunday League football. We played for a team called Melwood in the Croydon area. He is a good player and, like me, I think there is a lot more to come from him."
Paul Sturrock has set himself set himself the task of reviving Bradley Wright-Phillips' career. He said: "He was kind of an in and out player at Southampton - I think it's time to rekindle his career. It's time for him to work his passage to get himself back to the standards he has achieved in the past, and I think we're the right kind of club for him. When he started at Manchester City, he was very bright, but his career has taken a nosedive over the last two or three seasons. We've just got to turn him on, to find and push the right buttons. We'll be working very hard with him. The reason why I went down the road with him is that he's done it before, and I am very confident he will do it again. He's seen it, done it, got the t-shirt but he hasn't done it very often lately and we have got to find out what makes this boy tick very quickly." Sturrock sees a central role for Wright-Phillips and added: "He can play different systems. He has played on the left quite regularly for Southampton, and the right, but he has come here to be one of our main strikers. I talked to him twice - I had him down to Plymouth to have a look at the place, and I met him in London - and he's a very level-headed boy. When I looked into his eyes, he looked like a boy who is hungry again. He went through a sticky spell in his life - he paid the penalty for that - and now is the time to rekindle his career."
Paul Sturrock is still trying to trim his 30-strong squad and revealed the club was still in the market for 'three or four' new players. He said: "We're negotiating all the time with other clubs to move players out – there are one or two contracts I'm trying to sort out. There's a lot of players who are going to be surplus to requirements – they're good lads and I don't want them hanging around when they could be playing in somebody's first team." One player who seems unlikely to feature for Argyle this season is trialist Kari Arnason. When asked if he was still at the club, Sturrock said he wasn't.
Livingston have guaranteed fans will be able to see the friendly with Argyle on Monday, even if they have to switch stadiums. In a statement on the club website, Livingston said: "The club reached an agreement with Scottish Power with regards to outstanding monies, resulting in the company agreeing to reconnect the mains supply at Almondvale Stadium within 24 hours of promised funds being received from Livingston FC. These funds will be transferred immediately, with the expectation that the process to reconnect the supply will begin tomorrow morning at the latest. As a result, it is hoped that West Lothian Council will issue a safety certificate for Almondvale Stadium by Friday, so that Monday night's game can go ahead. In the event of the safety certificate not being issued on time, the club have began taking steps to make sure the game will go ahead at an alternative venue in West Lothian. We would like to assure all Livingston supporters – and Plymouth Argyle fans planning to make the trip north – that they will be able to see their respective teams in action, and that the game will not be played behind closed doors."
Argyle today confirmed the signing of Bradley Wright-Phillips who has agreed a two-year contract after being released by Southampton. Paul Sturrock said: "I've been an admirer of his for a very long time. If you go on Youtube and look at some of the goals he has scored, he has a knack of being in the right place at the right time - we need that type of player. He's very, very quick, as well." Chairman Roy Gardner said: "Paul was very keen to sign Bradley, and the board was delighted to back him all the way. I remember the impact he had when he burst on to the scene with Manchester City, and we are delighted he has agreed to become part of Argyle's New World. We are thrilled that the new board's first signing is a player of his talent and ability. He is a goalscorer of proven quality and this signing is an indication of the board's desire to bring the kind of player to Home Park that will add real strength to Paul's squad. What we'd now like is for the Green Army to come out in numbers for our opening home match against QPR to give a real Westcountry welcome to Bradley and Paul's other signings."
Argyle won last nights friendly at Plymouth Parkway 3-1, the goals scored by Joe Mason (2) and Matt Rickard. Argyle's team was made up mainly of youth team players but did include Simon Walton and Yoann Folly, although Folly left the game after 15 minutes with an ankle injury. Paul Sturrock said: "I thought there was some very, very good performances. The two frontmen were excellent – Mason and Head – as were Kinsella and Ryan Leonard. But there were no failures. I was very, very pleased – it's vitally important to have a look at the youth players early in the season. I took the team and they were very receptive to what I asked them to do. We played the diamond system again and they adapted very well to it. We seem to the right kind of players for that kind of system." Sturrock was clearly concerned about Folly's injury. "I don't know how long he'll be out, but it's a blow to us," he added. "There was no malice in the tackle but it was just one of those unfortunate things. I think Walts might have a wee, stiff thigh as well." With David McNamee carrying an injury, young defender Ryan Leonard did his chances of joining next week's trip to Scotland no harm at all. Sturrock said: "I think there's more than a chance but I'm going to weigh up my list for this weekend. I've got to name my squad of 22 today, but I might take more than that just because of the injury situation we're in. We will know the extent of George Donnelly's hamstring strain soon. David McNamee will travel because he is going to be fine and Romain should also be fine." Argyle: Chenoweth, Leonard, Walton, Gerring, Clifford, Folly, Kinsella, Baker, Mason, Head, Rickard. Subs – Varazinskis, Sawyer.S, Harper-Penman, Nelson
Bradley Wright-Phillips will be unveiled as an Argyle player today according to newspaper reports. Wright-Phillips is out of contract at Southampton and joins Argyle on a free transfer.
Argyle have played down fears that Monday night's friendly with Livingston might be held behind closed doors. Livingston were forced to keep supporters away from a friendly with Falkirk on Saturday due to a problem with a safety certificate for their stadium. An Argyle spokesman said: "The game will not be played behind closed doors as far as we are aware. We have spoken to the club and the agent who is helping us with the game and they have assured us that the match will be open to spectators. It will be extremely disappointing if the match is played behind closed doors, as we realise that this is a much-anticipated match for our supporters."
Jermaine Easter has revealed how his transfer to MK Dons was set up. He said: "The manager pulled me aside last Friday. He told me that because of the financial conditions that people were leaving the football club and I was going to be one of them. Really, I didn't have any choice – the only choice I really had was which club I was going to go to. I think a few clubs were interested, but I decided to go to MK Dons because Paul Ince is an ambitious young manager and Dons are an ambitious club. I can see them getting promoted from the Championship, which is one of the reasons I went there. So I'll be seeing the Argyle fans again, if not next season, then probably the season after that." Easter said he was sorry that the Argyle fans hadn't see him play at his peak. He said: "It is a shame, because I don't think the fans saw the best of me. The second year was a nightmare for me, but that's football. I wish the fans all the best and I hope that they have a better season than last one." Paul Sturrock paid his own tribute to Easter and said: "Nice lad, Jermaine and also a model professional, who worked very hard at his game. There was a lot of politics in his life at the beginning of last season, which I think affected his performance, when he went away on loan, due to circumstances. He came back, having lost his Welsh place and then had seven weeks out with a ligament damage which really spoilt his season. I just felt Jermaine had been in and out of the team, all the time he'd been here and was needing a new challenge. Now the opportunity has come along, he's made the right choice."
