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.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Paul Mariner took heart despite the loss at Hillsborough yesterday. "As the away coach, I think we deserved something from the game," he said. "We didn't play as well as this at Cardiff and at Middlesbrough and won, and didn't get anything today. We're not getting carried away with anything. We know this is going to be a long slog. It seems to be the same old stuff. You get hurt by a couple of errors and you just can't claw your way back into the game to get something. I cannot fault the players at all. The team looked compact, were getting up the field, getting the ball down, and, for an away side, I thought they played fantastic. We obviously temper those thoughts by not getting anything out of it. You have got to take your hat off to Sheffield Wednesday. They defended deep and they defended well. It was a pity we didn't put their 'keeper under more pressure but he had a very resolute defence in front of him and we just couldn't break them down. When we went one up, we thought maybe it was going to be our day, but, to concede so quickly after scoring is obviously a cardinal sin. We had a lot of possession - you could tell because the crowd was getting on to them - but, as I say, they defended very well." Argyle tried to chase the game in the second half by bringing on Bradley Wright-Philips and playing three up front. "It didn't work," said Mariner. "You have got to try and increase the momentum of the game. You have got to try to push it over the edge. The clearances from David Stockdale were spectacular, and we felt that, if Rory flicked them on we might just get in behind with the pace of Jamie and Brad, but it didn't work and we went back to 4-4-2." The defeat was compounded by victories for many of Argyle’s relegation rivals. However, Mariner said: "I'm not bothered what other teams do, to be perfectly frank. We know that we're in a dogfight and it's only what Plymouth Argyle does that interests me. It would have been nice to get something out of today's game, but we didn't. We played well - we'll play worse and get something out of another game, I'm sure about that. This club, as far as I am concerned, with the playing staff we have got, is going in the right direction."
Argyle lost 2-1 at Sheffield Wednesday, the goal scored by Rory Fallon 23 after minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Wright-Phillips, Noone (not used – Larrieu, Barker, McNamee, Gow, Barnes). Attendance - 22,590
Jason Puncheon has joined Southampton for an undisclosed, yet reportedly substantial, fee. Paul Mariner said: "It's a deal that we feel Jason wants to do and it suits the club at the present moment, so we wish him all the best and hope he has a fantastic career at his new club. There's been a lot of parties involved in the transfer. MK Dons have been very, very professional; Southampton have been very professional, also, and I'm pleased to get the deal done."
Argyle have won three of their last four league fixtures, and one man who played no slight part in the victories was Reda Johnson. And so when Johnson was absent on international duty, he was missed. Johnson did not play any part in Benin's three matches at the African Nations Cup, or in their warm-up friendly. He watched all the action from the bench. He had not even trained since the day before his country's final game in Angola two Wednesdays ago. He was not going to decline an invitation to step straight back into Argyle's side on Tuesday though. "I thought I could play, even though I had not trained for a week," he said. "The coach wanted me to play, and so I played. The team played well, we needed three points, and we got them. Now we have another game in Sheffield, and we need to win that as well. We need all the points we can get. I am happy to be with Plymouth, and I think we can go up the league." Johnson savoured his trip to the African Nations Cup, despite his lack of game time. "It was a very good competition, and I enjoyed being there. I hoped to play, but the coach took the decision to put me on the bench," he said. "I accepted that. It was his choice."
Paul Connolly has turned down the chance of a return to Home Park. Argyle wanted to re-sign Connolly on loan from Derby County until the end of the season but he has chosen to stay at Pride Park.
Southampton's interest in Jason Puncheon is thought to have cooled. The possible move is complicated by the fact that Puncheon is currently on a season-long loan to MK Dons. As a result, MK Dons would have to agree to Puncheon signing for Saints. Southampton are thought to have offered MK Dons at least one player, in return for giving Puncheon the go-ahead to leave them, but no agreement has been reached. Meanwhile, talks are still taking place about a move to Aberdeen for Steve MacLean.
Kenny Cooper is reported to be flying into the country today to complete his loan move from 1860 Munich, subject to him passing a medical. Cooper has recently recovered from a knee injury, so Argyle want to make sure that is not an issue.
Paul Mariner is relishing the prospect of his side operating on an excellent playing surface when they travel to Sheffield Wednesday. "We do like to get it down, we have got people that can run at people and we have players that can pass the ball, so I think it will benefit us," he said. "I'm sure that we'll fight it out. We'll go toe-to-toe again and we'll have a very good surface to play on, so we'll look forward to that. We all want to get it down and stroke it around but conditions dictate, and circumstances dictate. There all sorts of things to take into consideration but the one thing that has been the norm for the staff has been the level of performance from the players." Mariner will take confidence from Tuesday's win over Derby County. "It was a very gritty performance and a performance that we've come to expect from this group," he said. "They're a gritty bunch, very resilient players, mentally very strong and we managed to win with a wonderful piece of skill by Jamie. I've said to the players that the whole squad is extremely important because we have a very tough run-in. We have tough game in Sheffield on Saturday and then a free week, and that's the last free week for quite some time. We're conscious of that and we know we're going to have to call on the whole squad to keep the momentum going."
Paul Mariner was asked yesterday whether there was any truth in the reports about a deal to sell Jason Puncheon being agreed, and he replied: "There are discussions going on, but there's nothing finalised. My understanding is that Jason is still with MK Dons. I believe there is interest from Southampton, but I don't think a deal has gone through. It's a case of 'watch this space'. I'm not aware that a fee has been agreed, but I wouldn't think the club would want to take a loss on it."
George Donnelly has joined Stockport County on a one-month loan deal. Paul Mariner was delighted that the striker would get a chance to continue his development. He said: "George is a young player, he's got tremendous potential and we just feel it's best for him to get games at Stockport. Obviously it's difficult because we haven't had many reserve games recently and it's difficult for him to break into the first-team at the moment. It's up to George, now. He's got certain qualities and I'm sure he can help Stockport. He just needs to keep on learning, keep on training hard and he'll be fine."
Argyle’s game against Barnsley has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 30th
Argyle will be aiming for their fourth win in five league matches when they take on Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow and Paul Mariner has admitted he is thrilled with the progress being made by the team. He said: "It's all about progression, and the culture of the way we are and the way we want to play. Ad nauseam, I have been saying the players are fantastic. They are a wonderful bunch to work with. Team spirit is a great thing to have in a club, and we have got a lot of that." While Mariner has praised the professionalism of his players, recent results have also enhanced his own reputation. "I didn't have any doubts about my own ability," he said. "Is it different managing in the States, or France, or Spain, to here? As I have said before, I'm a pretty quick learner and I knew the league. Obviously, I didn't know it inside out. It would be ridiculous to say that. But I knew what type of league it was and I thought I could adjust. And getting John Carver in alongside me has been a tremendous move. I'm thrilled with the way it's going. We got a bit of a lesson up at Newcastle, but we looked at that game as a progression. We thought we gave away a couple of bad goals, but we weren't that far off the pace." Alan Irvine was appointed as Sheffield Wednesday manager earlier this month, and Mariner has already come up against him in his short reign as Argyle boss. Irvine was the manager of Preston North End when they beat Argyle last month. Mariner said: "Alan is a very highly thought of person and coach. It's going to be interesting tomorrow, because in the first half against Preston up there we tried a new system and it wasn't working too well. But we stayed with it and, in the end, we gave Alan a couple of queasy moments. We laughed about it after the game and I'm looking forward to seeing him again. When he lost his job, I had a really good chat with him. He's a great fella."
Yannick Bolasie is determined to make the most of his 'fresh start' with Argyle and prove himself to Paul Mariner. Bolasie has been included in the squad for the game at Sheffield Wednesday after impressing in the reserves' win at Southampton. He said: "It looks like I'm going to get my chance soon. I'm just waiting now. When it comes, I will be ready. I have been in the squad before, but I haven't got on the bench yet. I think I'm getting close now, and I'm just looking to keep working hard. Hopefully, I will get my chance." The reserves' rout of Southampton was his first match since his loan to Barnet ended. "It was alright, but I know I can do better," said Bolasie. "I'm just going to take it on from there. This is a fresh start, and that's why I have come back. I could have stayed with Barnet until the end of the season. But I decided I would come and fight for my place. You never know what can happen in football. I definitely want to play at Home Park, and show the fans and the staff what I can do. I don't think anyone down here has seen me play really. I learned a lot at Barnet, especially from manager Ian Hendon and the coaches. I also played alongside the likes of Gary Breen, Paul Furlong Micah Hyde, so I guess it was good experience for me. On the pitch, they were always guiding me. Their presence in the team made me better, and I learned a lot from them." Bolasie admitted he had been disappointed not to get a chance to play for Argyle when Paul Sturrock was still the boss. He said: "At the start, it did get me down. I was thinking 'why can't I play?' But I have grown out of that. It doesn't really faze me now. I'm just looking to get into the first team." Bolasie's contract ends this summer so he wants to impress between now and then, either to earn a new deal, or so he can get fixed up somewhere else. He said: "I do want to get a taste of the action in the Championship. I can't wait to show what I can do. Like I say, not a lot people down here have seen me play. It's weird."
Paul Mariner has confirmed he will not be pursuing any interest in the four foreign trialists who were at Home Park earlier this week.
Paul Mariner is delighted with the progress his players have made with set-pieces and it is an area he will continue to work on ahead of the trip to Sheffield Wednesday. "As a coach, you always want the service to be perfect, but it's not easy," he said. "In defence of the players, it is very hard to keep your footing on this surface and the run-ups at this ground are not the easiest, but I don't want to make excuses. Our movement at set-pieces is unbelievable. We're a very difficult team to deal with, so we'll keep working on it and adding to it."
Chris Clark's return to regular first-team football has coincided with Argyle's improved form over recent weeks and Paul Mariner feels he has been an unsung hero. "Chris Clark has been, as quite a lot of the players have been, very consistent," said Mariner. "He has been a bit of an unsung hero. Goalscorers do get the limelight and goalkeepers with big saves sometimes get the headlines. Clarky has been very consistent and his work on both sides of the ball is fantastic. He's doing absolutely everything the staff ask him to do, and more."
Craig Noone is pushing hard for a starting place in the Argyle team and Paul Mariner admitted it is getting more and more difficult to exclude him. Mariner said: "He was sparkling in the reserve game and we have competition for places. Players are pushing each other and he looked as though he was really on his game at Southampton. At the present moment, we've been using him as an impact player and he has certainly impacted games, so we'll make a decision on that. He's tremendous on the dribble and whips in good balls."
American striker Kenny Cooper looks set to join Argyle. A loan move from 1860 Munich, for the rest of the season, could be signed tomorrow. It has been reported that Argyle will pay a fee to 1860 Munich to take Cooper on loan, and that they have an option to buy his contract at the end of this season. Paul Mariner admitted that whilst Cooper was a target, he was just one of several that he is currently pursuing. "I know of Kenny" said Mariner. "There are discussions with many players in different positions going on, it's a question of putting the jigsaw together. There are other players who we are looking at who are not finalised either. It's just the way of the world with the window, it's pointless saying names because it can be a million miles away. We've put our list together of players all over the world and it just so happens that Kenny is on it. John Carver knows him, I know him, there are also other players that are in the MLS and available that are also on our list."
