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Sweden 2005: Official Site (Steve Hill)


July 17

The official Argyle party set out from Home Park on Sunday morning for the long trip north to Holmsund on the Swedish Gulf of Bothnia/Baltic Sea coast. Flights from Heathrow to Stockholm, then a domestic flight to Umea left us with just a 15 minute coach ride to the training base at Vasterbacken Hotell & Konferens AB overlooking an inlet from the Gulf of Bothnia. We all enjoyed a light supper before the players retired as they face a double training session on Monday. Tuesday will bring the first match when Argyle take on Betsele IF. The players seemed fit and in good spirits with the only concerns being Romain Larrieu with a lightly bandaged knee after the match at Torquay on Saturday and Bojan Djordjic looking to regain fitness after suffering an injury in training last week. The Umea/Holmsund area is very flat, heavily wooded with many intricate inlets, bays and islands. A ferry runs from nearby the training centre across the Baltic Sea to Finland. It is near midnight Sunday but it is only dusk outside, which is about as dark as it gets as we experience the northerly latitudes midnight sun.


July 18

Argyle started their week of pre-season training in Sweden in scorching temperatures that rose above 30 degrees. The heat did not prevent the players going through their paces with fitness work in the morning and ball work in the afternoon. On Tuesday training will consist of only one session as players are rested ahead of the first match of the week against Betsele IF, about an hour and a half travelling time north west of the training centre at Holmsund. Bobby Williamson had not settled on the starting line up which will be similar to the finishing list on the night: "We need the players to get 90 minutes under their belts so we will not be making lots of changes during the match." explained Williamson. "The players that play Tuesday will not be the ones involved on Thursday." The only injury worry is Bojan Djordjic, who stepped up training today and should be available for the later matches. Romain Larrieu has recovered from a knock he got in the match at Torquay but will probably be rested for Tuesday.



The Argyle squad training on day one of the tour


July 19

Argyle's first full day in Holmsund in the Vasterbacken area of Sweden proved to be a scorcher. Temperatures soared to the low 30's but the players still went through their paces on the training ground, which is in fact IFK Holmsund's stadium where the Pilgrims will conclude their tour with a match against their hosts on Saturday. An increasingly hot morning was spent by an increasingly faster workout routine, as the players stretched out of their bodies Saturday's game and Sunday's long journey. Without a ball in sight they walked, jogged and ran with plenty of stretching exercises in between.

Lunch back at the hotel consisted of pasta and Swedish meatballs, without any flat pack furniture in sight, and then a rest for the squad before heading out again. The Swedish media arrived with papers and television wishing to enquire why Argyle had come to Sweden but with their main focus on Bojan Djordjic. The afternoon brought ball work for the squad as the thermometer hit its peak for the day. Passing, skills and small sided games were more to the liking of the players as they shrugged off the high temperatures and enjoyed their football.

A rest before the evening meal of chicken and rice led to a quiz for all the party, won unsurprisingly by the staff team of older and wiser heads easily dealing with answers involving anything from the Royal family to Acker Bilk. One team of foreign players and youngsters Luke Summerfield and Ryan Dickson looked bemused by the whole event, although Taribo West easily answered anything involving Africa for them. With practically daylight outside and the clock reading 11pm most of the party went to bed or sat round talking and playing cards, trying to cool down before retiring.

Tuesday morning brought slightly cooler conditions with overcast skies but it soon became obvious that it was going to remain sticky and clammy, although promised thunderstorms could bring welcome relief. The paperboy delivered Swedish papers, one with an interview with Djordjic and a large photo of the player being interviewed by Swedish television while the other paper carried a story of a Nigerian player with Betsele, tonight's opponents, whose idol has always been Taribo West. The 23 year-old midfielder was in tears when he realised he may play against his hero.


Lapland conjures up all kinds of images in people's minds, mainly involving Reindeer and Santa. Santa must have been around to present Argyle with a nine nil win on the club's first ever, and likely only, visit to Swedish Lapland. As far as the Reindeer were concerned none showed up. Which was advantageous as the gentleman that boarded the team coach on arrival at what he called the largest "arena" in Lapland, warned that if Reindeer invaded what he identified as the 'lawn' the players must run to the changing rooms as they can be aggressive at this time of year. The warning, whether true or not, seemed likely when the 'arena' was no more than a long wooden building, a raised bank for the fans, a pitch, two dug-outs, the ubiquitous trees, lakes and mosquitoes.

