A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
First team coach, Kevin Nancekivell say that Carl Fletcher is 'very driven to succeed' as a manager, and has been struck by the professionalism of the two-times former Argyle player-of-the-year. Fletcher's public persona is of a serious, deep thinker, but Nancekivell insisted the former Wales midfielder is not always like that. He said: "He's very professional, and very driven to succeed – and I'm sure he will have a fantastic career in management. Off the pitch and away from football, he's a family man – he has got three little girls. He loves a laugh and he's a different person to some degree. But football does take you over. I think we are all obsessed with it, and it's a job to get away from that. When you are that driven, and that intent on producing success, it's difficult to flip from one to the other, just like that." Nancekivell added: "He's very popular with the lads in the changing room, and he's a different character than probably the public see."
Kevin Nancekivell says that the management trio has been hard at work to try to strengthen Argyle's squad. He said: "There's a lot going on behind the scenes. We are making lots of phone calls, but it's the waiting game at the moment. We have got targets we are looking at, and trying to speak to, but I think players are waiting to see what's out there and not committing themselves. I think a lot of clubs are in the same situation as we are. We will just wait and see what develops. We are very conscious of bringing in the right people, rather than rushing in and making signings for the sake of it. It's not quiet in the office. We are full on, but if it takes us up until the first game of the season to bring someone in who we think is right for the club then we would much rather do it that way."
After all the trials and tribulations of last season, Kevin Nancekivell has welcomed some time away from Home Park earlier this summer. But now, with the start of pre-season fast approaching, he is ready and raring for the challenge that lays ahead. Nancekivell said: "I think we all needed a little breathing space, just to reflect on what had gone on. It was important to get away and refresh, and make sure we are ready for next season. For 10 months, you really don't come up for air until the end of May. Once we are back in for pre-season it's full-on again. It's important to have a rest because we do ask a lot of the players every day when they are in, so they need that time away with their families just to recuperate and recharge the batteries, and start getting excited about what's coming up." Nancekivell added: "It's quite a long pre-season until the Portsmouth game so there will be a general build up. The days of the long, lung-busting runs in pre-season have gone. The majority of it will be ball-work. Hopefully, it will be enjoyable, but it will be hard because, as everyone knows, a good pre-season sets you up for the following nine months. In this day and age, players come back fit anyway. It's not like 20 years ago, where players had to lose pounds, or stones, in weight. They will come back fit and raring to go. It will be a case of keeping them under control to start with, and holding them back with the reins a little bit. The closer we get, we can let those reins go a little bit."
Argyle have announced 1pm kick-offs for the two home derbys next season, against Torquay United on Boxing Day and Exeter City on Easter Saturday, March 30. The away game against Bristol Rovers on January 1 has also been made a 1pm kick-off.
James Spray, a 19-year-old striker recently released by Wolverhampton Wanderers, is a target for Argyle according to news paper reports.
The start of the new season cannot come soon enough for Kevin Nancekivell. He is optimistic about Argyle's chances, but knows 'one or two areas' of the squad need to be improved. He said: "We are all the same. We are excited and can't wait to get going. Hopefully, we can improve on what we started to do last season. The foundations were put in place. We have got a massive opportunity at a fantastic club and we intend to grab it with both hands and make the best of it. There are going to be 22-plus players training on July 4th, which is fantastic. There is no panic. We have given ourselves the opportunity now to bring in the right people to improve a squad that from Christmas onwards last season was more than competitive in League Two. If we can just improve it in one or two areas then we will all be happy."