Carl Fletcher insists Argyle can head to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday full of heart after their midweek win. He said: "We've got to keep in touch with the teams above us and wins are going to do that. The win had been due – and we had a little bit of luck which went our way. But it's fine margins sometimes in football. And a 1-0 win, we'll take that. But we've got to carry that on, on Saturday. Sheffield Wednesday have turned things around in the last couple of games, so it's going to be tough for us." Fletcher's views were echoed by Karl Duguid. "We've been to a lot of places this season and done very well and got some good wins away from home," he said. "Hopefully we can do the same up there. Sheffield Wednesday are rejuvenated with a new manager going in and are doing very well. They played very well when we met them earlier in the season and are doing better now. It'll be a totally different game, though. The pitch will be better, where we can play a bit more football and hopefully get the result we need." Both players were united in damning the playing surface at Home Park. "It's the worst pitch I've ever played on – it is a disgrace, to be honest," said Fletcher "The groundstaff are working overtime and doing the best they can. But the way the weather's been, there's nothing they can do with it, really. So, it's a matter of us just going out there and getting on with it." Duguid said being the home team on the pitch offered no real advantage. He said: "It's probably holding us back. It's just a grind running on there. One minute the ball bounces, the next moment it doesn't and just stops. But we've got to deal with that and to be fair, both teams have to try and deal with the situation. Last time out against Palace, both sides had to cope with it and Palace dealt with it quite well."
Argyle have agreed a deal to sell Jason Puncheon to Southampton, according to reports.
Argyle Reserves won 7-0 at Southampton last night, the goals scored by Joe Mason (3), Craig Noone (2), Bradley Wright-Phillips and Liam Head. John Carver said: "Bradley's getting closer now to performing for 90 minutes. He played for an hour tonight; that was planned beforehand. His attitude and application were great. Do any players come more into our thinking for Saturday? That's between the manager and myself, but a lot of players did themselves a favour, that's for sure. Was the performance as good as the result? Absolutely. It was a good, professional performance from the senior players in particular. Sometimes when senior players go into the reserves they just go through the motions, but their attitude and application were fantastic tonight. They helped the younger players, some of whom were very good as well. There were some spectacular goals scored and some simple goals, and the creativity and enthusiasm was there." Paul Mariner, who was also in attendance, said: "It was a fantastic performance. The attitude of the players was second to none and their enthusiasm was good to see." Argyle: Saxton, McNamee, Leonard, Barker, McCrory, Bolasie, Kinsella, Gow, Noone, Wright-Phillips, Mason. Subs – Donnelly, Clifford (not used - Chenoweth, Head, Trott).
Reda Johnson returned to the Argyle team on Tuesday and impressed Paul Mariner, who said: "I thought Reda did remarkably well. We had a concern with Barker and his calf and, on our pitch, you've got to have players as close to 100 per cent as you can. It really is an energy-sapping field. We had a light training session on the morning of the game, and Reda looked as bright as a button. I made up my mind to play him in the morning."
Paul Mariner was thrilled with the contributions of Jamie Mackie and David Stockdale to the win over Derby County last night but praised the entire team. He said: "To me, the team performance was what it was all about. You can see what it means to these lads to get some points and get up the table. There isn't one person in that dressing room who's not tired, and there isn't one person who didn't give his all for this club. There were two teams out there who were going toe-to-toe, and we just got a break. It was a typical Championship game. It could have gone either way." Mackie had missed the last two games because of illness, but scored his first goal since the end of October. Mariner said: "Jamie was chomping at the bit on Saturday and we were all sad that the game was off. You could see with his energy what he brings to the team. He's a constant threat for any defence. To be perfectly honest, I thought his goal was top drawer because of the way he set himself up and the balance he showed on that surface. He clipped it inside that right-hand post and the keeper had no chance. It was a tremendous piece of skill on a real dodgy field. We harp on all the time about second phase balls and reaction off the initial free-kick, and he did it to the letter." Stockdale made a couple of important saves on his debut, and Mariner said: "Romain has been fantastic for this club, and will continue to be fantastic for this club. David came in and did extremely well in training, and Romain hasn't had a break for I don't know how long. We just wanted to freshen it up. We knew this was going to be an aerial battle, and David stood up to his task. I would imagine he will be pleased with his debut. Obviously, we are pleased with the team performance." When asked how Larrieu had taken his omission from the side, Mariner said: "Like the consummate pro that he is." Mariner had hoped to complete a loan signing before the game, but that failed to materialise. But the player he had targeted could yet end up at Home Park. Mariner said: "We have to make some phone calls, but we are hopeful somebody will come in by Saturday."
Argyle are in talks about selling Damien McCrory to Grimsby Town. It is thought the club will accept a nominal transfer fee McCrory, provided a sell-on clause is included as part of the deal.
Krisztian Timar's season looks to be over as he requires an operation to deal with the hamstring tear that he picked up while on loan at Oldham Athletic. Early indications are that rehabilitation may take several months.
Argyle beat Derby County 1-0 at Home Park, the goal scored by Jamie Mackie after 82 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Barker, McNamee, Noone (not used – Larrieu, Gow, Barnes, Wright-Phillips). Attendance - 7,996
Argyle are waiting on the fitness of Kari Arnason and Chris Barker ahead of the game against Derby County tonight. Arnason has had a recurrence of a leg infection and Barker has been suffering from a sore calf muscle over the last couple of days, after taking a kick on it in training. Mariner does have the option of recalling Reda Johnson, who flew into Exeter Airport yesterday afternoon after his delayed return from Angola. Mariner had expected Johnson to be back in Plymouth before the game against Barnsley but his return was delayed because he and his Benin team-mates had to attend an official reception with the president of the country. Mariner had spelt it out to Johnson, in English and in French, via Romain Larrieu, exactly when he wanted him to be back at Home Park, so was unimpressed that Johnson did not return until yesterday. "I'm not very happy about it, to say the least," said Mariner. "I will have a discussion with him before much longer. I was adamant about when I wanted him back. There was no grey area. Romain was in there with me. Obviously, I want every single player to further their international career. But when their international commitment is over, I think it's important they come back to the people who employ them full-time. I appreciate players have certain things to do, as a group, after games. But you have got to have give and take in all situations, and I think we have given a lot. I don't think any club would be happy about it." Mariner was cautiously optimistic Arnason, at least, would be fit to face Derby. He said: "Arnie trained yesterday, so that's under review. Chris Barker took a hell of a knock on his calf in training, and we were already nursing that a little bit. I don't think he would have been available for the game on Saturday, so we need to know what sort of reaction he has got from training yesterday."
Krisztian Timar has returned to Argyle after his loan spell at Oldham Athletic was cut short by a hamstring injury. Timar was due to have a scan today to assess the damage, but Paul Mariner thinks he will be out of action for at least
Argyle are close to signing another player on loan and Paul Mariner was hoping the deal would be done before the game against Derby County tonight. Mariner would not reveal the identity of the player, but did say: "One player may come in today, prior to the game. He is already with another club. We would like it to be for the rest of the season, but it may be short-term." Mariner has brought four more foreign trialists to Home Park as he continues his attempts to strengthen the squad before the transfer window shuts. He would not name any of them, but one is believed to be the former Nottingham Forest midfielder Eugen Bopp. None of the trialists can play for the reserves in the game at Southampton tomorrow so they will have to be assessed in training this week by Mariner and John Carver. "It doesn't take us long to do that," added Mariner. "They are just going to train with us. They are from all over Europe and we have one player in from Portsmouth."
Argyle have received a couple of requests about taking Damien McCrory on loan. McCrory was recalled from a spell at Grimsby Town earlier this month so Paul Mariner and John Carver could check him out. Mariner said: "There has been interest in him on a couple of fronts."
David Stockdale has admitted he has come to Argyle to play first team football. He said: "The gaffer hasn't promised me anything. It's up to him who plays. Romain has been a very loyal servant to the club and I can't just come in and demand that I play. Hopefully, I will show him what I'm capable of in training and he rewards me with a place. I have seen Romain play. You can't really say he's getting old now because our 'keepers at Fulham are 39 and 37, so he's a youngster. It might be the gaffer is trying to bring in competition for Romain but will carry on playing him. I don't know. I don't pick the team. I just do what I'm told and try to perform when I play." Argyle had been interested in signing Stockdale before the practice game at Fulham and they made their approach to Roy Hodgson at the start of last week. Stockdale said: "Our gaffer told me that Plymouth were interested and, basically, it was up to me to decide. I was 100 per cent about it. I just want to play games. I also thought, no offence to Plymouth, that they are not in the best league position and I wanted to do something to try to help that as well. I'm not saying Romain hasn't done that, but the gaffer here wanted competition for places and that's what I'm going to try to bring." Stockdale spoke to Carver after the practice game at Motspur Park, and readily agreed to the move. He said: "I had a word with him. He asked me would I be interested in signing and I said 'yes, of course I would.' I'm not getting many games at Fulham. The goalkeeper coach wants me to play competitive games and he felt that this would be a good move for me. This is the next step for me. I need to show I can play in this league. I have shown I can play one game in the Premier League, but I need to play in this league consistently and play well." Despite Argyle's position, Stockdale has been impressed with the team spirit at Home Park. "I think there is a good aura about the place," he said. "The players are all having a laugh. When it comes down to it, I don't think they are a team that comes into that relegation bracket. With the players they have got here, they should get out of it, touch wood." Talks have already taken place about Stockdale's loan being extended beyond one month. He said: "I would definitely be interested. Roy Hodgson told me if I was playing and I was enjoying it, the decision was up to me. But, obviously, if I'm not playing and Romain is doing well I have got no other choice but to look after myself. I might as well sit on the bench for Fulham. I'm going to push Romain as hard as I can. Hopefully, I will have a good season and help keep us up."
Argyle officials are confident the Home Park pitch will be playable for the game against Derby County tonight. Paul Mariner said: "I was on the field at 2.30 on Friday afternoon and as soon as I walked on there the water came up to my ankles, so it was pretty bad. Obviously, we have got to get these games going. Nobody wants the games on more than we do." Argyle are now six points adrift of a position of safety in the Championship and Mariner added: "A six-point gap has been created and that's obviously a concern to everybody. The whole staff are under no illusions about how important tonight's game is."
A shift of power within the boardroom at Argyle remains on the cards. K&K Shonan Management Corporation and KKC, the company formed by Roy Gardner and Keith Todd, both have options to further increase their shareholding until July. And, despite a very difficult season for Argyle on and off the pitch, Todd stated that was still the aim of both groups. He said: "Those of us who have got the options are fully intending to take them up. We are not backing away." When asked when that could be completed by, Todd replied: "All possibilities are still open, quite frankly. But we did say in the five-year plan we are looking at some restructuring of the club, and the holding group. We are also looking at recapitalisation because it's no state secret that money going out is more than money coming in. That work is ongoing at the moment. Certainly, by next month, some decisions around that will be announced and we will make that all clear." It remains to be seen whether Paul Stapleton, Tony Wrathall and Robert Dennerly will continue as directors beyond this summer. Todd would not speculate on the subject, but said: "They have been great directors for this football club, without any doubt. Nothing will ever take away from what they did with this club through the early part of this century. Continued involvement will vary on each individual's appetite going forward, irrespective of the option exercise. And they are always going to be welcome in the boardroom." Todd admitted that regardless of any changes among the directors, it was important there remained a South West influence. He said: "We want a board that has a strong local presence. I'm a bit of both. I'm one foot in both camps. This isn't going to be a board just with people from London, Tokyo, or any other part of the world. It needs to have a core element of Plymouth and South West business people." Todd stays in close contact with his boardroom colleagues in Japan, and plans a visit to the Far East next month. "I probably speak to George Synan every day as it happens," he said. "Kagami San and his company are very clear that they have asked Sir Roy and I to take the lead, going forward. There are a lot of things we need to discuss around the structure of the club and the business. I was out there in May, before we signed up originally, and I was out there in October as well. I will probably go out again next month, just because it helps to be face-to-face to bring some things to a conclusion." Todd expects the partnership between K&K Shonan Management Corporation and KKC to continue for the foreseeable future and he believes the club is an attractive proposition to other potential investors, despite their well-documented financial difficulties recently. He said: "There is a lot of interest from around the world because I think people are seeing what Sir Roy and I saw, and that is the potential of the club. So I don't rule out other investors coming in in the future. But it will only be done if it helps us strengthen the shareholder base, not just from a financial point but a marketing point of view. I said right back at the beginning that my intention was to open up merchandising and commercial streams around the world, with Japan and America first. We are going to start to move that forward because the club can get so far on its gate receipts and TV money but, quite frankly, it can't get to where it needs to be. And it's not healthy from a fan's point of view for it to be dependent on the continued subsidy of individuals. There is an idea out there that the UK directors have not participated in financing the business since July. I would like to correct that. All of the UK directors have participated in financing the business."