The game started with the leaders of the Swedish Third division, plus scorers of 21 goals in their last four matches, forcing three corners in succession in the opening three minutes, was the bizarre about to develop into the ridiculous - no and then yes. As soon as Argyle mounted an attack they scored. Akos Buzsaky, with help from Anthony Barness and Bjarni Gudjonsson, found space outside the area, chose his target and sweetly buried the ball over the keeper and into the roof of the net. Estonian striker, and at the time unnamed trialist, Ingemar Teevor scored the second, sniffing out a goal when he toe-poked the ball past the keeper. Bjarni Gudjonsson copied Buzsaky's style with a similar strike after 18 minutes. Betsele never looked to keep the score down but kept pushing forward, either naively or for the higher good of football. Buzsaky doubled his goal tally and quadrupled Argyle's before the break but not before Simon Gustafsson fell onto the ball on the edge of the area after the busy Morris Lewis put him past the last Argyle defender. Luke McCormick had little to do but had to be alert early in the game to a dipping strike from Lewis that he tipped over the bar.

Bobby Williamson had intended to keep the starting line-up on the park for 90 minutes but due to the four-nil score line he made changes at half-time. Scott Taylor was replaced by Nick Chadwick and Taribo West and Anthony Barness made way for Mat Doumbe and Paul Connolly at the break. Chadwick eventually picked up the scoring again, on the hour, when he held his ground as Betsele's number one keeper Gorgen Persson, who had replaced Henrik Ringbro at the break, tried to reach the ball from a left wing cross. Chadwick set his place and didn't move meaning he didn't impede Persson, but he was able to bring the ball round, twisted and poked the ball home. The keeper went down in pile after hurting himself in the challenge and was replaced by first half keeper Ringbro. The busy Bjarni Gudjonsson limped off part way through the second half with a thigh problem allowing Luke Summerfield to replace him, only Romain Larrieu was left on the bench. Soon Summerfield collected the ball from Connolly, raced to the dead ball line and played in a low cross which Chadwick met with ease to side foot home.

On 84 minutes another keeper change was forced on Betsele. A through ball found Teevor running free as Ringbro raced out of his area, the keeper grabbed the ball and dropped it again. The referee went to his pocket and produced a red card. Larrieu called that he would play, but the Argyle bench were unimpressed. Hence number 13 gutsy Gustav Hyllienmark, a young midfielder of about 5'8" donned the keeper's jersey, with Argyle allowing Betsele to keep 10 outfield players on the pitch. The youngster's first job was to keep out a Paul Wotton free-kick, which unsurprisingly he didn't, seven nil. Although he pulled off two smart saves in the closing minutes he could do little to prevent Tony Capaldi scoring with a delightful chip over the keeper or Luke Summerfield's making it nine with a looping shot from over thirty yards which dropped into the net. It was a debut, although in a friendly match, for Nuno Mendes who played the full 90 minutes showing useful touches and a powerful presence in the air. Argyle won comfortably and gave the players involved a run-out, it will not be as easy on Thursday against Umea.

After the match the Laplandish then turned evermore outlandish as the team bus left the ground for a scheduled post match meal on the way back to Holmsund. With everyone expecting to stop in the town of Lyksele, just south of the 'arena' questions were asked when the bus sailed straight through. After a while the bus turned up a steep mountain road, passing ski-lifts on the way. Eventually parking in a lay-by where the players alighted and were directed to step over a crash barrier and follow a blue rope through the woods and down a slope. The trail ended at a small lake where a group of men were frying up a potato and sausage mix over open wood fires. In these days of carefully controlled diets and post match rest it bemused the players and coaching staff alike. After partaking of the fare and a drink the players soon departed the lake and the mosquitoes to make the long journey back to the training centre. An evening that many will not forget including the 15 members of the Green Army who attended the match, singing and cheering amongst the few hundred in attendance, which at least tripled the population of Betsele. An early Xmas present without the reindeer, just potatoes, bear and humans on the menu, the latter served up for the mosquitoes.


Bjarni Gudjonsson in action against Betsele


July 20

The Argyle squad had a change in routine after the victory over Betsele on Tuesday night. Another major change was the weather, Wednesday started overcast then turned to rain. It provided some relief from the intense heat although it was still clammy. The players that did not complete 90 minutes, either less or none at all, went in to a regular training program in the morning. Those that played the whole game went through a recuperation program.