Kevin Hodges became Argyle's academy manager after the retirement of Gordon Bennett in May. Hodges, who had been the club's under-18s coach for the previous two seasons, believes it takes teamwork to achieve success at youth development level. He said: "I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity of working with the young players. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see them and more recently, over the last couple of years, to see players actually break into the first team. But it's not about one person. I want to make that quite clear. It's not just about me. A lot of people play a very big, important part of youth development, right down to the scouts who go out and watch these young players on a Sunday when it's pouring down with rain. They are doing some really good work, which doesn't get recognised very often." Hodges does not believe the period Argyle spent in administration had an adverse effect on youth development. He said: "I have got a very keen bunch of coaches who have seen some really difficult times and, to their credit, have kept the youth department going. I think despite what we have been through, it hasn't hindered our progress. It has been highlighted with players coming through and getting into the first team." Hodges paid tribute to Bennett for the pieces he had put into place during his six years as Argyle's head of youth development. He said: "With Gordon retiring, he has laid the foundations of a very good youth set-up. I was very fortunate to come through a very good set-up in the 70s. Having been away from the club, and then coming back into it as I have and been involved with the youth set-up over the last three years, it resembles the way it used to be one. My job will be to continue that and, within the new EPPP rules, develop it and progress forward even more so. With the situation the club has been in, in the last couple of years, some of the young players have had to be thrown in at the deep end and have learned the hard way. But, I have to say, they have gone in and done themselves justice. For our youth department to succeed, young players have to be given the opportunity, and when Paul Mariner and John Carver were here, they did that. And, obviously, when Peter Reid came in he wasn't afraid to thrown them in at all. Now that might have been a need but, at the end of the day, he was prepared to do that. And Carl Fletcher, since he has taken over, has taken a really big interest in the youth department, by working with a lot of the younger players and also by coming and watching them play. I think Carl Fletcher and his management team will give young players an opportunity, and then it's up to the players to do it. We prepare them and put in as much as work as we possibly can with these boys but it's about the individual. It's not all about what we do. It's about individuals taking the onus on themselves to look to learn and take everything on board, and try to put it into practice."
Kevin Hodges believes there will be some positives to be taken from the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which has been criticised. All Premier and Football League clubs will come under the new regulations for youth development, which come into force on August 1st. There will be a four-tier academy system, with clubs at each level having to comply with requirements on player-contact, staffing levels and budgets. Argyle are in the process of securing category three status, which requires a budget of £315,000 a year. Clubs at that level must come up with at least £105,000 for their youth set-up, in order to receive £210,000 of funding from the Premier League. In return, the EPPP allows Premier League clubs to sign under-16 players from lower division sides for fixed fees, and from anywhere in the country. Previously, under-16s could only be signed by clubs provided they were within a 90-minute travelling distance radius. Hodges is taking a pragmatic approach to the EPPP, and said: "There has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get this up and in place. It has given us an opportunity to reflect on what we do, how we can improve on it and really break down what we do. By doing that, it will give us a better opportunity each individual's needs because every player in youth development is at different stages. In terms of funding, we are reliant on the money that comes in, so we have to meet the criteria. Obviously, that's an important part for us. The Premier League clubs are the ones who are actually funding the EPPP so, therefore, it's geared to their needs, I suppose. They will benefit greatly by getting players a lot cheaper. We will be putting the work in as normal but they could be the ones that will be reaping the rewards, but who are we to argue that if they are putting the funding in?" Argyle are still awaiting confirmation of their category three status under the EPPP, but all the indications are they will receive it. Hodges said: "We haven't had the certificate, but we have gone through all the procedures. We have submitted it, and we have had little alterations to do, which we have done. We have been told to carry on and get on with things, and that's what we are doing."
Argyle's new youth coaching structure has been completed with the appointment of former Sunderland and Bristol City midfielder Gary Owers. Argyle now comply with the requirement to have four full-time youth staff as part of their intended category three status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan. In addition to being youth-team manager, Kevin Hodges is the lead coach for 16 to 21-year-old age group and Owers will assist him in that role. Owers will also take charge of the under-16's team. He was employed as under-21 development coach by Bristol City between June last year and April this year, and prior to that was assistant manager at Aldershot Town. He has also managed Bath City and Forest Green Rovers. The youth coaching structure also includes Ian Stonebridge, and Phil Stokes. Stonebridge will be the lead coach for the 12 to 16-year-old age group, and will assist Owers with the under-16 team. Stokes will oversee the nine to 11-year-old age group, as well as assisting Hodges with the under-18 team. Owers has the UEFA 'A' licence coaching qualification, while Stonebridge and Stokes have 'B' licences.