The postponement of Argyle's game against Barnsley on Saturday came as a blow to David McNamee, who would have been in contention for his first start since September. McNamee has caught the eye of Paul Mariner with some lively displays as a substitute this month, and said: "It's good for me, when I can come on and impress. Hopefully, it has put a problem in the gaffer's mind. It's always frustrating when you're not playing, especially when you feel as though you could do a job, but you just have to get on with things." McNamee feels he can benefit from the change of management team. "For whatever reason, Paul Sturrock didn't want to play me," he added. "That was his personal opinion, and that goes on in football. You just have to take that on the chin. Since the new gaffer has come in, he has pulled me to one side and has told me that, if I did well for him, I'd be straight back in. I was delighted with that. I've worked hard in training and tried my best, and I've tried to take my opportunities when I've managed to get on the pitch. It's nice that the new gaffer has been complimentary." John Carver's presence on the training ground has also gone down well with McNamee and his team- mates. He said: "He and the gaffer have brought a liveliness into training. John Carver has got a great CV, he's got a great pedigree in the game, and he knows how to put on a right good training session that gets the boys up for it and inspired. It's just a good place to be. I know we're in a tough position right now and I know results have been average, to say the least, but there's just a real buzz around the club because of what the gaffer and John Carver are doing."
Tony Campbell has confirmed that Argyle are keen to press ahead with replacing Home Park's pitch this summer. He said: "We put down new drainage two seasons ago, and we hoped that would solve the issue, but it hasn't. We're aware that the pitch needs to be replaced, and I've had discussions with the Sports Turf Research Institute to look at the latest generation of playing surfaces. We have a couple of options. We could put down a Desso GrassMaster surface, which is what is used at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. It has natural grass which is reinforced with artificial plastic fibres. We're also looking at a Fibrelastic Turf pitch. That uses a rubber compound which is mixed into the earth, so that the roots grow through the rubber to bind together and give the surface an elasticity. That's the surface which is used at St James' Park in Newcastle. It's a slightly softer surface than the part-plastic surface, so, if we're going to play rugby on our pitch, it is possibly more suitable. Those are the sort of options we're looking at. They are expensive options, so we need to maximise the revenue we can bring in from the surface by hosting other sports and concerts. The more durable we can make the surface, the better." There has been speculation that replacing Argyle's pitch will cost £400,000. Campbell did not confirm that estimate, but he admitted: "It will cost several hundred thousand pounds, but we won't have an exact figure till we dig down. We've had several companies come in and have a look at the job, and they've all said that, until they start digging and they know what they're going to find under the pitch, they can't give us an exact figure." When Campbell was asked if the pitch would be replaced this summer, he replied: "That is certainly the aim, at the moment. I hope to be able to submit a report about the two different surfaces prior to the next board meeting, when the directors will decide the way forward. We're very much aware that the pitch needs to be replaced. We invested in new equipment before this season, but there's very little else we can do until we get around to replacing the pitch." Argyle had hoped to be allocated an away game at QPR on Saturday, instead of the home game against Barnsley, in order to give their pitch more time to recover. "It was really unfortunate, because the League insisted that we had to replay the abandoned game against Barnsley first," Campbell said. "We could have done with a bit of flexibility, but it's too late now."
David Stockdale has signed for Argyle to provide competition for Romain Larrieu and his initial one-month loan could be extended. Paul Mariner said: "We have had a very good dialogue with Fulham, so, hopefully, after the one month we can look to extend it. I have a very good friend in the coaching staff at Leicester City and they spoke very highly of David after he helped them to get promotion last season. Obviously, I have got great respect for Roy Hodgson and Mike Kelly, the goalkeeping coach at Fulham. I have known Mike for many years and I know what a fantastic goalkeeper coach he is. David has been working with Mike, so we know that he's a good 'keeper, and he has just signed a new contract with Fulham so they think highly of him. Therefore, we are delighted to get him. It's the same for every position. We want competition for all places and that is what David brings."
Reda Johnson would not have been available to play against Barnsley today, had the game gone ahead. Benin were knocked out of the African Nations Cup on Wednesday, but Johnson and his team-mates are still in Angola. They are due to meet the president of Benin at an official function this weekend, after which Johnson will return to Plymouth on Monday. He should be available for selection against Derby, should the game go ahead.
Argyle’s match with Barnsley has been called off again, because of a waterlogged pitch at Home Park. Keith Todd said: "We are extremely disappointed that Saturday's game with Barnsley has been called off. Colin and his team have worked tirelessly to repair the damage from last weekend's match with Crystal Palace. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Football League have decided the pitch is not safe for play." Heavy rain on Tuesday and Thursday severely hampered groundsman Colin Wheatcroft 's reparation efforts and, following an official pitch inspection, the Football League took the decision to postpone. Paul Mariner said: "We are gutted the game has been called off. Colin has worked through immensely difficult conditions all week. I've just been out on the pitch and it is simply impossible for a game of football to be played." Colin Wheatcroft explained the process he has undertaken and, weather permitting, he remains hopeful Tuesday's game with Derby County can be rescued. "The process is that, if I'm concerned, I go in and tell the Football Secretary, Carole Rowntree," he said. "Carole then phoned the Football League to request a referee to come in and have a look at the pitch. Fortunately, Lee Swabey, the scheduled fourth official tomorrow, was able to come down and carry out an inspection. He has been here on a number of occasions before and he said, 'I've never seen it as bad as this', and he then reported back to the Football League, who decided the game was not playable. The whole of November, we were pulling sheets across the pitch to keep the water off. We then had the frost in December, so I've had frost covering and rain sheets on at the same time, so, for weeks and weeks, this pitch has been covered. This process has actually rotted the roots and the grass, leaving a silt layer just under the surface. As soon as the rain hits the ground, this layer disintegrates and becomes very mushy. We first feared there might be a problem after the heavy rain on Tuesday, although Saturday's game with Crystal Palace and the tremendous rain we had throughout the game did an awful lot of damage, especially down through the centre of the pitch. It took us two days to get all the divots remedied and grass back on the top. We couldn't get the protective rain covers on the pitch because the soil was too wet, and we use a tractor to pull the sheets over, as they are about three tonnes each. It was a combination of the pitch being in a terrible condition from the Crystal Palace game and then a deluge of rain on Tuesday night. There was standing water all over the pitch. We still couldn't get any machinery on the pitch and I usually verti-drain between games, which is a machine that punches holes into the ground. It is a very heavy machine attached to a tractor. I verti-drain between every game but I was unable to do it this time. We actually tried to get the tractor on the pitch but it sunk into the side, and soon became stuck. On Wednesday, we worked hard and did a lot of forking in the worst areas, but we were still unable to pull the sheets over and do any verti-draining because of the conditions. We had around 30ml of rain last night, which basically finished us off. I've still got blokes out there forking right now but it was a hopeless situation. The water is actually coming up our fork-holes as we go down into the soil. Even though we have a dry forecast overnight, there is no way the pitch would have enough time to sufficiently dry out to play a game - it would have been too dangerous. The good thing for the Derby match on Tuesday is that the forecast is positive. All my staff will be here for the entire weekend and we will do our utmost to get the game on, and I think we'll manage that."
Paul Mariner believes his side are on the right path to recovering the season. "The players have already proved on the training ground that they're ready for Saturday," he said. "It was a tough loss for us. As we said last week, we didn't think there was much in the game. We reviewed it with the players on Monday and reinforced certain things we're doing very well. We've just got to keep believing in ourselves and keep working hard, and, hopefully, it's going to turn for us. If you look at it from a month ago, we're playing much higher up the field, we're playing with more energy, we're very well organised, we look as though we're going to score from set-pieces and we're harder to beat. Obviously, we got done 1-0 last week and it was a piece of magic by Moses that did us. It wasn't a great goal from our point of view but from their point of view, it was a wonderful piece of skill. The staff feels we're on the right path and the players, with their actions, seem to believe in that."
Argyle today signed Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale on a one-month loan.
Steve MacLean could be offered a way back into the fold at Argyle. Paul Mariner has hinted he is ready to wipe the slate clean for MacLean, who scored one of the goals when a young Argyle side won at Buckland Athletic on Tuesday. Mariner said: "I need to talk to Steve. He played on Tuesday night and, by all accounts, he did very well. He was instrumental in the victory and had a fantastic attitude. It's something we need to consider. As I have said before, all the staff are under review and I continue to maintain that. If people are doing the right thing by the club then we have got to do the right thing by them. The reports I'm getting are that things are favourable."
Earlier this week, Keith Todd said that the club were prepared to spend ‘good money’ on new recruits before the transfer window closes but Paul Mariner has not been given a specific amount on how much is available to him. He said: "I haven't been told any figure. I just go back to the board and ask 'can we afford him?' It's as simple as that. Every club, no matter what one you are at, has a ceiling point. We are realists on the staff and we know what we need to do. The board have been extremely supportive."
Reda Johnson could be back on duty for Argyle when they play Barnsley at Home Park tomorrow. Paul Mariner said: "Benin got knocked out on Wednesday so I'm hoping he's going to be around for tomorrow. There's no reason why he couldn't start the game. He hasn't played while he has been away, but I'm assuming he has trained hard. And, prior to his departure, he was doing very well." Argyle have had difficulty contacting Johnson this week, but Mariner said: "When he left to go to the tournament he was under no illusions of when we wanted him back. We spoke to him in English and in French."
Paul Mariner believes Bradley Wright-Phillips needs more match practice before he is ready to start for the first team. He played for an hour in the behind-closed-doors practice game against Fulham on Tuesday and Mariner said: "Brad was the bright spark on Tuesday for us and just continues to get better and better. He's pushing for a starting place, but I wouldn't say he's quite ready for the next two games."
Krisztian Timar is set to have his one-month loan spell with Oldham Athletic ended early by injury after he suffered a torn hamstring in their game against Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday. Paul Mariner said: "It's either a grade one or a grade two tear and they are going to get back to us, but the chances are that Krisztian will be coming back. It's unfortunate for everybody. He needs to play and Oldham wanted that position filled."
Argyle are determined to make the most of their second chance against Barnsley tomorrow, especially as they need all the points they can get in their fight against relegation. Paul Mariner said: "As soon as we start at three o'clock tomorrow, everything is on again. I think we are a slightly different side from the last game against them, but we will see. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We are very hopeful we can put in a very good performance." Barnsley are sure to use the sense of injustice they felt when the first game against Argyle was abandoned as motivation but Mariner does not believe that will give them an edge. "I think every single game in the Championship is tough and every single team is fired up," he said.
Argyle’s friendly at Fulham on Tuesday drew a blank in terms of possible new recruits. Paul Mariner said: "We had a trial match at Fulham on Tuesday. We organised the game to look at players but it didn't work out very well for us. None of those players will be joining Argyle." Mariner has now turned his attention to a possible loan target and he is hopeful of adding to the squad before Saturday's meeting with Barnsley. He is also exploring a number of other avenues, but, contrary to reports, Nolberto Solano is not a target. "We are in discussions with a team to get a player on loan but, as of yet, there are a lot of maybes with no confirmation," he said. "Every club has a ceiling point. We're realists on the staff and we know what we need to do, and the Board have been extremely supportive. John Carver spoke to Nobby, as a courtesy, but there's nothing going on for us."
