A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Argyle will slash the size of their squad next season, whether they are relegated or not. Paul Sturrock has admitted the club cannot afford to continue operating with such a large playing staff and, should some of those made surplus to requirements not be signed by other clubs, Argyle are prepared to pay up their contracts. Sturrock said: "The country, as a whole, is going through a real problem, and we are not cut off from that. In the end, there will be major cuts of playing staff, whether we are in this league or not. That is for the simple reason we cannot run with the squad we have got at this minute in time. I'm going to be slashing it dramatically next season. There is a budget which we are over, and I want to work to it. The only way I can do that is by cutting personnel out of the playing staff. I would rather have a leaner squad than we have got at this minute in time. We are going to have to sit down with people and negotiate deals for them to move on. I would be hopeful there will be some other clubs interested in them as well." Meanwhile, Sturrock has shrugged off talk about a takeover at Home Park. He said: "I haven't read a paper lately, but somebody mentioned it to me over the weekend. I'm concentrating more on the challenge ahead, rather than what's going to happen later on. I haven't heard anything, and if there was anything going to happen, I would have thought I would have maybe had an insight into it. It's not a distraction. No way."
Paul Sturrock has warned his players that no one is safe ahead of the final six games of the season. "We've condensed our season into six games and all slates are clean," he said. "We've all got to be on the same wavelength as far as the way we want these games to be played. Anyone who wants to play on my team has to perform well in either training, or during a reserve or first team game to show me they're ready to take us to where we want to be. The players were left in no doubt what I was looking for before they left last Wednesday. They've come back this morning ready for the challenge. They've got to be appreciative that I want to put a winning team together." Argyle reserves take on Cheltenham at Home Park this afternoon and Sturrock added: "There are still places to be fought for and those who play will have the first opportunity to plead their case. It will be a great opportunity for players to shine and push their way into the team for Saturday. Blackpool realise that another three points will be enough for them and we would like to suck them back into the rat race. The only way to do that is to beat them on Saturday." Lloyd Saxton will start in goal against Cheltenham behind a back four of David McNamee, Krisztian Timar, Chris Barker and Jim Paterson. The midfield will be Chris Clark, Yoann Folly, Luke Summerfield and Craig Noone, with Jermaine Easter and Rudi Douala in attack. Sturrock has also confirmed that Emile Mpenza will return to training tomorrow following his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Paul Sturrock is pleased with the performances of two of his loaned out players, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon. "Yannick has really benefited from going to Barnet," he said. "He has done really well and his performances are beneficial to both them and us. Puncheon is also doing fantastically and it will be a real benefit to the club when he comes back."
Argyle under 18's won 2-1 at Torquay Utd, the goals scored by Josh Grant and Liam Head. Argyle: Chenoweth, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Gerring, Brett, Harper-Penman, Young, Rickard, Head, Grant. Subs Clifford, Broomfield (not used - Brooks, Levet, Troupe).
Carl Fletcher won his 36th cap for Wales in their 2-0 defeat by Finland on Saturday.
Simon Walton has revealed he would rather have stayed with Argyle than go out on loan and made it clear he wanted to stay at Home Park and fight for his place. He said: "The Blackpool offer sort of came out of the blue. There's been a few teams sniffing around, but there was nothing that really seemed worthwhile and I had really resigned myself to getting my head down and working my hardest at Plymouth. It all got finalised very quickly and I am looking forward to getting back to football, although I had really set my sights on my game here. Obviously, that's not to be. It is funny that, having said I want to play football, when Blackpool play Plymouth next week I won't be able to play, because it's been put into my contract that I can't." Walton said it was not up to him to decide where his future might lie. He said: "With Blackpool, I suppose the shop window scenario kicks in. But I have made it clear that I'm not looking to move anywhere. My family are here and I want to continue playing here. I'd like to think that I've still got a future at Plymouth, but this move was a chance to play some football. I wouldn't say I've wasted my time at Plymouth, though I probably haven't made the best of it. It's been a good experience and it's made me stronger as a person. Everyone has an off season, whether it's due to injury or loss of form, although obviously, this season is not one I'd like to be remembered for. But I'm here at Home Park on a three-year contract, and there's still two of them left. Surely the next two can't be as bad as this one."
Graham Stack is hoping his loan move to Wolves will provide a positive conclusion to a frustrating season. Stack makes no secret of his delight at being part of the Wolves squad, rather than what he feels has been internal exile at Home Park, training with the youth squad. He also revealed that Leeds United were also keen to sign him. "No offence to anyone at Argyle, but it's great to feel wanted again," he said Stack. "I didn't need much convincing when I'd heard Mick McCarthy was keen to sign me on loan for the rest of the season. That was Wednesday and then I heard that Simon Grayson at Leeds United was also keen to have me. I'd been on loan with Simon when he was in charge at Blackpool earlier this season, so it was a tempting offer. But I'd given my word to Wolves by that time, but I'm obviously flattered by all the interest. I'd spent most of last season at Wolves with Mick in charge, and he said I was a positive influence to have around the team, which was nice to hear. Basically, I'm there to keep Wayne on his toes and, God forbid he does get injured, to be available to start for Wolves. I could have gone back late last year to Wolves as Mick was interested in signing me on loan then. But I chose Blackpool as I thought there'd be more chance of first-team football, although for various reasons that didn't happen. But that's okay. I've now got the chance to help Wolves in whatever way I can. I'm also happy to return to Argyle in the summer if that's what happens, too. I like the fans and the place and I still think they have enough talent in the squad to stay in the Championship."
Alan Judge won his sixth cap and scored the winner for the Republic of Ireland under-21s in their 2-1 victory over Spain last night
Argyle look set to extend Yannick Bolasie's loan with Barnet until the end of the season. An Argyle spokesman said: "Barnet want to extend the loan until the end of the season and we're quite amenable to that. Yannick being at Barnet is good for us and it's good for them, because he's done well there. We're very much keeping an eye on him while he's at Barnet it's not just a case of loaning him out and leaving him there."
Paul Sturrock insisted he has no qualms over loaning Simon Walton to Blackpool for the remainder of the season. He said: "I really think it's a good move for the lad, as he needs first-team football and I think Blackpool will play him in their remaining matches. As he cannot play against us, I don't see how Walton playing for one of our rivals can hurt us. Perhaps some people will see it differently and be surprised I've allowed him to join Blackpool, particularly if he does well for them. But I think there are two ways of looking at the move, because he could end up doing us a favour if he does damage to one or two of the teams around us in the league. Since Carl Fletcher came in on loan, Simon's chances of breaking into the first-team have been limited. Hopefully, this move will work in the lad's and our favour." Graham Stack also left Home Park on loan yesterday, joining Wolverhampton Wanderers. Sturrock also revealed he had tried and failed to add at least one more player to his squad, but would not confirm any targets. Sturrock said: "I'm sure Stack will benefit from going back to Wolverhampton. He knows the club well and is on a 24-hour recall should something unforeseen happen at this end."
Simon Walton has joined Blackpool on loan until the end of the season. He will not be eligible to face Argyle when they visit Bloomfield Road on April 4th.
Graham Stack has joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan until the end of the season and Argyle have a 24-hour recall in exceptional circumstances
Argyle could be on the brink of passing into foreign ownership according to newspaper reports. It is thought that representatives of the club's Japanese director, Yasuaki Kagami, have been holding talks with the rest of the board about increasing the percentage of the club's shares which are owned by Kagami's company. Shonan Management Corporation purchased 20 per cent of the shares in Argyle's holding company in April last year and it is believed that they could be set to do a deal which would give it a controlling interest in Argyle. Under the terms of the deal, Japanese money would be used to help the club cope with their financial predicament. Paul Stapleton could not be reached yesterday to deliver a response to the speculation, while the club's communications department declined to comment.
Paul Sturrock is disappointed with the hostility that was shown by supporters towards Steve MacLean on Saturday. "There always seems to be one or two in a football club and in this case he's the one getting it," he said. "His main purchase as a centre-forward is where I think the grievance has come from. Basically, and he will be the first to admit it, it's because of his lack of goals. It doesn't help and it's unfortunate he's taken the can. It would be nice and appreciated if supporters tried to get behind the team at this minute."
Argyle reserves won 2-1 at Yeovil Town, the goals scored by Josh Grant and Rudy Douala. Argyle are to complain to the Football Combination over the venue for the game yesterday afternoon, which took place at a sports ground in the village of Somerton on a pitch described as 'diabolical'. Paul Sturrock and Andy King both made the trip to Somerton, but trying to assess individuals was a pointless exercise. Mike Pejic, who took the team for the game, said: "It's just not fair to judge those kids on a pitch like that." Argyle: Stack, Leonard, Gerring, Brett, Trott, Mason, Kinsella, Young, Grant, Douala, Donnelly. Subs Troupe, Head (not used - Chenoweth, Levet).
Rudy Douala insists he is not looking any further forward than the end of this season. He said: "I want to do something good for Plymouth. I want to help the team stay in the Championship. After that, we will see. I spoke with the manager and, for me, I think he's somebody good. I know what he wants and I will do all I can." Douala was on trial at Charlton Athletic earlier this month but was not offered a deal by them. He said: "The trainer wanted me, and most of the people there liked me. But the chairman decided that with the club going down, it wasn't necessary to give contracts to any players now. That's why I didn't sign for Charlton." After a couple of weeks with Charlton Douala started his trial at Argyle last Monday, but, had Douala's agent had his way, the striker would not have ended up at Home Park. Douala said: "First, my agent wanted me to go and train with a team in the Premier League. But I thought good, and I told him I hadn't played any games for a while and I wasn't ready to go there. It was better to find one good team, and I think Plymouth is a good challenge for me because we need to win games to stay in the Championship." Douala played 10 times for Portsmouth during a loan spell 2005/06 but nine of those appearances were as a substitute and he had to contend with injury trouble while at Fratton Park. Douala said: "I think the manager didn't want me, but I always wanted to come back to England at some time. I like the football here and I like this country. And it's nearer than Greece to where my family live in France. Now it's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do." Douala saw Argyle lose to Burnley on Saturday but was still impressed with what he saw. He said: "We lost to a goal from an error, but I think the team played good. I have been told that sometimes there isn't much football played in the Championship, but I thought both teams played good. We need to win games, and I think Plymouth need a player like me because I'm hungry to play. All the games are really important now, and I want to play in them."
Paul Sturrock has stated he would never hesitate in signing players he believes could become the future 'lifeblood' of the club. He has cast his attention in recent weeks towards new contracts for Luke Summerfield and Ashley Barnes but has not ruled out securing several younger players. "I will always sign potential," he said. "Luke and Ashley are still in negotiations as well as Saxon, McCrory and Dan Smith. They are three that will be out of contract so we are in discussion with a few of them to see what the story is over the next couple of weeks. They will be the lifeblood of the team eventually, like the boy McCrory, who played 14 games for Port Vale and has come back here a different person. He has played more league games than some of the other ones and has shown he can handle it so that's potential to me. I'm quite excited about that"
David Gray has been called up as a late addition to the Scotland under-21 squad for their upcoming double-header against Albania on March 28th and April 1st.
Emile Mpenza could yet play a part for Argyle in the fight for survival. Mpenza is set to return to training next Monday after recovering from a torn hamstring and Paul Sturrock said: "He has made it plain he wants to get himself fit and be competitive for a place in the team before the end of the season. He has made the quote he wants to play for the coach. So he will be given every opportunity to see if he can reach the heights." Meanwhile, the Argyle squad will train tomorrow before being given the next four days off. Sturrock said: "We have had a lot of games on pitches which have varied from very wet to very dry and we have also had a reasonable amount of travelling. I just feel it's the appropriate time for them to recharge their batteries and then we will train solidly next week."
Alan Judge had mixed emotions after he scored his first goal for Argyle in the defeat by Burnley. He said: "I'm happy I got my goal, but I'm not happy we lost. We should have won, if not, at least got a draw. As usual, the luck has turned against us. A lapse of concentration let us down at the end. Duggie had a shot just past the post before they scored their second goal. But when I saw that ball drop to Robbie Blake, I just knew he wasn't going to miss. We maybe need three wins out of the next six games to keep us up, so we will have to give it everything, which we have been doing, and, hopefully, our luck can change." Judge's goal came after tenacious play from Paul Gallagher and Ashley Barnes saw Burnley lose possession inside their own area. He said: "I just remember Gally blocking off the lad between me, and Ashley making a tackle. I though the keeper might have saved it, but he didn't. It was a nice feeling at the time, but it wasn't a nice feeling at the end. It was my first senior goal and, hopefully, there will be many more to come." Argyle had a good spell after scoring, but could not turn that dominance into further goals. Judge said: "We have proven we can play football, and I just can't understand why we can't keep doing it. Burnley rarely got out of their box in the first half. With Fletcher and Duguid, we have got stability in the midfield, and then me and Gally can do whatever we want, which the manager has been letting us do. I hope for the manager's sake the results start to turn because he is good at his job." Gallagher and Judge were used in wide attacking positions against Burnley and were very influential in the first half but they did not get as much of the ball after half-time. Judge added: "The two of us were disappointed about that. We didn't understand why, but it just falls that way sometimes. You can't always get the ball. You just have to go looking for it." Judge believes Argyle could use the international break to their advantage. He said: "We will have a few players going away on international duty, but most of the squad will get a good rest in. I think we need to reflect on how we have been doing."