The afternoon brought a longer rest with the second session of fitness work not starting until 4pm, when a tough work-out and stretching program was overseen by Paul Maxwell and Jocky Scott. Bojan Djordjic joined the squad for training raising hopes for a start on Thursday or Saturday. The concern is over Bjarni Gudjonsson who limped out of the game on Tuesday.

Bobby Williamson's thoughts will now turn to Thursday nights match against Umea, a team that should provide tougher opposition than Betsele. It will also be the first game for Argyle in what has been named the Plymouth Argyle Cup. Umea, Holmsund and Argyle are competing in the mini tournament, with Holmsund beating a young Umea side last night 3-0 to claim the first victory



July 21

The Leicester Mercury declared across its back page "He's Our Man", referring to Argyle's Welsh Under 21 left-back Peter Gilbert moving to Leicester City. At the club's training camp in Sweden the news caused concern amongst the coaching staff and Argyle director Damon Lenszner. "The club very rarely comments on speculation," said Lenszner. "It is unsettling for the team and the player to hear speculation like that. There was an offer which was rejected, he is an Argyle player and we want him to remain an Argyle player, he is a promising under-21 international and part of the set up here and he has 12 months left on his contract. He is here in Sweden and will remain in Sweden and will complete the tour with us, so how they can talk about him playing against Boston for them on Sunday is beyond me," concluded Lenszner.

The Mercury seemed certain of its facts but Peter Gilbert was here in the Vasterbacken Hotel in Holmsund, Sweden at 2pm on Thursday and going no further than his room. He didn't train with his fellow team mates on Thursday morning as he suffered a foot injury on Tuesday night in the victory over Betsele. He was at the training ground being cared for by Argyle physio Paul Maxwell but he was not in line to play against Umea on Thursday night anyway as he had played the full game on Tuesday night in Lapland. Whether Leicester City plan to make a higher bid remains to be seen, but negotiations have not been taking place and the Mercury's story is currently speculation.

As far tonight's game against Umea is concerned there is expected to be a different team to start tonight, although manager Bobby Williamson admitted at lunch time that he had not decided on who would play until the morning training session. It is likely substitutes from Tuesday could be included tonight. It will also be the last opportunity for Ingamar Teevor to show what he can do as he has to return to Estonia for a match on Saturday. It looks certain to be the first match for new signing Bojan Djordjic, who was injured for the games at Torquay and Betsele. Djordjic, well known in Sweden, will very much be the centre of attention



A goalless draw may appear to be a little bit of "after the Lord Mayor's Show" following on from Argyle's 9-0 thrashing of Betsele on Tuesday night, but that would be unfair on Argyle and Umea as both teams battled hard in a competitive and entertaining match.

The Argyle line-up was substantially changed from Tuesday, although not completely. The main change was in formation as Argyle manager Bobby Williamson tried out a tactic that he has hinted at recently, using three at the back. Nuno Mendes, Taribo West and Hasney Aljofree played across the defence, with Paul Connolly and Rufus Brevett taking up wing-back roles. If the tactic had been used against Betsele, the score probably would have still been nine nil but with little being learnt, fortunately for the trial Umea were worlds apart from Betsele. Having dropped into the Swedish second division last season as well as being part way through their current campaign, they were more than fit and able to provide a stern test for this Argyle formation.

The three midfielders of Dave Norris, Keith Lasley and Bojan Djordjic worked hard, with Lasley taking the honours as Argyle's man of the match. Lasley was always busy breaking up attacks and creating forward play in the first period but his most vital contribution came early in the second period when a Umea corner from the left dropped into a crowded box. Romain Larrieu in goal could only watch as a weak stab goalwards came through the mass but Lasley, stationed at the far post, cleared the ball away from in front of the goal-line. The front pairing in the first half of trialist Ingemar Teever and Mickey Evans worked reasonably well, although after the break Teever was replaced by Nick Chadwick, with the international striker due to head back to Estonia to play for his team TVMK Tallinn on Saturday.

Larrieu also produced two good saves, firstly in the first half when David Lindgren broke free from the left and shot hard and low, forcing the keeper to save with his foot, and early in the second period when again he did well to turn a fierce drive from Magnus Fagerqvist behind the post. His opposite number, Petter Augustsson, also did equally well, pulling off several good saves. He denied Paul Connolly twice and then midway through the second period he deprived Mickey Evans of what looked a certain goal after superb work by Djordjic saw the veteran striker's header brilliantly saved by the Swede.

