A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Argyle lost 3-0 at Ipswich Town. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Seip, Sawyer, Sinclair, Nalis, Buzsaky, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Djordjic, Gallen, Fallon (not used - Timar, Hodges). Attendance - 21,078.
Dan Gosling's international call-up has come as no surprise to former Argyle youth coach Stuart Gibson. He said: "It is a source of great pride for me and the youth department at Plymouth Argyle. Argyle have produced youth internationals before, but Dan is the first one to play for England, which is hard to do because Argyle is not an academy club. I recommended Dan for England two seasons ago. I also recommended Luke Summerfield and Ryan Dickson. I must thank all the coaches and specialist staff that played a part in Dan coming through the youth system. There are those like John James, Ian Leigh, Chris Souness, David Byrne, Dave Leonard, Craig Laird, Dave Newton, Chris Harrison, John Uzzell, Roy Burt, Ben Jane, Alan Yendell, Michaela Breeze and Mel Coyle. Unfortunately, Plymouth is out of the way and was always going to have problems to get England recognition. But we got there in the end - cream always rises to the top. I am glad time has shown that we were getting it right and that Ollie is reaping the benefits."
Ian Holloway has revealed that he was interviewed by Ipswich's board as a possible after Joe Royle left the club as manager last year. "Yes, I think that was one of the jobs I popped along to," he said. "I was told to look for other jobs by Mr Paladini who said 'you are so great'. I thought, well if I'm so great why am I looking for other jobs? But yes, I did go along and meet Mr Sheepshanks, but you end up in life where the Main Man wants you to be."
Argyle return to action tomorrow after the two-week international break and Ian Holloway is concerned about the prospect of four matches in 10 days, and the travel involved. He said: "I have never done it before so I don't really know, but it's not an ideal situation. We are trying to be as professional as we can by flying up and back to each of the games. It's a huge expense but, hopefully, the players will put in some good performances to reward the club for paying for it. They realise we are trying to do the best we possibly can for them." Argyle have not played since beating Crystal Palace on March 17th, and Holloway added: "It seems about three months since our last game, to be honest, so it will be nice to get back to work." David Norris starts a two-match suspension tomorrow whilst Dan Gosling is ruled out after suffering a hip injury while playing for England under-17s this week. Tony Capaldi also cannot play against Ipswich, even though he has recovered from a groin injury. Capaldi withdrew from the Northern Ireland squad for their Euro 2008 qualifiers on medical advice, and as a result, there is a rule which prevents him from playing in his club's first game after the international break. Holloway said: "It's rubbish isn't it? I'm not happy at all. We have lost Dan Gosling and now Tony Capaldi just because of international football. We are not Manchester United with a huge squad who can cope with it. The games we have got coming up this week will give everybody still at the club the chance to show me they want to be here next season." There could be recalls for Akos Buzsaky and Lee Hodges against Ipswich. Buzsaky made his comeback from a torn hamstring in the reserves on Tuesday, and Holloway said: "I wasn't very pleased with the performance. I expected that team to do a lot better, especially against the young side Yeovil put out. But Akos came through it with no problems fitness-wise and he's in the squad for tomorrow and up for selection." Holloway admitted the suspension to Norris was a blow for Argyle as they try to finish the season in a top 10 position. "I think he's a very important player for us," he said. "He sets the tempo of how we work - how we close and press people." Despite being without Norris, Holloway believes Argyle can return from Suffolk with maximum points. "I'm expecting Ipswich to be a very good side but I'm expecting us to beat them," he said. "It's a place I like going to. The pitch is superb, the dressing rooms are beautiful and the surroundings are wonderful. There will be no excuses for us and I will be looking to pick a team that I think can get us the three points." New signing Ashley Barnes has scored four goals in four reserve team appearances, but it is unlikely he will be involved at Portman Road. Holloway said: "It might be too early for him, but who knows?"
