A Round-up of Argyle News
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John Sheridan thinks that the quality and fitness shown by his squad in their two home pre-season games will stand them in good stead for the new campaign. After last night's narrow defeat by Yeovil, the manager said: "I thought it was a really good run-out for us. It was a tough game – which I am pleased about – but I think we competed really well against them. I am very pleased with the way it went, fitness-wise, against a team in a higher league. It was a good test, with a lot of effort given from the players. We have had two tough games and done alright. I know we lost 4-0 and 2-1 but I am seeing good signs in us. I really do. It is just getting the belief into the players, and getting rid of those silly errors that will cost you if you keep doing them. I think you can see that we have got some good players in the side, who are still getting used to each other a little bit, but I still think we will have a good season.
Argyle are close to bringing in a new loan signing. John Sheridan has confirmed that he hopes to bring in a defensive player on loan by early next week. "We've more or less agreed everything, he's got to make one or two minor decisions and hopefully he'll be with us next week." The deal is expected to be until the end of the year, but could be extended if it is successful. "If he comes and he gets games and he enjoys his football hopefully he'll want to stay," Sheridan added.
Argyle's under-14s have managed an impressive 100% record in the junior section of the prestigious Dale Farm Milk Cup this week. A 5-0 win against North Dublin Schools was followed by a 1-0 victory against the Japan FA and then a 6-2 win against Sydney Utd to earn a place in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Argyle lost 2-1 in their penultimate pre-season friendly at home to League One side Yeovil Town tonight. Reuben Reid gave Argyle the lead with a fine effort in the 10th minute, but the visitors equalised near the half-hour and were fortunate to grab the winner in the 82nd minute when Luke McCormick was beaten by a deflection. The Pilgrims will end their pre-season programme at Football Conference South side Weston-super-Mare on Saturday.
Argyle have received a bye in the first round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. The second round fixtures will take place during the week commencing October 6th. Somewhat appropriately, the Paint Trophy this season will be used to trial Vanishing Spray, as used in this year's World Cup, to manage free-kicks.
Argyle lost 4-0 in their first pre-season game at Home Park as Swansea City showed their Premier League quality. After an early single first-half strike, three second-half goals saw off a spirited Argyle, the strikes coming via Rory Donnelly, Jordi Amat and a pair from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
John Sheridan does not expect this Sunday to be a day of rest for his players when Premier League Swansea City visit Home Park for a prestige friendly. “It’s always good to be playing at home,” said the Argyle manager, “but Swansea are one of the best passing teams in the Premier League, so we know they are going to keep moving us around. Hopefully, though, we will get the chance to express ourselves like we have been doing in pre-season."
It is a fantastic opportunity for the Green Army to welcome John's new-look side, with a potential eight new signings likely to be given a run-out: Deane Smalley, Kelvin Mellor, Carl McHugh, Peter Hartley, James Bittner, Ollie Norburn, and, of course, the return of Reuben Reid and Lee Cox. “It’s a big test for us, of course,” said Sheridan, “but I want us to stand up to them and, when we get the chance, to do what I know we are capable of doing ourselves.It’s still early days. I have always said that the first two or three games are important for you to build up your fitness as the games get a little bit tougher and this one will be tough – Swansea play the ball around as well as anyone in the Premier League.” They will be helped to that end by new midfield signings Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jefferson Montero, who have come on board this week since the Swans returned from a visit to the USA.
Argyle’s so-far unbeaten pre-season routine has been less glamorous but no less satisfying for Sheridan, who’s starting line-up for the season opener at Cambridge is beginning to take shape. “I am pleased with the way everything is going at the moment,” he said. “I’ve got 13-14 players who, if we can get fit and keep fit, I think are very good players. I am very confident about playing any one of them. I think everyone can see, from the players I’ve signed and what we are doing, the way we are going to go about things but there’s a long time between now and the start of season. There’s plenty of time for people to make an impression.”