The Home Park pitch has been a subject of much debate in recent days and Paul Mariner admitted it remains a huge concern. "You've got to play the conditions," he said. "It is as simple as that. The type of field would hamper any team. We have got people in the side that want to get it down and pass, and run with the ball. Neil Warnock said after the game, 'I think this field hampers you more than it does anybody else'. It is there for all to see. Colin and his team do an incredible job trying to get the field ready, but it's not the ideal surface. If we get the weather forecast we're expecting today, the field is not looking its best and I'm not sure how much more it can take. We've got two in games four days, which will be tough on that field, but we're ready for it."
Argyle are not looking to sell striker Jamie Mackie, according to Keith Todd, who warned that any club interested in signing him would 'need to knock the ball out of sight' with any bid for him. "Jamie is a great guy," said Todd. "He's a real pro in every sense. He's good on the pitch and he's a great person to have around the ground. Before I was this side of the fence, I was a great Jamie Mackie fan, and I'm an even bigger fan now. I would like to see his future career here, banging in the goals. If he wants to be here, we want him here." Mackie has been linked with moves to Derby County, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest over recent weeks, but no offers have been forthcoming yet. Despite Argyle's financial difficulties, Todd insisted they were not under any pressure to sell. He said: "That's not at all the driver. The fundamental driver, in my opinion, is where Jamie Mackie's head is. If Jamie Mackie is committed to Plymouth Argyle, the board is committed to Jamie Mackie. I fully expect him still to be here in February, and starting to smack in those goals." Meanwhile, Todd believes it would be best for all concerned if Steve MacLean leaves Argyle before the end of the transfer window. He said: "There are conversations going on about Steve. Paul has spoken to him and so have I. At certain times it does make sense to move on, so we are trying to see what's the best thing for him and for the club. I think everybody would want it to be resolved before the end of the transfer window. While I'm obviously responsible for the club's side of it, I don't actually feel that it's in the interests of him as well. We have got to make sure we get the right answer for all parties. People will always have preferences as to what they would like to happen, and then need to take a decision in relation to the facts." Argyle wil let MacLean leave on a free transfer.
Argyle will play their re-arranged Championship game with Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Tuesday, March 9th.
Argyle will not stand in the way of Paul Sturrock should he be offered a chance to return to management. Keith Todd said: "The position is that I have got a good working relationship with Luggy and he has got a current contract we are working through. Over the next couple of months we will fine tune his role for next season onwards. We have had a discussion and if something in football management came up, we wouldn't stand in his way. At the end of the day, his heart is probably still on the core playing side. But as with all careers, not just football ones, sometimes transitions to other aspects are more appropriate. He's quite a canny businessman."
Argyle are thought to be in talks about setting up a new training ground at UCP Marjon in Derriford. The club have explored several options, including in south-east Cornwall, but Marjon is believed to be their preferred choice. Keith Todd declined to comment on where the new training ground would be but did say: "We have made it pretty clear we need to do something quite different with our training facilities, as one piece of the jigsaw. There are two or three alternatives that we are looking at." Todd thought a decision on the new training ground would be made by mid to late February. He said: "We might not have it all legally tied up by then, but we do want to be in a position to be doing our pre-season training on it. The view the board has been taking, and we outlined it in the five-year plan, is that we want to build this from the base up, and we want to get the facilities right. Whilst I'm sure there is still a great clamour for a big signing, we have got to get some of the other things sorted first – and a training ground is one of them."
John Carver has an important part to play in Argyle's long-term future, according to Keith Todd. He said: "What's encouraging is that he has very much bought into the idea the club is going to rebuild itself from the ground up. That starts with personalities, and you have got to get the right people in. Having people of Paul's and John's calibre here will help make it much easier for the club to bring in the right players. If you bring great people in, you are going to be approached about them. It has been true of all the businesses I have run. The key to it, is making sure the people who work with you, buy into the vision of what you are trying to do. Everybody knows there is a lot of hard work to be done. Our number one priority this season is no relegation, and we can build it from there." Todd was not surprised there had been interest in Carver from another club, so soon after he had started work with Argyle. "We were very lucky to be able to get hold of John in the first place," said Todd. "Had things worked out differently in another direction before he got involved with us, we would never have had the opportunity to get him here. We were obviously concerned about whether he would stay the course, but he never wavered. Paul tipped me off very early on, and John was very open and frank with Paul. It was not in any bargaining role, but just in a straightforward 'I have got a problem' sort of way. We got a great answer, the board are delighted and I'm sure the fans, more importantly, are delighted." Todd thought the decision to offer Carver an initial short-term contract had been a sensible one for all parties. He said: "These things work both ways. While Paul and John know each other, they had never worked together. Everybody had to be realistic and have a look at it first, to make sure we were signing up for the long term, because we understood everything. That's the great thing we have got now with John. He has been here, he has got a good rapport with the players, a good rapport with Paul, and a good rapport with the board." Talks about a longer deal for Carver had already started before Burnley made a move for him. "It's funny how these things work out," said Todd. "There had been some conversations about it over the previous weekend. It became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that things were gelling and we wanted to reinforce the solidity of the coaching team that is here." When Mariner took over control of the first team, it was stated he would do so 'until further notice' and that terminology still applies. "It's exactly the same as it was before," said Todd. "Paul is focused on one thing, and that's getting the team to win games, so it's not an issue in his mind and not an issue in the board's mind. When there is something else to say about it, we will do it. Paul has got 100 per cent control of it, and I'm sure appointing John is a demonstration of the support the board are giving him."
Reda Johnson is returning to Argyle from the African Nations Cup in Angola without having played for Benin, who were knocked out of the tournament after their 2-0 defeat to Egypt yesterday. Johnson was an unused substitute in all three games.
Keith Todd has pledged Argyle are prepared to pay 'good money' for new signings before the end of the transfer window but also insisted the club will not be 'foolish' when it comes to the amount they spend. He said: "Paul and John have got a number of ideas they are working on. They are doing good due diligence, which I'm fully supportive of. The big mistake clubs make, and I have to say I think I would include our club in this in the past, is to rush too quickly into deals. You have got to get it right when it comes to any medical issues and to the financial situation. We are prepared to pay good money, relative to what Argyle have paid in their history, but we are not prepared to be foolish. We have got to make certain the player's head is here and will fit with this team. It's something Paul and John are very keen on. This team is very well bonded and we want to make sure whoever comes in is compatible with that." Argyle are inquiring about loan signings as well as permanent deals and Todd added: "Loans have one advantage. You get to understand the real person, their work ethic and their training ethic. It's a try-before-you-buy. I don't deny I like it for that reason. I'm sure some people on websites will say 'he's only saying that for financial reasons', but it's not. Scouts can go and watch players, but Paul and John, the two key guys, are tied up with matches when most of them are playing. So the only time they can see people is when they are on the pitch."
Argyle are no in rush to agree contract extensions with players whose deals end this summer. Among the nine players who will be out of contract this summer are Romain Larrieu, Gary Sawyer, Karl Duguid, David McNamee Yoann Folly and Craig Noone. Keith Todd wants all of the squad to concentrate on the fight for survival for the time being and he said: "The great thing about this squad is they are focused on one thing – getting ourselves out of the bottom three. That's what everybody, whether they are in contract or out of contract, needs to be focused on. There will be plenty of time for the contract negotiations to take place. It wouldn't go amiss to have another couple of months for people to demonstrate to Paul and John what they can do. We will pick it up from there."
Argyle’s search for new signings will continue after yesterday's trial game failed to discover any potential recruits. The game ended in a 6-0 win for Fulham but John Carver did not have an entirely wasted journey. He said: "This game wasn't about the result - it gave me a chance to see some trialists and see some of our players that I haven't seen play since I've been here. I hadn't seen Bradley Wright-Phillips, apart from a little bit at Newcastle, I hadn't seen Joe Mason, or George Donnelly and I'd only seen Craig Noone in brief bursts." Argyle started the game with six trialists on the field and Carver said: "They had no coaching; they didn't know each other and there was a mix of nationalities, so it wasn't easy. It was a question of seeing what they could do as individuals. I will give the gaffer a full report, but I didn't see anything that grabbed me."
Jim Paterson is facing a long recovery as he battles back to fitness after a hamstring injury. Paul Mariner said: "Poor Jim is slogging away on his own. It's the worst part of the game for players, the being injured side. These are probably the worst weather conditions he needs at the present moment."
Argyle won 3-1 at Buckland Athletic in the Devon St Luke's Cup last night, the goals scored by Liam Head, Steve MacLean and Luke Young. Argyle: Saxton, Sawyer, Clifford, Kinsella, Trott, Nelson, Young, Berry, Head, MacLean, Baker. Subs - Harper-Penman, Stephens (not used - Varazinskis, Rickard).
Argyle are still interested in re-signing Manchester United right-back David Gray for another loan spell and Paul Sturrock has had talks with United's reserve team manager Warren Joyce about him. It looks unlikely though, that Aston Villa defender Shane Lowry will be returning to Argyle. Paul Mariner said: "We have had some communication with Villa, and they have a lot of games coming up. We have been told they are really not looking to let people go out. That's quite understandable." The return to fitness of David McNamee also seems to have ended Mariner's interest in re-signing Darcy Blake from Cardiff City. Mariner said: "David McNamee has got himself fit, and is pushing pretty hard. He's a very athletic lad, and he has worked very hard in training. When he comes on as a sub, he does make quite a large impact. It gives us options. David is pushing for a start. Karl has done an unbelievable job for us at right- back, but he also brings a lot of energy to central midfield."
Jamie Mackie has returned to full training after the bout of flu which kept him out of the defeats to Newcastle and Crystal Palace. Paul Mariner said: "Jamie was back at training today, which was good to see. He actually did extra today. When we saw him on Friday, we thought he might be able to do something for us, maybe as a sub, but it was a waste of time us testing him. We told him to go home, rest, get some good food in, and liquids."
Yannick Bolasie is likely to play for Argyle against Fulham today after recently completing a six-month loan spell with Barnet. Paul Mariner said: "Bolasie is doing very well in training. The thing with him is that we need to work on both sides of the ball. That's why we are trying to drive home to him at the present moment." Bolasie is an option on the left side of midfield, a position which has been occupied by Chris Clark in recent times. Mariner added: "Clarky has done a fantastic job for us, but it's football and everybody needs to be pushed."
Reda Johnson again did not play for Benin in their second group game at the Africa Cup of Nations. Benin lost 1-0 to Nigeria on Saturday and now must beat defending champions Egypt, and hope Nigeria fail to beat Mozambique, to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Damien McCrory has returned to Home Park from a loan spell with Grimsby Town. Paul Mariner has recalled McCrory to enable him and John Carver to assess the Irishman. Mariner said: "The situation with Damien is that John and I haven't had the chance to look at him. We've had scouting reports that he's done very well and we've spoke to the manager at Grimsby, and we need to have a look at him. We've got a week of training and his contract is up in the summer, so we need him to look at us and us to look at him. He may well go back to Grimsby. It is a 50-50 thing. It is in our hands but we also have to think of the player. We don't want players hanging around and we're conscious of other players in the squad that need to play."