Paul Sturrock has decided not to send an experienced side when Argyle reserves play Yeovil Town at Somerton Sports Club this afternoon. George Donnelly and Rudy Douala will lead the attack but the only other professional in the line-up will be Graham Stack. The rest of the senior squad will play in a behind-closed-doors practice match at Home Park instead. Sturrock will attend the game in order to evaluate the performances of second-year apprentices Ryan Brett, Ben Gerring, Josh Grant and Joe Mason, who are trying to earn professional contracts. "I'm driving up for the sole purpose of watching the two strikers and watching the second-years have another performance," he said. "I made a commitment to them all two months ago that I would go out and see as many games as possible. I've been very fortunate because most of the second-years have come into the reserve fixtures in the last five or six games, so I'm getting a clear picture of what the story is. Pej will have some input but at the end of the day the decision will be made by myself. We still have six reserve games to go, which will be very competitive."
Argyle have decided to release two of their second-year apprentices, Ashley Hodgkinson and Greg Moseley, at the end of the season. Hodgkinson is now with Yeovil on a work experience basis and Moseley has signed for Buxton.
Paul Gallagher believes Argyle were unfortunate to lose to Burnley on Saturday but he also admitted that they were responsible for their downfall by failing to take their chances and by defending poorly. He said: "I thought we deserved much more out of the game. In the first half, we did very well. We created a few chances. Jamie hit a great shot which their 'keeper saved and then Alan scored a good goal, but I think I left my shooting boots at home. The pitch was a bit bobbly." Alan Judge scored the leveller, which Argyle then failed to build on. "It took us a minute to get back into the game," Gallagher added. "We came in at half-time and we thought we had them, because they looked tired. But then we gave away a goal and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb again. When we went 2-1 down, I think we panicked and just started to hit it long. I think we shot ourselves in the foot." Errors by Marcel Seip led to Burnley's two goals but Gallagher gave support to the Dutchman, saying: "Marcel has been fantastic all season. I'm not going to say anything bad about him, because he has done well for the club and he's playing through pain. They were freakish goals to give away, but it was up to us to put the ball in the net at the other end." Gallagher was asked to play on the left flank against Burnley by Paul Sturrock, instead of as a central attacker. Gallagher said: "Burnley had two big centre-halves, and he wanted Jamie and Ashley to run in behind them, which I thought they did quite well. I had to fill in on the left. I get a bit frustrated when I don't get as much as ball as I do in the centre, so I try to come in and join in a bit. They were finding it difficult to pick me up, but on that pitch it's difficult to get any passing going because it's quite bobbly and dry. I still think we did put a few decent passes in, and we were unlucky." With no game next weekend, Argyle do not play until they visit Blackpool in 12 days' time. Gallagher said: "If you've been winning, you'd rather keep playing, but that was our third defeat in a row. It gives us all a chance to sit down and think about what we can do better, get two good weeks of training in, and be really ready for the next game."
New signing Rodolphe Douala will add to Paul Sturrock's options in attack, after joining Argyle for the rest of the season. Sturrock said: "He was very impressive in training last week. When he played for the reserves, the conditions were difficult because the pitch wasn't the best. But he definitely has a fantastic change of pace and he sees passes. I'm not saying he's going to go racing into the team, but it will be nice to have him sitting on the bench, or on the periphery of the side."
Despite Argyle suffering their third successive defeat on Saturday Paul Sturrock took encouragement from the endeavour shown by his side. He said: "When you lose, sometimes the other results kick you in the teeth. But everybody else drew or lost on Saturday, so we are in the same vicinity of the league, and the same kind of situation, that we were in before. Norwich are on the same points as us now, and it's goal difference that has taken them above us. And there are still three teams below us. That's the key to it all."
Paul Sturrock hopes to reduce the size of his squad before the deadline for loan signings on Thursday. He said: "I would hope to think, with the deadline coming up, we would have two or three people who might be receptive to moving out. But, at this minute, either the players don't want to go out anywhere, or there has been no contact." Sturrock was asked how frustrating it was for him when out-of-favour players opted against a loan move to another club. He replied: "They are professional footballers and they make their own decisions. Some players are going to be surplus to requirements at this football club at the end of the season. I think it would be in their interests to go out and get in the shop window instead of playing reserve team football for me."
Argyle under-18's drew 1-1 with Swansea City on Saturday, the goal scored by Sean Kinsella. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Gerring, Rickard, Young, Head, Mason, Grant. Subs - Harper-Penman (not used - Troupe, Sawyer, Clifford, Levett).
Argyle have signed Roudolphe Douala for the rest of the season, subject to international clearance, after he impressed during a brief trial. Douala said: "My agent arranged for me come here because I need to play. I resigned my contract in Greece and I wanted to come back to England. Plymouth is a good team and the manager wanted me here. I feel ready to play and I think I can help this team stay in the Championship. I am fast and I hope I can bring speed to this team." Paul Sturrock said: "He is very quick, very positive and direct. He has played for Cameroon. He is 30 years-old and he is an experienced player, and he gives us a completely different type of centre-forward. It gives us an added bonus and freshness. I am very hopeful it will put an edge to some of the other players and make them more competitive."
Paul Sturrock admitted he was gutted after the defeat to Burnley. "I am absolutely gutted for everybody involved with the football club," he said. "We didn't deserve that today. Our work-rate and our attitude, and even the performance as far as passing the ball was concerned, merited more than what we got. When you are in this position in the league that is what happens to you. You get the sucker-punch and a weak header from one of our players, and it finishes it up in the back of the net. We dropped a wee bit in the second-half from the standards of the first-half as far as service into our strikers and the right kind of ball. You can come away from football games and think you've been absolutely hopeless, but this one gives me a cup of hope. If we can bed this team down and work on the things we can hone, we can win football games. There are times you go home and browbeat yourself, but I think our fans can at least go away knowing we have shown the proper attitude and positiveness. I criticised the team last week but the players were on the front-foot today. The key moment was the Mackie and Barnes chance. If we put that in the net, we are 2-1 up. I was disappointed we weren't winning the game at half-time. It was even in the second-half. They had chances late on in the game but that was when we were 2-1 down, and chasing the game quite dramatically. I had a sneaking feeling we would go on to win at half-time. I think everybody had written us off before this game. Most people would have put down Burnley on the coupon but there wasn't much in the game. They are a good side with quality players. I like the way Owen plays the game and I think he is going to get this team in the play-offs. I am very hopeful that he can get them promoted." Alan Judge was a big plus for Argyle and Sturrock was also pleased with the strike-pairing of Jamie Mackie and Ashley Barnes. He said: "Judge relished the position he played in and he and Gall influenced the game in the first-half. We had an awful lot of ball in and around their box. It is hard to be positive when you lose a football game but there are positives. Mackie and Barnes had looked very exciting in training and in practise matches we have had. The two of them gave us a zest but we didn't get Gall on the ball enough in the second-half. We pushed him inside later in the second-half and he got more of the ball." At the other end, Marcel Seip was culpable for both goals. "It was two zany goals to lose," said Sturrock. "He is sitting in there absolutely gutted with himself and when you are down in this area in the league, that is what happens." Sturrock now has two weeks to work with the players ahead of the trip to Blackpool and he is feeling positive about the situation. "We have got two weeks now to really bed down this team," he said. "I won't be making many changes, if any. It is very important that we get continuity and I liked a lot of what I saw today. There are still bits and pieces to work on but I am going to take the positives out of this game, rather than the negatives. We have got the whole of this week to get a lot of work done on honing this different system and different style. There are a lot of things we did right today after the work we did over the last few days with this team. We have got a very offensive team and I think we will win football games. Four of our players will be on international duty, which is the only disappointing thing. This is maybe one today where football kicks you in the teeth, but everybody else near the bottom of the table has drawn or lost, so we are in the same vicinity in the league and the same situation. Norwich are on the same points as us. It is only goal difference that has taken them above us and there are three teams below us and that is the key. It might be less than three wins to stay up because everybody is drawing but the important thing is to win games."
Argyle lost 2-1 to Burnley at Home Park, the goal scored by Alan Judge after 17 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Sawyer, Mackie, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Gallagher, Barnes. Subs Fallon, MacLean, Noone (not used Paterson, Timar). Attendance - 11,246
Paul Sturrock has warned his players they must be on top of their game if they are to beat Burnley today. He said: "Owen Coyle has done a fantastic job there. He has got a very exciting squad of players who can hurt you all over the football pitch. But we have got to be receptive to what we have done over the last two or three games at home and take it into this match. With the backing of the crowd again, I'm very confident we will get a result." Burnley were away to Ipswich Town on Tuesday but Sturrock does not believe another long trip will have an adverse effect on them. He said: "It doesn't really matter in this day and age. A professional footballer can handle things like that. And I'm sure they have got one or two players they can freshen their team up with. They have scored 10 goals in their last three games, and didn't lose at Ipswich, which is a difficult place to go to. But I think people have got to be appreciative that we went to Ipswich recently and didn't lose either. Burnley will be difficult opposition, and we are going to have to be on the top of our game. They have got a lot to play for, but we have got survival to play for."
Paul Sturrock is looking no further ahead than Argyle's next two fixtures, against Burnley today and the trip to Blackpool after the international break. "It's a rat-race, and the next two games hold the key to the rest of our season," he said. "We have to have a different mind-set for the game in two weeks' time. I don't think we've scored a goal away to any of the other teams in the bottom six. We have to change our mentality, because the only way we're going to win football games is by scoring first. When we have scored first, we have not lost many games." Sturrock desperately wants his side to take the initiative in matches, and attack the opposition. That did not happen last weekend, when Argyle lost to Norwich. "That was very disappointing," he said. "It was very frustrating for me that the players decided in their minds to play as they did. I don't believe it was consciously done. It was a sub-conscious thing. They thought they could hold on to what we had and a steal a goal, but you just can't do that. That has been proved in a lot of games this season which we have lost one-nothing. The next two weeks will be all about the build-up to the Blackpool game. The team will know exactly what they have to do, and I'm expecting them to toe the line and obey my orders."
Carl Fletcher is very content to stay with Argyle for the rest of the season. "I've enjoyed my time since I came down here," he said. "I've been playing football every week, and you can't beat that. I'm happy to stay down here until the end of the season, and I'm delighted the manager wants me to stay." Fletcher feels that Argyle are capable of gaining good results against Burnley and Blackpool in the next two games. "In this league, you can get results anywhere. I think that sums up the Championship. We're going to go into each game trying to win in. Your home games are more important, but you have to take each game as it comes. We have a tough one on Saturday. Burnley have done really well this season. They've come to the forefront in cup competitions and got a lot of plaudits and rightly so. It's definitely going to be a tough game for us, but anything is possible if we're on our game."
Paul Sturrock has some big decisions to make going into the game against Burnley tomorrow. "It's difficult," he said. "As a manager, do you judge the players by what they did in the last two or three home games against strong opposition, and at Wolverhampton, or do you freshen things up because of the defeats in the last two away games? It's a deliberation which will probably take some time. The players have had two days off this week to make sure their energy levels are topped up, we'll have a sharp training session today and then I'll name the team tomorrow morning and do all the work with the team. So I've got tonight to think about whether I'll make household changes or send out a team which is nearly the same as last week's."
Paul Sturrock has admitted he is very happy that Carl Fletcher will be staying on loan at Argyle until the end of the season. He said: "I'm very pleased. I think we're in the throws of trying to tie things up between the two football clubs until the end of the season.Carl is delighted about the whole scenario. And I think the players are pleased because he's very good around the changing room, and he's very good for us on the football pitch. I have chased this player from the start of the season and I was disappointed things didn't work out the way I wanted them to. Carl still had ambitions of being in Crystal Palace's team at the time and, obviously, the scenario took a long time to unwind. I think we would have been far better off had Carl been here earlier in the season. That's the disappointment for me." Before signing for Argyle, Fletcher had not started a first team match since November, when he was on loan to Nottingham Forest. That stay at the City Ground was cut short by a back injury, but Fletcher has had no such problems with Argyle. Sturrock said: "He's getting fitter with every game. I think the five games he played in 15 days caught him out but the freshness of this week has helped him look sharp in training."
Mathias Doumbe and Emile Mpenza are still sidelined by hamstring injuries but, otherwise, Paul Sturrock has a fully fit squad available to him for the game against Burnley. David McNamee could play at right-back instead of David Gray and Gary Sawyer and Rory Fallon could also be in line for recalls. Argyle are now only two points clear of the relegation positions and depending on results, could fall into the bottom three tomorrow. Sturrock said: "We have had a wee taste of that before, and we don't want any more of it. Two of the other teams are playing each other, so they both can't win. The important thing for us is to put three points on the board."