Scott Sinclair is determined to add to his goal tally for Argyle before his three-month loan spell ends in two weeks' time. He said: "I have really enjoyed playing first team football and I'm going to work hard for Plymouth and, hopefully, keep scoring goals. The one I got against Palace was quite similar to the goal at Barnet in the FA Cup. I want to make goals as well as trying to score them and we have got some great games coming up. I could have gone to a youth tournament in Dallas with Chelsea, but I thought it would be in my best interests to go play more games for Plymouth and add to my experience. Hopefully, I can keep playing well and so can the team." Sinclair was disappointed with his performance for the England under-18 side on Tuesday, but thought his team-mates had been excellent. "It was a great game and a great performance from the team," he said. "There is a lot of talent in the team, with Febian Brandy from Manchester United and Daniel Sturridge. Lee Sawyer, who I have played with at Chelsea, got a great goal and he was just from buzzing from it afterwards." Sinclair almost got on the scoresheet in the second half with a curling shot which rebounded off the inside of the left post. He added: "I thought it was in and was ready to start celebrating, but it hit the post and came out."
Akos Buzsaky is eager to bring an end to his recent exile from senior football. "I've been training with the first team for two weeks, and it was natural progress to play a game in the reserves," he said. "I feel fine." Buzsaky has not played for Argyle's senior side since the home defeat to Sunderland almost seven weeks ago. His torn hamstring was sustained a couple of days after that fixture, in a sprint session when the squad's fitness was being assessed. "That's football," he said. "Injuries are something you can't predict, and they can happen at any time. But now I'm fit, so I can help the team get some results. I don't know who is going to play on Saturday, but I would be very happy if I can play. I would give my best but, if I don't play, I will wait for my opportunity to show that I have a place in the team and that I'm willing to fight for my position. Ipswich is one of the stadiums at which I really like to play. It will not be easy - they have a big pitch, they have a young squad and they try to play football - but we have to go there and play like we know we can. We will have to press them and win back the ball when they have it."
Ian Holloway has not enjoyed the recent two-week break. "I haven't enjoyed it at all," he said. "I haven't enjoyed the last couple of results, obviously: Torquay beat us here, and, the day before that, we got beaten 3-2 by a really weak Yeovil team, so I'm not very happy, really. The Crystal Palace game, and Scott's wonderful goal, seems a lifetime ago. It will be nice to get back and see what we can do." Sinclair will be the only one of Argyle's current internationals to make the journey to Ipswich, with Dan Gosling injured, and Tony Capaldi barred from taking part. "It's very nice for us to have some international players," said Holloway. "It's a thrill to play for your country. I'm sure it's even more of a thrill to play for a Championship club like we are at the moment, because, when I watched Scott Sinclair play the other day, I didn't know any of the other players - our boys are getting experience and that's what it's all about." With several Argyle players out on loan and David Norris suspended, Holloways options are limited. He said: "I've loaned a couple of players out and it's almost as if 'Should I have done that?' Luke Summerfield, in particular - he came on as substitute for Bournemouth but I might have been using him tomorrow. Sometimes you do things and they backfire. It is a good opportunity for other people to show me and you would have thought they would have showed me by beating Yeovil, with the strength of the team we had out there. Young Ashley Barnes had a practice match here and scored against the first team, and then scored again at Tiverton - so, in his first two days as a pro, he scored two goals, which isn't bad, is it? Attitude is really important and Peter Halmosi's was like a shining star at Tiverton. He never stopped running, never stopped trying, and that's what it's all about." Whoever gets the managerial nod for Saturday, Holloway is convinced that Championship football is a squad game. He said: "Ask Arsene Wenger if he's got 11 good players: how many does he need. Why am I any different? I haven't got a lovely accent, I'm not good looking and tall, clever and all of that, but I still need a good squad, don't I? That's what we are after and we are working towards it. Some of them who have been out for a while will get a chance to play tomorrow. I only pick my strongest team, even Sheffield Wednesday, people say that was our reserves - it wasn't, we've got a strong squad now. That's what it's all about."