The heat has been on Argyle for most of the build-up to their new campaign, which has meant adapting their intensive training schedule and being aware of the relatively rare conditions. Sheridan said: “The ground has been really firm, which is tough on the legs, and the lads have picked up blisters, so you have got to keep an eye on things. We’re just trying to keep out of the heat, but it’s staying hot all day. We all love the sun, but I’d like a little bit of rain to soften the pitches.”
Defender Peter Hartley thinks new signing Ollie Norburn is capable of improving the confidence of every player around him. Norburn has signed a one-year deal, after impressing John Sheridan in his side’s first two pre-season friendlies. After being named in the starting line-up for the 0-0 draw against Torquay – alongside Norburn – Hartley revealed that the midfielder’s qualities have shone in training, and it’s positively effecting the entire squad. “Ollie is technically a very good player,” said Hartley. “You could see that from the moment he stepped on the training field. “He likes to handle the ball, and he is more than capable of taking the ball under pressure. It brings the confidence out in the rest of the team, and helps us believe in playing the way we want to play. It is great to have Ollie on board. He is a cracking lad as well as a good player, and only 21, so I think there will be a lot more to come from him.”
Argyle played out a 0-0 draw as they continued their pre-season preparations at Torquay United this evening. For a goalless draw, this game provided plenty of shooting opportunities, as well as no lack of work rate and endeavour from both sides. The next friendly for Argyle sees them return to Home Park, to host Premier League side Swansea City on Sunday.
Argyle have completed the signing of free agent Oliver Norburn. The 21-year-old midfielder has featured in both of the Pilgrims' pre-season friendlies so far, and has done enough to catch the eye of manager John Sheridan. He has now signed a one-year contract to stay at Home Park.
Ollie began his career at Leicester City, although failed to break into the first team. He had a three-month loan spell at Bristol Rovers in 2011-12, and made that move permanent the following summer. He made 65 appearances for the Gas over two seasons, scoring four goals. He left Rovers by mutual consent in April. John Sheridan, speaking in the wake of Argyle's first friendly against Tavistock, spoke of Ollie, saying: "He’s got lots of things that I really like in his game. He’s got a lovely range of passing; he’s a good age; a good size; he’s got all the attributes I am looking for in a midfield player." Norburn will wear the squad number 6 for the new season.
Nathan Thomas is two from two from the spot during Argyle’s pre-season thus far – but is not expecting to be the penalty taker when the season gets underway. Thomas scored from twelve yards against Tavistock and Weymouth, and says that he is hoping that the goals can give him confidence ahead of the upcoming League 2 campaign. Of the penalties, Nathan said: “They are freebies, aren’t they?! I don’t think I’ll be on them in the season, though. I think Rubes has his name on them. I kind of told him I hadn’t scored yet, and I thought it might be good to kick off my year, to score a couple in pre-season and that take that into the season.”
The former Sunderland winger, who joined Argyle at Christmas last year, says that he is enjoying the build-up to the season, and has so far played more minutes for the Pilgrims than any of his team mates in the two games thus far. This included a lengthy stint playing as an out-and-out centre-forward alongside Marvin Morgan for the first period at Weymouth on Saturday. “I’m enjoying pre-season, to be honest,” said Thomas. “The games have been good. It was hard to get up to pace last year, joining halfway through the year. Then you’ve got to get to know everybody, get to know the style of play, and try to stamp your authority on it. Now, I can start afresh; get a full pre-season behind and kick on into the season. I prefer playing the games to get my fitness, rather than the running sessions. It’s about getting the pace in your legs ahead of the coming season. It was bit different playing centre-forward. I used to play there when I was younger. I moved out wide when I was about seventeen. I wasn’t expecting to play up top (against Weymouth). It’s changing your game around and it’s a bit weird, but it’s good to be able to play a couple of positions. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m a centre forward, but I enjoyed it. I think I did alright. I got in behind a few times.”