Ashley Barnes is close to agreeing a new two-year contract with Argyle. He said: "The gaffer has offered me a two-year contract and that's getting sorted out, which is good. I'm very close to agreeing everything and it will be good to have that security." Barnes has been linked with several Premier League clubs in national newspaper stories recently but he shrugged off that speculation and said: "I'm here at Argyle and all I want to do is help them stay in the Championship." Barnes has enjoyed his elevation to the first team. He said: "It has been brilliant, coming into the side and doing really well. The lads have been great as well. They help me improve every day. It just couldn't have gone any better. The gaffer has given me my chance in the Championship at the age of 19, which is really good of him, and I just want to repay him by doing well for him." Barnes hopes to retain his place in the starting line-up tomorrow and will hope to open his goal-scoring account for the club. Barnes said: "It has been very frustrating. Hopefully, I will get a chance to start again tomorrow and I will get that goal and we will get the three points." Paul Sturrock thinks Barnes had gone from being 'a boy to a man' while out on loan Eastbourne Borough earlier this season and Barnes agreed with that assessment. "It helped me massively, playing two months of regular football for Eastbourne," he said. "I have come back a much better player." He has also learned a lot from playing against experienced defenders in recent weeks. He added: "It's just making me better, playing against people like that. Hopefully, I will keep improving. I'm positive we can win our fight against relegation. Hopefully, we will get three points tomorrow."
Argyle reserves beat Bournemouth reserves 2-0 yesterday, both goals scored by Joe Mason. After the match Paul Sturrock said: "It was a difficult game to play, in dry conditions on a very bobbly pitch, but I thought the players committed themselves to the cause. I thought Yoann Folly had an excellent game in midfield, and I thought the front two, Donnelly and Douala, were lively without being spectacular. The trialist definitely has attributes. He has pace. I don't know whether he can fit into our shape or not, but I'm going to have a real think about him overnight and talk to his agent in the morning. It was a difficult game for George. He was like a rabbit in the headlights at times, but he showed flashes. I was pleased with him, and anybody watching the game would see that he has potential." Argyle: Chenoweth, Leonard, Gerring, Brett, McCrory, Smith, Kinsella, Folly, Grant, Donnelly, Douala. Subs - Mason (not used - Head, Trott).
Paul Sturrock will be casting an inquisitive eye over the reserve game against Bournemouth at Tiverton this afternoon. "One trialist is playing today and we will wait and see how he does," he said. "George Donnelly will play and Yoann Folly needs a game, so he will also play, as well as some of the first-year professionals and second-year apprentices, who will be trying to impress me for a contract next season."
Paul Sturrock will assess the game against Burnley on Saturday before deciding whether to bring in further players ahead of next week's loan transfer cut-off. "The first thing is to get past Burnley so we can evaluate our situation," he said. We will then have a clearer picture coming into the final six games. We have to be respect that we have five loans already and I can only play five in the 16. It's a situation I will deliberate on after the game on Saturday."
Simon Walton could kickstart his career at Argyle by becoming a central defender. Paul Sturrock has tried Walton out in the centre of defence for a couple of recent reserve team matches and he said: "Walton is showing signs he can develop into a decent centre-back. I don't think it will take him long because he has a real zest for the position. Remember, he has played most of his career so far at centre-back, so he knows what he's doing. We are going to have to work on him in the air a wee bit, and on his positional sense, but he has looked much more comfortable there than in midfield at times." Walton was partnered by Krisztian Timar in the centre of defence against Bristol City reserves. Sturrock said: "I thought Krisztian did okay as well. The two of them actually blended in quite well together."
Jermaine Easter admits this season is one that is unlikely to live long in his memory, but that he is determined to ensure it ends on a high note both for himself and Argyle. "It's been one of those seasons I want to forget," he said. "I've not played a huge amount of games, but I want to get myself back in the first team sooner rather than later. Hopefully, I've given the manager something to think about after this game. We have got seven games left, it's not a lot I know, but they are all huge games and I want to play my part. I am the worst person to be around when I am not playing, you only have to ask my missus about that, but I just want to get back into it. It has been a frustrating season for me, but hopefully it will finish on a high note. They are all huge games from now on in. We have got some big home games that are certainly winnable and we have some away games that are winnable as well. I am sure if the lads apply themselves in the right way, then I we'll be OK."
Argyle reserves beat Bristol City reserves 2-0 at Home Park yesterday, the goals scored by Jermaine Easter and Luke Summerfield. Argyle: Saxton, McNamee, Timar, Walton, McCrory, Clark, Summerfield, Paterson, Noone, Easter, MacLean. Subs - Donnelly (not used - Brett, Smith, Folly, Chenoweth). After the game Paul Sturrock said: "It was a very good game. And I don't think anybody let themselves down in any shape or form. Everybody played with the right attitude; the work-rate was good; and there was a modicum of skill out there as well. The left side, Damian McCrory and Craig Noone, were excellent and the boy Walton is showing signs that he can develop into a decent centre back. Before the game I made it clear to all of them that there was an opportunity for them, and I think they've all put food for thought in my mind. As I said, Nooney all through the game was excellent, the boy McCrory is going to develop into a very exciting player, and David McNameee has got through the game as well, so I'm relatively pleased with the performance and the result."
David McNamee wants to play a part in Argyle's fight for survival after recovering from a fractured cheekbone. He said: "I'm ready for when the gaffer wants to put me in. I think David Gray has done well, but it's my job to get back into the team and that's what I'm looking to do. I'm paid to play football, and that's all I want to do. Hopefully, if I can carry on impressing in the reserves, or whatever, the gaffer has got me there as an option. If he wants to play me, I will try to take my chance." McNamee's cheekbone was fractured when he went in for an aerial challenge in the first half of the game against Preston. He said: "I just remember going for the ball, winning it and somebody clattering into me. I have played my entire career and never had anything like that before. It's just one of those frustrating things. But it has healed well and the surgeon has told me it's all solid, so I'm happy. It hurt at the time, but once you get all that morphine pumped into you it's not too bad from then on! The pain eased quite a lot after the operation and it was fine. The medication they give you is quite good, so you don't feel too much." McNamee was limited in the fitness work that he could do immediately after the operation but was soon able to step it up. He said: "They gave me a wee bit of time off at the start because you can feel the broken bone when you are bounding about. Once it was popped back into place you can do treadmills and stuff like that to work on your general fitness. But there is nothing like going out onto the pitch. You really need games and, thankfully, I'm getting that now." McNamee has been plagued by injuries over the past three seasons but is now feeling fully fit. He said: "The big bonus for me is that the hamstring has totally cleared up. I don't seem to be getting any niggles. I just need games to get back into the swing of things." Argyle have seven more matches remaining, starting with the visit of Burnley and McNamee added: "The boys can get their confidence into gear by picking up a good result. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself shooting up the league again. I think we will be fine."
George Donnelly is hoping to follow the example of Jamie Mackie, Ashley Barnes and Craig Noone by forcing his way into the reckoning for Argyle but is still to adjusting to his move to Argyle. "It still hasn't sunk in that I'm here," he said. "It's good to be involved in training, but I think I need to take a step back and realise where I am." Asked when he thought he might claim a place in the first team, Donnelly replied: "This weekend, hopefully. If I do well in the reserves this week, fingers crossed." Asked why he picked Argyle, Donnelly said: "I just wanted to be as far away as possible from where I used to live. I just want to concentrate on playing football." Craig Noone has seen Donnelly in action and when asked to describe style of play, replied: "I think he's different from what we've got. He likes balls in behind so he can show his pace, and he also likes balls into feet. He's not a Rory Fallon type who is going to win headers. He likes the ball at his feet."
Carl Fletcher is staying with Argyle until the end of the season after extending his loan spell. Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock said: "I know Fletch has enjoyed it down there and I have agreed to let him stay until the end of the season. You know me, I will always help Argyle if I can." Fletcher, who is out of contract this summer, has been included in Wales' squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Finland on March 28th and Germany on April 1st.
Cameroon international Rodolphe Douala has started a trial with Argyle and is set to play for the reserves against Bournemouth on Thursday. Douala is a free agent after leaving Greek club Asteras Tripolis earlier this year.
Paul Sturrock gave his starting team from the defeat at Norwich a day off yesterday and he plans to make up for the lost time with a gruelling session at Harper's Park today. "The team that played on Saturday didn't train yesterday but the rest of the squad did," he said. "We have just had two defeats and I've given them the day off. It sounds alien to some people but I thought it was the appropriate thing to do. Giving them legs again, giving them two days rest before a very hard Tuesday was more appropriate because nervous tension is as strength-sapping as physical exertion. I have understood that over the years of playing myself. You look to find the happy medium between rest and training, and after looking at them in the game and in the changing room, I did feel it was flogging a dead horse. We also have two weeks after Saturday's game to get healthy. We have got people playing with niggling knocks at this minute, which has hindered them. We have got a week where they can rest and play. They will have a very solid day tomorrow and make sure they are all topped up on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday." Sturrock also admitted that he needs to be aware of not pushing his players too hard. He said: "Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we had three or four boys carrying niggling knocks at Norwich. I want no excuses made for Saturday. It would be clutching at straws because I believe it was the mental approach of the whole team. Our younger ones have definitely been mentally drained, which is as hard as the physical side. There has been a hardened core of younger players, who have had to carry a lot of football over a short period of time, and they were big games. David Gray, for example, has not played to the same standard in the last two games. The boy is 19-years-old, he has never played Championship football and he is all of a sudden in the blood and snot of every game. I will find out whether it is mental or physical after today's training session. We have got to be ready for the challenge of Burnley. It is another big game. They have scored nine goals in two games and we have got to be at the top of our game, performed to the standards of the Reading game and the other performances at home recently."
Argyle reserves side to play Bristol City this afternoon will include 10 players with first-team experience this season. Jermaine Easter and Steve MacLean will lead the attack with Chris Clark, Luke Summerfield, Jim Paterson and Craig Noone in midfield. The defence will be made up of David McNamee, Krisztian Timar, Simon Walton and Gary Sawyer with Lloyd Saxton in goal. New signing George Donnelly will be among the substitutes but Yoann Folly will not be involved at all. Instead, he will line-up for a much younger side, mostly comprised of apprentices, when Argyle reserves play Bournemouth on Thursday.
Craig Cathcart has been called up to the Northern Ireland under-21 squad to face Ukraine in a friendly later this month and Alan Judge is in the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad for friendlies against Spain on March 27th and Turkey on March 31st.
Paul Sturrock has revealed he had to move forward his plans to sign George Donnelly from Skelmersdale United. He said: "I was hoping to leave it until the end of the season, but the vultures started to swirl around. So I thought it was time to move for him. We would have lost him, because three other clubs had made in-roads into transfer fees and had chatted to his agent about negotiating a contract." Donnelly had scored 36 goals in all competitions for Skelmersdale this season and Sturrock added: "I'm a great believer that if you score goals at any standard, it shows it's in you. He's also very strong and very quick and he came through the academy at Liverpool as well, so it's not as if he's a total novice. He excited me because he's so positive in his approach and there is a hunger about him. I have got to try to put this kind of development player into the football club. That is Plymouth Argyle. We have got to start bringing more and more of that type in, and nurture them along. Some will fall by the wayside, but some will develop into the quality players I think they can be. Mackie is beginning to develop in the right way and it was a wise decision by the last manager to sign Ashley Barnes. Noone probably came in too quick, and I think he got a wee rude awakening. He's at the stage where he needs a wee bit more work on him, but I do feel he will definitely be a success as well." Donnelly took part in his first proper training session yesterday. Sturrock said: "He took part in a small-sided game and looked very good. The players were very receptive to him. His finishing is excellent and while his fitness levels weren't the best when we tested him, he's here for the long term." Asked if there was any chance of Donnelly playing first-team football before the end of the season, Sturrock replied: "It wouldn't faze me at all, but no way will he be involved on Saturday."
Damien McCrory and Joe Mason have been called-up for the Republic of Ireland Under-19 squad for two friendly games against Slovakia in Senec on March 31st and April 2nd
Paul Sturrock has named a strong squad for the reserve's game against Bristol City at Home Park tomorrow and will give some players an opportunity to force their way into the side to face Burnley on Saturday. He said: "There are things that haven't been done to my satisfaction in the last two games and the gauntlet has been chucked down to other players. The only way will get in my football team is by performing in training and the reserve games, and here is the opportunity to turn my head. These players are all in contention for the simple reason that the last two games, not so much Swansea but definitely Norwich, there was negativity about some of their mental approach to the game. I felt that they sat back and waited on things to happen and the success rate that we have had is in scoring the first goal. There seems to be a criteria to how we win football games and we definitely waited on them scoring, and the team was put out with the same players that had scored six goals in three home games. They were put out in the same positions with the same system but we didn't do that. That was the disappointing thing for me. As a unit, there was a nervous tension amongst the players. There are young players trying to find their feet in the Championship but they have found their feet at home in a very nervous situation as far as getting results. They have come to the show but we let ourselves down in that approach on Saturday, and I emphasised that after game. I was very disappointed that the players hadn't responded properly to what we were looking for. You go to a place with 24,000 people in the stadium, who have come off a fantastic result on Tuesday, so the last thing you want to do is sit back and soak up the pressure. The Wolves game, maybe people had in their minds that we scored the goal early and soaked up the pressure, but we scored the goal. It teaches everybody that most teams win when they score first in this league. Very few times are there when teams come back. The first goal is the key if we want to start churning out results. We had a very successful spell away from home and I want to get back to that. I don't want to rely on the home form alone. I want to rely on both." An interesting side-issue in tomorrow's game is the selection of Simon Walton at centre-back. "He was a centre-back," Sturrock said. "He was converted into a midfielder but most of his career at centre-half. He has definitely got very good defensive qualities, so, why not, at his age, try and develop him as a centre-half."