Jermaine Easter has joined MK Dons for an undisclosed fee.
Argyle won 2-0 in the friendly at Truro City last night, the goals scored by Jason Puncheon and Ashley Barnes. Argyle used 21 players in the match including Icelandic international midfielder Kari Arnason, who is a free agent and on trial with the club. Paul Sturrock said: "It was a worthwhile workout being our first game of the season. It is a difficult place to come. It was a good game played in the right spirit, the boys got 45 minutes run-out each and the same will happen tomorrow night at Torquay. It was definitely a benefit. It was an open game in which both teams gave it a go. The first half was very solid. We had a few scary moments in the first five minutes, but after that we took command of the game and it was interesting to see the team play that system." Sturrock said of Arnason's performance: "The trialist has not trained since the end of last season and he played both yesterday and today. He showed signs that he is a very competent, he reads the game well, he is big and athletic, he never let himself down in anyway – I was very pleased with him." Argyle. First half: Saxton, Leonard, Seip, Timar, Barker, Summerfield, Fletcher, Summerfield, Paterson, Puncheon, MacLean, Mackie. Second half: Saxton, Walton, Doumbe, Brett, Sawyer; Clark, McCrory, Arnason, Noone, Barnes, Fallon.
Argyle will field a young side against Plymouth Parkway this evening, but Paul Sturrock may find room for a couple of experienced players. Jermaine Easter and Yoann Folly did not travel to Truro yesterday and are likely to be involved against Parkway. Sturrock said: "There's no point dragging people all the way here just for the sake of it. Easter and Folly might play tomorrow." Romain Larrieu, David McNamee and George Donnelly missed last night's game because of injuries, while Karl Duguid was absent for family reasons.
Paul Sturrock will be using the club's pre-season fixtures to try and develop a system which will improve home form. In last night's win at Truro City Argyle utilised a 4-3-1-2 formation with firstly, Jason Puncheon, and then Craig Noone, playing just behind two strikers. Sturrock said: "We are trying to come up with some shapes that will benefit us at home, so we will be looking at three or four through pre-season. We want wee variations so we can try and get our home form back to where it should be."
Jim Paterson and Steve MacLean both featured in the first half of last night's friendly but reports suggest both are likely to join Aberdeen on loan within the next seven days. Paul Sturrock has allegedly told Mark McGhee he is prepared to let Paterson and MacLean leave Home Park, but negotiation is required over the percentage of wages to be paid by each club. McGhee said: "We are having to box clever as far as those two go. But it will easy to pick up negotiations with Paul when I get back from Austria. We are still in negotiations but hopeful things will go our way. Plymouth want as much money as they can get, which is understandable. We also have to do the best we can for Aberdeen, so it could be the negotiations will go on for a while yet."
Rory Fallon looks set to be included in New Zealand's squad for two friendly internationals in September. His father Kevin told reporters in New Zealand: "He is keen. He's thought about it all and he's probably going to throw in his lot with New Zealand at international level, which is quite exciting as we're only 180 minutes away from the World Cup. He said 'I can probably come back and do a job for the team as a target man'."
Paul Sturrock is likely to include new faces in his Argyle squad for this week's pre-season friendlies after watching a game between two teams comprised entirely of trialists at Harper's Park yesterday. One of the trialists was believed to be French midfielder Anthony Robic but Sturrock would not comment on individual players. When asked about Robic he replied: "Don't know him, but we had a lot of players here, and I wouldn't comment anyway. I was very pleased with what I saw and the play was of a high standard. We didn't have any of our own players in action, both sets of players we all trialists. And all of them put in a shift and I was definitely impressed. It was well worth holding this sort of match. It was supposed to be a behind-closed-doors game, but in the end we held the match at Harper's Park. That was done to protect the Home Park pitch." When asked if any of the trialists would feature this week, Sturrock said: "Yes, I'd like to have a look at one or two of them again."
Paul Sturrock has revealed that there will be plenty of game-time for his whole squad during pre-season. He said: "We are not going to change what we did last year in the first two games. I don't feel we are up to speed for all our players to play 90 minutes. There will be a large amount of players that go over to Truro City, and most of them will get 45 minutes each. Then we will turn it around - the ones that have come on at half-time in the Truro game will go to Torquay and start. We've stuck a game in Tuesday against Plymouth Parkway, just basically for some of the younger players and some of the other ones won't be involved in the 22 against Truro and Torquay. Peaking for the season should be done at the back end of the pre-season, not the start." After an injury-free start to the pre-season Sturrock revealed that the first have now been suffered. "We have actually picked up a couple of niggles and knocks," he said. "They are the first of the pre-season. It normally happens. We are hopeful that we can handle the three games. Some of them might come back from injury too late for Monday. Despite being in management for 16 years, Sturrock still wonders how he maintains the juggling act that is pre-season as a whole. "I am still marvelling at how hard a job it is," he said. "You have to juggle a squad of players, get the right blend and the right shape from the start of the season, and, at the same time, you have to get yourself under budget."
Argyle have invited French midfielder Anthony Robic for a trial at Home Park according to reports. Robic is available on a free transfer after leaving Tours FC and he will take part in training next week and is expected to feature in a practice match. Robic admits he is keen to impress during his trial and said: "The game has always been interesting in England. The contacts I have in France have been slow to materialise and I have an opportunity in England so I want to seize it. I will give everything during this test and we'll see what happens."
Argyle can only profit from Yala Bolasie's return to Barnet, insists Paul Sturrock. Bolasie scored three times in 20 appearances for Barnet last season and Sturrock said: "He came back a better player. But there are still wee quirks in his game which I've talked to him about. I'm going to talk to their manager about him. At the end of the day, Barnet can only benefit from the player and we can only benefit from the things I want him to work on. He's got electrifying pace and has got assets any football club would want. I'm pleased we've done a deal as there were a lot of clubs interested in him."