Argyle lost 1-0 to Torquay United in the St Luke's Devon Cup at Home Park last night. Argyle: Saxton, Hopkinson, Kendall, Laird.J, Watts, Byrne, Petnehazi, Duggan, Smith, Grant, Mason. Subs – Malsom, McCrory (not used - Sandercombe, Joyce, Gearing)
Dan Gosling is definitely out of the game at Ipswich Town on Saturday. Ian Holloway said: "We haven't had a look at him yet, but he's certainly out for the Ipswich game. He's got hip flexor trouble, which is caused by too much strain on the hip. He played the full 90 minutes for the first England game and then after five minutes, he's playing in the second and I can't understand why that is - haven't they got anybody else?" Holloway admitted he was also unhappy with the England performance during the under-18s' win over Holland at Yeovil on Tuesday night. He said it was not a good performance by the majority of the young players, although he excepted Sinclair from his criticism. Holloway said: "The good thing was that every time Scott got the ball, the fans knew who he was. But the left-back needs shooting, because he didn't give him the ball when he was in a good position. I don't want to be negative, but I thought the performance was very disappointing. I know we won 4-1, but Holland were technically better than us."
Argyle reserves lost 3-2 to Yeovil last night, the goals scored by Krisztian Timar and Ashley Barnes. Argyle: Clapham, King, Laird.J, Timar, Halmosi, Samba, Moult, Buzsaky, Djordjic, Fallon, Barnes. Subs - Malsom, McCrory, Joyce
Scott Sinclair played the whole match for England Under-18s in their 4-1 win over Holland last night
Ian Holloway has insisted Hasney Aljofree still has a future with Argyle, despite him joining Oldham Athletic on loan until the end of the season. Aljofree suggested in an interview last week that Holloway did not want him to leave Argyle on loan, but the manager said: "I have got no problems with it. I don't like players who are happy not playing. What's the point of that? I'm trying to build a squad that has got serious competition in it and I have ended up with nearly everyone fit. He wasn't happy not playing and Oldham rang me up and said they wanted to take him on loan, so he has gone up there. But he has got another year left on his contract and we are totally committed to that, and so will he be."
Nick Chadwick has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing a groin operation yesterday. Ian Holloway said: "Hopefully, this will get to the bottom of the problems he has had. It has been a very frustrating, and upsetting, season for him, although he has scored a couple of important goals for us. It's unbelievably depressing when all you want to do is play football but you can't do that because of an injury that won't go away."
Akos Buzsaky will make his comeback from a torn hamstring when Argyle reserves play Yeovil Town at Tiverton tonight. Buzsaky also took part in a practice match at Home Park yesterday morning, which lasted three 20-minute periods. The reserve team tonight is also set to include Peter Halmosi, Krisztian Timar, Lee Hodges and Rory Fallon. Ashley Barnes could also feature. Ian Holloway confirmed the club's under-18s squad would be used for the Devon Bowl semi-final against Torquay United tomorrow
Dan Gosling sustained a hip injury against Azerbaijan, and will miss the England Under-17s fixture against Serbia & Montenegro
Ian Holloway has spoken of his delight at Dan Gosling's international debut. He said: "I am very pleased for him - some people wait their whole life to play for their countries and it's happened to him as a 17-year-old. He's played a few games in our first team and because of that, he's come to people's attention. I hope they are just the first of a few hundred games for us. He's made a great start to his career - keep it up, Danny!"
Argyle's offer of a new contract to Tony Capaldi is still on the table and the club has not given up hope of him extending his stay at Home Park. Michael Dunford said: "Our offer to Tony Capaldi is still on the table. We have made, over a period of time, a number of fresh offers. It has been well-documented. I'm certain the player, given where he is now, will look at all the options available to him and he will talk to other clubs. If he sees his future at Plymouth Argyle then I think Ian Holloway will expect him to make an early decision because he has got to plan his squad. But I don't think there will be any movement on that until after the last league game of the season, when Tony will have to make his mind up, one way or the other, as to where he sees his future." Capaldi is one of four players who are out of contract this summer. The others are Lee Hodges, Lilian Nalis and Josh Clapham, and no contract talks have taken place with them as yet. Dunford said: "Ian will be sitting down with the chairman and the board of directors and going through what he wants for his budget next season. Currently, there have been no discussions with any of those three players. But, in the coming weeks, once the budget is established it will be down to Ian to make a recommendation. Whether those three players are given an offer or not is down to the manager."