Onismor Bhasera will be allowed to miss the start of pre-season training at Argyle after being on international duty with Zimbabwe this month. Carl Fletcher said: "You have got to take into account Bas has had less time off than everyone else. And the flights to Zimbabwe and back are not short ones. He will report back for pre-season training a little bit later than everyone else to give him that extra rest time." Bhasera missed the start of last season after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in March 2011, and Fletcher added: "Last season he played a lot of games after coming back from a serious knee injury. He did really well to do that, considering he was out for a long time and then came straight back into the side."
Carl Fletcher will look into the possibility of Argyle staying in the north of England between their away doubleheader against Fleetwood Town and Bradford City next season. After playing Fleetwood Town on Saturday, November 17th Argyle face Bradford City the following Tuesday. Returning to Plymouth would see the squad making a round trip of 650 miles. Fletcher believes staying in the north of England after the game against Fleetwood would be beneficial, and said: "In an ideal world, that's what we would do. But we will have to look into the cost and see whether we can do it financially. It would save us 15 hours on a coach, I think, so that's always better for the players." Fletcher puts a lot of importance on making sure the preparations for each and every game are as thorough as possible. He added: "Just off the top of my head, it would be an ideal situation if we could stay up and just relax, rather than worrying about the travelling all the time. It would be a lot of miles to do in a short space of time, up and back, and a lot of late nights and early starts. If we can get the preparation right, it will give us a better chance going into the games."
Robbie Williams has signed a one-year extension to his contract, keeping him at Home Park until the summer of 2013. Carl Fletcher said: "Towards the end of last season, Willo came in and did very well for us. He was a good member of the defensive unit and because he's got Onismor Bhasera also in that position, they push one another to perform well and consistently and it's pleasing that we've got him on board. He's someone who knows what we're doing and what we're about and he's got great quality and technical ability when he's on the ball. It's great that players want to be here and want to do well. It's exactly what we want."
Carl Fletcher has warned Argyle's players they can expect a tough pre-season training programme. Some of the squad have already started doing some fitness work away from the club, but Fletcher did not make any stipulations on that at the end of last season. On the contrary, he encouraged the players to relax and make the most of their time off. Fletcher said: "I have been at clubs and when they give you training regimes for the summer the first thing you do is throw it in the bin. For me, I ask the players to give me 100 per cent every day, but their holiday time is their holiday time. You need to rest and switch off, both mentally and physically, because if you keep going you will come back and be picking up injuries all season. Like I say, we ask them to give us everything during the season so their off time is their off time. The older players know what they need to do to be ready for pre-season through experience. But we have made all of the squad fully aware that when they come back for pre-season training it's going to be tough. Now is the time for them to rest because when they come back they are back to work. They have got to be fully focused for the next 10 months." Meanwhile, Fletcher revealed there had not been interest in any of his players from other clubs so far this summer. He said: "If the players do well, it's a win-win situation. If we are doing well and they are doing well then there is obviously going to be interest from other clubs from higher divisions. That's understandable. We have got good players and one of the most pleasing things from my point of view is they are all down to earth. We haven't got any big-time Charlies and people who are disruptive. Everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet, which is good."
Argyle's League Cup first round tie with Portsmouth will take place at Home Park on Tuesday, August 14th, with kick-off at 7.45. Argyle rejected a call from Portsmouth to play the tie on August 11th as the 14th was always the preferred option for Carl Fletcher, as it fitted in with his planning for the start of the new season. He said: "It's ideal really. It's good for us in terms of what we have planned out preparation-wise for pre-season." Fletcher also revealed that a couple more friendlies could be added to the pre-season fixtures. He added: "We will be doing a lot of work on the training pitch in pre-season and have got some good local sides to play. Fingers crossed we get through pre-season smoothly, with no injuries or anything like that, and we get all the work done that we want to get done." Argyle, Exeter City and Torquay United will be in League Two next season, and Fletcher said: "It's great for the fans we have got the local derbies. I think there will be real full attendances for the games. Where we are in the country, we are a long way from everyone else and it's nice for all the local clubs to be together and to compete with each other. I think this season we are at home on Boxing Day for the first time since I have been here. The game three days after, against Wycombe, is also at home, which is a real bonus. It will be good for us, especially the players who have got families. You get to spend more time with your kids on Christmas Day."
Argyle have been drawn against either Ivybridge Town or Barnstaple in the second round of the St Lukes Cup, having been awarded a first round bye.