Paul Sturrock has admitted he would love to be the first Argyle manager to spend £1million on a player but feels there is a lot of work to do on and off the pitch before he felt the club would be able to compete at that level. Sturrock was responding to media speculation linking Argyle with a seven-figure bid for Ipswich Town striker Danny Haynes and said: "I can assure you he is not one of the players on my list. I'd love to think there will come a day when I can spend that kind of money. But the only way that could happen is if we put a team on the football pitch that has attracted more fans; if the commercial side has taken off; and if we have a new stand, and really good training facilities. And that we've managed to put our house in order as far as the budget is concerned. How long that takes is like asking: 'How long is a piece of string'? But I'd be delighted to be the first manager of this football club to buy a £1million player. It'd be nice as it means we'd have done something right."
Paul Sturrock has refused to enter the debate over whether Jim Paterson and Steve MacLean will join Aberdeen. Dons' manager Mark McGhee has publicly commented on both players but Sturrock said: "All my players at this moment in time are working very hard to impress a manager. And those two are no different. There's been many a manager who has been in discussion with us about players on our books. But, at the end of the day, that's the way he does things, but if I was as open as that, I'm sure that sometimes you could cause yourself a lot of problems."
Argyle fans are being offered the chance to save five per cent on the cost of their season ticket for each of the next five years. Supporters who buy a season ticket ahead of next season will qualify for a five per cent discount on their next season ticket, for 2010-11 and can continure to receive further discounts for each of the next five seasons.
Keith Todd has promised more 'exciting initiatives' following Argyle's decision to cut admission prices at Home Park. He said: "Obviously, we've got to run this football club as a business, but our great wish and ambition is to see Home Park filled on matchdays. This initiative is just one step towards achieving that goal. We plan to make announcements of our plans over the coming weeks – probably one a week. We're listening to the fans and I'm sure from what I've heard that they are as keen to get involved in taking Argyle to the next level as we are. Another of our big challenges is how to satisfy those youngsters who play DJM football on Saturdays, but who also want to watch Argyle. We're working on that one because it's so important to attract the next generation of fans. These are exciting times at Argyle and there will be more exciting initiatives."
Yala Bolasie has returned to Barnet on a six-month loan. Paul Sturrock had promised to assess Bolasie in pre-season, but said last night: "I feel it's appropriate to put him out on loan until Christmas. I can have a wee look at him to see if there's any marked improvement then. He did very, very well with Barnet last year. I just feel after watching him in pre-season he's still in development."
The Argyle board have announced that matchday admission prices at Argyle are being reduced. The new board have marked the end of their first week in charge by getting rid of the £2 match-day surcharge on tickets and access to the Mayflower Terracing seating has been reduced to just £15. Keith Todd said: "We been delighted with the fantastic response of the Green Army to the dawn of the 'New World' at Home Park. We have listened intently to what the fans have been telling us – in person and via Argyle Insider – since we took control last week. As a result, we have abolished the matchday surcharge. The £15 that it will cost to watch Coca-Cola Championship football from the Mayflower Terrace represents exceptional value for money. We hope that these initiatives will encourage supporters to come to Home Park and help us fulfill our ambition of making our first game against QPR on August 15th a sell-out."
Argyle's home game against Nottingham Forest next season will be shown live on Sky Sports and has been moved back 24 hours. The match will now take place on Sunday 27th September at a 1.15pm.
Paul Sturrock gave a thumbs up to his meeting with new director Keith Todd yesterday. He said: "It was a positive meeting and I discussed with Mr Todd a number of topics involving this football club. But I have to emphasise it was not a board meeting, as some people have suggested – just a chat. I'm not going into details as it was a just a private, get-to-know-you type meeting between myself and Mr Todd. But it's given me a clearer idea of the big picture and left meet me feeling very pleased."
Argyle's players will start a hectic programme of friendly matches next week, but it will be a while before the starting 11 starts to take shape. Paul Sturrock has warned spectators who watch next week's friendlies not to expect too much and said: "We haven't really come into battle conditions in training yet. We're still in the mode of doing a bit of ball-work and a bit of running. The first couple of games will be breaking-in games. Everybody will get at least 45 minutes. The games don't really count. It won't be until the back-end of the Scotland trip that I start to put an edge to the players and a shape to the team." Sturrock's biggest problem at present is the excessive number of players he has to work with and when asked exactly how many players he needed to find new homes for he replied: "A lot, but I'm not going to put a figure to it. All I will say is that I'm working very, very hard to get the appropriate number of players moved on. In an ideal world, we'll move a certain number on and we'll bring a certain number in, and that would take us into the right area in terms of the size of the squad. We have 30 players training at the moment, which is not ideal. It is not easy to work on the shape of the team when you have 30 players standing on the training ground."
Argyle have added another friendly to their pre-season schedule. They will play Plymouth Parkway at Bolitho Park on July 14th at 7.45
Steve MacLean has become the latest Argyle player to be linked with Aberdeen. Mark McGhee, who has already spoken about taking Jim Paterson on a season-long loan is reported to also be considering taking MacLean on loan. McGhee said: "MacLean is a goal-getter, who holds the ball up well, and I believe he would fit in well to 4-3-3. I will be speaking to an agent about Paterson – and MacLean. He is still under contract, but I think he is surplus down there. When I was speaking to Paul Sturrock, he mentioned MacLean. He is a player who is not bad, and he has scored a lot of goals in England, especially at Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday. I will speak to the agent and see what we can get done."
Paul Sturrock has denied receiving bids for Jason Puncheon or any of his other players. National media reports claimed Charlton Athletic and Millwall had submitted £150,000 bids for Puncheon, but when asked about this Sturrock said: "No. At this juncture, nobody's on the way out. So far we've had no offers for Puncheon – we've had no offers for any of our players. We've had discussions over many of our players over the last week – with a lot of managers phoning over the availability of players. But none of the inquiries have been concrete – just managers trying to find out what the scenario is." Sturrock insists he is giving all of his squad the chance of a fresh start at Home Park. He said: "The slate has been wiped clean from last season. I felt it was appropriate to put Jason out to that league on loan last season. He's played League Two for several seasons and showed that he could handle League One. And he had several reasonable performances for us when he was in the Championship as well. I think his progression is going in the right direction. He's looked very sharp since he's come back into training. At this minute in time, unless somebody came along and slapped me in the face with big money, the debate will probably be on the backburner for at least one or two of the pre-season friendlies, when I can make a conscious decision." Sturrock also refuted Aberdeen boss Mark McGhee's assertion that he was awaiting a call from Sturrock over Jim Paterson. He said: "I'm waiting to hear from him."