Dan Gosling came on as a 5th minute substitute as England under-17’s beat Azerbaijan 1-0 yesterday
Argyle beat Goonhavern 4-0 in the South Western League on Saturday, the goals scored by Dan Smith (two), Sam Malsom and Shane Duggan
Argyle are confident their pitch will be in pristine condition for the start of next season despite two concerts taking place at Home Park this summer. Michael Dunford said: "We have involved our head groundsman Colin Wheatcroft at every stage in this process. He is, without doubt, one of the best groundsmen in the Championship and he treats the pitch like his own back lawn. The stage for the Elton John concert is going to be on terracing so it's not going to encroach on the pitch. You are still going to have roller track put down on the pitch for people to sit on. For the George Michael concert, the stage is probably twice the size and it will encroach onto the pitch - but only slightly, after negotiation with them. Colin is confident the safeguards we are putting in mean he won't have any undue problems in preparing the pitch for the start of the season. Had their been any issue worrying him, we wouldn't have had the concerts. The pitch has caused us problems this season but it should firm up by the middle of the summer, although you never know with the weather conditions in Plymouth. Colin knows how important these concerts are, from a club point of view and for the city of Plymouth, but he's very protective towards his pitch. We are confident it won't hinder him in being able to prepare a first class pitch for us again by the start of the season." Argyle will kick-off the 2007/08 season on August 11th, and are planning to play one pre-season friendly at Home Park. Dunford said: "Ideally, we would like Premiership opposition but we will have to wait and see."
Argyle are introducing a 10-month instalment plan to make it easier for their supporters to buy season tickets. Michael Dunford revealed there was 'unlikely to be any major changes' in prices for the 2007/08 campaign. Season tickets will go on sale on April 16th - much earlier than in past years, but Dunford said: "We won't be announcing the individual match prices until the fixtures come out in June. Next season we want to be more creative at looking how the fixtures fall because we know where there are two games in a week it can become particularly onerous on people to come on a regular basis." Dunford believes the instalment plan will be popular with supporters and boost season ticket sales for 2007/08. He said: "People who renew within the first discount period will have an opportunity of paying for their season-tickets over 10 months. As an example, if you pay £378 for your Grandstand season ticket, which you would have done this year, over a 10-month period you would be paying about £40 a month. I think that will be very well received by supporters. It's a scheme one or two other clubs have used as well, and up to 30 per cent of some clubs' season ticket holders have taken advantage of it. Anything we can do to make it easier for our supporters, we have got to do." Argyle's average attendance is set to fall for the second successive season, and Dunford insisted it was important the club attracted more fans on a regular basis if they were to push on as a Championship club. He said: "Apart from supporting the manager and phase two, the biggest issue of debate in the boardroom has been about pricing. It's a difficult one because we are probably competing against 10 clubs who regularly get over 20,000 a week. We hope season-ticket holders and supporters generally see there is something better happening at Argyle. Last year when we came to sell season tickets, through no fault of our own, it was a period of so much uncertainty. By the time the managerial position was resolved, the discount periods had gone and there was no incentive to buy season tickets. We have got to increase our average attendance if the club is going to go forward."
Dan Gosling made his international debut yesterday, as England Under-17's won 5-0 against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the UEFA European U-17 Championship Qualifying Round
Ashley Barnes has signed for Argyle, but will not be returning to Paulton Rovers on loan. Barnes signed a professional contract at Home Park earlier this week and has gone straight into the first team squad. Paulton boss Andrew Jones said: "We were hoping to get him back here on a month's loan, but that isn't going to happen as they want him involved with the first team straight away. We've worked hard with him and he's a great player and a cracking lad. All credit goes to him because he thoroughly deserves it. I've watched all the reserve games he's played for Plymouth and he's really done well. I'm delighted for him but disappointed for the football club as we wanted to get him back for a month. However, as all good sides do, we'll have to carry on as normal without him." Michael Dunford said: "Barnes has signed a contract until the summer of 2008. As part of the deal, we have agreed to take a team to play Paulton, either in pre-season or during next season. They are getting a nominal payment, but they have been very, very co-operative. They want to see him progress, as we do."