Carl Fletcher is already looking forward to renewing Argyle's rivalry with Exeter City and Torquay United. The fixtures for next season, released yesterday, see Argyle visit Torquay on September 8th and play at Exeter 10 days before Christmas. The reverse fixtures see the Gulls at Home Park on Boxing Day, with City visiting on Easter Saturday, March 30th. Fletcher said: "It will be great for the fans. Our fans do enough travelling as it is, so it will be nice for some local games for them. There should be big gates for each of the games and there will be a great atmosphere. It's good. It's a lovely part of the country and it's great that the teams have that rivalry and friendly competitiveness. We will be the same as Torquay and Exeter, going into the games trying to keep our fans happy." There are also some lengthy away trips, including to newly-promoted Fleetwood and York. "Fleetwood and York are about as far away as you could possibly get, it's nice of them to join us," Fletcher joked. "Travelling is part and parcel of where we are. We just get used to it. We try to keep things simple in terms of travelling and cross your fingers you don't get stuck in traffic."
Onismor Bhasera won his 18th cap for Zimbabwe in their 1-0 home win over Burundi on Sunday. As a result, Zimbabwe progress to the second round of qualifying for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on the away goals rule.
Carl Fletcher is being patient when it comes to making further additions to his squad. The manager admitted he was making 'a lot of phone calls' about players, but did not expect any more arrivals in the near future. He said: "I think it's pretty much the same for all clubs really. Everyone is kind of waiting and working out what they need. There will probably be a bit of a rush more towards the end of July. That's usually when players who have maybe been putting you off have a panic and think, 'I had better get something sorted out'. We are making sure we are in the right place, where we need to be with everything. It's keeping in contact with people and making sure you are fully aware of everyone's situations and movements, and things like that. It's not a great deal of excitement, but a lot of phone calls." Argyle are still awaiting a decision from Robbie Williams on whether he will be staying at Home Park and Fletcher hopes the issue will be resolved one way or another by the end of this week. He continued: "We have got a good strong squad of players who have shown they can do a job for the team and do it well. I think it's a case that if we are going to bring people in, they have got to be an improvement on what we have got. There is no point bringing in people who are going to be same. I think it's important for us, where we are location wise, to get a real togetherness in the squad. If you get too big a squad, like there has been here in years gone by, you are not going to be able to keep everyone happy. You can only pick 18 players. It's hard to get a togetherness with a massive squad. But if everyone in your squad has the potential to play in your team and make a difference, then that bodes well for the spirit in the changing room. That transfers itself onto the pitch when you go out and play competitive games." Despite the addition of Paris Cowan-Hall, Fletcher seems certain to recruit at least one more striker, but insisted he was keeping all of his options open. He added: "We are looking everywhere really. We don't discount anything. We are always looking to improve, whether it's players, the training we are doing, or the preparation. In terms of bringing players in, it has got to be right. We haven't got a open cheque book where we can go out and say, 'We want you, this is how much we will give you' or 'We will give you a bit more'. It's not where we are at. We have got to make sure financially it's right, and make sure the player is right and what we want for the squad and for the team."
Following their League Cup tie with Portsmouth, Argyle will kick off their 2012-13 league season at home to Aldershot on Saturday, August 18. The first away game comes four days later, at Dagenham & Redbridge. The Boxing Day fixture is a home one this year, against Torquay; the New Year's Day game will be at Bristol Rovers, whilst Exeter will visit Home Park on Easter Saturday. The last home game will be against Rotherham and the season ends with a trip to Rochdale on April 27th.
Paris Cowan-Hall has been tipped by Steve Thompson, the Plymouth-born first-team coach at Woking, to be a 'great signing' for the Pilgrims. He said: "I think Paris is a very good prospect. He has got pace, he can get in behind defences and he's also very brave. He's only 5ft 8in but he puts his head in where it hurts. It's a great signing for them, but not so good for us." Cowan-Hall played out wide for Woking on a couple of occasions last season, but Thompson believes he is best suited to playing as a central striker. He added: "Paris doesn't pull out of things and even though he's not the biggest I don't think the physicality of League Two will be a problem for him. He has got good pace – not blistering but he's quick enough. He's not just an in-behind player, though. He can also lead the line. He does have a good leap on him and gets up well. He works very hard as well so I think the Argyle fans will take to him. I know the fans at Woking certainly did."