Marcel Seip reckons Argyle have 'seven cup finals' to play as they fight for survival. He said: " Norwich was a big game, but it's done now. We lost and we have to keep our heads up. We have got four home games left, and if we win them we will be safe. But it's certainly getting tougher now because we have let Norwich back into it, which is a little bit annoying. We should just realise we have got seven cup finals to play. We need to pick up points now quickly, and next Saturday is going to be important. The earlier we get the points the better. It's going to be a tough seven games." Argyle's defeat by Norwich came only a fortnight after they won 1-0 at Wolves. Seip added: "We can win at Wolves, who were top of the table, but we have lost away to Doncaster and Nottingham Forest. It's like we are not up for it, and I got the feeling it was a little bit the same for this game. I don't know what the reason is for that, but it's something we have to work on and we have to get that right. We should realise we are in trouble. We have got seven games left, and we need to get our heads clear and get some wins in." Argyle started tentatively against Norwich and allowed the opposition to take a grip on the game. Seip said: "To me, it felt like we were defending for the 90 minutes. We need to get out there and look to score goals. We need to go out there and go for the win, instead of going out there for the 0-0. We need to get more shots in, and more corners. It felt like Norwich had 20 corners in the first half and we had none. It keeps the ball in the box and that means danger. If you get a flick or a deflection, you can get lucky and get a goal. We need to create more chances, but we need to keep clean sheets as well." Burnley visit Home Park next weekend having scored nine goals in their last two games but Seip insisted Argyle could get a vital win. He said: "Wolves average more than two goals a game, but we kept a clean sheet against them. We should realise now we have to battle every single game. The defenders have got to work on keeping clean sheets, but the forwards have to think of scoring goals. Then, hopefully, we will get enough points to stay up."
Paul Sturrock blamed nerves for Argyle's lacklustre display in the 1-0 defeat at Norwich City. He said: "I felt there was nervousness in our team, after the result in midweek and the situation we are in. We haven't handled the teams in the same area of the league as us very well this season, as far as results are concerned. We seem to have a more positive approach when we play the teams who are well above us in the league. I was hoping that would change today, but we looked very nervous from early on. It would be too easy to make excuses. Norwich played very well. I do feel when we play the likes of Wolverhampton and Birmingham, my players seem to have an edge about them. That disappoints me because we have got to show that edge against everybody. We have been to Doncaster and lost 1-0, we have been to Nottingham Forest and lost 2-0, and we have been to Barnsley and lost 2-0. These are games which we should be very competitive in, but we have not shown the zest as we have shown when winning at Wolves, Crystal Palace and others." Craig Cathcart, Paul Gallagher and Chris Barker all returned to the side at Carrow Road. Sturrock said: "Gall will either break your heart or win you football games. That's the kind of player he is. At the end of the day, we didn't get enough ball to him. I emphasised that at half-time, and I changed the system to try to get him on the ball more. In the last couple of home games, we have all loved his approach and how he has played. I wouldn't be critical of the laddie because he has scored a lot of important goals for us." Sturrock was asked whether it had been a gamble to play Gallagher after his recent hamstring injury. He replied: "He hasn't trained all week, apart from coming in on Friday and doing a wee bit then. But you are now the manager of Plymouth Argyle. Do you not play Gallagher? I think you have got to have a look at the whole scenario. In hindsight, should I have played Barker, Cathcart and Gallagher, who have all been unavailable for all sorts of reasons? The result and the stodgy performance maybe suggest that I should have done something differently. But if I was sitting here after a 1-0 or 2-0 win we would be waxing lyrical about bringing all these players back to the fold again. My disappointment is that there was a nervousness in us from the start. I thought we did a wee bit better in the second half and got ourselves in the right areas. Rory had a chance, but the goal kicked us in the teeth with it being a set piece." Argyle now have to try to bounce back when Burnley visit Home Park on Saturday but Sturrock admitted it would not be easy. He said: "We have got seven games left. Four of them are at home against opposition that I think we can beat, and we have got three away from home. We have put ourselves in the rat race now, with our last two results, but there are other teams down there. In the end, we have got to back, lick our wounds and get ourselves ready with a positive approach for next Saturday. We need three more wins. I think 52 points would be just about to enough to make sure we are in this league next season."
Paul Sturrock did not hesitate when asked the question to which every Argyle fan wants the answer: did he think Argyle would avoid relegation? "Yep," he replied. "Burnley becomes a huge, huge game for us, a very difficult game, but a winnable game, like the other three games at home. Now, we can talk about what we did do and what we didn't do against Norwich but if we go home and think it's all doom and gloom, and the whole world's against us, we need to remember that we have got another seven football games to keep our season alive - four of them at home against opposition I think we can win against." Sturock believes his players will keep the club in the Championship. "I think they have proved it with the wee runs they've had, and performances in wee spells," he said. "In our last three home games, we have been very competitive with two teams in the top four, and we have got an in-form team to play next Saturday in Burnley. Had we been dead and buried from the start of the season until now, it would be different, but we went - I keep emphasising - bottom to fifth. Same boys. We have put ourselves in the rat-race with our last two results, but there are others down there. We have got to go back, lick our wounds, and get ourselves ready with a positive approach for next Saturday." Sturrock believes that the fans have a crucial role to play in the final four home games of the season. He said: "The backing of the fans has been terrific at home in the last couple of games and was a real feature in why we got results against Reading, Sheffield United and Watford. We don't want to live in the past; we want to look to the future, get some of these boys a wee bit sharpened up, and make sure everybody is ready for the challenge of next Saturday. We have got to dig deep because we need a minimum three wins - I think 52 points would be enough to make sure we are in this league again."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Norwich City. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Mackie, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Gallagher, Barnes. Subs Fallon, Paterson, Noone (not used Timar, Clark). Attendance - 25,064
Romain Larrieu is set to make his 249th appearance for Argyle at Norwich City this afternoon and he is confident they can bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Swansea City on Tuesday. Larrieu said: "We just need to be in their faces, make them defend and see if they can handle us. It's no different to any other game. Obviously, the result will be an important one, but we won't be safe if we win, and we won't be relegated if we lose. It's just three points, but we know how much it would mean if we could get a result up there. I do believe three wins in the last eight games will be enough for us. It would be very nice if we only needed two more wins from seven games after today Coming into the game, I would rather be us than them. We take every game as a must-win, so this one is no different. We have a decent record away from home. Even when we lost against Swansea on Tuesday, there wasn't much in it, although they had most of the chances. You name any away game this season. We have been in it every time, and that's what we need to do again today. We need to be positive, show some belief when we have the ball and when we haven't got the ball. And when we win it back we have got to try to hurt them. There are going to be 25,000 people there and we need to get them against Norwich, which isn't going to be easy after they won the other night." Larrieu insisted the pressure was on Norwich going into the game. He said: "They need to win. If we don't lose, we will still be fine, but that's not the way to think going into a game like this one. We are going into it to win like we do in every game. But if we don't lose, it is one game less for them to catch up."
Romain Larrieu is hoping not to concede a penalty which costs his team the game at Norwich today, which is what happened last Tuesday at Swansea City. Larrieu was harshly ruled to have caused Swansea's Jordi Gomez to lose his footing after the Frenchman had failed to catch a shot from City's Thomas Butler. Larrieu insisted that Gomez made the most of the contact which the attacker had initiated. "I was disappointed because, if I had held on the ball in the first place, it would not have happened," Larrieu said. "Then I went for it, and I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I just tried to pull out, because I knew he was going to dive. That was about his seventh or eighth dive. That should have forced the referee to send him off, because he was on a yellow card. But by then we had worked out how the referee was and we knew which easy decision he was going to make, which was to give a penalty rather than send him off. I was just disappointed that I didn't hold on to the ball. It wasn't difficult, but it bounced off my shoulder and went straight out. I can't explain it. I didn't expect it bounce that high, but I still managed to get it away. Then, as Gomez came in, he just kneed me in the back and went flying. It was disappointing, but the ball was there and I thought I could have it."
Argyle face arguably their most important game of the season at Norwich City tomorrow. Paul Sturrock knows the outcome of match could have a huge impact on the fight for survival. He said: "I think every game we have had since Wolves has been a must-win. Our run before that put us into that scenario. So every point is a prisoner at this minute in time. We don't want that four-point gap to start shrinking any more. I would like to think we could put distance to Norwich with a victory. We were seven points ahead of them before Tuesday night, and it would be nice to be seven points ahead of them tomorrow night. They will have a 24,000 crowd baying for our blood. They had a very good performance against a quality side in Cardiff. But we went to Wolves two weeks ago, against a team who were desperately trying to get back on a run again and had a huge crowd behind them, and we came away with a result. So if we can go to Wolves and win, we can go to Norwich and win." Sturrock used the same argument when asked about Argyle's poor goalscoring record away from home. He said: "We went to Wolves and created several chances. So I think we can create against Norwich. Swansea was a difficult game for us. Two or three key players were missing. When we are totally healthy we are a very competitive side, but it makes it harder when we have to mix and match. I'm very confident the players will be up for this game, and we will get the result we need. We have got to go there and be as solid a unit as possible when they have got the ball and try to be a bit more offensive when we have got the ball."
Argyle could be boosted by the return of Craig Cathcart and Paul Gallagher for the game at Norwich City tomorrow. Both will have fitness tests today and Chris Barker will be available again after missing the last two matches because of a family issue. Paul Sturrock said: "I'm very hopeful that some of the players who have been unavailable will be available. That will give me food for thought as far as selection is concerned. Cathcart will attempt a fitness test tomorrow. He has done all the training this morning in Manchester, and he's travelling back this afternoon. Gallagher will have a fitness test tomorrow as well. They will both travel. Chris Barker will be back. He's reporting for training tomorrow."Should Gallagher be passed fit, he will almost certainly partner Ashley Barnes in attack. Sturrock added: "I need the right Paul Gallagher out there, with no worries on his mind about niggling injuries or anything else. The only way he can do that is by having a solid training session today and having no problems with his hamstring tomorrow morning. His availability will dictate the four midfield players and the front two. I think that's obvious." Whether Gallagher is fit or not, Barnes seems set to continue leading the attack. "Barnes has got a great opportunity of playing tomorrow," said Sturrock. "He had to plough a lone furrow the other night. I probably gave him a more difficult job because he didn't have a Gallagher-type floating around him. When he has somebody like that, then some of the load for the chasing about is taken off him. He still created a chance for us it was a half-chance which he turned into a full-blooded chance but I just felt he didn't get the support he needed. As we fell back to hold on to what we had in the second half, we didn't get forward enough."
Paul Sturrock is ready to offer a new contract to Ashley Barnes, whose existing deal ends this summer. "I have taken Ashley into my first team and he has now played four or five games where he has been very competitive," he said. "As a manager, I pick what I see and I like what I see with Ashley. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate I'm going to be trying to do a new deal for him." A story in a national newspaper yesterday reported that three Premier League clubs Fulham, Stoke City and West Ham United were interested in Barnes but Sturrock is not about to lose any sleep over that. He said: "It seems to be a coincidence that his agent has phoned me twice lately and told me, 'We will need to start thinking about a new contract'. What has probably happened is that his agent has been sat in the stands and, lo and behold, the scouts from Fulham, Stoke and West Ham have been there. All of a sudden, there are stories in the papers saying these teams have got an interest. When managers are sat in the stand, I will begin to worry."
George Donnelly has agreed terms with Argyle ahead of a move from Skelmersdale United for an undisclosed fee. Donnelly said: "It feels great not have to worry about work and just do what I love doing. I used to work in a warehouse and get up at five in the morning, so I would train on a Thursday and play matches on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is life-changing." The transition from the Unibond League to the Championship is difficult to comprehend, but Donnelly will have help from a familiar face, Craig Noone, who was a team-mate of Donnelly's at Skelmersdale. "Craig being here helps me to settle in," said Donnelly. "All the players at that level just want to move on and the manager here has told me to fight for my place in the first team, and show what I can do. My pace has probably got me this far and I am excited to be in a situation where I can help the team. I have watched these players on TV but I feel I can do well once I get the fitness from full-time training. I want to play a few reserve games and work my way up. I have all kind of thoughts going through my head. It is a long from home but I do have family not too far away."
Krisztian Timar has been called up to the Hungary squad for their World Cup Qualifying matches against Albania and Malta in two weeks time.