Paul Mariner will step up his search for new signings this week. He and John Carver will run the rule over some foreign trialists in a practice game against Fulham tomorrow. The match will be played at the Premier League club's Motspur Park training ground. Mariner would not reveal the names of any of the trialists he has lined up but did say that the players were in 'various positions' and were of 'various nationalities'. "We are in communication with people," he said. "And we think we might have some people coming in for us to have a look at. We have organised a game against Fulham on Tuesday, up at their training ground. We got a communication through from Roy Hodgson and his staff. I think it was put out to maybe six clubs, and we were the first to pick the phone up. We need some of our players to get games, so that will be an interesting exercise. I would rather not say how many trialists we will have. I have got a number in my mind, but you never know until they actually show up because there are all sorts of things can happen. People can get wind of it and then dive in, so I don't know yet." When asked whether the trialists had been recommended to him, or that he knew them already, Mariner replied: "Both. I suppose every management team is doing their research on people. You get emails almost every 10 minutes or so about players from all over the world, so you sift through them."
Alan Gow has insisted he wants to stay at Argyle, as long as he gets regular first team football. He said: "A new manager has come in and I haven't featured much. That's down to him. I will just work hard in training and, obviously, he has put me on this week. It's up to him. I have just bought a house so I'm settled here, but if the management don't want me, or an acceptable bid comes in for me and I'm not playing, then obviously it would be a logical thing for me to move on. I want to stay and play, but if I'm not in the plans then I will definitely move on."
Jamie Mackie, who has been strongly linked with a move away from Argyle, sat out a second successive match on Saturday because of illness. Paul Mariner said: "We thought he might have a chance of playing today, but he's as weak as a kitten. Any team misses their good players."
Paul Mariner has insisted the spirit in his dressing room remains high despite the defeat to Crystal Palace. "We always thought before the game it was going to be a close encounter and we were proved right," he said. "I'm beginning to sound like a broken record but the spirit in the dressing room is absolutely fantastic, and the players are extremely disappointed. It was a very good goal. Moses took his goal very well and showed a bit of class. He showed fantastic balance and composure in the box. The little cut inside was exquisite from a pure footballing viewpoint, but obviously not from our viewpoint. We huffed and puffed, but just couldn't break them down. We tried all sorts of little tweaks in the system but we couldn't break down a very solid Palace defence. Their system is well-organised and well-drilled. Neil Warnock has got them going well and it all depends on whether their big players stay. There are a couple of points to take from it. We kept going to the end, which may sound a ridiculous thing to say but football teams sometimes don't always do that. We were battling to the end and I don't think Neil was sitting too comfortably on his bench. The boys stuck at it. They tried and tried, but Palace were very strong in defence. We were also better in the second-half. We tried a couple of different systems with different personnel, but we couldn't make that breakthrough. It is a disappointing afternoon for us." Mariner's options from the bench were also limited by second-half injuries picked up by Luke Summerfield and Carl Fletcher, and the one gripe for Mariner was a slight lack of quality on our crosses into the box. "The injury to Fletch dictated things," he said. "We made a change with Ashley at half-time and we thought Alan Gow might create something for us on a very difficult surface because he has got very good balance and a beautiful left-foot. The quality of balls in the box dictates how much luck you have in the box. If the quality is not great, then the defenders are not under much pressure and they can generally get it out. When it is whipped in with quality, it is difficult to defend, so, therefore it may drop for you and you get a bit of luck."
Paul Mariner believes the Home Park pitch is going to be a major factor for the rest of the season. Yesterdays defeat by Crystal Palace took place during another deluge which left the pitch divot-strewn and scarred. "It really hammered down," said Mariner, "and when the pitch is heavy, and you're taking so much rain, it was there for all to see what type of surface it was. It is not easy to play in those conditions. It was cutting up and, when you're trying to get a flow, the players are taking that extra split-second on the pass to ensure it gets there. It is what it is and we have to deal with it. It will be the same all the way through the season. It could work for us, because some teams might not fancy coming down here, or it could work against us."
Argyle lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Barker, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Barnes, Fallon. Subs - Gow, McNamee, Folly (not used – Saxton, Noone, Wright-Phillips, Mason). Attendance - 9,318
Jamie Mackie may be recalled to Argyle’s starting line-up if he passes a fitness test this morning. Paul Mariner said: "Jamie did a little bit of training today, and he'll have a test in the morning." Mariner also added that Bardley Wright-Phillips might not be quite ready to make his first start for Argyle. "We knew he would feel it, but it was key for us to get him out there for 30 minutes on Wednesday," he said. "When he came in after the game, he said he'd left his lungs out there on the pitch, but he was fantastic in training this morning. There was no reaction. He's going to come into our thoughts, but we don't want to rush him."
John Carver has stated loyalty and excitement for the future as the key factors in his decision to sign a two-and-a-half year contract at Home Park. "I'm absolutely delighted to commit to the club for two-and-a-half years," he said. "When I came down, I was made to feel welcome from the first day I walked through the door. I was met by one of the Directors at the airport. They impressed me from day one. Once I walked into the dressing room, met the lads and had the first training session, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was made welcome from the start and that played a big part in my decision, along with the guy next to me. I want to carry on something. We can take this club in the right direction and I want to be part of that. I owe Paul a lot because at the time I got the call I was kicking my heels. It was about six or seven months where I wasn't getting any telephone calls, as you do when you're out of the game, so, when Paul called me up, I couldn't wait to get down here. That is testament to him. He's convinced me that it was right to stay here. Now and again, you get the opportunity to join a Premier League club. It was a lucrative offer and where everybody wants to be. I decided against it because of the way I was treated when I got here and Paul." Carver received an offer from Burnley during a weekend in Newcastle prior to Argyle's Cup replay at St James' Park. "When our game at QPR was called off, Paul gave me a few days off to go home," Carver said. "I drove back to Newcastle and when I got home, I received a call, but, rather than ring Paul and talk to him about it on the telephone, I wanted to wait until the team came up and I met them in the hotel. At the first opportunity we had, we sat down and I explained the situation. Brian Laws spoke to me; he didn't have the job by then but wanted to put the feelers out and say, 'if I get the job, would you be interested'. I only had a three-and-a-half month contract at Argyle and it was the Premier League, so I had to listen to what he was saying. We had a huge game coming up against Newcastle and I'm one of those guys that likes to focus on the game ahead. It was a huge distraction for me. The telephone never stopped but I did have somebody dealing with the situation, so I could focus on the game on Wednesday night. I knew in my mind, even when I had the conversation with Paul to explain the situation, how I felt. I told Paul what I wanted to do and my priority was to come down here and have a go at this. In fairness to the football club and we've had conversations leading up to this, there was talk about it, so it wasn't a reaction by the club because of what Burnley had done. I know Paul was keen on me getting a longer time at the club, so we were in conversation between ourselves. I wanted to sort my career out and we did that. It was wise for the club to give me that contract because they didn't know a great deal about me, other than what Paul had said. They did their background checks, looked at my CV and, like anything else, until you get the person through the door and see what he can deliver, you have to do your due diligence on people. I have no doubts whatsoever. I've spoke to the family and they are 100% behind me. I also spoke to one or two people in the game. Obviously, I would have spoken to Sir Bob, as he would have been my first port of call, but I spoke to some high-profile people in the game, and they were right behind my decision. I also spoke to some of my friends who thought I was mad to turn down Burnley but I see something bigger here. I made the decision when I sat down with Paul before the game. The decision was made in my mind. I hadn't rubber-stamped it but I am honest, straight and loyal to people, and I felt I owed Paul something because he was the one to get me here. When I was in the hotel after the game, which was when I spoke to Keith Todd and Paul, and we rubber-stamped it, it was so nice for Carl Fletcher to come to me and say, 'the boys are delighted that you're staying'. That, for me, meant more than anything. Whatever were trying to do, the guys are appreciating it."
Argyle’s youth team lost 2-0 to Millwall in their Youth Alliance Cup game at Bolitho Park last night
Paul Mariner has admitted he would have been devastated to lose the services of John Carver. "When you think about the magnitude of John Carver staying at this club, you have got to understand where he is in the coaching ranks of the world," he said. "This guy could go anywhere where he wants and for him to turn round and be so loyal is a very positive story for the club. I was shell-shocked after the Newcastle game. I didn't show it outwardly but inwardly I was devastated with the fact that I may lose John. We are both professional people and football people. We know the game almost inside out and things like this occur. All you can do is be truthful and honest, and forthright. The Board have been absolutely terrific on this issue. When we spoke after the game, it became apparent that John was going to stay. We are trying to build a family and the family, as I've said since I've been at this club, is every single person at this club. John and I are kingpins but we are just part of it, and we appreciate what every single person at this club does. It is nice when the players appreciate what we're doing. We are players' coaches - we think on their terms, we know their pain because we've been there. It is nice to be appreciated by the players and we want to keep them happy, so they can perform."
Paul Mariner has held discussions with Alan Gow and admitted there has been interest from other clubs. He said: "I have spoken to Alan and he knows exactly how we feel about him. He's a pro and he wants to play. Just like everybody in the squad, if they come to me and say they're happy to be out of the squad or on the bench, they're in the wrong place. We pride ourselves in communicating with the players. It is vital players know where they stand with the staff. There are clubs interested in Alan Gow and I've told him that. Like every decision in the club, it is always under review. It is always a state of flux in a football club." Gow was an unused substitute when Argyle lost at Newcastle United on Wednesday. When Mariner decided on a tactical switch early in the second half, he sent on Cillian Sheridan and Bradley Wright-Phillips, and not Gow. Mariner said: "We changed the system and we didn't play two strikers through the middle. We played Rory through the middle with two wide guys."
Steve MacLean could be about to sign for a Championship club, according to Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee. Aberdeen and Hearts have both been keen on taking MacLean on loan but McGhee said yesterday: “It looks likely MacLean will be going to a Championship club next week.”
Kari Arnason has put an injury scare behind him and is fully focussed on Argyle's game against Crystal Palace tomorrow. Arnason's participation in the FA Cup replay at Newcastle United had been in doubt because of a sore leg, and it was feared at one point he might have a blood clot. In the end, however, it turned out the problem was caused by an infection. Arnason said: "It was just an infection, and it came out of nowhere. I have been on anti-biotics and it has gone now." Arnason believes it is important Argyle do not let the disappointment of their FA Cup exit affect their morale. "We just have to try to forget the Newcastle game," he said. "We were playing the best team in the league, and we have to take that into account. Playing Crystal Palace at home is another thing. So we just have to keep working hard. We can't afford to lose points now. We have to get back to basics, like we have been doing, and we are going to be fine, I think." With Reda Johnson still away with Benin, Arnason is set to continue to have Chris Barker as his centre-back partner against Palace and with no immediate prospect of any new signings, a lot rests on Arnason and Barker and their defensive responsibilities. Arnason said: "I wasn't happy with my performance on Wednesday, but the last time we played together I thought it was very good. We were more compact as a team in the first game against Newcastle, so it was easier to defend. I think Barker is a great player. He's experienced, he covers well and he's aggressive, so I think we will be fine." Newcastle had players like Lovenkrands and Gutierrez, who just killed us. But I think the most important thing is to keep our heads up. We have been on a good run and the atmosphere within the team is great. We have got to keep that up." Argyle now have 23 league games between now and the end of the season to ensure their Championship survival and Arnason added: "Obviously, the FA Cup is like the icing on the cake. We want to stay in the league, and that's the most important thing. It's good to focus on that now," added the former Iceland international.
Argyle’s home game against Barnsley, which was abandoned earlier in the season, has been rearranged for Saturday, January 23rd.
John Carver is set to sign a new, long-term contract as assistant to Paul Mariner. Carver was offered the chance to become part of the coaching staff at Premier League club Burnley but turned down the offer from Brian Laws. Mariner said: "John wanted to stay loyal to me, but more importantly he wanted to stay loyal to Argyle. We've had a bond ever since we've been together. We love the players, we love the club and we know that something special is starting to happen here – and we want to be here for the long haul."