James Brent has stressed the importance of developing youngsters at Argyle. Brent accepts that some of the talent coming through at Home Park will move on to 'better' things with clubs higher up the Football League, but made it clear he would prefer to rely on home-grown talent than on players coming in from outside. The Argyle chairman pointed to Luke Young as an example of what can be achieved. "Luke's a lovely guy," he said. "He's got his feet on the ground. I am sure he would like to end up in the Premier League and his career may not be with Argyle. But he realises what he can do for the club and what the club can do for him. I believe we need to develop real talent at the club and if they leave for the Premier League, then that's great. What we aspire to do and what we plan to do is to develop talent, our primary function is to generate quality players at an affordable price. The strategy is to bring on younger players." Brent said he was encouraged that five young players elevated to the first team last season were part of the squad who would form the core of next season's campaign. He added: "We've got the core in place before we start pre-season training and in that respect we are ahead of a lot of other clubs."
Carl Fletcher is looking forward to the first round of the League Cup tie against Portsmouth. "I'm really pleased with the draw," he said. "It's a fairly close tie in terms of geography and I hope Portsmouth bring a lot of fans down as they have got a good away support like we have, and, being a seaside town, we've got a lot of similarities, especially with the two dockyards and everything. So it should be a good game. Portsmouth have been through a lot of troubles like we have money wise but their manager seems to be doing a great job so we are looking forward to it." The first round tie will take place in the week before the League 2 campaign begins, making it the first competitive fixture of the new season. "It is a bit weird," added Fletcher. "But I suppose that makes it quite exciting because it is a knock out competition which has to be decided on the night. It will be the first game after pre-season and we will be ready and raring to go. In all the pre-seasons that I have done, the games are what you're waiting for, so when it comes around, it will be great for everyone involved and hopefully we can start the season with a bang."
James Brent is excited by the prospect of a 'Dockyard Derby' against Portsmouth in the League Cup first round and believes it will provide an excellent test for Carl Fletcher and his players. He said: "It's a combination of things. You have got two great naval cities coming together, it's a south coast derby, and both clubs have been through really challenging times. Thank God, we are out of it, and, hopefully, Portsmouth will come out of it. It will provide a good test for Carl and his team. Both are long-established clubs, both are well supported and both have been much higher than they currently are. Hopefully, we can start the season off with a win. Then I will be very happy." The Football League revealed after the draw was announced yesterday they would consider requests to play games on Saturday, August 11th or Sunday, August 12th, provided it was mutually agreed by both clubs. Brent was non-committal when asked whether Argyle would try to take up that option. He said: "We are reviewing the position on that. We don't have an answer at the moment." Brent was at Home Park yesterday and held talks with Fletcher, among others. The manager is working busily behind the scenes to try to add more new recruits to his squad, and Brent added: "I saw Carl yesterday and he's very active in trying to bring more players in, but there is nothing imminent." Brent also confirmed that there was 'no news' about out-of-contract left-back Robbie Williams.
Argyle will play Portsmouth at Home Park in the first round of the League Cup. The tie will be played week commencing August 13th.
Onismor Bhasera started for Zimbabwe, winning his 17th cap, as they drew 0-0 away to Mozambique in the second group game of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign on Sunday.