Argyle have added an extra date to their pre-season schedule, at Tiverton Town on Monday, August 3rd
The Argyle squad have been given the challenge of working extra hard on their fitness through the pre-season campaign. Paul Sturrock said: "The essence of life for players at this club is to get themselves in the pecking order through performance in training and in friendlies. If they are to move on, they need a pre-season under their belts, which is vitally important for the individual player for them to progress with whatever team they finish up with. I am working very hard to get the appropriate number moved on, and for their sake as well. In an ideal world, we would move a certain number on and bring a certain number in." Sturrock is hoping to cut his squad before the tour of Scotland. "We have 30 players training, which is not ideal when you want to work on certain things for games and to get the shape of the team," he added. "It is something we are trying to address as quickly as possible. At this minute, we haven't come into battle conditions. We are still in the mode of ball-work and running. It is when we come down to the back end of Scotland we will really try to put an edge to these players and a shape to the team. We brought the ball in very quickly and, touch wood, we have picked up no injuries so far. The modern footballer is a much fitter beast than when I played. We basically downed tools when we finished the season and got the boots out again on the first day of pre-season. These people have looked after themselves, so the catch-up has not been too hard, and we are very pleased with the progress. Fitness levels are something we have gauged so far and they don't look out of sorts with that. Ball-work has put an edge to them and we are very pleased. Every player is looking keen and ready to go."
Paul Sturrock is facing a race against time as he looks to strengthen his squad ahead of the new season. He said: "The time-frame is vitally important. It was a feature that hindered us last year because we were bringing players in late-on, and their fitness levels weren't the best and they had to play. I would like the players to be here much earlier this year but, again, it has got be hand in hand with people going out. It has just started to warm up now. Some clubs are not back yet but I have been on the phone to certain managers, and a lot will start to be on the move now. We have got too many players. We have 30 players training and I can't stand for that. I need to dramatically cut that squad, so I can shove in four or five new players, and I have got to do all that in a window of about three weeks. There are one or two key players I would like to bring to the football club and they would cost us money, so that will be a decision to be made by the Board." The loan market will again be an option, and Sturrock has already been in touch with Alex Ferguson about possible deals. "I have already had a discussion with Sir Alex about loans for next year and his comment was that nothing would be done until July 8 when they come back for pre-season," he said. "Most of the Premiership teams I have talked to have given me the same answer, and that is only natural."
Paul Sturrock will be holding discussions with the new club owners today and is hoping for clarification on his transfer budget. He said: "Today will be the witching hour when the full-time people come into place and that's when I'll be having a discussion with them. We are over-budget and I need to work at getting ourselves under. It means I need to move some players out, but, at the same time, I don't want to be caught out in not being able to pick up certain key players in key areas we need to reinforce this year. It is a catch 22 and we will have big discussions, and hopefully things will then start to take apace. It is a strange time for football clubs and a strange time for footballers. We are a club that is over-budget and we are a club that would like to strengthen certain areas of our team. I have some great lads and a great squad of players here but I can't play them all, and I would like to think I can find homes for a lot of these players to play first-team football. The last thing I want players to be doing is playing reserve team football. I want the squad streamlined. We don't know what players are going to be asked for by other clubs because every player has got a price - it doesn't matter what football club you're at. I don't know about performance yet because we haven't had any games. I don't want to be caught out this year with bringing in players on the Friday before the first game. That is a scenario I don't want and something I will emphasise to the new Board. It is vitally important the players we are thinking about come in earlier. That may put us further over-budget but, hopefully, there will be movement of players out of the club." Argyle's situation has led to transfer speculation in the media which Sturrock finds both frustrating and understandable. He said: "I would say 95% of what people are reading is made up by agents and clubs. It is a very easy way of drumming up business for your client. It can trigger things and there is a lot of posturing and stabbing in the dark going on. I find it irksome at times because you are sometimes answering questions that have no truth in them, but I understand that papers have to be filled in the close-season."
Romain Larrieu is banking on a resurgence of team spirit to provide Argyle the springboard to a more successful Championship campaign and he made it clear he was really delighted to have caught up with his team-mates again. "I had been really looking forward to training again – I had missed football a lot," he said. "And there is a lot to look forward to even though we had our worst season in 2008/09. One of our big problems last season was the famous Plymouth Argyle team spirit, which was lacking. I think that was missing because we had to sign so many new players in a rush, which was nobody's fault. It's just the way things happened. Players were being signed up late on before the start of last season and it made pre-season difficult. And after that it was hard for the players to gel as a unit, which you noticed particularly when we had injuries. This time, because we'll have been together for a year, I hope it's not going to be so difficult. We got away with it last year, and I think we can move on and learn from that. If we play to our strengths and go back to that one-for-all ethos we've had here before, then there shouldn't be a problem next year." Larrieu has become the club captain and considers the post a 'great honour'. "I cannot tell you how proud I was when the gaffer asked me to become the club captain," he added. "Hopefully, I can make it a positive position and act as a bridge between the players and Luggy. I'll have been in Plymouth nine years in November and I have had incredible success with two championship-winning campaigns and now this – the club captaincy. I'm very, very honoured."
Argyle's finances could benefit from visits by young footballers from Japan and the United States, according to club officials. Next month a party of 19 young footballers from Yokohama will spend a week in Plymouth and the club are mulling over other visits. Tony Campbell said: "Their visit is to enhance their football experience and to sample the English culture. The players are not viewed as potential recruits for Plymouth Argyle. This is the first of many such trips that we believe are capable of generating significant income for the club in the future."
Paul Sturrock believes the takeover at Argyle will provide him with a 'fresh start' as the club approaches its sixth season in the Championship. He said: "It's a bit sad because, obviously, I had a close relationship with the old board. They've been very successful in the 10 years they've been in charge. Everybody knows the story, but we went from the bottom league up into the Championship. Financially, the Championship is the sixth-richest league in the world and I'm looking forward to working with the new board. Hopefully, it will make the club stronger." Sturrock has been kept in the picture in the lead-up to the takeover. "I've known what's been happening most of the time," he said. "The last time, it was the day before when I was told what the story was. But this time Keith Todd, George Synan and Sir Roy Gardner have all been in contact and members of the old board as well. So, I've heard it from all angles and known what's been coming." At yesterday's Press conference Roy Gardner stated there would be no extra funds available for the manager and but Sturrock said he trusted the chairman's business acumen, and his assessment of Argyle's current financial standing which he described as 'realistic'. "You don't become the head of the biggest catering company in the world, if you don't know what you're doing as far as finances are concerned," said Sturrock. "He's made it clear the ship has got to be on an even keel. And then we kick on from there. In the end, I think you've got to be realistic. I'm receptive to that, I've worked under budgets in the past and I'm appreciative that we're over budget at the present. There is a five-year plan in place which I'm delighted about, because I think that's the way forward for Argyle – to make sure all the structures have been put into place. I'm a great believer in that – and that's going to happen because of this new chairman."