The next step on Argyle’s build-up to the season start is a short trip to Plainmoor to meet Torquay United tonight. Thomas is looking forward to lining up against our Devonian neighbours, now a Skrill Premier outfit, as the oppositions get progressively tougher. He said: “Every game we play, the opposition are getting better. Weymouth were a lot better than Tavistock, and hopefully Torquay will be better again. It will be a good test, to see how the team is shaping up against better opposition. I think we look really strong; a lot stronger than last season. There’s no such a friendly. No such thing in football. You play every game to win, and with them being really close as well, it’s a derby game. You don’t have friendlies in derbies.”
John Sheridan’s reflection on the game at Weymouth gave further clues as to what the Green Army can expect from the Pilgrims in the forthcoming season. Argyle were twice behind, the second time to a goal from former Pilgrim Stewart Yetton, but levelled on each occasion, through a Nathan Thomas penalty and Kelvin Mellor’s strike. As he had done at Tavistock in the previous match, John split his squad for each half of the game, with the first-half side comprising largely of younger players, and the second-half side containing more experienced men who appear to be the core of this season’s first team. “Weymouth gave us a good test and that’s the reason we came here,” said Sheridan. “I wasn’t happy with the way we played in the first half; I’m pleased with the way we played in the second half – I thought we looked really solid and sharp. We possibly should have scored more goals, but there was a good shape about us. We have just got carry on trying to improve, but I am pleased with the way we are looking at the moment. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again – I think there is going to be my 14-15 players and I have got to keep them fit. I have got a couple of young ones who are making the step up and playing against better players. They are in and around the first-team now and will get stronger. I expect them to make mistakes but it’s important they keep learning and I keep helping them. If I can keep my 14-15 players fit, I think we’re quite strong; I’m quite comfortable. I don’t mind having one or two young players. I don’t think we played well at all in the first half. The games obviously become a little bit harder now and the team that finished will probably start on Tuesday night.”
Trialist Ollie Norburn featured again in the second half of the match against the Terras, and could well continue to try to stake a claim for a permanent role when Argyle travel to Torquay on Tuesday. “I like him as a player,” Sheridan said. “He probably still needs a bit of fitness, but he’s only been with the lads for five days. He’s got a good engine and I like him. I’ll have a chat with him. I’d like to see if I can get him involved in the Torquay game.”
Sheridan’s comfort with the core of his squad means that, although he would like to add to the numbers, he is not in a mad rush to do so. “I’d still like to bring two-three players in,” he said. “Everyone knows I want a centre-midfield player, but I’d like bring two-three in just to give us strength in depth. They will probably be loan signings. That’ll wait until nearer the season. It’ll be someone who’s doing a pre-season and playing games with a club, not someone who’s sat on his backside; someone who’s fit and ready to step up.”
Jason Banton can be one of the best players in League 2 next season. That is the belief of John Sheridan, who, like the Green Army, has been impressed with Banton’s form in Argyle’s opening two pre-season friendlies. “He’s looked sharp all pre-season and his work-ethic is very good at the moment,” said John. “He’s come back a different player and he’s showing that in the way he’s training and the way he’s playing. He can be a really big player for us, if he’s on his game; he can be one of the best players in the division. That’s something I’ve got to try and get out of him.”
Banton has enjoyed a topsy-turvy time in the Green. His initial spell at Home Park in 2012-13, on loan from Crystal Palace, saw him produce a string of performances that did as much as anything to help Argyle retain their Football League status. He returned to the Theatre of Greens – this time on a permanent deal – earlier this year, but failed to spark. “He was in and out of the team,” said Sheridan. “I didn’t feel he was the same player he was when I had him on loan. I think I’ve got him to what he was when first came to the club. If we’ve got that, we’ve got a very good player.”