Scott Laird has joined Tiverton Town on a months loan
Argyle are in talks with Ginsters about extending their shirt sponsorship contract beyond the end of this season, but other businesses have shown an interest in taking over. Michael Dunford said: "We are currently in detailed discussions with Ginsters and, hopefully, an announcement on that will be made in the next couple of weeks. Ginsters have been very supportive of the club, but we are moving to a new level. It's the balance between the value we put on it, as an established Championship club, and what they are prepared to pay for it." Argyle's new home kit for the next two seasons will be unveiled before the end of the current campaign, Dunford said: "The new home kit will be a very traditional design. We aren't tinkering with the colours. Most Argyle supporters want a traditional design and that's what they will get."
Argyle will again visit Austria for a pre-season tour next summer, from July 22nd - 29th. They will be staying at the Loipersdorf Spa and Conference Hotel in Styria, in the south-east of Austria, for the second successive year, and while they are out there, will probably play two friendlies against local opposition. Michael Dunford said: "Ian was more than delighted with the facilities at Loipersdorf so we are going back there again."
Michael Dunford has admitted Argyle have 'burnt their bridges' after withdrawing their entry to the new South West Peninsula League. He said: "I think they have got every justification to feel aggrieved, but we don't take any pleasure from it. The way of the world is, we have to do what we think is right for the betterment of Plymouth Argyle, and those are the views of the football management. We wish the league well, particularly in its new format. I think it's unlikely you are going to see Argyle competing in that league again in our lifetime. We have burnt our bridges." Bob Bell, chairman of the SWPL, said: "Argyle have now informed us that they intend resigning from the South Western League at the end of the season and will not be taking up a place in the new South West Peninsula League. This one season stay is the shortest time the club have been in membership and their decision is bitterly disappointing to both the South Western League and the new league." Argyle made a successful application to return to the SWL last year, when Tony Pulis was manager. Dunford said: "Tony wanted to blood the youth players in a more competitive environment. We had to convince Bob Bell, his fellow committee members and the member clubs that we were in for the duration for them to accept our application." Dunford admitted the decision had been taken because of a change of direction by the club's management and the youth department. He added: "Gordon Bennett, Mike Pejic and Ian Holloway are of the opinion that playing against players from the same age groups is going to be far more beneficial for the future development of our younger players. There is also the fact that Gordon and Mike are going to be more discerning in the number of players they bring in. It would have put a strain on our playing resources to compete in that league on a regular basis. I spoke to Bob Bell on Monday and explained the situation to him. He understood this is the football way. It's embarrassing for Argyle, but we have to support the views of Ian, Gordon and Mike. We don't want to mess people about, but we have to do what's in the best interests of Plymouth Argyle so, reluctantly, we have tendered our resignation." Argyle have played their SWL home games this season at Bolitho Park, the ground of Plymouth Parkway. Dunford said: "We hope to retain a relationship with Plymouth Parkway because they have been absolutely superb to us."
Michael Dunford believes it is '50-50' whether the club will be granted dispensation to use the Mayflower Terrace next season. Argyle have made the application to the Football Licensing Authority because work on phase two of the redevelopment of Home Park will not start this summer, and have been told to expect a decision from Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport next month. Dunford said: "We have been told to expect an answer in April. I think the jury is out on it - I do, honestly. We have not been given any steer as to what to expect. Hopefully, we will be given the dispensation, but I'm certain they will seek assurances from the club that the phase two project is at such a stage they are confident it's going to proceed within the next 12 months. Unless we can assure them of that, it's not given that we are going to get the dispensation." Argyle are already planning ahead in case they cannot use the Mayflower Terrace as a standing area. Dunford added: "We are writing to the Mayflower Terrace season ticket holders we have explaining the situation to them. Purely as a safeguard, we are saying to them to come down and select a seat in the 'horseshoe' just in case the terracing is not available at the start of next season." Before work on phase two does eventually start, season ticket holders in the Grandstand and the Mayflower Stand will be able to choose alternative seating from specially reserved areas. Then, when the new main stand is built, all those affected by phase two will have the chance to return to that side of the ground before anyone else can select a seat. "That's something we have got to honour, and we will honour," said Dunford. Argyle have been in talks with three companies - Arena Seating, SGB and Slick Seating - about some form of seating on the Mayflower Terrace. "They are all familiar with football grounds," said Dunford. "As to the type of scheme we would introduce, that has yet to be decided. We could actually bolt onto the terracing, or we can have it reconfigured and put in temporary seating similar to what they have at golf tournaments. They had it at Barnet when we played them in the FA Cup this season. If you take the first three or four rows of terracing out, the sightlines when you are standing are virtually the same as you would get if you were sitting down. There is not a great deal of difference to choose between the two. If we get the dispensation, the terracing will remain open. We would be daft to do anything else. If we don't get the dispensation, whether we go for bolting onto the terracing or putting a temporary seating stand in there has yet to be decided."