Although the match was goalless it was very competitive, with tackles flying in from both sides and strange decisions by officials to add to the temperature of the game. The Argyle bench complained once too many times for the assistant on their side of the pitch. The team and the bench claimed a penalty when trialist Teever was brought down in the box just before half-time, the claims from the bench that the referee and his assistant needed an ocular consultation saw him try to face down Bobby Williamson as the two came nose to nose. The game was played at a good pace and provided a very good work-out for the Pilgrims. They were on a steep learning curve with the three central defenders, and the match provided plenty of questions about how to play the system.

Argyle failed to produce enough quality balls into the box, though when they did get a good feed into the area they posed problems for the well-organised Umea defence. By the same token Umea's hard-working attitude meant that Argyle rarely had time to take a breath or pause. The team had to work hard to get moving forward and to defend. Mendes, West and Aljofree coped very well and were calm and assured under pressure. All three displayed a touch and comfort on the ball that bodes well for the future. As well as the skill, the aerial ability and the well-timed tackles needed for good central defensive play were always evident.

Djordjic's debut took a while to get going as in the first period Umea seemed to have three players around him whenever he got the ball, often using fair means and foul to prevent him playing, in the second period we began to see glimpses of what he will do during the season. Trialist Teever worked hard and displayed some good touches but also showed some poor points that would need to be ironed out of his game; hence his future with Argyle will be weighed carefully. Evans put in the sort of performance only Trigger can put in, whole hearted and hard working, leading by example as captain for the night. Nick Chadwick was also lively when he entered the play after the break, showing strength and determination. Keith Lasley, though, does take the plaudits for the Greens as his strength, skill and work rate were superb in the middle of the park and adds to the manager's choices for the first game at Reading in just over two weeks, as will the formation.


Keith Lasley in action against Umea


July 23

Argyle ended their pre-season training camp in Sweden with an easy 5-1 victory over IFK Holmsund, their hosts for the week. Argyle manager Bobby Williamson was disappointed with the game, just as he was with the 9-0 thumping of Betsele on Tuesday evening. It may appear an odd attitude after two such resounding victories, but the matches themselves had never been the focus of the long journey north to Sweden.

After the victory over Holmsund, Williamson admitted that, with the exception of the 0-0 draw with Umea on Thursday, the matches in Sweden had not provided what he needs for the squad: "The better the team we are up against, the better we play," said Williamson. "Unfortunately the standards drop, we take too many touches of the ball and I feel it's not productive enough for my liking, but we got something from it."

Argyle, who had trained at IFK Holmsund's stadium all week, took the lead after five minutes when close-season signing Bojan Djordjic chipped the ball to the far post for Nick Chadwick to force home. Within three minutes Argyle had doubled their lead when Scott Taylor got on the end of an Anthony Barness cross that cleared the keeper, giving Taylor the simplest of tasks to nod home. The manager's summary of the match was accurate, as Argyle sauntered through the rest of the game. Marcus Gavelin, the young home keeper, produced a worthy save from Mat Doumbe's header on twenty minutes. The tall French defender got to a Djordjic corner ahead of his marker, only to see Gavelin stretch out a hand behind him and push the ball onto the inside of a post, then reacting first to collect the ball as it ran along the goal-line.

Gavelin was replaced by Mladen Galambos soon afterwards and the new keeper was beaten when another right wing cross, this time from the impressive Bjarni Gudjonsson, eluded everyone in the middle but reached left-winger Tony Capaldi closing in from the flank. The Northern Ireland international calmly side-footed home. Argyle were caught napping just before half-time when a Holmsund free-kick was met cleanly by Christoffer Johansson, who headed into the roof of the net past Argyle's keeper Luke McCormick.

Normality was soon restored after the break when Taylor scored his second and Argyle's fourth. Good work by Djordjic set up Rufus Brevett, who hit a powerful low cross which was easily converted by Taylor three minutes after the restart. Three minutes later Anthony Barness concluded the scoring when he brought down a bouncing ball on the right side of the six-yard box, and drove the ball home past the hapless keeper. Although the game did not test the Argyle players, Williamson highlighted a benefit of such a comfortable victory. "It's good to see strikers getting in the habit of scoring goals," he said. "If we can get them doing it here, then we can take it on to the next level. The tour has helped the players to get to know each other, we have a few new players, and they have got to know the others," he concluded.

Nick Chadwick At Holmsund

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