Karl Duguid is confident that Argyle can stay clear of the relegation battle. He said: "It's in our hands there are eight games to go and they're eight massive games. The quicker we pick up the points when we get the opportunity, the better." Duguid insisted the team would not be going to Norwich on Saturday to simply try and earn a point. He said: "We will go to Norwich and work hard and go for the win, and do what it takes to get that win. If we can get the three points, it takes us away from them. I am sure we will finish above the relegation zone. You've got to be confident, because if you're not confident and you're going into training thinking that we're going to struggle, then you're in trouble." Duguid made it clear that hard work was a key element in Argyle surviving. He said: "If you're not playing well as a player your hard work's got to be there. It's a game where if you give 100 per cent, the rest is going to come. That's what we've been doing and, hopefully, the rest is going to come. On the field, we will help each other and when we've gone 1-0 down in games, we've worked and got back into them." Duguid admitted one of the elements which contributed to Argyle struggling was their indifferent home form. He said: "We've been away to so many places this season and got some great results, for instance, the 1-0 win over Wolves our away form has been great this season. But what has let us down this season is our home form. I have always known Plymouth to be one of the hardest places to come and play, and we need to get that back. What is important is that we get back to what we have been doing over the last five weeks, with good results against teams like Wolves and Reading, and we will be alright. We were very disappointed we didn't get a point at Swansea. They were given a penalty, but it wasn't a penalty from where I was. These things tend to work themselves out over the course of the season, though. I am sure we'll get one going our way. That's just the way it goes in football sometimes."
Paul Sturrock is hoping for good news regarding Paul Gallagher's fitness and hopes he will be available for the game at Norwich, but he is giving no guarantees. "He's still struggling," Sturrock said. "We'll give him every opportunity." Meanwhile, Craig Cathcart has returned to Old Trafford for treatment to his groin strain. Sturrock said: "Cathcart, who has been a rock at the back for us, is having a scan done up in Manchester. We'll know in the next couple of days what the story is with him." David Gray, Marcel Seip and Gary Sawyer also have injuries to take care of and David McNamee could come back into consideration. Sturrock said: "McNamee would be an ideal one to consider, but has he played enough games to go in there? Mat Doumbe has a hamstring strain, Sawyer is carrying an injury, and so is Seip. It's difficult."
Paul Sturrock admitted his side were not at their best last night but thought they were going to grind out a point until conceding a controversial penalty. He said: "I'm a wee bit disappointed. I don't think we deserved to win the game, but as it unfolded it had 0-0 written all over it. We have had eight bookings in that game six for us which is very scary. I did feel one or two of them were a bit harsh, and we are going to get fined because of that." The referee decided that Romain Larrieu had made contact with Gomez when he tried to dive on a loose ball but Sturrock said: "Our players are gutted because they don't feel it's a penalty. I will have to have see it before I make any comment on it." It was harsh on Larrieu who had made a series of good saves. Sturrock said: "They were all long-range shots. There wasn't really anything coming in close by. But you have got to give Swansea credit. They are a good side and can hurt you from all over the football pitch. They pass the ball very well and get themselves in the right areas of the pitch. But we had handled all that and we were actually starting to come into the game. We just didn't push ourselves enough to get in the right areas of the pitch. I just felt we hung back and made our front men isolated." Ashley Barnes led Argyle's attack in a 4-4-1-1 formation, and had a good chance early on. Sturrock said: "If that one had gone in, I think you would have seen a completely different complexion to the game. But it didn't go in and we seemed to want to hang on, which is a deadly concoction when you are away from home. There were a couple of players who didn't perform to the standards they have been achieving. They looked a bit below-par. I had the decision to make whether to freshen the team up, and I went with the boys who had done so well for us. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but who knows what we would have achieved if we had freshened it up with wholesale changes? I didn't think the recent performances merited big changes." Paul Gallagher travelled with the squad but his fitness was not risked. Sturrock said: "Gallagher is still struggling, but we will give him every opportunity for Saturday. He's desperate to play, but if we put him into a situation where he pulls a hamstring, that could be him out for four or five weeks, which is the season. We just can't afford that. That kind of player, we can't do without."
Paul Sturrock is already playing down the visit to Norwich City on Saturday. "It will be hard game," he said. "People will try to hype it up, but it's another three points - that's the way we have got to look at it. It's not a be all and end all game. They are all important to us. We have got to try to pick points up as quickly as we can. We've still got another seven games after that, there's 21 points to play for. We have got to try to get to 52 as quickly as possible, so we have got to win football games. The important thing for us is to be competitive. We were competitive tonight and, if we are competitive on Saturday, I'm sure we will get a result."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Swansea City. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Timar, Seip, Sawyer, Noone, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Mackie, Barnes. Subs Fallon, MacLean, Paterson (not used Summerfield, Clark). Attendance - 13,103
Argyle will make a late check on the fitness of Paul Gallagher before the game at Swansea City tonight. There are also doubts whether Craig Cathcart will overcome a groin injury and Chris Barker is unavailable for a second successive match because of a family issue. Paul Sturrock said: "Gall has been the catalyst for us in a lot of the games lately, with the goals he has scored. But I'm not going to take a chance on anybody tonight because we have got too many important games coming up. They are going to have to prove to me they are 100 per cent fit, otherwise they aren't going to be playing." Argyle are playing their fourth game in 11 days tonight, so Sturrock has tried not to over-exert his players since the draw against Reading. "The boys have had massages and regeneration over the last two days because it has been a hectic couple of weeks," he said. "They did some individual stuff in training yesterday, and we will work on our set pieces this morning. I'm quite happy with that because it keeps it fresh in the players' minds." Sturrock is tempted to shake up his side tonight after the busy period of matches, but added: "I look at Watford when they played against us last week. They made five changes to a winning team and ended up lost. Sometimes, freshening up a team is a good thing. But sometimes it's a bad thing. I have got to weigh up what's best because we have got a huge game coming up on Saturday." Meanwhile, Sturrock has dismissed speculation linking Steve MacLean, as well as Luke Summerfield and Simon Walton, with loan moves to Swindon Town. He said: "I think that was someone having a real stab in the dark and getting it all wrong. There is nothing in it."
Paul Stapleton has made it clear that he has no intention of ending his involvement with the club until at least after the South Stand is built. He said: "I feel we are a lot nearer than we ever have been. I'm just hopeful the city council will work with us. They are giving every indication that they are, and as long as that continues then we will be okay. I have always said that one of my aims at this football club, before I leave the board, was to make sure the South Stand is built. Well, it's going on and going on! But I just want to make sure that it's done, and done properly, for this football club. I think we are getting nearer, and the Life Centre seems to be a definite. We are just making sure it fits in with us as well because, at the end of the day, we have got to maximise the revenue from our site. So we are working on that, and there are meetings with the council this week." Salmon Harvester have been chosen as Argyle's development partner for the project. "We elected to go with Salmon Developments because of what they did at the Madejski Stadium really," Stapleton said. "It integrates the commercial aspect with the football ground. Our planning consultant has told me he would like to have a mini-Madejski. We want to maximise our freehold site with commercial activity, and we are looking to do what we can." Meanwhile, Stapleton revealed more details on the club's plans for 'a football centre for all ages' based around the existing Harper's Park training ground. He said: "We are talking to the city council, the FA and Sport England about the pitches that surround Home Park. What an ideal place to have football centre for all ages. We would make our 3G synthetic pitch available to the local community. We are hoping the FA and Sport England will join in with the cost and we are saying to the city council that we need some of the pitches in Central Park which have dogs walking on them during the winter to be part of our facility. We would probably fence it to keep it secure but we will make sure that the Devon Junior and Minor League and everybody else can use it."
Krisztian Timar is ready to face Swansea City tonight, if selected. He said: "I enjoyed the game against Reading. I think I'm in good form and I'm just waiting for my chance. I have tried to keep my fitness levels high, and keep my good form, but it's really hard when you aren't playing. The gaffer needed me on Saturday and I tried to do my best for the team. I think I'm ready to play." Argyle have picked up eight points in the last four games, and Timar added: "We are four games unbeaten so we are in a good way at the moment. I hope that will continue. I thought we played well against Reading, which we need to do at home in front of our supporters." Timar was not surprised to see Jamie Mackie score from 30-yards out against Reading. "Jamie is talented and has a good shot on him," he said. "He needs to do that more often. Gallagher and Judgey can do the same thing, so I think we need to shoot more times and keep the opponents' goalie under pressure." Ashley Barnes has also made a positive impact for Argyle in the past three matches and Timar added: "He has got a good attitude and he tries to work hard for the team. He runs a lot and he's improving all the time."
Argyle reserves drew 3-3 with Forest Green Rovers at Tiverton yesterday, the goals scored by Damien McCrory, Joe Mason and Simon Walton. David McNamee played for the first time since fracturing his cheekbone at Preston on February 3rd and Paul Sturrock was pleased with his performance. "He looked okay on a difficult pitch, which was very bobbly, and he and everyone else showed the right attitude," he said. Argyle: Brooks, McNamee, Gerring, Brett, McCrory, Smith, Walton, Folly, Grant, Mason, Easter. Subs Leonard, Head (not used - Edwards, McCaul, Kinsella).
Paul Sturrock has a high regard for tonight's opponents. He said: "Swansea are a very exciting team. They have a style which suits the players they have got and if we aren't on the top of our game we will be in for a very difficult 90 minutes. They don't really play positions as such. They are very fluid and can pull you all over the football pitch. It can cause mayhem unless you are very tight and organised. Jason Scotland seems to have done a great job for them and he's someone we will have to tie down. Our players know exactly what they are going to have to do, which is basically to be at the top of their game. A lot of them are playing with renewed confidence after our recent results and I'm hoping they will take that into this match."
Paul Stapleton has admitted that Argyle have failed to make money out of all of the concerts they have staged at Home Park in the past two years. The Chairman faced a series of questions at last Friday's AGM and he said: "The concerts in 2007, Elton John and George Michael, did make a profit, because we took a facility fee. That meant we had no risk. In the summer of 2008, when the concerts were Meatloaf and Westlife, we took a risk and we didn't make a profit, but we very nearly broke even. It was a bit disappointing that we didn't quite get in the black. It has made us sharpen up when it comes to looking at which acts will do well and which acts might not." Rod Stewart has been booked to appear at Home Park this summer. Stapleton added: "We're not taking a fee, we're taking a risk-based approach, but we're very hopeful that we will make a surplus. Any profit helps the football club." Asked whether there had been any financial input from the Japanese presence in the boardroom, Stapleton replied. "That will come," he said. "I think that is the intention." Another member of the Argyle board, Tony Wrathall, made a loan of £500,000 to the club in late 2007. It was repaid early last year. Asked why the loan had been needed, Stapleton said: "The working capital of the club needed an injection in November or December 2007, knowing that sales money would be coming in during January. It was purely cash-flow. It was a short-term measure, and it was appreciated. Instead of us going cap in hand to Barclays Bank for help, Tony volunteered." Comments made in February last year by Stapleton led to threats of legal action from former manager Ian Holloway. Asked if legal action had been launched, the chairman said: "I don't think we're being sued at present. One or two letters have been exchanged, but I'm hoping it's all buried."
Jamie Mackie had little doubt how highly he rated the goal which helped Argyle draw with Reading on Saturday. "I think it's the best goal I've scored since I've been a professional, so I'm delighted with it," he said. "I find myself in positions like that quite a lot, being on the wing at the moment. It gives you chances to have shots on goal. It happened a few weeks ago against Derby, when it opened up, and it happened again today. I chanced my luck and I'm buzzing with the strike. It was a good goal." The draw stretched Argyle's unbeaten run to four matches, and Mackie added: "In the end, we are probably a little bit disappointed we've conceded in the manner we did but Reading are a good team. They are strong, have got good players, and are very physical, and in the end, they are always going. On balance, I think maybe we should have won it, but the run is still going - four games unbeaten, now - and confidence is getting higher and higher. The lads have done really well. The gaffer's bolstered the squad with a couple of players, David Gray's come back in the team and done really well. There's more confidence in the team now, and we've got to crack on." Jamie came to Home Park as a striker, but has since become a wide midfielder. He said: "The gaffer said 'Add different things to your game - I need you to play out there at the moment.' I want to play games. I'm learning the whole time. I admit I've got flaws in my game out there, but I'm working hard and I think I'm getting better and better every week." Mackie has also benefited from the arrival of Carl Fletcher who he is enjoying playing alongside. "He's got a lot of experience," said Mackie. "I'm playing next to him and it's real good. Hopefully, it will improve my game. He and Doog bring a bit of experience in there, whereas you've got me on one side and Judgy on the other - you've got a lot of young lads in the team so you need that experience. I think it's shown in the results." Argyle now face games at Swansea and Norwich, teams who have already won at Home Park this season. "We owe the pair of them one," Mackie said. "We've got to get at Norwich. They are around about us in the league and it's a massive fixture. Swansea will be a different test. They play a lot of football and have got some very good players. Jason Scotland scores a lot of goals for them, but we have been solid away from home. We will go there and be solid again, work from that platform and see what we can get." Despite the physical demands of 5 matches in fifteen days, Mackie is content for the matches to come thick and fast. He said: "I can't think of anything better than playing a game on Tuesday instead of having a week of just training. We have got a squad, and the gaffer keeps the other lads who haven't been involved in the last few weeks really fit. So if anyone needs to come in and give us fresh legs I'm sure they will be ready." Despite the run of form, Argyle remain far from safe and Mackie will not be lulled into a false sense of security. "We're definitely not complacent," he said. "We know how hard it's been. Looking back, when we were in a bit of slump, we looked at the games coming up and they were tough games. It's been a real graft and we've all rolled our sleeves up."