Paul Mariner admitted the quality of Newcastle after Argyle’s defeat in the FA Cup last night. He said: "Chris wanted to get into a rhythm with his team. He played a very strong side and you could see the quality of Newcastle United. But, to be perfectly frank, I thought the first half was pretty even-steven. We gave away two bad goals. When you are 2-0 down at St James' Park, it's a difficult ask to come back. We changed it at half-time and tried to put some impetus into the team, but we just couldn't quite pull it off. I thought the finishing from Newcastle was fantastic." One positive to come out of the tie was the return to action of Bradley Wright-Phillips after injury. Mariner said: "The bright spot for us was Bradley Wright-Phillips getting back on the field. Just to get him 30 minutes was a big bonus for us. As I said last week, if you don't fancy playing at St James' Park then you may as well pack the game in. It's a fantastic theatre of football and the supporters are wonderful." With Jamie Mackie ruled out by illness, Ashley Barnes was preferred to Alan Gow as the partner for Rory Fallon. Mariner added: "I said in the team talk prior to the game that the hold-up play was going to be a key. Against a side like Newcastle United, if you are going to give the ball away easily, they are going to come at you in waves. We stressed that, and I thought Barnes and Fallon worked unbelievably hard. There's no two ways about that. We just couldn't really get in the attacking third enough."
John Carver looks set to turn down an approach from Burnley, whose new manager Brian Laws had been keen to add Carver to his backroom staff. "The club's board has a five-year plan and I want to be part of that," Carver said last night. "I felt I had to be loyal to Paul for giving me this opportunity." The news will be a boost to Mariner, who was worried he might lose Carver. "If I was to lose John Carver, I would be very disappointed to say the least," he said.
Paul Mariner has ruled out the prospect of signing any new players before the game with Crystal Palace on Saturday. He revealed he was struggling to persuade his 'targets' to put pen to paper for Argyle. Mariner also confirmed that Cillian Sheridan played his last game for Argyle against Newcastle. Sheridan is returning to Celtic about spending the last five months on loan at Home Park and Mariner said: His loan period has ended this evening and he will be going back to Celtic. To be perfectly honest, it has been somewhat of a whirlwind few weeks. We are trying to get some continuity, so it has been difficult for him to try to break in. You don't want to keep chopping and changing. But I just thought it was right this evening to give him an opportunity to go out in a blaze of glory."
Argyle lost 3-0 at Newcastle United in the FA Cup third round replay. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Barker, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Barnes, Fallon. Subs - Wright-Phillips, Sheridan, McNamee (not used – Saxton, Noone, Folly, Gow). Attendance - 15,805
Argyle's financial situation led to the club being served with a winding-up petition over an unpaid amount of taxation last month, it was revealed yesterday. The winding-up petition was initiated by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs but Argyle have said the outstanding tax debt has now been settled. A spokesman yesterday said: "The winding-up order related to a missed deadline for tax payments due on transfer dealings, but those payments have now been made." According to sources, Argyle's monthly losses may be in the region of £250,000 and the business is being propped up by loans from directors Yasuaki Kagami and Tony Wrathall. In the long term, Argyle intend to restructure and refinance their parent company. Keith Todd said that the plan was to ‘expand the investor base’ so that the club is on ‘a solid footing’. He said: "We hope that will result in further investment. The investor group that has invested at the moment can either do it itself, or look elsewhere. It's clear the club has needed investment, and it needs investment in order to make the developments we have laid out. We know where we are, and are clear-minded about the steps we need to take to invest in the stadium project and facilities to improve the team. It's not just about funding a multi- million pound player, but getting the facilities right to attract the right players at the right cost." Argyle have already had the benefit of a small amount of inward investment from outside the boardroom. American businessman Joe Plumeri put £100,000 into the club late last year. Plumeri, who co-owns two minor league baseball teams in the US, and Roy Gardner both sit on the board of insurance firm Willis Group Holdings. Todd said: "He has made a small investment. Nothing more should be read into it at this stage."
Paul Mariner has only a small squad to select from for tonight's FA Cup replay at Newcastle United but believes that what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for in commitment to the cause. He said: "The lads who are here are all committed to the cause and know exactly what is in front of them. The way they have been training, whoever gets a call will do a great job for us." All the players who were fit and available made the trip to the North East yesterday. Mariner said: "I keep preaching that when you get into a situation like we are in it's about togetherness. There were enough spots on the plane for us to take everybody who was available, and I wanted to keep everybody together." Argyle are in 22nd position in the table – 30 points behind Newcastle, but Mariner said: "It's all the old cliches. Obviously, we are playing the team who are flying at the top of the division and we are at the wrong end. But it's 11 versus 11 and who knows what's going to happen." Argyle built up some momentum by winning back-to-back Championship games before drawing against Newcastle at Home Park and Mariner is desperate for that to continue in coming weeks and months. He said: "Every single game is important to us in our progression. We are just looking to maintain what we have done over the last three games."
Argyle will be without Jamie Mackie for the FA Cup replay against Newcastle United tonight, as he has been ruled out by what Paul Mariner described as 'sickness'. There is also a doubt over the fitness of Kari Arnason, but he has travelled to Newcastle, and should feature in the game despite a sore leg. Mariner said: "On the worst side it's a blood clot, or it could just be an infection. I'm guessing that he's going to be okay. He had an extensive test on Monday and he was on the flight yesterday. I'm not saying he's going to play, but his chances are much better now than they were." Bradley Wright-Phillips has travelled to Newcastle, but it is probably too soon for him to start a match after his long term knee injury. Nonetheless, it is still a boost for Mariner to have Wright-Phillips available to him. He said: "Bradley has been training really well. He's getting closer and closer. When asked whether Wright-Phillips could start the replay against Newcastle, Mariner replied: "Let's wait and see."
Joe Mason has signed a contract extension with Argyle until the summer of 2012. Paul Mariner said: "It's fantastic news for the club. Joe has got a very bright future in the game."
Yannick Bolasie will get the chance to prove he has what it takes to make the grade with Argyle. Paul Mariner has no plans to send Bolasie back to Barnet, or out on loan to any other club, for the time being. Instead, he wants to assess him in training over the coming weeks and see whether he can push for a first team spot. Mariner, who had not seen Bolasie for himself until at training on Monday, said: "He looked very sharp." Asked how Bolasie fitted into his plans, Mariner replied: "He's a member of the Argyle squad. I want to have a look at him."
Paul Mariner will review his plans to add new players to his squad after the game against Newcastle. He has previously stated his interest in re-signing Darcy Blake, David Gray and Shane Lowry on loan, but Mariner has now said: "We are reviewing our options, to be perfectly frank. We will see what happens after this week." Blake and Gray both played at right-back, but Mariner has other options to fill that role at the moment. Karl Duguid has played in that position for the last three matches and David McNamee is an experienced right-back. Both travelled with the squad to Newcastle yesterday. Mariner said: "In my opinion, we have got two very good right-backs at the present moment. And one of the right-backs does a fantastic job in central midfield, so there is a little bit of a dilemma for us." The loan spell of Cillian Sheridan ends after the replay tonight, and there has been no confirmation, as yet, whether it will be extended or not.
Reda Johnson was an unused substitute as Benin drew 2-2 with Mozambique in their opening African Nations Cup game yesterday.
Karl Duguid believes Argyle can beat Newcastle United in their FA Cup replay at St James' Park tomorrow. He said: "It's going to be a tough ask, but we went to Middlesbrough this season and won, and we went to Cardiff City and won, so why can't we win there? It's away to Newcastle in the FA Cup, and it doesn't get much bigger than that. It's also a night game, and I think all footballers love playing under lights." Argyle have already played at St James' Park once this season, when they were beaten 3-1 in September, with Duguid scoring the Argyle goal. He added: "When we went there earlier in the season I thought we did really well and that 3-1 flattered them. They put their chances away when they had them, which we probably didn't do." Duguid played in the centre of midfield that afternoon, but will line-up at right-back tomorrow. He said: "If I'm going to score there again I'm going to have to make a long run this time! I'm enjoying it at right-back. I have played there many a time before, so it's not anything new to me. We have only conceded one goal in the last three games and the whole team has been defending really well." Argyle have not been in action since their draw against Newcastle, after the game at QPR was postponed. Duguid thought there were pros and cons to Argyle's weather-enforced break. "We are unbeaten in three games and have got into a rhythm, if you like, so you want to keep that going," he said. "The lads have been very pleased with the way it has been going, so it was a bit of a killer the game was called off on Saturday. But, then again, we had played a lot of games in the space of a few days so it means we can get everybody back fit. Training-wise, it has been a nightmare because of the weather. We have been here, there and everywhere. But the staff have got the best places possible for us to train at, and the lads have responded in the right way. With the weather as it is, what can you do? We have just had to get on with it."
Joe Mason is set to sign an extension to his current contract. Paul Mariner said: "We're negotiating with Joe to get him signed up to the club and that's very close to being completed. Joe has got a very bright future. He's been training with us for a number of weeks. He made his debut for us and every time I look at him in training, he gets better and better. He's training very hard and whatever we throw at him, he seems able to cope with it, and that's why he's with the first-team squad."
Rory Fallon believes the positive approach of Paul Mariner is rubbing off on the players. He said: "He's just one of those positive people that you love to be around. He instils confidence in everyone. I haven't heard him say one bad thing about anyone yet, and that's what you need at a club when you are struggling. We are a team, and we are all in this together. If we are talking about negatives all the time, it's going to be negative. If we talk about positives then everything is going to be positive. That's what he is trying to instil. That's the way I like to do business as well – to be as positive as possible. The training has stepped up a level and everyone is really up for it. You can see that in the performances. The gaffer has done really well in the time he has had." Fallon admitted he had already learned a lot from Mariner. "I have been looking at my stats and they are at the highest they have ever been," he said. "It's because of that extra bit of confidence when you know your gaffer fully believes in everyone. It really helps. All that's missing from my game now are the goals. I have been doing different things in training, like trying to make my own opportunities. I'm really happy with my all-round game, and it's down to the coach being positive in training and after games. The more I can get stuck into people, the better I think the team can do." Fallon proved his point in the draw against Newcastle United last week. He said: "I didn't lose a header in that game, and I want to keep doing that consistently, week in week out, while still working on my whole game. Then the last thing to come are the goals." Fallon has scored three times in 21 appearances this season, but in many of those matches he has played in a deeper role. Argyle have now reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, with Fallon partnering Jamie Mackie in attack. Fallon said: "I think it suits me better when I play with someone quick up front. I have always had good partnerships with quicker lads. I'm usually the one setting everything up and flicking things on. There haven't been as many crosses coming in as I would like, but I think it's because we are working so hard as a team. For me personally, I know with my game the more crosses that come in, the more chances I'm going to get. That's how I like to see it, especially when I feel no-one can beat me in the air at the moment. So the more crosses the better for me, but the whole team are working so hard and I'm not going to come down on anyone and say 'you aren't getting enough crosses in.' We are getting results anyway. As long as we are winning, that's the main thing. My personal game doesn't really come into it. The team comes into it and the winning comes into it. Everything else is secondary."
The future of Steve MacLean should finally be resolved in the next couple of days. Aberdeen and Hearts are both keen on taking MacLean on loan, but he is only interested in a permanent move. MacLean's agent, Blair Morgan, said: "I would like to think it will be resolved, one way or another, by tomorrow at the latest. But I don't know which way it will go. Steve doesn't want to go anywhere on loan. We have made that very clear to both clubs. He has got a young family and a house in Plymouth. If he's going to move to Scotland, he wants to get his career on track somewhere. He would like to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Aberdeen are certainly very keen to sign Steve, but we are still waiting to hear from Hearts. Basically, that's where we are at. We are just waiting to see what develops."