Reuben Reid and Ryan Dickson have joined Torquay United on loan until the end of the season
Argyle have withdrawn their application to enter the new South Western Peninsula League next season, following the arrival of Mike Pejic as the club's new head of youth coaching
Ian Holloway has issued a reminder to his players that they will be playing for their Argyle futures in the remaining eight games of the season. He said: "I am judged by how well I do as a manager and I am determined to keep moving this club forward. Therefore the players have to keep it going until the final game - we shan't be going through the motions for remainder of the season, that's for sure. Every season that I don't get the club I am managing promoted then I consider that I have failed. So, if I can't do that then the next best thing is get to do better than the season before. We've been in the top half of the table all season and are only four points away from the total that Argyle finished the season with last year. But I don't only want us to beat that total, as I feel we are a good enough Championship club to aim much higher. We've got eight games left to play, including one in hand, so there are plenty of points left out there to get." Holloway added that consistency holds the key to whether the squad can help him to achieve his goal. "What we'll need to be is more consistent as our record shows that we've conceded too many goals this season and not put away enough of our chances," he said. "That's why it was important to get that result over Palace - I thought we looked a lot more solid last Saturday. We still created opportunities and showed our attacking intentions, but kept a clean sheet. Still, that's past and we now have 24 points to play for. Although we look outside of the play-off picture, if we can win three, four of our next few games, then who knows? Right now, I am satisfied with my squad of players. But if we finish halfway down the table instead of where I think we can get to, then I may have to chop it all down and start again for next season." Despite the departure of Luke Summerfield and Hasney Aljofree on loan moves, Holloway insists his playing options would not be affected. "We shan't go short as we've got a strong squad now to be able to cope with two, maybe three more players joining Luke out on loan," said Holloway. "Players need to be playing competitive matches and Luke will benefit by playing at Bournemouth, who are a really nice club and after all, are only one league below us. Luke has been one of the main bonuses for me this season - he's been superb. However, I will only let the players go out if I feel it will benefit them."
Hasney Aljofree has joined Oldham Athletic on an emergency loan deal until the end of the season
Luke Summerfield has signed his loan deal and joined Bournemouth until the end of the season
Ian Holloway is using the current two-week international break to start planning for next season. He said: "I have sent my players away for three days. I don't want to be with them. I have got to step back out of it, out of the drama and out of the personalities, and think to myself 'who's in contract, who's out of contract, who's on loan, what do I want to do next season? That's not an easy task. And to anyone who plays Championship Manager on their computer, this is reality. Seriously, you never get someone come in, sit down in front of you and look like their heart has broken. Just try doing that for one day." Holloway relies heavily on Gary Penrice to check out potential signings, both in this country and overseas. He added: "I'm going to have a huge meeting with Gary Penrice and talk about who he has seen, because I have hardly seen anyone else. I can look at my squad and fully assess them properly now, and who I have got. When I came to the club last summer it was a gamble, the whole lot of it. I didn't know them and they didn't know me. I'm really looking forward to it. This is where management starts. When I took over I didn't have long to do anything. I started the day before the players were back. Then we were supposed to be going to Austria and I had no strikers. I didn't spend any time out on the training ground, and I like to do that with my players. I like to get in with them and get a structure sorted. That was very awkward. I feel this season was like sticking a plaster on a paddling pool. The kids could still paddle in it, but I knew I was going to have to get a new one. I think we have done very well with that. I have now got a good idea of who has done well for me. I know what positions we need to strengthen and what pressure we need to put on certain people for competition for places. At the moment, you haven't got to be a genius to see we have got far too many options down the left." Holloway admitted his plans for summer transfer activity depended on the budget which would be available to him. He said: "I missed the last Board meeting and I have got to sit down with the chairman. They understand where they are now so I can sit down and I can move all my pieces around on the board. He knows how much they all cost me and I have got to look at the picture. If that picture is ugly then I will have to do something about it. But once I have sat down with the chairman and Gary Penrice, and I know what's out there, I have got to plan where we are going and what we are doing. I'm much closer now to knowing who does what I want on a regular basis. I can't think of one player, to be totally honest, who has let me down. Not in any one thing I have asked. There were a couple of blips, but they have come back to my way. When you are a manager of any company and your workforce does what you ask consistently, then how can you complain?"