George Synan insists both his and Yasuaki Kagami's interest and investment in Argyle was sincere and long term. When asked how a Japanese and American businessman became involved in Argyle, he said: "It's always been our strategy to advise this club. We think with this new shareholding balance with this great team, we've achieved that. We feel the board up to now has done a tremendous job and we are looking forward, with their experience, to taking it to the next level. I was sold on Argyle by my good friend Tony Campbell. Once Mr Kagami and myself looked further and further into the transaction we could see it was a good club. Paul Stapleton runs a tight ship and the club is on fairly stable ground. With this new partnership and with Keith Todd active, we have the ability to take off from this point. We're continuing to get more and more excited about it. The excitement was a factor and the comfort level was a factor to increase our activities." Synan said Argyle would also benefit in the future on the pitch from the recruitment of Japanese internationals to be placed at Paul Sturrock's disposal. But next year's football World Cup in South Africa means the trade would have to be delayed until at least after the tournament. "We've had tremendous feedback from agents who want to place top-level players over here," said Synan. "But we have one small problem which is called the World Cup, as we have a national coach in Japan who wants to keep his players domestic. Once the World Cup is behind us, we will bring top talent over here. But again that top talent has to coincide and fit with Luggy's crew. You won't see that type of player here until late next fall."
Paul Sturrock has warned his players that it's his way or the highway from now on. He said: "Last season really hurt me because it was the first year when I've lost more games than I've won. I don't like that. There were things I did last year that weren't me – things I had to do because of the situation we were in. A lot of things that I bit my lip on would have left blood running down the side of my mouth. I'm making sure that this year none of that will happen. We're going to have discipline and organisation at this football club, like when I was here before. At the end of the day, we're going to make sure we're an organised and very, very fit club. I've had a meeting with the players where the rules and regulations of this football club were handed to them. They'll be taking them home to read and then we'll have a discussion about it. We're doing a number of things different this year: we've brought in a psychologist, a fitness trainer and have changed a lot of the job spec of our coaching staff. We're going to be a much tighter ship and a more organised ship." Sturrock said, aside from one player who he preferred not to name, the entire squad had returned to Home Park. "There's one player in negotiations with another football club, but other than that the whole squad's here. The other club involved wants it kept quiet and anyway if it doesn't happen, he'll be back very, very quickly." Sturrock said he had been pleased by the good condition of his players on their return to pre-season training. "In this day and age there's not many of them come back out of condition," he said. "None of them are outrageous, although there's a couple who need a wee top up and they'll be slapped around in the next few days. I'm sure we'll be up to speed a lot quicker than expected." Sturrock said there had been interest but no firm offers for any of his players. "We've had several agents acting on behalf of clubs asking me about certain players," he said. "That's as far as it goes with regards to that. It's been very difficult to bring in players, because we didn't know what the story with the takeover was. But I'm going to have a right chinwag with the new chairman and see what the story is about new players coming in. The time frame is vitally important because it was something that hindered us last year. Late on we were bringing players in and their fitness levels weren't the best and we were affected by that. I would like the players to be here much earlier this year. But that's got to go hand in hand with people going out. The transfer season has just started to warm up, but there are still a couple of clubs not back yet, but will be soon. I've been doing a lot of phoning to certain managers lately and the picture ought to get clearer soon."
Argyle are to host SPL side Hearts in their only home pre-season friendly on July 29th. Argyle then finish their friendlies line-up at Swindon Town on August 1st. Paul Sturrock said: "We're going back to Swindon with the first team which I'm looking forward to. Last year Swindon were a little bit disappointed that I thought it appropriate to send the youth team. I wanted to train the first team, so this fixture is a kind of kiss-and-make-up gesture. And Hearts? I was very pleased we managed to get someone to play at home. I think it was important we achieved that, as we will probably have one or two players in by then. It will be nice to let them have a wee taste of Home Park before we start the season proper. In that sense I'm hoping to be up and running by then, if not at full gallop."
Paul Stapleton has spoken of his regret that the redevelopment of a new South Stand at Home Park did not take place during his tenure as the chairman of Argyle. He said: "I had this great vision of being here when the Grandstand was knocked down and a new one was built. I saw myself cutting a ribbon with the Lord Mayor, or whatever. That's not going to happen while I'm chairman, but I'm very keen to see it happen while I'm on the board. And I think we have got a great chance now to make sure the development does take place. We need support from Plymouth City Council, of course we do. We need sensible conversations, but I think there might be more push in that direction now. If we can get the new stand built and make sure it is used every day of the week, instead of 23 times a year, then great. We have always tried to do that, but I'm not sure whether we, the existing board of directors, had the wherewithal to push that through. Now if that happens and I'm on the board I will be really happy. I will be next to the person who cuts the ribbon." Stapleton admitted planning for the redevelopment of a new South Stand had been very time consuming. He said: "I have got an office at home which is full of paperwork about the South Stand redevelopment. It would be nice to take those papers out of the office and use it properly again. We have had years and years of meetings. It was Tudor Evans to start with, then the Tories. You wouldn't believe how many meetings we have had developers and surveyors. We have been everywhere. It's just frustrating we haven't been able to take it over the line, but money comes into it. We needed to put more money into the football club's wages, than perhaps have a pot for the redevelopment. It's a regret for me that it hasn't been done, but all the spadework has been done. All the files are there. All the research and forecasts are there. Everything is in place. It's just pushing that on now, and I will be pleased when it's built." Roy Gardner has not made any commitment on when the new South Stand could be built but did say: "Long term, it's very important because if we want to be a Premier League club we need to do something about this ground. It will be an integral part of our forward planning."