Rory Fallon is ready to sit out a friendly for New Zealand in March so he can concentrate on club duties with Argyle. As part of their preparations for the World Cup, New Zealand have a friendly against Mexico in Los Angeles, on March 3rd and Argyle have matches against Sheffield United and Preston North End either side of that. Fallon said: "I have told the gaffer it's up to him. Plymouth is my number one. So it's really his decision. I have put it in his hands. I told him I wouldn't be upset if he didn't let me go because I know he wants me 100 per cent for the games around that time. The problem with friendlies is that you can pick up injuries, and I'm not really a friendly type of player! I'm all or nothing with the way I play."
Kari Arnason has no doubts Argyle can escape relegation this season. He said: "I wouldn't have signed this contract if I thought we were going straight down. There is a big potential in this team and I think we are definitely going to stay up this season. I think the most important thing is to stay in the league this season and then we can build on that. But, obviously, if we end up higher in the table, it's a positive thing." Even though he has only been with Argyle for six months Arnason feels settled at the club. He said: "That was a big part of my decision as well to sign this contract. I know my situation within the team and I like Mariner and Carver. I think it's a good situation for me. I think they bring a lot of positive energy to the team. People are laughing and the gaffer is laughing. It's good fun." Talks about a new contract for Arnason had been taking place for some time. He added: "They were slow at the beginning, but I think both parties are happy with the outcome of it. I like it here. It takes me a little while to adapt to things, but I have adapted fine now. I just hope I get the chance to play in the back four for the rest of the season. When I signed the contract for one year, it was basically just to prove myself. I knew my worth, but I had to prove it to the club. I think I have done a decent job of that, so it's nice to have some stability now."
Argyle’s game at QPR tomorrow has been postponed for safety reasons. The Loftus Road pitch would probably have been playable tomorrow because of an undersoil heating system, but the game was postponed after the club, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and local police carried out a safety survey this morning. Paul Mariner has described the decision as sensible. He said: "It is a sensible decision. If you look at the weather forecast, it's not going to be great in London and the safety of supporters has to be of paramount importance. We could have got there and they have under-soil heating, so the game could have gone ahead, but with nobody watching. The weather is probably going to get worse between now and kick-off time. We've had a pretty tough stretch. The players have been working very hard, so they're going to have the weekend off and rest up." When the squad returns for work on Monday, thoughts will turn to the FA Cup replay at Newcastle. Although the forecast for next week remains frosty, Mariner is confident the game will go ahead. "We believe the Newcastle game will go ahead," he said. "We'll be up in the North East and it's a massive game for the club. A backlog is one of the big concerns. January is potentially looking very full and going into February it will probably be a game every four days. In some ways that's a good thing but it can also be difficult. We need to get some players in to help us. The squad is small and you obviously worry about injury and fatigue."
Argyle are close to concluding talks over a new deal for striker Joe Mason. Mason signed as a first-year professional with the club in July and Paul Mariner said: "I think Joe has got a very bright future. He has been training with us for a number of weeks and made his debut recently. Every time I look at him in training he's getting better and better. He's training very hard and whatever we throw at him he seems to be able to cope with it. That's why he's with the first team squad."
Jason Puncheon wants to make a fresh start away from Argyle, his agent has said. Tony Finnigan said: "Jason wants a fresh start. If he got the chance to go somewhere else I can say confidently he would definitely consider it. The truth is he hasn't settled in Plymouth. When you are playing you settle quickly, but when you aren't playing you don't settle. It's obvious." Argyle could now be ready to listen to offers for Puncheon and several Championship clubs along with Dutch side FC Twente, have been linked with him.
Yannick Bolasie will return to Argyle next week after the end of a six-month loan spell with Barnet.
Paul Mariner has admitted it has been difficult to prepare his players for the game at QPR because of the wintry weather. He said: "Ivybridge Community College have helped us out enormously, as have The Devonshire. It has been a case of not too much ballwork for the lads, as you can imagine, but just keeping their fitness levels up and taking care of the injured players and making sure they get what they require. It has been difficult, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. The only thing we are concerned about is the players' frame of mind, and that seems to be fine." QPR trained at Loftus Road yesterday and, according to club officials, had the fixture against Argyle been due to take place then it would have gone ahead. Mariner said: "I know there are quite a few games off already, but we have still got the green light. I was in London on Wednesday and I drove back through the terrible conditions. It was difficult. We were told yesterday the area around Loftus Road was okay. I was a little surprised at that, but I suppose it depends on the next 24 hours. QPR understand we will be travelling at noon today, and that obviously we want to let our supporters know as soon as possible whether the game is on and off. I suppose it's just wait and see, but looking at the news the country is in a bit of a state at the present moment." Prior to the draw against Newcastle, Argyle had won their previous two matches, so they will be in good spirits when they take on QPR. Mariner added: "You try and prepare the players as best you possibly can, but obviously this is not an ideal week. As I have said before, the players know what their task is, and they are very resilient. They are hungry for the game to go ahead tomorrow, and hopefully we can just keep repeating the progress I feel we have been making."
Argyle today announced that the Football League transfer embargo has been lifted
Kari Arnason has signed a two-year extension to his current contract, keeping him at Home Park until the summer of 2012. The club announced the deal today, and Paul Mariner said: "I'm extremely pleased. He's been an integral part of what we've been doing. He's been a leader for us out on the field and, as everybody knows, he came in as a central midfield player. I still think he can do that job but he is playing centre of defence, and his consistency level has been fantastic. There are a lot of upsides to Arnie. He is everything a coach or manager would want. He can't wait to work, he's very attentive, he wants to get better and he's a great bloke. It's a good day for the club to get him signed up."
Paul Mariner has praised the way Yoann Folly has responded after his recent omission from the first team. He said: "I feel sorry for everybody that loses their spot, but we are in the business of winning matches. When people come in and do well, it would be foolish to change a winning team, just when it has started gelling. Yoann is a very good professional. He has trained his heart out and he's working very hard. That's one of the most pleasing things from the staff's point of view. Everybody on the bench is totally committed to the cause. And when they are called upon there is no downturn in performance, which is exactly what any staff would want."
Paul Mariner has denied that Argyle have been obliged to send some of their top earners away from Home Park for financial reasons. When Mariner was asked if he had been put under pressure to part with the club's better-paid players, he said: "No, not at all. We've just chosen to go down that route." Talking about Timar, Mariner added: "He was under no pressure to go. He's an experienced player, and he needs games. He really does. If he does well, it benefits us, and, if it comes around that somebody wants to take him, then we'll have to make that decision when it comes."
Bradley Wright-Phillips comeback from a knee injury has been delayed after the Devon Bowl game at Buckland Athletic last night was called off due to the bad weather. Wright-Phillips had been set to play 45 minutes of the game but a frozen pitch led to the tie being re-arranged for Tuesday, January 19th.
Luke Summerfield sat out training yesterday because of a hamstring injury but is expected to be fit for the trip to QPR on Saturday. Jim Paterson is continuing his rehabilitation following a hamstring injury and Paul Mariner said: "He's still a way off."
Paul Mariner has praised Karl Duguid for the way he has slotted into the right-back role. He said: "He does an equally good job in both spots for me. He's a great pro."
Hearts remain the favourites to sign Steve MacLean but Aberdeen and at least one other Scottish Premier League club are also interested in the striker. MacLean spent last week training with Hearts but has now returned to Plymouth. Keith Todd said: "There seems to be a reasonable amount of interest from Scotland in Steve. It's not just Hearts. We are in a dialogue which will probably lead to something."
A change in the atmosphere around Argyle has had a massive effect on the team results, according to Paul Mariner. He said "Every single member of the staff has had an influence on the team performance and not just talking about the football side, talking about every member of the staff at this club, there's an atmosphere around the club that's different and its key. That's one of the most pleasing things from the staff's point of view that everybody on the bench is totally committed to the cause and when they are called upon there is no down turn in performance. We have a fantastic group of players, and it's a joy to work with them and just keep bouncing along."
Chris Barker is aiming to stay in the Argyle side now that he has finally returned after a long-term injury, and with Reda Johnson away on international duty, Barker has the chance to stake a claim for a regular place at centre-back. He said: "Reda has been fantastic, but this is my opportunity now to get my shirt back. I haven't got a problem with playing at centre-back at all. I enjoy it to be honest. I did it on the very odd occasion at Barnsley and Cardiff City, and I love doing it. I have been playing there in training. I'm just happy to be playing after four-and-a-half months out. I will play up front if I have to. I'm even happy just to go training. It was the longest I have ever been out injured and, hopefully, the longest I ever will be. I'm chucking myself around the training ground like a 12-year-old. I'm just enjoying myself and, hopefully, I can get another 90 minutes this weekend." Barker made only one reserve team appearance before being thrown into the senior side against Newcastle on Saturday. "To be honest, I felt better as the game went along," he said. "In the first half-an-hour or so I was a bit nervous and a bit shaky. I gave the ball away three or four times when I shouldn't have. But as the game went along I felt okay, although it kicked in a bit in the last five minutes. I was quite happy to get 90 minutes against Newcastle United in the third round of the FA Cup. We dug in for the last 15 minutes and Romain made a great save, tipping it onto the bar. But they have got good players and they are probably going to be in the Premier League next season. We did okay against them and we battled. If we can take that into the league against QPR it will be good. I have never been to Newcastle myself, so it will be nice from a personal point of view. And it's another game for me to play. You want to play at places like that. It's as simple as that."
Darcy Blake remains keen on returning to Argyle for a second loan spell with the club. His agent, Lee Robinson, said: "There is a very good chance of Darcy coming back to Plymouth if the embargo is lifted soon. And I'm hoping that if he did well for the rest of the season they would do something permanent with the boy in the summer. That's my thoughts on it. Darcy really enjoyed it at Plymouth. That's why I was keen to keep him there. Unfortunately, because of injury and being sent-off in one of the games, he never really had a good go at it. It was quite positive that both Paul Sturrock and then Paul Mariner wanted to keep him there. But due to the constraints on the club we couldn't do it for the time being. As things stand, Darcy is back in training with Cardiff. He and I would love him to come back to Plymouth and show what he can really do. They played him at right-back, but I think he's better in the centre of midfield or at centre-back."
New disciplinary rules for this season mean Kari Arnason and Rory Fallon have escaped a one-match suspension after both were booked for the fifth time this season during the draw against Newcastle United on Saturday. The yellow card amnesty cut-off date has been brought forward from the end of February to December 31st this year. Should any player be booked 10 times this season though, they will be banned for two matches.
Argyle are hoping Buckland Athletic's Homers Heath ground survives the cold weather tonight so that the St Luke's Bowl game can go ahead. It was originally envisaged the Argyle youth team would fulfil the tie, but several senior players will be in the squad due to the recent lack of reserve team games.
Bradley Wright-Phillips' return to fitness is on track and an appearance in the first-team is drawing close. Paul Mariner said: "If all goes to plan he'll have a day off tomorrow and then we will be back at it on Thursday, we don't want to rush him. It's tempting, he maybe on the plane up to Newcastle next week, but that's still maybe a little early. The temptation is to push too hard, which we will try and resist." Recently, Argyle have had to deal with wintry conditions that have made training on grass impossible, but help was at hand. Mariner said: "It has disrupted things but we have some good friends in this area and Ivybridge College have been really looking after us. We are really thankful to them because they've got a super little 3G all-weather, so we were there yesterday and we are going to be down there today."