Paul Stapleton, speaking at the club's annual general meeting at Home Park on Friday, confirmed that Argyle are interested in the Civil Service Sports and Social Club as a possible training venue. He said: "We are interested in any sports venues in the city which might enhance the training facilities for the club, whether it's the first team or the youths. But we understand there are other bodies who are interested in the CSSC." Argyle's accounts for the year ended May 31st, 2006 showed a post-tax loss of £315,112, and was the first time there had been a deficit since the boardroom takeover in 2001. Stapleton pointed out that in the 2005/06 season turnover had fallen by nearly £600,000 to £7,289,519, and explained there had been a 15 per cent reduction in gate income. He said: "This year we are suffering a slight reduction also but we are hopeful that if the gates increase for the last few games of the season that may catch up. It's not far away. We know there are economic reasons and occasions why that has happened. But I'm sure the standard of football we are playing now is the best for many, many years, even back to the days of Peter Shilton." Staff costs for the year ended May 2006 were £4,477,088, up from £3,297,138 12 months earlier, and Stapleton admitted that was the main item 'to jump out at you' from the accounts, but he told shareholders: "To compete in the Championship you have to pay Championship wages." Ian Holloway attended the AGM and Stapleton described him as a 'great asset'. "I would like to commend Ian on the great start he has had so far in his career with Plymouth Argyle," he said. "He has stayed at his previous two clubs for at least five years, and we would love for that to happen here because it would mean he has been successful and so have we. He has already proven a great asset for the football club and we wish him well for the rest of his long time with us."
Luke Summerfield is set to complete a loan move to Bournemouth. The deal will initially be for one month, but could be extended until the end of the season. When asked whether there could be further departures from Home Park before Thursdays loan deadline, Holloway said: "I have had lots of phone calls, which is good. Ryan Dickson has told me he's fully fit and wants to go out on loan so I have suggested that he rings up Torquay and sees if they want him because that's just down the road. He's probably fitter than when he went out before, to be honest, so we will have a look at that." Holloway has circulated a list of players who he would be prepared to loan out to other clubs, and Nick Chadwick, who resumed full training last week, was one of them. Holloway said: "It might benefit him if somebody wanted him on loan. I don't know yet. I have got to talk to Chadders and Paul Maxwell, but I'm sure I will get some phone calls about Nick, without a shadow of a doubt." Holloway, though, will be careful how many players he allows to leave. He added: "With everybody fit I have got four or five sat around, which isn't good enough for them and it's not good enough for me. I don't want that. I want everybody playing and improving, and no-one improves sat in the stand. There are one or two who have been short-changed. Lee Hodges has never done a thing wrong and he has had to sit in the stand. I did not pick Luke Summerfield the other day and he has done nothing wrong, and I am very conscious about his improvement." Akos Buzsaky is another man returning to fitness and Holloway would love to gauge his form in a reserve team game. Holloway said: "Akos Buzsaky is jumping up and down on a leash telling me he is fit but I have not had a reserve game, so I can't see his form. I can't put him ahead of somebody who is playing well. We have also got Gosling and Sinclair out on England duty where they could get injured. I have got to be really careful. By loaning people out, I might be short myself. I have looked at the table. We have still got a chance. We need to win our game in hand and people get squiffy at this time of the year. You get some strange results and people come galloping in. Maybe the Barnsley result was just what we needed. If we won all eight of our last games, we would have 76 points, which might be enough. At the moment, the bottom play-off place is 64 points. Let us be totally realistic. Our first target was 56 points. We are looking for progression. We need four points to beat last year. I am also looking at next year and what we can do. I am going to have a huge meeting with Gary Penrice and talk about who he has seen. I can look at my squad and fully assess them properly now. Last year was a gamble. I did not know them and they did not know me. I am really looking forward to it. I want to be sat here this time next year having done better than we did this year." Holloway did not completely rule out a loan move for Tony Capaldi, but it seems unlikely
Kevin Gallen has been linked with a move to Leicester City in the summer, but Ian Holloway has not ruled out making a permanent move for him in the close season. He said: "It wouldn't surprise me if other clubs wanted Kevin Gallen. He's a very good footballer. If I want him, he has to be totally motivated to be the best Kevin Gallen he can ever be, and I'm sat here waiting and looking."