New Argyle director Keith Todd has spoken about how the takeover came about. He said: "This isn't a KK Shonan takeover. It's a partnership between a UK and Japanese consortium. Obviously, I have been on the inside and seen it, and you will experience it later, but this has been a great tie-up. The harmony behind the scenes here is extremely strong, and the exchange of ideas is phenomenally strong. There is a great deal of potential coming from it." Todd had a series of discussions in Japan with Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan earlier this year about forming a consortium to take control of Argyle. But his close links with Paul Stapleton were also a factor behind his interest and eventual involvement. He said: "Paul and I have been good friends and one thing led to another. Then I met George and, getting to know him, I spent a lot of days in Tokyo. We got on very, very well." Roy Gardner is a former Manchester United plc chairman and Todd suggested to Kagami and Synan that he should be asked to become Argyle's new chairman as part of the new set-up. He said: "I told them, 'I have got just the man for you', and it wasn't too difficult from there. It was done over a good bottle of wine." Kagami has only visited Plymouth twice since becoming an Argyle director but Todd has no doubts about his commitment to make the new venture work. He said: "I spent a lot of time in Tokyo with Kagami-san because I wanted to find out how committed he was. I'm totally convinced. It's a great partnership with some great relationships – which we will talk about in the months ahead – which can be leveraged to the benefit of Argyle. Don't underestimate the commitment of Kagami-san and his family to this club. It's very strong."
Sir Roy Gardner is the new Chairman of Argyle and has revealed his delight at returning to the game. He said: "I would like to thank Paul Stapleton who has provided great leadership over the last decade and delivered what I believe is unprecedented success. Not only that, he has created a great platform for the future, upon which we can now build. I am delighted he will be staying on and help us as vice-chairman. Anyone who knows me, or of me, will know of my passion for football. Nobody should be surprised when I say that I have been looking to get back into the game for a little while. I left Manchester United back in 2005, so it has been four years now. This has proved the opportunity I have been looking for. It is attractive, not least because it gives me the opportunity to work again with a close friend and business colleague. We have worked together successfully over a number of years and Keith Todd is a lifelong Plymouth fan. It is also the prospect of turning Argyle into a Premiership club, hopefully in the not too distant future and see what we can to do to develop the ground - it has got great potential. We have some ideas. They are ambitious but our first priority is to stabilise what we have and lay the foundations for the future. That is why we are backing our current manager Paul Sturrock, who, like Paul Stapleton, has really delivered success to this club. Now, it is all about getting down to work. By Christmas, we will have prepared a very detailed five-year plan and that will obviously include the playing and managerial staff. It will encompass how we intend to increase the playing and the staff budget. We would also like to give Argyle a strong youth academy and we have already talked about links with Japan and North America. We are going to develop the ground and this will have appeal locally and globally, and that will enable us to drive up some further commercial income and therefore an increase to the funding of a player budget. We want to reach out to the local community and make match-day at Home Park an essential part of the calendar. We also attend to have discussions with the council to see if we can develop Home Park into a centre for sporting excellence. Keith's skills will help us to use technology to widen our communication with the fanbase, both locally and globally. Success on the field is obviously hugely important to everybody involved with the club and a vital component of our future plans. The club's footballing and commercial interests are very closely interlinked. We have got some exciting ideas and what we need to do now is get our jackets off, and get down to work. I am delighted to have this opportunity and I am really looking forward to working with my Board colleagues and the management team. We need to have one or two discussions about the current squad. It is far too early to say, but it is our intention to increase the playing budget as we increase the commercial revenue. I am very excited and I will spend as much time down here as possible. It is fair to say that I am a busy man but football is my passion, and when you're passionate about something, you always find the time. I came down to see games last year and I saw some games in London. I will see a lot of the games. We have hinted at how we are going to approach the fan-base. Firstly, who are the fans. If you were to ask how many fans have we got, Keith would probably say about a million, but we need to know who they are, so we can then start to communicate with them and see how we can work together to improve the revenues of this club. We want to talk to local industry and commerce, and see how we can work on sponsorship, hospitality, events, conferences, all the usual things that will generate further income for this club. If we want to be a Premiership club, we certainly needed to do something about this ground, so it will be an integral part of our forward planning."
Improved communication, helped by the new Argyle Insider website, will be the cornerstone of the new era at Home Park according to new director Keith Todd. "The Argyle Insider is a fans' site," he said. "It is not owned by the club. It is a social networking site and it allows the full interaction between fans, and there are a few of us who are already contributors to blogs and some of the comment pages. As we move forward, we want to reach out and communicate with people locally, and you would be amazed by how many Argyle fans there are around the world. I have met them in the strangest places. This is a global brand and a global club. It may feel local but there are a lot of fans out there who would like to be able to touch the club more effectively, and that needs technology. One of the things that has struck me is how we don't know where all the fans are. We have no way of communicating with them. For those of you are into internet technologies and social networking sites, you will understand this; for those who aren't, it is a fantastic world. It is self-generating and we are going to discover over the coming months how many fans are out there, and to interact with them, whether they are in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Oslo or Cornwall. Engaging that group of people in communication will also mean face-to-face locally as well, and it will enable us to get a base in terms of understanding what the fan-base is, and I am also going to put a challenge for people on the website to speculate on how many fans are out there. In one months, three months, six months, we will see how many members we have got." Todd has brought a 13% share of the club and added: "What has been fascinating has been how much of the story has come out before today, with a couple of ingredients that hadn't come out. One of them has already been mentioned. This is not a K&K Shonan takeover. It is a partnership between the UK-led and the Japanese-led consortium. I have been on the inside and seen it, and this has been a great time. The harmony behind the scenes here is extremely strong and the exchange of ideas is phenomenally strong, so there is a great deal of potential. The other piece that was a little surprising, which nobody actually commented on, was that I spent the best part of my growing-up life here on the terraces in Plymouth. When I first walked into Home Park - sorry to the Chairman back in those days - but I actually walked in and didn't pay. It was at 4.30pm and, in the 1960s, they used to open the gates to let the crowds out, so I saw the last ten minutes of a lot of games. Over the next few years, we will have the chance to reminisce over some great games. The Queens Park Rangers game with Mickey Evans and David Friio - what a day that was. It was stunning stuff and we are looking forward to having many more of those days as we move forward. This is a great partnership with some great relationship, which we will be able to leverage to the benefit of Plymouth Argyle. Please don't underestimate the commitment of Mr Kagami and his family to this club - it is very, very strong. I have declared my conflict of interest. I am a Green but this is a business venture, and the reason this is a business venture is that is the only way clubs can be sustainable for their fans in the long-term. No disrespect to Abrahmovich, but that is an odd world. This club's strength is that it is a family club, built progressively, incrementally, year in, year out. We lose games and we win games, but incrementally, this club has continuously made progress, and that is what we are going to build on, and we think with some of the ideas we have got, we can accelerate that. Our aspiration is for Premiership football here in five years. It is about giving people the chance to engage in a community. Football clubs and fan-bases are communities, and communities in the modern world are not geographically isolated. It is connected by Green blood. We are going to welcome away supporters. I want to see the away end full every week, which will be good for the atmosphere in the ground and great for the local economy, so we are going to do a series of innovative things to try and turn some of the traditional conventions on away fans. There are a series of ideas in terms of generating additional commercial income both locally and globally."