Injuries to Craig Cathcart and Paul Gallagher cast a shadow over Argyle's draw against Reading on Saturday. Paul Sturrock said: "Cathcart has done his groin and Gallagher had a tight hamstring. There was no way I was going to take a chance on Gallagher because it could have finished up a long-term injury. I don't think Cathcart will make the game on Tuesday, and it will be close for Gallagher." Despite the injuries, Argyle took the lead with a stunning strike from Jamie Mackie. Sturrock said: "Jamie has got that in his locker, but he has also got it in his locker to fall over the ball. That's the kind of player he is at this minute. He's just finding his feet. There are things in his game that are so exciting and crowd-pleasing, but he has to work on the defensive side." Sturrock thought the same comments could apply to Alan Judge."We actually dominated for a 20-minute spell in the second half," he added. "But as it wore on, and because of the lack of shape we had, Reading started to take command of the game. That might not have happened had Jamie and Judgey thought about it more, but it's a catch-22 really. You don't want to start taking away from their offensive qualities." Argyle are now unbeaten in their last four Championship matches. Sturrock said: "We have put six points behind us and third-bottom, and if we can add to that in the next two away games it would relieve a lot of the pressure. We are not out the mire by a long chalk. We have 43 points and we still need at least three more wins before we are safe."
Gary Sawyer received an unexpected late call-up to Argyle's starting line-up on Saturday after Chris Barker dropped out with what Paul Sturrock described as a 'family problem'. Sturrock said: "He did very well coming off the treatment table to play a game under difficult circumstances like that. He wasn't totally 100 per cent because he has pain in his ankle. But he went out there and gave everything he had. I was very pleased for him. Gary missed most of training this week, but he did a bit of running on his own. He wanted to play and, although I could have gone with Jim Paterson, I did feel I needed a more defensive type full-back."
Argyle's under 18's won 4-0 at Hereford United on Saturday, the goals scored by Josh Grant, Liam Head, Joe Mason and Lewis Edwards. Argyle: Chenoweth, Greening, Brett, Kinsella, Sawyer, Gerring, Edwards, McCaul, Head, Mason, Grant. Subs - Leonard, Rickard, Young (not used - Trott, Levett).
Argyle are unbeaten in four games after the draw with Reading, with most of that success coming against teams at the top of the table. Paul Sturrock said: "We've played a form team in Sheffield United, who are fourth, and we have now played third-top - give me them again. Our problems are those teams around our end - we have not competed with them formwise in any of these games, hence where we are. We are not out of the mire by a long shot - we need several wins before we're set. The important thing is to take points off Blackpool and Norwich, and Doncaster and Barnsley, when they come. That's the key to it all now. We have not done very well against the other teams in our area in the league. The exasperating thing was we were fifth and we allowed 15 games to take us down to where we are now. Everybody thought we were going to go to Doncaster, Blackpool and Barnsley and win games. All of a sudden, we are now turning in wins and building confidence. The boys have responded properly and have given us everything they have today and I'm hopeful now we will kick-on. We've now put six points between us and third bottom, which means it's really three wins that somebody needs more than us. If we can add to that over the next two games, it will relieve a lot of the pressure." Sturrock was in agreement with most of the Home Park crowd about the strike from Jamie Mackie that gave Argyle a 2-1 lead. He said: "His goal was the best I have seen here all year - right in the top corner and he struck it really quick. Jamie's got that in his locker. He's hit bars and posts, so it's nice to see the ball lying in the back of the net for a change. He's finding his feet. He has things in his game that are so exciting to watch but he also has a defensive side that he is trying hard to improve. I would like to kick-start his goal-scoring and I would like Barnes to get one as well because I think he could push on if he got his first goal. Ashley had a rude awakening today. He appreciated that he's not going to be able to bully everybody and today he got kind of slapped about for a wee while."
Paul Sturrock may be without the services of Craig Cathcart and Paul Gallagher for the game against Swansea on Tuesday as both suffered injuries against Reading yesterday. Paul Sturrock said: "The boys have really worked hard over these past two games, but again we had to dismantle our back-four. What happened is we gave away those two goals today. We lost Barks because of family problems, and Gall at half-time. There was no way I was going to take a chance on him for a long-term injury. Cathy has a groin strain, which is a blow for us. I don't think he will make it for Tuesday's game. The players lost a couple of gears, meaning we didn't have a shape to the back-four which we had in the past couple of games. We had a problem with the shape of the team today and now injuries are going to be a big test with the away games coming up. My problem now is the body count and we might have to freshen the team up."
Paul Sturrock singled out Gary Sawyer and Krisztian Timar for their performances against Reading. "Gary missed training most of this week and only found out he was going to play at 12.30 this afternoon," he said. "He wasn't totally 100% but he went out there and gave everything that he had. He came off the injury-table to play again under difficult circumstances and he did really well. We haven't seen a lot of the Timar we know because of the injury he picked up and the arrival of Cathcart. To be fair, he is a very professional man. He's waited his chance and got on today and he merits his inclusion on Tuesday."
Argyle drew 2-2 with Reading at Home Park, the goals scored by Paul Gallagher after 20 minutes and Jamie Mackie (56). Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Sawyer, Mackie, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Gallagher, Barnes. Subs Timar, Fallon, Paterson (not used Summerfield, Noone). Attendance - 14,014
Argyle have appointed the development partner who will assist them in building a new South Stand at Home Park, Salmon Developments, who are based in central London. Paul Stapleton made the announcement at the club's AGM last night, and he said: "We put an advert in Estates Gazette last summer for a development partner and we had a number of replies. After a three-month negotiation and review period we have chosen Salmon Developments. This company is a good choice, we think, for the club because they have been involved in other sporting and commercial developments, similar to what we are proposing. The most notable is the Madejski Stadium at Reading. We have talked to the directors at Reading who were actually involved in their project, to make sure this company are the right people for us. We are presently looking at development concepts with Salmon, as well as Plymouth City Council. That is to ensure the club maximise the return that can be achieved in order to create an impressive new stand, which will support the club for the foreseeable future. We need non-matchday income no doubt about it. In the current market, this is, of course, a difficult task, which makes the project more challenging. However, our job is to plan for the future. We aim to have the plans agreed and our permissions in place towards the end of this year." The city council also have ambitious plans for the Life Centre, on land adjacent to Home Park. Stapleton said: "Our plans will, of course, need to take account of the development of the Life Centre. Whilst we welcome this development, we are having ongoing discussions with the city council to ensure that both parties can achieve their sporting goals and aspirations. Both developments are clearly significant, not only for Central Park and Home Park, but for Plymouth and the region. We have been researching design and build options, but are adamant the eventual design will suit the club's needs and support its commercial future. We are looking in the first instance at having at least 7,000 seats, but the capacity will not change from what we are now. Don't forget the capacity can change in the future, should we ever be bursting at the seams with people trying to get in, which we hope will come sooner rather than later. Each of the other three sides which we call 'the horseshoe' can all be increased in size by raising the roof. We are looking at developing corporate boxes, a new club shop, café and restaurant, and conferencing. We keep saying conferencing and banqueting, and Plymouth is crying out for those facilities." Argyle have arranged a series of meetings with senior city council officials. Stapleton added: "We are preparing our business case, and we are looking, of course, to try to ensure we get as much money from commercial development on our freehold site. That will enable us to push forward with these plans, and it's why we need negotiations with the city council. We aren't going to be rushed into it. We have spent a lot of time over this last year working on it. And I know you won't believe me until we show you some visuals, but we had to wait for the Area Action Plan, which was approved in September 2008. Everything we are trying to do is in accordance with that. Our advisors will have a meeting on Monday with the head of asset management at the city council to progress matters further. We then will have a meeting with the chief executive of the city council, and the development director."
Argyle are planning to build premises to accommodate a Youth Academy, Paul Stapleton told the club's AGM last night. "With the adoption of the Area Action Plan, as well as the City Council producing a master-plan for Home Park, we have also turned our attention to what facilities we need for the playing side of the club," he said. "Not just the first team, but also our emerging youth squad - how we can get them all playing in one location. It does frustrate us, and the manager, when the youth team has to go to Exeter, or to Bull Point, or to Saltash, or anywhere where they can find a pitch, when Paul Sturrock, or any manger in the future needs to look at his youth players and he can't see them in training or playing in a practice match because they are not there. We want to establish a new Football Academy around Home Park which we hope to elevate to become a regional football hub in the South West. To achieve this status, we will be working closely with the Football Association, Sport England and the Council. The Academy will be located to the north of the stadium and we hope to have a 3G synthetic pitch. We hope to have associated facilities to allow for on-site accommodation and associated training, and we hope to establish a family of new training pitches for all ages. The Football Association and Sport England have come to us and said 'We need to have a destination for football pitches for all youngsters in Plymouth, as well as up to the professional side', which is us. The aim is to get more people into football but also to mature some home-grown talent. We know we need that. Our aim is to get the Academy moving, even this year, if we can."
Argyle have announced that they will offer free entrance for under-10s next season and have also frozen season-ticket prices, whilst actually reducing some prices . The club are offering adult fans who buy a 2009/10 season-ticket the opportunity to claim a second free ticket for a child, the only condition being that the youngster must be aged under 10 on August 31st, 2009. Paul Stapleton said: "We believe our young fans are the vital lifeblood of Argyle both now and in the future. This unique under-10s pay-nothing offer of free season-tickets recognises that. We know how difficult it is in the current economic climate for families with young children to make their budget stretch. We sincerely hope this initiative helps. We are confident this will be the beginning of a lifetime of pleasure for future generations of Pilgrims." Stapleton was equally upbeat over the club's offer of pegging the cost of season tickets and offering a nil per cent APR finance deal to spread the cost. "Our decision to freeze 2009/10 season-ticket prices has been based on our desire to do what we can to ease the financial burden on our fans," he added. "We would have liked to have reduced prices throughout the ground. We trust the fans understand the need to balance the club's finances. It is vitally important the team remain competitive on the pitch. We are fully conscious that this decision may still make it extremely difficult for some fans to afford a season ticket. To address this concern, we have slashed season-ticket prices for the Mayflower Enclosure. It is our way of saying we appreciate the support you give us." Next season, unreserved season-tickets in the Mayflower will cost £275 compared to £305 for this term. Over-65s will see the cost drop from £246 to £184 and under-18s from £195 to £184. Stapleton said: "The theme of this season's season-ticket drive is, 'We'll be There', and we hope that the price structure we have in place will enable everyone who wants a season-ticket to buy one. Come and get right behind the team. We need your support more than ever."
Paul Sturrock is unsure whether Ashley Barnes will keep his place in the team against Reading. "He is a big strong boy, but he has only just turned 19, and people forget that," Sturrock said. "We are asking an awful lot of him and, if there are two hard centre-backs, it is the two he is going to meet on Saturday. They don't take any prisoners, so, if there is a test for Ashley to come through for his development, it will be how he comes through the game on Saturday."
Marcel Seip has admitted the groin strain which recently ruled him out of action is still troubling him but he is determined to continue playing to help Argyle avoid relegation. Seip said: "On the scan, they found I had got a hernia on both sides. But they are not sure whether that's causing the pain, or something else. There was inflammation in my groin. After the game against Wolves, I was so stiff on the Sunday I could hardly walk. But on the Monday I was all right again. It can't have been from not playing for four weeks so there has to be something else, but I'm not sure what it is and what is causing the pain. Hopefully, I can carry on playing for the rest of the season and we can then see what it is exactly, and whether it's the hernia or not. It's a little bit hard to tell at the moment, but I know it's not right. I want to carry on playing as long as I can, especially with where we are in the table. I don't want to say, 'I can't carry on anymore', and have an operation, or whatever, and then see us go down to League One. That's the last thing I want to do, so I will just keep playing until we are safe and are staying in the division whenever that is and then I can see what's going on and if I need an operation or not." Argyle had gone nine league games without a win before the victories over Wolves and Watford. Seip added: "It has been brilliant. Everyone needed that. We had conceded a lot of goals lately, so to get a clean sheet against Wolves was a perfect scenario really. But the worst thing is that all the other teams down at the bottom of the table have been winning as well. A lot of them have got games in hand, so we know we have to keep on winning, even tomorrow. We need the three points. Of course, Reading are a good team. They are not in the top three and playing for promotion for nothing. We know they have got good strikers, but Wolves have got good strikers and we kept a clean sheet against them. We had been struggling for goals before, but we have got five goals in our last three games and, as a defender, it's nice to see we are scoring again." The game against Reading will be followed by away trips to Swansea City and Norwich City. Seip said: "We need to get as many points as we can get in those three games and then, hopefully, we will be near mid-table."