Argyle continued their preparation for the upcoming season with a 2-2 draw against Weymouth. The hosts took the lead after eight minutes with Chris Shephard’s strike from 20 yards out. Their lead was quickly eradicated after Aaron Bentley was fouled inside the area, and Nathan Thomas dispatched the resulting penalty. Weymouth retook the lead through ex-Pilgrim Stewart Yetton, who stretched out to turn his shot home from inside the box. Plymouth’s second equaliser came from the unlikely source of Kelvin Mellor, who netted from close range after a flurry of attacks.
John Sheridan believes that Curtis Nelson will be a captain of captains during Argyle’s 2014-15 League 2 campaign. The 21-year-old centre-back was formerly appointed as departed Conor Hourihane’s successor this week, with new man Peter Hartley named as his deputy and Luke McCormick given the role of club captain. “It will benefit Curtis,” said Sheridan. “Giving him the captain’s armband will hopefully give him more confidence in what I think of him, for one. He will have to lead the group and he’s got it in him. It’ll hopefully make him more vocal, more of an organiser. Peter Hartley has already got that in his game. I can see that in training. I did always say I’d like to have three or four captains on the pitch – I think Lee Cox can talk; Reuben Reid talks; all defensive players and the ’keeper normally talk. I think that will benefit us more. He plays in a position where a majority of teams have their captain. He was captain on a couple of occasions last year. I’m not bothered if he’s 21. He could be 37. It will stand him in good stead for the future. He’s got all the qualities to be a captain.”
Hartley, 26, has already created an impact at Home Park since leaving Stevenage in the summer, not least of all on the less experienced members of the Pilgrims’ first-team squad such as first-year professional Aaron Bentley, a fellow defender. “I am very pleased with him,” said John. “He’s very good with the likes of the younger players – including young Bentley – who he hasn’t met before. He really encourages them all the time. He’s very good on the training-ground and I’m sure he’ll take that on to the pitch. The lads like him; he’s approachable; he’s always praising and giving good advice in and around the young players.”
Luke McCormick's club-captain role will be more of an organisational off-field one. “It gives Luke a bit of responsibility,” said John, of his 30-year-old. “A lot of the lads look up to him; he’s very experienced; and I think he’s just got that demeanour about him. He’s good to deal with other things in situations that happen in and around the club. If the offices need to speak to the players, Luke will deal with that and come to me.”
Argyle's youngsters completed their first win of the pre-season campaign with a comprehensive victory over Callington on Wednesday night. The young Pilgrims won 5-0 in Cornwall, delighting Academy Manager Kevin Hodges, who was thrilled with his lads' first win of the pre-season. Argyle led 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals from Louis Rooney and Jason Vincent, before adding several more after the break.
John Sheridan was a happy manager after Argyle's 5-1 win at Tavistock on Tuesday. The entire Argyle squad, apart from forward Deane Smalley and midfielder Dominic Blizzard, played at least 45 minutes at Langsford Park as the 2014-15 Pilgrims eased back into their routine. “I’m very pleased,” said Sheridan. “It’s nice just to get back to playing football. I thought we played some really good stuff at times. It’s all about fitness, at the end of the day, but it was nice to get a few goals. I thought everyone played well. It’s our first game. You think you’re ready but…there’s a long way to go and it was a good work-out for our first game. No disrespect to Tavistock but we are a professional club and have got some decent players. So all credit to Tavistock – they never gave in. They gave us a good test. It was good for our fitness levels, getting as fit as we can and staying fit. The lads put a lot of effort in, getting up and down the pitch. There’s still a long way to go yet. We’ll be in tomorrow and we’ll be working hard leading up to the game on Saturday against Weymouth. As we go on through pre-season, the games will get a little bit tougher, working towards the first game of the season.”