George Synan believes the tremendous potential of Argyle is the key to future success. He said: "It has always been our strategy to try to add value to this club and we think we have achieved that with this new shareholding balance and the great team joining us. We feel the Board up to now has done a tremendous job and we are looking forward, with their experience, to take us to the next level. Mr Kagami runs a big business and we are a big company. I am the director of the company in charge of this investment, so it is natural that I am the person here overlooking this investment. I will also become a director of the club and I will be here a lot. We see tremendous potential here and we feel this whole transaction has added tremendous value to our investment, and that's why we wanted to increase our shares. I was sold on Plymouth Argyle by my good friend Tony Campbell and once Mr Kagami and myself looked further into the transaction, we saw it was a good club. Paul Stapleton runs a tight ship and with this new partnership, we have the ability to really take off from this point."
Pul Stapleton stepped down as Chairman of Argyle yesterday and was in reminiscent mood. He said: "Today, I am standing down as Chairman of Plymouth Argyle after eight momentous years in the chair. I was asked to join the Board in June 1998 by Dan McCauley, and, three years later, a consortium of local fans took control in August 2001. I remember telling Paul Sturrock the day before and he was quite flabbergasted. The journey started then and it was amazing to win the Championship that season, beating Luton, and the rivalry with Joe Kinnear. I remember Dan saying to the Board at the time 'you'll run out of money in June 2002', but he didn't know that we'd win the title. Robert Dennerly then joined the Board and we carried on from there in League One. We then won the title again, and my little son, who was born in 1998, thought we would win the league every two years. I have memories of going to Rochdale away and winning promotion, and the journey home on the coach. We then went to Darlington and won the Championship. We then had the game against QPR in April 2004, which was absolutely fantastic. I actually coined a phrase at the end of that game - 'You Can't Buy Days Like This', and that was one of the best days of our period at Plymouth Argyle. Ian Holloway was the manager of QPR and he had the grace to be very kind about that day, and said that the best team won that day. We moved on to five years in the Championship and the quarter-final against Watford. The emotion on that day brought a lump to my throat. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic and the feeling of pride at being Chairman of this football club with such great things going on was some experience. Last season was a bit more problematic but I did get the same sort of emotion at the end of the games at Wolves and Blackpool. Those feelings come with football and the passion you have for the club you've supported for so many years. My family have suffered in this period. Being the chairman of a football club is all-embracing. The phone goes at odd times, and e-mails. It is generally your family that takes the brunt because you don't do things you would normally do. Having said that, I wouldn't change a moment of it. It has been great pride to take this club forward. I have had great support from Robert Dennerly since he joined in 2002. He has been a great ally of mine. Tony Wrathall also came on board in 2005, and he has been a great supporter. I have been very lucky to have people around me on the Board, who have supported me, and the staff at the football club have been fantastic, as well. We have seen the days when you couldn't buy a box of matches without Dan signing it off. That was the old days when the gates were 4,000 and the wage bill was about £1m. We have moved on since then. We have moved from mid-table in the old Fourth Division to an established Championship club. We have punched above our weight. The fans have been very good as well. There are always people who want change but the bulk of the fans have been very supportive to all of us. Managers, I've had a few. We only had to sack one as a Board and the rest just disappeared, but we got Paul Sturrock back. We had a great rapport in the first place and I can't say enough about Paul. He took us to that first championship and the success he brought us. Paul was the catalyst and the foundation for it all, and I will always be eternally grateful for that." Despite his feelings of nostalgia, Stapleton is excited about the future prospects for Argyle. He said: "I have enjoyed every minute of being Chairman. It is going to be different to step down but sometimes you take the baton and you pass it on. This club has been going for 106 years. We have had eight promotions, five championships and it's time we had another one coming up. It's time now to widen that network, rather than just local people. We realise that it needs global, international and national. It needs support, movement and the next step. We have taken it as far as we think we can. We think we've done a reasonable job. It has been a rollercoaster, but today we are announcing that a consortium of international and local businesses have brought a controlling share in the holding company that owns Plymouth Argyle Football Club. Phill Gill left the Board recently and Mr Kagami bought his shares, and today the three Directors here have agreed to sell 13% to Keith Todd and Sir Roy Gardner, so it's not actually sold to Mr Kagami. I will step down as Chairman and Sir Roy Gardner will take the role as Chairman of this football club. Keith Todd will join the Board. I will remain on the Board as Vice Chairman, and Robert Dennerly and Tony Wrathall will also remain on the Board, retaining the local relationships that have been established over a long period. George Synan and Mr Kagami will be the largest shareholders at 38%, but it will be a partnership working together. It is the start of a new era and a new world for Plymouth Argyle. It is a very exciting chapter and we are very glad to be part of it because we feel we still have a lot to offer this football club. We have passion, support and knowledge that we have acquired over many years, and we are really pleased to be part of this journey. The manager has said the Championship is a league that needs money. I think it brought it home to the Board that we needed help to advance the club further. Obviously, we had George Synan and Mr Kagami, which helped, and bringing in Sir Roy and Keith was the next stage. "It wasn't forced on us - it was time."
Argyle is under new ownership today after a deal to buy the club was finally completed. A consortium of international and local businesses is buying a controlling share in the holding company that owns Argyle and the partnership says it will establish a 'New World' for PAFC, targeting Premier League football within five years and expanding e-commerce operations based around the club's brand. As part of the takeover, chairman Paul Stapelton is standing down. Speaking at a press conference this morning, he said: "Today, I am standing down after eight momentous years as chairman of Plymouth Argyle. I will always remember the game at Rochdale to take us into League One and then the win over QPR to promote us to the Championship. As I said at the time, you can't buy days like those. I wouldn't change a moment of it all. It has been a time of great pride. I have been very lucky to have people around who have supported me on the board, and the staff at the club as well. We have moved on tremendously. The fans have been very supportive to all of us and we thank them all for that. I've had a few managers and I can't say enough about Paul Sturrock. He was the catalyst for all of this. We have taken this club as far as we think we can and it is time to pass on the baton. I will be stepping down as Chairman. Sir Roy Gardner will be the new Chairman, with Keith Todd also taking a place on the Board. George Synan and Mr Kagami will become the largest shareholders. I will be staying on as Vice Chairman, and Tony Wrathall and Robert Dennerly will also remain on the Board."