Paul Sturrock has hailed the impact of Ashley Barnes in Argyle's return to winning ways. "He merits selection again," said Sturrock, who compared the forward to Mickey Evans. "He's probably a bit quicker than Mickey, and maybe not as good in the air as him, but his linkage has been excellent in the last two games. He has been a target for us. People have got around him and we have managed to pick up a lot of second balls off him. And if he hasn't won the ball, he has made sure the centre-backs haven't won it. So he has definitely got attributes." Sturrock will make a final decision on his team to take on Reading after training today. He said: "We trained yesterday and the players still needed to get that game out of their systems. That's why we did all sorts of things to regenerate them. When they come in today, we will have to play a five or six-minute game, just to have a wee look at how they are looking, and I will make a judgment from. But it's very hard to change a winning team." Sturrock believes the introduction of Barnes, as well as loan signings Carl Fletcher and Alan Judge, has added a 'freshness' to Argyle. He said: "I think David Gray, Cathcart, Marcel and Barks have gelled together as a decent unit in defence. Karl Duguid and Carl Fletcher have also done an excellent job in front of the back four, which has enabled Judge, Mackie, Barnes and Gallagher to be a threat as far as scoring goals is concerned." Argyle have won their last two games but are still only five points clear of the relegation zone. Sturrock said: "With us winning, and two of the bottom three winning, it has brought a few teams back into it. It might have been a four or five-horse race, but it's now seven or eight. So points are getting more and more important. Reading have just got on the rails again after an indifferent period, and they have got players who can hurt you big-time. But we aren't going to sit back. We are going to do exactly what we did in the first half against Watford. We are going to attempt to play in the other team's half, make sure we get in and around the box, and have goal attempts. We have got to try to stop them from playing. That's the important thing for us because their strikeforce is deadly. They have got Kevin Doyle, the Hunt brothers and their full-backs are like wingers. So we have got to be very focused when they have got the ball."
Argyle are still in negotiations with Skelmersdale United over their striker George Donnelly, according to Paul Sturrock. The Lancashire club have already rejected one offer for Donnelly.
Carl Fletcher has been suitably impressed by the fighting spirit displayed by Argyle as they try to pull away from the relegation zone and is hoping the team can extend their winning record against Reading tomorrow. "Reading are obviously battling away at the top of the table and we're doing likewise, but at the other end of the table," he said. "They're a very good side and they've kept many of the players who were with them in the Premier League. We know it's going to be a tough game for us, but after the results we've picked up in the last few games, I think we'll go into Saturday with a lot of confidence behind us. Confidence is an important part of any footballer's game. To get that confidence, you need to get results and that's what we've been doing. I think in a couple of the games we could have played a bit better, but it's results that count at this stage of the season. And if we keep picking up three points, regardless of how we play, then we are going to be happy with that." Fletcher is starting to settle in to life in the Westcountry. "The games are coming thick and fast right now, so I've not seen a great deal of Plymouth itself yet," he said. "I'm sure I'll get a chance to look at the place in the next few weeks, but at the moment I'm just concentrating on the football side of things. For me, I'm just happy to be playing again it's nice. Saturdays, three o'clock, it's good to be out on a pitch rather walking around the shops with your missus. As I said, results going your way, plus the lads here are great, all of that has helped me settle in very quickly." Fletcher has already formed a good partnership with Karl Duguid. "We've both been around the block a bit," he said. "However, it's not just us two out there, it's everyone. We are all working for one another and trying our hardest to get results for Plymouth. Since I came here, I've been really impressed with the work-rate of everyone at the club. You need that to survive in the Championship. It's a competitive league, probably one of the most you would get in and around Europe. Sides know there is a massive prize on the end of it and they all want to be pushing for the Premier League because that is where the big money is for clubs. If you look at the division, any side can beat anyone. You only have to look at recent results to see that. At the moment a lot of teams at the bottom, ourselves included, are winning games and it's bringing others back into the fight. Every game has something on it and Saturday won't be any different for either ourselves or Reading."
Paul Sturrock has long advocated the benefits of sending his younger players out on loan and the current loanee's are backing up that theory. Sturrock said: "Bolasie scored the winner the other night and he is definitely starting to achieve what I knew was in him. McCrory has come back and looks a different player after his time with Port Vale. He has played left-back in the last two reserve games and been excellent. Dan Smith looks very lively in training as well. It has been a huge benefit putting them out. The development of playing some of the youth players in the reserves has been a benefit as well. I am pleased for all the ones that have been out on loan." Despite their success, the youngsters out on loan also realise that their long-term future at Home Park is not totally secure. The large squad at Argyle is causing Sturrock concern and he also has to consider the future of the second-year apprentices. He added: "I have got to review the whole scenario because we have got too many players, and to add more to that would be financial suicide. I have got to weigh up the size of my squad for next year and some harsh decisions are going to be made. I am also trying to watch all the second-years as well."
Chris Clark has been struggling with a back injury since the start of the week and will have a fitness test before the game against Reading. Gary Sawyer is on the mend after going over on an ankle in training last week and could return to training soon, but Mathias Doumbe has been sidelined by a hamstring injury which he picked up in the reserve game at Forest Green Rovers on Monday.
Paul Gallagher has admitted he does not know what the future holds for him beyond the end of this season. He said: "I have still got a few months left here and then in the summer I will sit down with my advisor and see what comes along. I have still got one year left at Blackburn, but I think Sam made it clear that he would be willing to sell me. So I have just got to score goals and see what happens then. I haven't heard anything yet. I think the times I have played for Blackburn I haven't let them down. So it's disappointing I didn't get a longer opportunity to play there, but I took it on the chin and I came here and I'm enjoying it. I can't do anything at Blackburn because I'm not there. I can only concentrate on Plymouth Argyle." Gallagher is one of five loan signings at Argyle and all of them have played important parts in picking up seven points from the last three matches. Gallagher said: "No football player wants to get relegated. That's why all the team in our dressing room have rolled their sleeves up and are giving 110 per cent. We knew after winning at Wolves we had to carry it on. We have got to make this a hard place for teams to come to. I think we showed that on Tuesday. A few weeks ago, we might have crumbled when Watford got back to 1-1, but we had a great attitude and a great desire to win." Despite being unbeaten in their last three matches, Argyle are still only five points clear of the relegation positions. Gallagher added: "We can't worry about other teams. We have got to do it ourselves. I think over the last couple of weeks we have done ourselves proud."
Alan Judge has made a big impact at Argyle according to Paul Sturrock. He said: "Alan Judge gives us a different dimension. He can float inside. He is not an out-and-out winger type that stands on the touchline. He comes into the little holes where full-backs find it hard to pick him up. He also floats back and helps. He travels from one end of the park to the other with the ball, which takes us up the football pitch."
Paul Sturrock praised the character of his players after the win against Watford last night. He said: "It's amazing how many times we have hit the woodwork in the last four or five games. And it's the first time we have had a penalty for a while. I was quite excited about getting one tonight because we have had so many appeals lately. We showed some character because at 1-1 our poor home form could have reared its ugly head again. But the boys stuck at it, even though we weren't as good in the second half as we were in the first. You have got to give Watford credit for that. They came out and upped a gear, and we didn't handle it very well. They deserved to get their goal back but, after that, the players grabbed the nettle, got the second goal and held on." Argyle have picked up seven points from their last three matches, and Paul Gallagher has scored four goals in that time. Sturrock said: "Gall is a quality player. His second goal was a side-footer which he just steered on target." The game went ahead despite heavy rain for most of yesterday. The pitch was covered up until 6.15pm, and it stood up to the match much better than expected. Sturrock said: "I was very pleased with the pitch. We kept the covers on until after six, and it kept the water off. We had had three or four dry days with a bit of wind, and it had definitely taken the sogginess out of the pitch. I was pleased it stood up well to the game." Sturrock included all five of his loan signings in his starting line-up against Watford, and they all showed total commitment. Sturrock added: "I expected that because, at the end of the day, they are professional people. They are good characters as well. They want to do well for themselves, but also for the club that has given them their opportunity. It's no coincidence that they are all Celts. That's the other ingredient." Ashley Barnes was unfortunate not to score his first goal for the club, twice hitting the bar. "I was very pleased with him," Sturrock said. "He has given us exuberance. Centre-backs will be looking over their shoulders all the time for him because he's a handful. Instead of them being able to pass things back to the goalie, or hooking it up the pitch, they are kicking it out for throw-ins and we are further up the football pitch." Argyle are back in action on Saturday, when Reading visit Home Park. Sturrock said: "We have a big one coming up, and we are going to have to make sure we have got the legs for it because we expended a lot of energy tonight."
Paul Gallagher is back on form after scoring four goals in the last three games. "It feels nice to be back - that winning feeling is the best you can have in football," he said. "The dressing room is absolutely buzzing and all the boys deserve it. We have given 110% in the last three games and you can see on the pitch the results we are getting from it. I can't really put my finger on it. We are all in it together and I can't see anything that we have changed, but football is a funny game. You can play your best in one game and get beat, and then have a bad game and win. We will take any win as it comes and I think we are playing well now. Since I scored against Sheffield United, I have got that bit of confidence back and I feel like I can score again, like I used to. It felt like I had the world on my shoulders at one stage. I hadn't scored in a long time and you think, 'am I ever going to score again'? The manager stuck by me when I was having a rough time and I am just glad I am repaying him now." Gallagher had a rough January, when a change of manager at Blackburn threw his future into doubt. "January was a nightmare for me," he said. "I thought I could have a chance of going back to Blackburn but it didn't happen, and I spoke to the manager here and I had to get my head around it. Every player wants to play at the highest level and I thought I might have an opportunity, but I knew I couldn't sit around sulking because I had to do a job for Argyle. I have got a few months left here and then I will see what comes along in the summer. I have still got one year left at Blackburn but I think Sam Allardyce made it clear that he is willing to sell me. I have just got to score goals and see what happens then. There are international players there and people who have come for a lot of money, but I don't think I've ever let Blackburn down when I've played for them. I had an injury as well but, touch wood, it has been alright for the last few weeks, and hopefully I will get back to my best. I know I didn't play my best tonight but, as a striker, I get paid for scoring goals. If I play like that every week and score two goals, I'll take it." Gallaghers first goal came from a penalty and he admitted his recent record from the spot has not been the best. He said: "If I hit them like that, I will score most, but, as I've said to the guys, I've missed my last few penalties. I changed my routine by not looking at the keeper and just turned around and gave it a whack. We were 1-0 up against Blackpool and they came back to win, and that did start going through my mind at one point. We have been positive in the last few games and luckily enough tonight, we hung on." The second goal came just after he had been switched to the left wing by Paul Sturrock. Gallagher said: "It was a good run by Judge and a good run by Duggie, who took two defenders away. I saw Ashley come in but I managed to get a good connection, and it went in. The manager told me to go out on the left and I think that was my first touch from the left, and I scored, so he can take confidence from that. It sat nicely and I was delighted to see it go in." Gallagher completed his performance with a goal-saving clearance at the back post. "I have never run that far in my life but it was as good as scoring a goal," he said. "I saw Chris Barker, who played well tonight, was struggling to get back and I needed to help out a team-mate. I had a feeling it was going to the back post and luckily enough I got my leg there - I couldn't run any more after that. We knew after going to Wolves and winning, we had to carry it on. We have to make this place hard to come to and we showed that tonight. A few weeks ago, we would have crumbled but tonight we showed a great attitude and a desire to win. I've looked at the table and all the teams have won around us. It is a funny league and we can't worry about other teams - we have got to do it ourselves. No football player wants to get relegated. The whole dressing room is rolling their sleeves up."
Argyle beat Watford 2-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Paul Gallagher after 35 and 73 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Mackie, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Gallagher, Barnes. Subs Clark, Fallon (not used Paterson, Noone, Timar). Attendance - 9,529
Argyle reserve's won 3-0 at Forest Green Rovers last night, the goals scored by Steve MacLean, Dan Smith and Luke Summerfield. Paul Sturrock, who took charge of the side, said: "The attitude to play was excellent from everybody. It was a good run-out." Argyle: Saxton, Leonard, Walton, Doumbe, McCrory, Folly, McCaul, Summerfield, Smith, MacLean, Easter.
Chris Clark has admitted Argyle must get the better of the Home Park pitch before they can hope to beat Watford tonight. He said: "It will be tough again. Everyone seems to have spoken about the surface, and it is very difficult. It's not going to be pretty to watch, unfortunately. Everyone would like to get the ball down and pass it, but it's very hard to do that. You have got to concentrate on your touch and take care with your passing. At home, I think we will always create chances, and it's important we take them this time." Argyle have not won any of their last four home games, but with the return to form of Paul Gallagher, Clark hopes Argyle's improved performances will continue. He said: "It's good to see Gall scoring again it's good to see anyone scoring, really. But we know what he's capable of, and as long as we keep creating those chances, I think we will be okay." Gallagher scored the decisive goal against Wolves, but Ashley Barnes earned plenty of plaudits after making his full debut. Clark said: "He was brilliant. I think everyone was really pleased for him, but we knew he was capable of that. He does it in training every day. He's a very physical player for his age and when you have got someone like that, at 19, who can lead the line and take the ball in, it lets the defence get out and it can start attacks. I think he should be really proud of his performance because he was fantastic." Clark played on the left-side of midfield when Argyle won at Vicarage Road in September. "I think that was a really strong performance," he added. "But Watford have picked up lately, so it's going to be a tough game tonight. I think it will be very close. Hopefully, if we can build on our performance from Saturday, I can't see why we can't push on again."
Dan Smith has completed his three-month loan spell with Eastbourne Borough.