Argyle included two midfield trialists in their squad at Tavistock. Oliver Norburn, formerly of Bristol Rovers, and American college player Duncan Capriotti were named in two separate sides that were scheduled to play a half each. Californian Duncan, 22, lately of Chapman University, was inked in for a start in a first-half line-up that included summer signings James Bittner, in goal, and defenders Kelvin Mellor and Carl McHugh. Oliver, 21, was scheduled to take his place among second-half starters that saw three other new recruits - defender Peter Hartley, midfielder Lee Cox, and forward Reuben Reid - make their pre-season bow. A seventh new face, forward Dean Smalley, was one of only two players in the Argyle first-team squad who was not due a run-out against South West Peninsula League Division 1 East hosts. Smalley and midfielder Dominic Blizzard were both rested after suffering slight knocks in training.
Argyle will have not one, but two, captains this season. Defender Curtis Nelson will lead the Pilgrims on the pitch for their 2014-15 League 2 campaign. Off the field, Luke McCormick, Argyle's long-serving goalkeeper, has been appointed club captain. Both roles had been fulfilled by midfielder Conor Hourihane for the past season and a half, prior to his move to Barnsley this summer.
Argyle breezed through their first pre-season game against Tavistock, defeating them 5-1 at Langsford Park. Headed goals from River Allen free-kicks – scored by Aaron Bentley and Carl McHugh – put Argyle two goals up, before Matt Lecointe pounced for a third. After the break Jason Banton scored a dazzling goal, then earned a penalty that Nathan Thomas converted. Tavistock pulled one back through Carlton Farnham, then won a penalty of their own. Luke McCormick, however, saved well to deny Ian Rooke.
Tavistock will be the first team to host Argyle's first team as they kick-off their pre-season campaign this Tuesday, July 15th. The game, which takes place at Tavistock's Langsford Park ground, kicks off at 7.30pm. Tickets for the grandstand will cost £10 for adults, or £6 for concessions. A pitch-side ticket is £8 for adults, and £4 for concessions. Under-11s accompanied by an adult can attend the game for free. Parking is available for supporters at the adjacent Tavistock College.
John Sheridan is still in the market for additions to his squad – primarily a central midfielder. Ever since Conor Hourihane’s departure in June, Sheridan has been hard at work looking for a replacement to play in the middle of the park, and even revealed that a loan move looked all but completed, until a change of heart from the player denied him from getting his man. “There was a lad who I thought we were going to get, but obviously the distance to travel has put him off, and I understand that." He said. "You have just got to keep persevering. Hopefully whoever comes wants to come to play football. It is a lovely place to come, but I do understand; once you are married, it is very difficult to move to a new area. It is a shame, because I would have liked him to come. He would have been a season-long loan, but he is at his club and he wants to stay there. In football nowadays, you are not going to stay at a club for five, six or seven years. That is just the way football has gone. Sometimes you can uproot and move the family but it is difficult nowadays, so I understand when people have got family and children.”
Whilst a place in the first team is not guaranteed, with the likes of Dominic Blizzard, Lee Cox, Tyler Harvey and River Allen all battling for that spot, an extra body in midfield is on the agenda, preferably one with experience of playing at a higher level - a common theme in Argyle's recent recruits. "“I still feel we may be a little bit short, and I would still like to add one or two, but I feel that if I can get those in, and keep everyone fit, we have got a strong group,” said Sherdan. “But we will still keep working hard. Central midfield is still an area I want to fill, what with Conor leaving, and I want to get competition in that area. One or two have said yes to us, and we will carry on. That is just life: you get your knock-backs, but we will just keep trying to get the players we want.”
New goalkeeper James Bittner has described his move to Plymouth Argyle as ‘a chance of a lifetime’. In his first press interview at the club he said: "I have had a tough 12 months. I started at Newport County in League Two but left them mid-season. There was an injury situation at the club so I signed a short-term contract. They tried to extend it, and I wanted to extend it, but with the rule about only spending x-amount of your income on wages, unfortunately, the money wasn’t there. Trying to find a playing contract in mid-season is an absolute nightmare. So I had eight months coaching in the Conference, and enjoyed it, but, of course, playing is what I want to do. To come to a club in League Two, let alone a big one like Plymouth, is a chance of a lifetime really.”