Matt Lecointe remains on the radar of England age group coach Noel Blake. Blake spoke to Lecointe when the striker watched England under-19's draw against Montenegro at Rochdale in May. Lecointe was accompanied by Gordon Bennett, who recently left his role as Argyle's head of youth development. Bennett said: "It's up to Matt to work hard. He has a lot of natural ability. He and I went up to Rochdale to watch the England under-19s play against Montenegro and Noel Blake spotted him in the stand and asked to see him after the game. His message to Matt was exactly the right one, make sure you work hard during the summer so you are really fit to make the most of next season." Meanwhile, Bennett has highlighted the potential of two of Argyle's new apprentices for next season, goalkeeper Christian Walton and left-back Ben Purrington. He said: "They demonstrate the application and desire to succeed which lads like Joe Mason and Luke Young have shown. So the portents, I think, are good for both of those boys. Walton is the best young goalkeeper I have been involved with since we had Robert Green at Norwich. Robert was involved with us from the age of 12 upwards. Christian is still learning the game, obviously, but he does a lot of extra work at home, as well as what he does at the club. He's very receptive to instructions." Argyle under-18s won the Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference title last season, but Bennett stressed there was much more to the youth set-up at Home Park than that. He said: "Most supporters are aware of the under-18s, but the club runs eight other teams from under-16 down to under-nine. Each of those teams has two coaches and a physio, and they all play every weekend throughout the season. They have coaching sessions two, three or four times a week. It's a huge logistical exercise, but it's what you have to do to maximise the possible opportunities for the players. It's also an enormous commitment by the players and their parents. Take Christian Walton and Ben Purrington, whose parents have been bringing them up three or four times a week, every week, for the last six or seven years. It's an incredible amount of hours, let alone petrol costs. In many ways, the parents are the unsung heroes." Bennett has been succeeded by Kevin Hodges, who will combine the roles of head of youth and academy manager and Bennett added: "Kevin has been helping in the youth set-up for the last three years, so it should be a very smooth transition."
James Brent has voiced his belief that Argyle will play more attractive football next season. He said: "The team defied the odds to avoid relegation last season. The team played an ugly type of football that I take total responsibility for. The three main objectives were to keep us out of the Conference, keep us out of the Conference and keep us out of the Conference." Brent said, however, that Carl Fletcher preferred to play a more expansive style. He added: "Anyone who knows him will tell you Carl likes watching attractive football and he likes playing attractive football, his natural game is to play attractively. We need to focus on this season, I wouldn't like the pressure we had last season. I have no doubt we will be playing more attractive football next season. I think the fans have been massively supportive over the type of football we played. But we will be starting with a full pre-season and Carl should be, with the help of that, providing enjoyable football." Brent believes the team are in a strong position going into the new season. He said: "I was speaking to chairman of other clubs last weekend and I think we are well advanced in terms of our squad. We have retained 14 senior members of the first team and elevated five of the youngsters, so we have got a good core already. It's a great start, the team spirit during last season was really quite special. It was built from the situation the club was in and built up out of adversity. We are filling in the gaps in the squad and hopefully we can have a good team."
Argyle will play Preston North End in a friendly at Home Park on August 8th, at 7.45. This means that the friendly at Weston-super-Mare, previously scheduled for August 7th, has been moved to July 27th, also at 7.45. The pre-season game at Tiverton Town has also been confirmed, for July 31st at 7.45.
Any player signing for Argyle this summer must be ready to embrace living in the South West, Carl Fletcher has warned. Persuading players to sign has always been a challenge because of the geographical location of the club and Fletcher acknowledged that, but is not prepared to allow any of his squad to spend some of their week in Plymouth and the rest of it away from the city. He said: "If a player is not sure about coming here because it's too far to travel, we don't want them. We want people who want to be here and want to do well. You come and play for this football club and that's your job. You are not down here to come and stay a couple of days a week and travel bac k if and when you like. You become a Plymothian for however long you are here and really embrace what this area of the country is about. Whether you like being by the sea or in the great countryside, you must embrace it and feel a part of it, because we will make you feel part of the club. We will do everything we can to help you settle in and make the transition as easy as possible." While the location of Plymouth often counts against Argyle, the strengths of the club can work in their favour, and Fletcher used the example of Paris Cowan-Hall. He said: "We have got three-quarters of a nice stadium and a superb fanbase. When I showed Paris around the place, he was very impressed with the set up. I told him we were getting 8,000 people for our home games at the end of last season, and that's a real big draw." Fletcher already has 22 players signed on for next season, including five first-year professionals, but is still looking to increase his options. He said: "We are looking at all possible targets. There are a lot of players on free transfers, there are more and more as the seasons go on. I think clubs, from a financial point of view, can't afford to give long contracts out. It's the clubs that have got the power these days, than say six years ago when players could demand what they wanted. We are looking at all avenues, and it's important for us that we try to find the ones who are going to suit the club, financially and in terms of football and their personality. There is no point just getting people for the sake of it. We know as a management team what we need, and what we want to add to our squad. We are working hard to find those little gems. All the other clubs around the country are looking at the same players. So it's a good challenge for me, Nance and Ro to try to find those ones who do kind of slip through the net." Fletcher decided at the end of last season that a major reshuffle of his squad was not needed, after Argyle narrowly escaped relegation. He said: "We have got a decent size group of players already here, and we were very wary about ripping that apart. It's very easy to think, 'We can change this and we can change that'. But you don't know the people you are bringing in as well as those you have already got. Most of the players that are signed to us, we know inside and out. They have been in that pressure situation from last season, and we know how they handled it, and what they are good at it and what they aren't good at. That's vital for us. So I think it's important we add certain bits to that and help us get to where we want to be."