Paul Sturrock has revealed he has had a 'frank discussion' with Steve MacLean. MacLean was a non-playing substitute in the game against Sheffield United and was not even in the squad for the win at Wolves on Saturday. Sturrock said: "Steve and I had a chat about a whole lot of things on Sunday. Him and I had a frank discussion and we know where we are coming from now. I'm very pleased that a lot of the players who aren't in the team at this minute have come and seen me over the last couple of days. It shows they care, and it has enabled me to air my views. And it was good they aired their views as well." Another player who has dropped out of the squad recently is Simon Walton. Sturrock said: "Fletch has come in and we have drawn against Sheffield United and we have beaten Wolves. He's very much the same style of player as Walton. And I did feel also that one or two of the others have done a decent job in midfield and I have gone with them. Simon can also play at centre-back, and him and I have had a chat about it. He feels that, at this juncture, he wants to show me he has got other strings to his bow. That's why he was playing at centre-back for the reserves last night." Squad depth was another reason for the exclusion of MacLean and Walton. Sturrock added: "I could only take a squad of 20 players for that game and they were for positions that I had problems and injuries in. I had to cover players that could play in those positions. It was a difficult decision to be made but bringing two players into that scenario when they're not the positions we have problems with didn't make sense. I took Easter because I felt he had to get a wee lift after playing in the reserves."
Paul Sturrock believes it will take 52 points for Argyle to escape relegation and has set a target of four more wins between now and the end of the season. Sturrock also admitted the win against Wolves had lifted his players. "It has definitely bolstered the troops, but it will mean nothing if we go and let ourselves down over these next two games," he said. "These next two games are key to getting us into the 40s. And that means the magic number is getting closer, which is what we have got to aim for as quickly as possible. I think we will need a touch more than 50 points. If we could get four wins and a draw or something like that in the last 11 games, it would be great. Had we not won on Saturday, we would have been in a more difficult position, and tonight would have taken on a whole different perspective. We have got two home games now and if we can take pointage from both it would be great." Sturrock expects Watford to provide a stern test, and added: "They are flying at the moment so it will be a very difficult game. They are a solid unit." Brendan Rodgers, who took over as Watford manager in November, has masterminded their recent revival. Sturrock said: "I have talked to him on the phone a couple of times but, other than that, I don't really know the man. But he has done a very good job so far. He has steadied the ship, moved some players on and he's starting to balance his books. He has definitely benefited the football club." Paul Gallagher was substituted in the second half against Wolves, suffering from a bug, but trained yesterday and should be fine to face Watford. The same goes for Marcel Seip. Sturrock said: "Paul has had a wee bug, but he has trained today and we're hopeful he'll be OK. Marcel was a bit tired on Sunday, but he didn't look out of sorts in training yesterday." Sturrock is more concerned about David Gray and added: "The boy Gray is being hindered by a sore toe. He looked OK in training, but we'll have to monitor his ankle injury as well. It's one of those that takes a long time to go away but is very quick to come back. We'll have to watch what we're doing with him."
Argyle have slashed admission prices for the games with Watford and Reading, in the hope it will encourage more people to attend the two games. Paul Sturrock said: "I would love to think the fans will come out tonight. They have been absolutely different class the last two games. I think they have appreciated that they can help the team. They have definitely benefited the players in the last two games, and the result on Saturday was a wee payback. Hopefully, we can pay them back again with a win tonight."
Paul Sturrock has singled-out Ashley Barnes for praise after his performance against Wolves. He said: "I'm watching tapes at this minute in time and he didn't let himself down in any way. He had a very competent performance, his work rate and general work ethic was second to none. He held the ball up and was really strong on the challenge. There was a couple of wee areas that he definitely has to work on but for a debut I'm sure he will be content and I was really happy."
Chris Clark watched Argyle's last home game from the Home Park grandstand but, after a two-game absence, returned to face Wolves last Saturday. Clark would prefer not to miss a match, but he also appreciates the benefit of being taken out now and then. "You want to play in every game," he said, "and you become a little bit frustrated when you're not playing, but I took it as a rest. It was good to be involved on Saturday, and to take part in a win like that was magic for everyone. We'd come off a poor run. You can go through spells like that in a season. You're always working hard, but things just aren't coming off, and I think that was the case for everyone. We weren't scoring enough goals, and we'd started to let in a few, so it was very good to come away with a clean-sheet and a strong performance, it lifts the confidence." Argyle had a few lucky moments on Saturday, but Clark felt they earned their good fortune. "You can't rely on luck," he said. "You have to earn it, and I think we did that with the work we've put in, week in, week out. You'll get your luck over a season, and when we had a rocky spell things just weren't happening for us. But we stayed strong on Saturday. The whole team did a fantastic job. Tactically, it worked really well, and I think everyone should take a pat on the back for that."
Argyle's under 18's beat Hereford United 2-0 on Saturday, the goals scored by Joe Mason and Liam Head. Argyle: Chenoweth, Leonard, Brett, Kinsella, Sawyer, Gerring, Edwards, McCaul, Head, Mason, Grant. Subs Young, Troupe, Rickard (not used - Trott, Levett).
Ashley Barnes admitted getting his first start for Argyle at Wolves had come as a shock. He said: "As it was an away game, I didn't even think I was going to be on the bench. But the gaffer named the team as soon as we got into the changing room and I was up for the game. He has given me my chance and I just wanted to show him what I could do and, hopefully, I have done it. It was about working hard and helping the team to get three points. We need as many points as we can get in the last 11 games to get up the table. I was pleased with my performance, and all the lads were brilliant to me after the game." Barnes was recalled early from his loan spell at Eastbourne Borough at the end of January and has been in and around the matchday squad ever since. He said: "To get a call-back from the gaffer was just brilliant really, and my dream has come true again. Ever since, I think I have done alright. I was just waiting for my start and, obviously, I got it today." Argyle had been without a win in nine league games prior to Saturday, so Paul Gallagher's goal inside the first minute at Molineux was a massive boost for them. Barnes said: "It was a brilliant start and we carried it on through the whole 90 minutes. From Ro in goal, to us up front, it couldn't have been any better." Gallagher scored with a spectacular overhead shot and Barnes added: "I don't know how he has got his leg up that high. It was at head height, and he just hit it and it went in. I was chuffed to watch it go in." Argyle retained that early lead until Wolves staged one last, unsuccessful, late onslaught. Barnes said: "You have got to give the back four credit. They were just top class. And Ro was phenomenal again. He took all the crosses and you couldn't ask for much more from him." Barnes is hoping to retain his place when Argyle take on Watford at Home Park tomorrow. "It will be another hard game and we just need to win that one as well," he said.
Paul Sturrock broke with tradition as he stayed in the Argyle dug-out until the very end of Argyle's win at Wolves on Saturday. Usually, the superstitious Sturrock heads for the dressing room at the start of stoppage time but this time he stayed put. He said: "I should have gone in because that last four minutes was like the Alamo!"
Paul Sturrock is already planning for Argyle's next Championship season. "We're a team that's desperate to kick on," he said. "We've got to get to 40 points as quickly as possible, then we'll see light at the end of the tunnel. The only way we can do that is by winning, and we have got to do that as quickly as possible. The forties are closer to the fifties; the mid-fifties are hallelujah land. I'm looking forward to one day waking up and having that pointage so we can restructure the football club for next season. We have now just got to build up enough pointage to be in this league for next season, and then we can really get going as far as clearing the decks and making sure we have got a very, very good side. The quicker we get safe, the earlier we can get to work in putting together a strong squad for next season."
Carl Fletcher was happy to man the barricades as Argyle repelled Wolves yesterday. "It was a good battling performance," he said. "Sometimes you need to put your tin hats on, dig your trenches and try to grind out a result. We're delighted to get three points. It was tough, but coming to a place like Wolves is always going to be a tough game. They are top of the league and are there on merit. At times, that is what you need to do in this division. It shows that if you go out and everyone puts in 100%, you can get results. We had a bit of brilliance from Gally and I thought the back four and goalkeeper were magnificent today. We were well organised. Wolves piled on the pressure and we rode our luck a couple of times, but everyone worked their socks off." Fletcher was keeping a cool head though, but already looking ahead to Tuesday's game with Watford. "We can't get too carried away," he said. "It was only one win and we've still got a lot of games to go, but it's a starting-point. To take it on to Tuesday is the next thing we need to do. To make this result really good, we need to get something out of Tuesday. We need to rest up, recover and prepare right. It's going to be tough and we will be looking for the fans to get behind us like they did today."
Paul Sturrock is convinced that Argyle's recovery began two games ago, when, despite being 3-0 down against Crystal Palace, his team produced a committed second-half display that was applauded by the fans. "The players have been a fantastic for the last three games," he said. "It would have been very easy to cave in under the pressures they have been under. The fans have responded fantastically. Today, they were incredible, and, in the last two home games, they have been a different class. The players have appreciated that. With the backing of the fans, a proper attitude, and key players coming back into the team and the squad, it augurs well. When we have a full complement, we're difficult to beat. We've not had personnel playing in the right positions. People have had to cover certain areas of the team because of injury and everything else. Today, we had specialists in every position and we looked a much better unit for it. The right-back position has been a problem for us all season and David Gray has come in and done so well. Fletcher has come in and now we've got a man standing in the centre of our midfield, bossing the younger players. But I think the fans are the reason why this team has gelled together again. In the last couple of home games, the fans have responded properly. When we came in 3-0 down against Crystal Palace, the supporters backed then to the hilt right through the second half, then last Saturday as well. I think the fans have got to take a pat on the back for their thoughtfulness. The players have responded with attitude and work-rate, and the two things have been married together. We have just got to get that marriage solidified at home by starting to win football games. The marriage of those two things has given a confidence to the players and, when they work really hard as unit, like they did today, they are a very difficult team to play against. Luck is huge thing in football. To be fair, Lady Luck didn't shine on us for while. But you make your luck, and the attitude and work-rate of the team over the last two or three games has been excellent, and the fans have been a different class with them." Despite Argyle holding on to the early goal, Sturrock felt they deserved their victory against Wolves. "We played two up front and had Jamie on the wing," he said. "It wasn't as if we came to stifle it. Over the piece, our goalkeeper had no saves to make, nothing really to worry about, because the whole team has been so good, defensively. The back four and midfield did their job properly and worked very hard as a unit. It was like the Alamo in the last ten or fifteen minutes. Wolves had that many men in the box that it was frightening. It's always a difficult place to come because they've got such an armoury of quality players, but we have battled and come away with three points." Before he had left Molineux, Sturrock's thoughts turned to the home games against Watford and Reading next week. He said: "There were a lot of pluses today but it is no good living off this - we have got to go and do it again on Tuesday. I freshened things up today, and I think I will freshen things up in midweek. We have got to make sure we have got the right blend and right shape. Now, instead of knocking a house down, we have got to build a couple of houses in our next two home games, which we have found a real problem. The minimum fans have to get is attitude and work-rate and, at times when we've lost a goal, heads have gone down and I haven't had that total commitment. Fans can get a wee bit naughty. They have backed the team to the hilt and we have responded. Now we have got to keep on responding because we have got two home games against a form team, in Watford, and the second or third-top, in Reading."
At 38 seconds, Paul Gallagher scored Argyle's quickest ever goal at Wolves yesterday, but he did not have a good view of his match-winner. Gallagher was lying on the deck after his overhead strike, attempting to avoid the Wolves' defenders. "I didn't really see where the ball went because I thought I was going to get stamped on," he said. "I looked up and saw the ball in the net and thought 'I'll take that'." Paul Sturrock said: "His confidence level was round about his shinguard level over the last eight or nine weeks, through a niggling knee injury and maybe thinking the whole world was against him. But he's knuckled down and shown a decent attitude in training and the games and is now getting his rewards again. When he plays to the standards he played to today, we normally win football games. I honestly believe we are a team but he is probably the icing on the cake for us. He nips a goal here and there, he's good at taking set-pieces." Gallagher added: "I'll be honest, with the new manager coming in at Blackburn, I thought I might have a chance of going back there and playing because they were struggling. That didn't happen and it was a kick in the teeth but I've got my head round that and am starting to do what I did when I first came to Plymouth." Gallagher was replaced in the second half because of illness. He said: "Before the game, I felt a little bit light-headed. I wanted to go out for the second half but I had to go back in because I felt sick. I could feel my stomach cramping up." Gallagher had words of praise for all his team-mates, and especially Ashley Barnes, who was making his first start. "Ashley is a hungry young lad who wants to do well and he put in a hell of a shift," he said. "He gave two experienced defenders a rough time. I can't speak highly enough of the lads. They have been fantastic for the last few games - people have thrown their bodies on the line. We all want to do well for ourselves, for the manger and for the club. We have got that in abundance and have started to show that in the performances." Gallagher feels that the key to Argyle's Championship safety is their home form. "We have got to make Home Park a hard place for people to come," he said. "In the last few games, we have made it easy. We gave Crystal Palace three goals, and we can't be doing that. We've got to right at people's throats and make it a horrible place to come to."
Paul Sturrock sprang a surprise by giving Ashley Barnes his full debut in the win over Wolves at Molineux. "It was probably mind-blowing for everybody that Barnes started today but I had real confidence in the laddie and he never let me down in any way," Sturrock said. "He ran the line very well, and I think he's going to be an exciting talent over the years to come. Wolves are very big and strong at the back and I thought his burly style would cause them concern, and he rumbled them up so they were untidy most of the game because he was always in their faces. He unsettled them from the first minute of the game. He's definitely got the kind of characteristics that, when you're away from home, you need. He made bad balls good balls for us and we managed to get the ball up the park."
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