Whilst Luke McCormick will be the first choice ‘keeper next season, Bittner insisted he would push him as hard as he could for selection. He said: “Luke is a great ‘keeper. He has been here for years and done so well. He’s a fans’ favourite. I’m here to push Luke and try to get the best out of him. If he plays well, it’s good for all of us. At the same time, I hate that first choice, second choice thing. At the end of the day, the best ‘keeper plays. If Luke does well he plays, if I hopefully do well and impress then who knows? Football is a funny old game.”
In their first pre-season run-out of the season, Argyle's under-18s lost 1-0 to Elburton Villa at Hayes Road this evening.
Argyle have completed their 7th signing of the 2014 summer in the shape of 32-year-old James Bittner, who has joined the club from Salisbury City who have recently been expelled from the Conference. The former Exeter and Torquay man will act as goalkeeping cover to Luke McCormick and will wear the number one shirt this season. This however will be far from his only role - he will also take up some coaching positions and work in the Argyle Community Trust. Head of Community Mark Lovell said: "We are delighted to have James as part of our team. We are keen to utilise his expertise which will greatly benefit the local community."
Argyle have cancelled their friendly at Hereford United this pre-season which was initially scheduled for Saturday August the 2nd, the last game before starting the League Two campaign at Cambridge. Instead, Argyle will play away to Weston-super-mare on the same day. The reason given for this by the club is that of Hereford's recent financial problems and their footballing consequences. Hereford were a Conference side at the time the original match was arranged but have since been demoted to the Calor League. Consequently, it was felt that they would not be able to provide a suitably high standard of opposition so close to the start of the season.
The away match at Luton Town on September the 6th has been moved to a 12.15pm kick-off and will be televised live on Sky television.
The football club, the Argyle Fans Trust and the Royal British Legion are entering into a partnership unique in football this coming season. The Greens will wear the Royal British Legion’s poppy logo on both the home and away shirts during the 2014-15 Sky Bet League 2 campaign. This will also be on all replica shirts. The AFT are making a sponsorship donation to Argyle on behalf of the RBL to acknowledge the work the organisation carries out for the men and women of the Armed Services. Argyle will additionally help promote the Trust’s season-long campaign to fundraise for the RBL. The Trust hopes that supporters of other clubs will join them in supporting the RBL and is currently planning fundraising events.
AFT Press Officer Tim Chown said: “Plymouth has a proud history as a military city, and the sponsorship recognises the tremendous work done by the Royal British Legion in supporting our forces personnel, past and present, and is also timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war.”
Argyle Chief Executive Martyn Starnes added: “Plymouth Argyle is proud to be at the heart of a city rich in military history and tradition, and the club is fully committed to supporting our armed forces. We were the first club in the country to stage an Armed Services Day, which is now a high-profile regular event in the season, to honour and financially support our military and their families. This agreement takes that commitment to the next level.
Carole Arnold, the Royal British Legion Community Fundraiser for Devon, concluded: "The Royal British Legion is delighted to be in partnership with Argyle, the Trust and fans. The club has always been supportive of the work of the RBL and to join forces at this time, with the first world war commemorations, is even more important. The club has a wonderful reputation within the community and, with Plymouth being a major military city, it will enable us to continue our work with serving and ex-serving military.”
The Plymouth Argyle shirt numbers have been unveiled for the upcoming season. The full list can be found on the PAFC official website but the most notable additions are as follows: Ben Purrington and Curtis Nelson take on the traditional numbers for their position of 3 and 5 respectively after wearing 25 and 17 last season. New centre-back Peter Hartley carries over the number of 29 from his former club Stevenage; as does Carl McHugh with number 16. Tyler Harvey has moved from 18 to 14 and Jason Banton has moved from 20 to 8.
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