A wide-ranging five-year business plan is under preparation and will be published by the new Argyle board before Christmas. It will include proposals for establishing a Youth Academy and growing the recognition of the PAFC brand, both locally and globally. It will also clarify the club's plans to expand the current stadium capacity to more than 25,000 via a fully seated stadium. The partnership is led by former Manchester United chairman Sir Roy Gardner, who will become the new chairman. Alongside him will be businessman Keith Todd. The consortium's other partner is the Kagami Group, which recently increased its holding from 20% to 38%. Gardner and Todd are buying 13% of the shares through their joint venture company, KKC. Roy Gardner said: "I would like to thank Paul Stapleton for his great leadership over the last decade. Anyone who knows me, will know of my passion for football, and I have been looking to get back into the game for a while now. This is my opportunity. We have got some exciting ideas and I am delighted to have this opportunity. Keith Todd is a lifelong Plymouth Argyle fan and we are looking to make this a Premiership club." Keith Todd said: "You would be amazed by how many Argyle fans there are around the world. This is a global brand and a global club. This is a partnership between a UK and Japanese consortium. It has been a great time and the harmony behind the scenes here is very strong." The Kagami Group and KKC have options to further increase their shareholding over the next 12 months.
Argyle's new owners have described the takeover deal as 'a global and local partnership with football at its heart'. Paul Stapleton said: "I am delighted that we have now concluded this new partnership deal that brings together considerable global and local business experience. I am particularly delighted that Sir Roy has agreed to take on the chairmanship role. His business and football experience will be invaluable to the club." Sir Roy Gardner said: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the club forward and build on the past decade of progress at the club under Paul Stapleton's leadership, and the considerable efforts and support of current and past directors and fans." The new owners have also confirmed that Paul Sturrock will continue as manager. Gardner added: "The priority next season is stabilization and laying good foundations for the future. Paul Sturrock is the right man to do this on the football field and take the club forward. We are working with Paul to consolidate the squad in the pre-season. As we develop a better understanding of the club's precise needs, we plan to progressively increase the budget for new players, in particular as we grow the commercial income." New director Keith Todd said: "There are great opportunities here. Plymouth's maritime and armed forces history gives the club huge brand potential. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world with great affection for the town and the club. We will use new technology to build the fan-base and help deliver commercial success."
A new fan website, www.argyleinsider.com has been set up by the new club owners to start building the Argyle community globally. Fans can join at no cost.
Liam Head's Argyle career could take off in a big way this month. Head may spend July training and playing friendlies in the company of the youth-team squad but he could also be given the opportunity to stake his claim for a place in the first-team squad. Head signed professional terms with Argyle on his 17th birthday last January and Paul Sturrock has pledged that every member of his squad will be given a fair chance to earn a place at the Scottish training camp. If Head is excluded from first-team training sessions because of pressure of numbers, however, he will be welcomed back into the youth-team fold. "It's entirely a matter for the manager," Gordon Bennett said. "Liam is young enough to play youth-team football, but he is a professional. At the moment, there are 30 professionals, and it's up to him to work hard and secure his place in the 22 that go to Scotland. If he doesn't achieve that we will be more than pleased to take him with the rest of our youth squad to Keele University for a training camp in that particular week."
Argyle are set to announce a friendly against 'top quality' opponents, believed to be a leading SPL side, which will take place on Wednesday July 29th at 7.45. Three days' later, on August 1st, Paul Sturrock will return to one of his former clubs, Swindon Town, for a friendly.
Sam Sawyer is aiming to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Gary. Sawyer is one of a group of nine new first-year apprentices to join the club and is happy to have joined the Argyle set-up. He said: "Hopefully, I will go as far as I can go here. I feel I have got the passion to do it and I've got the coaching behind me at Plymouth. It's always been my dream to play first-team football – I've always wanted to be a footballer. I was originally spotted by Exeter and I've been there for two years. No disrespect to Exeter at all, but I decided to come here because Plymouth is a bigger club. You've always got to look at getting to the top, whatever you do. But if it happened that I ended up staying at Plymouth, that would be fantastic." Sam paid tribute to his brother for his encouragement. He said: "Gary's always encouraging me. There's always competition between brothers, but of course I look up to him and what he's done. If I can take a bit of what he's managed to achieve, then I'll be happy."
Raivo Varazinskis, a 16-year-old goalkeeper from Latvia, is one of nine first-year apprentices who have joined Argyle. Varazinskis came to the club's attention when they sent a youth team to Riga in May last year. Varazinskis played against the team, and did so well that he was invited to Plymouth for trials during the course of last season. They went well, and the two-year apprenticeship is the consequence. Varazinskis will now compete with Oliver Chenoweth for a place in the Youth Alliance and FA Youth Cup sides. He is lodging with former Argyle full-back Brian McGlinchey and his family, and is looking forward to his new life in Plymouth. "I think it will be very exciting for me," he said. "It's a new country, a new club and a new squad for me. It's always scary to change your life, but it's also exciting. English football is the best in the whole world. I hope to stay here in England all my football career." Raivo is a Latvian youth international and was playing for the under-15 side when he faced Argyle last year. "I kept a clean-sheet, and I played very well," he said. "We won 3-0, but we could have drawn or even lost." Gordon Bennett recalled that game. He said: "The lad was outstanding. What impressed us was not only his shot-stopping ability, but also his command of the penalty area and his defence. Raivo came over here subsequently on four occasions. Rhys Wilmot, our goalkeeper coach, and Mike Pejic were very impressed by his attitude and his enthusiasm. There remained one big stumbling block. Under FIFA and UEFA regulations, his club would be entitled to a £75,000 compensation fee if he was offered a professional contract here, and that sort of figure is outside the economics of Plymouth Argyle. We had to have serious talks with his club, and in the end – because the player was very keen and very anxious to come – we reached a compromise agreement which will be based largely on his performances with Argyle's first team and Latvia's senior international team."
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