Argyle have added first-team friendlies at Truro and Weston-super-Mare to their pre-season schedule. They will play Truro City at Treyew Road on July 24th, before visiting Weston at the Woodspring Stadium on August 7th. Other games are still being planned, including one at Tiverton Town. In addition to this fixtures for a reserves/development side will be played at Callington on July 21st, Bridport on July 26th, Elburton Villa on August 1st, Tavistock on August 3rd and Saltash on August 8th.
Carl Fletcher has revealed he first tried to sign Paris Cowan-Hall during the transfer window in January. He said: "I have known about him for a while. I tried to get him in January but Woking were going for promotion and didn't want to let him go. We are delighted to get him. He can play on either wing, anywhere up front really. He brings something different to what we have already got, in terms of Chads, Feeno, Matty and Simsy." Argyle have given Cowan-Hall the chance to return to league football and Fletcher expects him to make the most of it. "He has been in the professional game before when he was younger," said Fletcher. "He has been out of it, playing part-time at Woking and working full-time. He's hungry and wants to come here and do well. Those are the kind of players we want at the club."
Durrell Berry was the most improved player at Argyle last season, according to Carl Fletcher. Berry signed a new contract last week and Fletcher was pleased he would continue his development at Home Park. He said: "It's good for us. Looking back, I think Durrell was probably the most improved player as the season went on. He was a big part of a good defensive unit we had, and it was important for us to try to keep him here. He wanted to be here and we wanted him here so, in terms of getting things sorted out, it wasn't too difficult. I think a lot of people probably forget it was his first full season of competitive football. We hope he continues to improve and keep getting better. He has got the opportunity to try to do well." The Argyle squad will report for the start of pre-season training on July 4th, and Fletcher admitted pre-season in 2011 had been 'a real shambles'. He said: "We didn't know what was going on. We were coming back for pre-season on one date and then it was a week later. I think we had only four weeks pre-season, which was never going to be enough. We had no kit, nothing. Now, it's a fresh new start. The main thing for us is that we are properly organised and ready to go for when the players come back in. Obviously, it's our first pre-season as a management team and we are learning a lot as we go along. There probably will be a few mistakes, but we want to make sure we are as professional as we can be." Fletcher was not sure whether Argyle would play any pre-season friendlies at Home Park. He said: "The pitch is getting done and we have got to make sure that is right for the start of the season." Fletcher is not keen on pre-season games against top flight opposition anyway. He said: "The big clubs come down and you don't touch the ball for 90 minutes. You are just chasing around. For me, pre-season is about getting ready for what you are going to face in the coming campaign. If you can, you want to play games against teams where you can work on certain things, so when the season starts you know what you are going to do in certain situations, rather than guessing and learning along the way. It's great for the fans and for the players if you can get a big club to come down. But, for the management team, our focus is to be prepared for League Two, whether that's playing against a team who are very direct or a team with other qualities. We have got to make sure we are ready for that scenario."
Argyle membership sales for the new campaign have surpassed last season's season-ticket sales. Carl Fletcher said: "It's a testament to the fans. They are a massive part of this club and, at the end of the day, they come to spend their hard-earned money to support Argyle, whether it's here at home or away. The players really appreciate the fans and what they do for us. "We try to make sure that, no matter what, good days or bad, the players have a real pride in that shirt and give 100 per cent every time they go out onto that football pitch. I think the fans were fantastic last season. When things were not going right, they would still get behind the players, because that makes such a big difference. They are probably the best in the country that I've seen for sticking by their players and if we stick together as a whole, staff, players and fans, then things for the football club are going to be a lot better." Fletcher added: "The more people we get in, the more money we get. It's good for everyone involved. We look at the 12,500 we got against Torquay last year and obviously we are going to have big home games against Torquay and Exeter again this season."