Paul Mariner hopes Argyle's transfer embargo will be lifted by the weekend and admitted it was ‘very important' the ban on signing new players be removed before the trip to QPR. He said: "I was pretty philosophical about it because of the FA Cup tie. I thought 'it's not going to hurt us points-wise whatever happens' and I have been given to understand it's going to be lifted as quickly as possible. I'm hopeful it's going to be prior to next weekend." Mariner admitted the board of directors had not given him a date on when the embargo could be resolved. "It's very important to get players in this week," he added. "We are doing our due diligence and getting our pecking order in all the positions." Mariner will sign Darcy Blake until the end of the season once the embargo is lifted. He said: "I saw Darcy on Friday and gave him a big hug. It's just one of those things that happens in football. He knows we want him back."
Argyle's FA Cup replay at Newcastle will be played on Wednesday, January 13th, and the winners of that game will play at West Bromwich Albion in the fourth round. The replay means Argyle's rearranged home game against Barnsley, scheduled for January 12th, will have to be staged on another date.
Paul Mariner thought Argyle gave a good account of themselves against Newcastle United on Saturday. He said: "The first half was pretty even, but I think it's fair to say Newcastle put us under a lot of pressure in the second half. The pleasing thing for us is we kept a good team shape and the players dug very deep. In the end, from our point of view, it was a good team performance. We are very happy with it." Argyle had beaten Reading 4-1 in their previous match at Home Park five days earlier but it was much harder for them to create chances against Newcastle. Mariner said: "All we wanted to do was build on what we have been doing. I think it's safe to say we are in the process of doing that. It is a work in progress. We are asking the players to do a lot and they are responding magnificently. We are working very hard off the ball, when we are out of possession. We just need to keep competing and be consistent in what we are doing. The Home Park pitch had been covered for much of the week to protect it, first, from heavy rain and then freezing temperatures and it was not until a couple of hours before kick-off that the protective sheets were removed. The pitch cut up from the start and was not conducive to flowing football but Mariner was quick to praise the club's groundstaff, led by Colin Wheatcroft, for their endeavours. He said: "I think one end of the pitch is a little bit 'better' than the other. It's not the best surface in the world. The groundstaff have worked tirelessly on it, so it is what it is. I can't tell you how many man-hours they work on that pitch." The FA Cup replay should provide a cash boost for the club but the financial benefits were not on the mind of Mariner. He said: "I never even thought about that until after the game. Maybe the directors are pleased, but I haven't spoken to any of them yet. From our point of view, it's about team building and team performance. We have not got to lose sight of the fact that a few weeks ago everybody was saying we were down and out. Okay, you could argue we didn't come up against a full-strength Newcastle team. But they did bring on a lot of their power players later on, so Chris paid us a high compliment. The replay won't be a hindrance at all. If you are not looking forward to going to one of the best theatres in world football then there is something wrong. You should pack it in. Playing up there in the old days was fantastic. It was just the noise, and the knowledge of the people. They love the game. Let's hope we can put a decent performance in and make it a good match for everybody."
Chris Barker made his first appearance of the season against Newcastle and Paul Mariner was impressed with his display. "He came in against a high-powered attack, and for him to put in a performance like that is pretty remarkable," said Mariner." With Reda Johnson away at the African Cup of Nations and Krisztian Timar having been loaned to Oldham Athletic, Barker and Kari Arnason are set to continue at centre-back. Mariner added: "Now Reda has gone it's not rocket science what the back four is going to be. Krisztian needs games. We had a frank chat on Friday and we were very honest with each other. There was no pressure from myself or the club from him to go. He said to me 'I need games' so I wished him all the best. He has gone for the month."
Paul Mariner was very pleased with his team after the FA Cup draw with Newcastle United. "From our point of view, it was a very pleasing team performance and we're very happy with the players," he said. "The first-half was even but it was fair to say Newcastle put us under pressure in the second-half. The pleasing aspect for us was that we kept a good team-shape and the players dug in very deep. All we wanted to do is build on what we have been doing and I think it is safe to say that we're in the process of doing that. It is a work in progress. We're asking the players to do a lot and they're responding magnificently. We're taking care of each other, looking after the ball, and working very hard off the ball when we're out of possession. We just need to keep competing and be consistent in what we're doing." Chances were limited throughout, although Argyle needed a fantastic late save by Romain Larrieu from Nicky Butt's dipping volley to secure the replay. "It actually brought a smile to my face because you could see Butt knew exactly what he was doing," said Mariner. "He took a little bit off the volley and tried to just stroke under the crossbar. Ro got his quick feet going and tipped it onto the bar and away to safety, so it was a nice moment. If it had gone in, I wouldn't have been too pleased but it was a nice piece of skill." Mariner also hailed Chris Barker's performance in his first game of the season. "It was quite remarkable," he said. "He came in against a high-powered attack when he's only played 60 minutes in the reserves, and that was quite some time ago. For him to put in a performance like that was remarkable. When I took charge for the Preston game, he was one of the first guys I put on the plane. His enthusiasm is great to be around and just what the team needed at that moment. He is back in the side. Reda's gone, so it's not rocket science what the back four would be." Mariner will now have to wait on Barker's recovery time, as well as Luke Summerfield and Alan Judge, who were withdrawn before the end. "We probably took Luke off at the wrong time and maybe left Judge on a bit long," said Mariner. "I hope not because we're just nursing him through." Mariner was also full of praise for Rory Fallon. "He has been excellent for a few weeks," he said. "He is quite a handful and I don't whether it coincides with John and I taking charge of the team, but he has been a man possessed." Argyle can now look forward to a return match at St James' Park and a homecoming for John Carver. "John came to the house this morning wearing his black and white scarf," said Mariner. "He is black and white through and through. He's a great bloke and a fantastic coach, and he loves Newcastle United, but obviously he works for us now. It is about team-building and team-performance. We have got to not lose sight of the fact that, a few weeks ago, everybody was saying we were down and out. You could argue that it was not a full-powered Newcastle team but they did bring some of their big names on, and Chris Hughton paid us a big compliment. If you're not looking forward to going to one of the big stages in world football, there's something wrong with you - you may as well pack it in. Playing up there in the old days was just fantastic because of the noise and the knowledge of the people. They love the game and let's hope we can put in a decent performance, and make it a good game."
Argyle drew 0-0 with Newcastle United in the FA Cup third round tie at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Barker, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - McNamee, Noone (not used – Saxton, Folly, Barnes, Mason, Gow). Attendance - 16,451
Darcy Blake still hopes to re-sign for Argyle on loan from Cardiff City, even though a deal to bring him back to Home Park has been put on hold because of the club’s transfer embargo. Blake said: “Hopefully, it will be sorted out before long so I can get back. I spoke to Paul Mariner yesterday, and on New Year’s Eve, and he told me he wanted to keep me but something had happened and he couldn’t sign me. He said as soon it was sorted out he would phone me straight away. That’s all I know. Hopefully, Cardiff won’t send me out on loan to another club and things with Plymouth are sorted quickly. I definitely want to come back because I have really enjoyed myself here. It’s fingers crossed now.”
Success in the FA Cup this season would not be a distraction for Argyle from their first priority of Championship survival, according to Paul Mariner. He said: "People will ask is the FA Cup a distraction, but it's not a distraction at all for us. It's just another game we have got to build on our cohesion, to be perfectly honest. The players are working hard on the training ground to get some things bedded in." Newcastle manager Chris Hughton could rest some of his key players today, but Mariner said: "I won't be resting any of my players! It's Chris' business. I'm sure his number one priority this season is promotion to the Premier League. Many of the great managers have chopped and changed their sides in cup competitions. It doesn't surprise me that Chris might make some changes. We heard about that a few weeks ago. But I'm sure it will be a very competitive team that he puts out because he has got a tremendous squad." Mariner insisted he was not tempted to rest some of his key players and instead wants to build on the momentum of the wins against Cardiff and Reading. "We are on a learning curve of bedding things in, attacking-wise and defensively," he said. "We have got a lot of work to do before we can lob it on automatic pilot. We can't do that yet."
Japanese goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi is continuing to train with Argyle, but without any prospect of playing in any competitive matches. As Hayashi comes from a country outside the European Union, work permit rules do not allow Argyle to sign him on a contract. Paul Mariner said: "It's almost an impossibility for us to get him to play for Plymouth. He's a great guy and he's coming along very well with Crudgie. But it's my understanding that it would be at least four years before we could sign him on a contract."
Argyle cannot escape a Football League transfer embargo until they receive an emergency injection of funds from Japan, it was reported today. When the existence of the embargo was publicised last month, Keith Todd stated that the sanction ‘will be cleared by the end of December, so we’ll be in the transfer market in January. It’s a temporary embargo, and it will all be cleared. It’s not a problem.’ Yesterday, however, a club spokesman said: “The embargo has not yet been cleared. This is due to the delayed receipt of finance from Japan, which is expected to be resolved shortly.”
The visit of Newcastle United to Home Park is an especially big day for John Carver. He said: "I had almost 20 years at the football club in total and this is the first time I'm coming up against them. It is mixed emotions but I'm a professional, and I want the right result for Argyle. I'll be making sure that we prepare the team properly, along with Paul, to get that result. I expect Newcastle to make a few changes. Their priority is Premier League football and the club is geared for that, so I think they'll make three or four changes, although I don't think they'll be making wholesale changes. They will still have players good enough to give us a tough game and I'm sure they still want a run in the cup because Newcastle is traditionally an FA Cup-based club. I got to two finals with them and a semi-final, so they will want a run. Our priority is to stay in this division. The pressure is off our guys. They can go out there and enjoy themselves, and it's amazing what can happen when you relax. You sometimes get an even better performance, so let's see what happens. I've not seen my wife since I came down here, so she's coming for the game. I also have some friends and guys from the media because that's what I was doing before I arrived here. It's a game that everybody is looking forward to."
Creating a great atmosphere at Home Park is down to the players on the pitch, according to Paul Mariner. "The crowd is always vitally important to any team but we're under no illusions that it's the team that gets the crowd going," he said. "It's up to the players and the staff to get everything as right as possible for Saturday. Hopefully, we can have a wonderful atmosphere and a great result."
The loss of Reda Johnson to the African Cup of Nations has come at a bad time and Paul Mariner admitted losing him for a month is a blow. On the plus side, Chris Barker is on the verge of making a return to first-team duty. "Chris Barker looks as though he is getting himself close now," said Mariner. We have got some options. I certainly would have liked to keep Reda and Arnie together but we have good options." Bradley Wright-Phillips is also winning his battle with injury and Mariner is hopeful he will return to training this week. He said: "Bradley's probably going to start training. He is nowhere near for Saturday but it gives the players a lift."
Krisztian Timar today joined Oldham Athletic on a one-month loan.
Paul Mariner believes that a little spark could change the course of Argyle’s season. After wins over Cardiff and Reading, he is hopeful that the run continues and believes the addition of John Carver to the coaching staff has been a big factor in the clubs improving fortunes. Mariner said: "I've got a great guy in John Carver, who has helped me out enormously and the players have responded remarkably well to us, and we've got a couple of wins. Whether it is luck or whatever it is, we hope we're moving in the right direction. It's amazing what happens when one little spark can give you an enormous lift. We were very lively up front against Reading, organised in midfield and solid at the back. We looked like a unit, a team that can get the ball up the field and get fans out of their seats. We know we have a long way to go but a group of players that want to do well." Despite recent improvements, Mariner admitted to feelings of regret that his time working alongside Paul Sturrock was short-lived. "You obviously get a feel for things from a distance but when you're in the thick of it, you see that this is a very tough league," he said. "When I came here, I knew what I was coming in to. The players are capable but it wasn't the circumstances I wanted it to be. Paul Sturrock asked me in to be part of the change but things didn't go our way."
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