Carl Fletcher says he will not wait long for Robbie Williams to sign a new contract at Home Park. "We'll try and get it sorted but we're not going to wait forever," he said. "We made an offer to Robbie at the same time as Durrell. Robbie did well towards the end of last season and did well in a good defensive unit, so we'll see how that goes in the coming weeks."
Durrell Berry has agreed a new contract to stay at Argyle, for an undisclosed period. Berry admits last season's fight against relegation was tough, but believes it will stand everyone in good stead when the new season kicks off. He said: "Last season was good for me, and, hopefully, it will be even better next season, I think we should be aiming for the play-offs. You will see a different side. There was a lot of pressure last season and it was hard. Anyone who tells you different is lying." Durrell paid tribute to Carl Fletcher, adding: "He has been good for me. It has helped me a bit that I was playing alongside him at the start of the season."
Argyle's former head of youth development Gordon Bennett claims two of their best young talents were sold 'for relative peanuts' during the period in administration. He was referring to the departures of Dan Barrow and Lloyd Jones last summer, sold to Liverpool for £20,000 and West Bromwich Albion for an undisclosed fee, respectively. Youth striker Sam Gallagher also recently signed for Southampton. He said: "Lloyd Jones, Dan Barrow and Sam Gallagher would have all been due to come in as apprentices this summer and would have been outstanding prospects. Guilfoyle allowed both Dan Barrow and Lloyd Jones to go for relative peanuts. It's of some satisfaction that between them, James Brent and general manager Jason Turner ensured that we negotiated a very satisfactory compensation package for Sam Gallagher. It's going to be tough for all three boys, but we wish them very well." Argyle also sold Joe Mason last summer, Cardiff City paying a transfer fee of £150,000. Bennett had mixed feelings about Mason's move and said: "I'm delighted for Joe, but I'm really disappointed for the club because I would have preferred, in all these cases, for the boys to stay here and get at least 100 games under their belts. They could then move straight into Premier League teams for big transfer fees which makes your expenditure in youth totally justifiable. Also, it means young players are acquired by a Premier League at the manager's behest, and with the manager having paid a significant transfer fee for them. Then they do get 20 to 30 games to prove their worth. Fortunately in Joe's case, he has been lucky to have a manager who recognised his potential and who has both challenged and nurtured him during the last 12 months. So, in some ways, you could argue his move to Cardiff was very beneficial." Argyle spent seven months in administration last year but Bennett insisted that had not impacted on the youth set-up. He said: "The club receives an annual grant of £180,000 from the Football League which comes in monthly instalments and has to be paid into a ring-fenced bank account so Guilfoyle couldn't get his hands on any of that money. We were able to run, without restriction, except for the fact the staff weren't being paid. The sacrifices the coaches made at that time were really much appreciated because it did enable us to continue to give the boys exactly the same service and attention as they had enjoyed pre-administration." Argyle have suffered back-to-back relegations and those struggles had an impact on the youth section. Bennett said: "Obviously, first team results have an effect on general morale around the club, but not the kids involved in the youth scheme. It also has an effect if the gates go down because there is a squeeze on budgets. When Mike Pejic and I first arrived we were able to take the boys off in pre-season to play clubs like Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and so on, and go to the Northern Ireland Milk Cup. Those things are no longer possible." Despite his disappointment over that, Bennett enjoyed his time at Argyle, and will continue to closely follow the club in the future. He has even bought a membership for next season. He said: "Every day, when I have watched the young players training or playing, I have thought how lucky I was not to have to do a proper job." Asked what differences there were in the youth set-up compared to 2007, Bennett replied: "It has been a continuation process rather than a revolutionary process. There were talented players in every age group when we arrived, and there are talented players in every age group for Kevin and the new academy coaches to take on." As to his own future, Bennett added: "I'm going to take a couple of months to take stock. I shall remain living in Plymouth and I have bought my season ticket for next season. I'm sure I will turn up at quite a few of the youth and schoolboy games to see how the young lads are progressing."
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