Argyle's most influential defender against Crystal Palace was Marcel Seip, who is a strong contender for player of the season. Ian Holloway signed Seip on a free transfer last August, and is well aware how big a coup that deal has proved to be. "Marcel has adapted to life in this country very quickly," he said. "He had to change some of his previous behaviour, and he has wanted to do that. He has been an absolute revelation of late. I haven't seen anybody defend better than him at this level. When he's motivated and focused, he reads things and he gets there. His CV, playing that many games at such a tender age for Heerenveen, is totally justified. What isn't justified is how they let him go for nothing. He's very motivated to try and get to the very top." Seip was happy to help Argyle to three points on Saturday. "The win was what mattered," he said. "We've had three games in seven days, and if we'd lost this game as well it would have been a very disappointing week. We're all very happy that we won. It was tough, because we're not the biggest side and they put on a couple of big lads. You have to read the game well because they were winning a few headers, but I think all the back four did well." Argyle are in 13th place in the Championship, and catching up with the sides in the play-off zone looks unlikely, but Seip added: "Our main goal was three points on Saturday and now we can relax a little bit, but we think we deserve to be so much higher in the league than we are now. It's going to be very hard to close the gap, which is disappointing. We've got eight games left and it will be tough to get into the top six, but it's not impossible. We've been unlucky with the number of games we've drawn, but we'll keep working hard. I've only been here for half a year but, looking at all the teams that we've played against, to be honest no one is better than us. That's why the prospects are good for next season. If we can play like how we played against Palace or Watford and in so many other games, and we get what we deserve as well, then it's looking good for next year." Holloway was also in a positive mood yesterday, as he looked back at the win over Palace. "I thought the performance was right back in focus. Nil against and a brilliant goal going forward, and we still created other chances," he said. "There were some great crosses, particularly from my right-back and some great defending from my left-back to let my little left-winger go and attack. I thought some of the performances were absolutely spot on."
Argyle are confident there will be no more matches at Home Park delayed because of electrical faults. The kick-off for the televised match against Coventry on January 22nd had to be put back by 15 minutes after the floodlights went out. Michael Dunford was questioned about the delay during the club's AGM last Friday, and he said: "In the last two months our electrical contractors have carried out a full survey. One problem was identified in the Chisholm Lounge and it was immediately rectified. We are reliably informed by our electrical contractors there should not be any further incidents that we have experienced this season."
Ian Holloway has dismissed speculation that Tim Breacker could be in contention to become the new Luton Town manager. He said: "That doesn't surprise me. One, he's a very good bloke and, two, he's best buddies with their chairman, Bill Tomlins. They have known each other for year. But I have heard nothing of it and Tim would have mentioned it if there was anything in it, so there you go. That's just people putting two and two together and coming up with 186."
Argyle's St Lukes Cup semi-final against Torquay on March 28th will be played at Home Park, with kick-off at 7pm. The previous day's reserve match against Yeovil will be played at Tiverton
Argyle beat Penzance 3-2 in Saturday's South Western league game, the goals scored by Sam Malson and two from Martin Watts
Ian Holloway was delighted with his players after the victory over Crystal Palace. He said: "We needed to be solid. I was not happy with the other day and I had a rant and a rave at one or two. We got our focus back. We were organized and they probably only had one great chance, which my 'keeper did superbly with. We needed that because it was a bit quiet around the place. It was almost as if everybody was worried they would score after we conceded four the other day. Everybody around the place, including myself, was a little bit nervous. I have probably got some washing to do when I get home. Everytime they had a corner I thought the ball would end up in our net. I am relieved we kept a clean sheet. All we have seen is goals going in our net." Luke McCormick's block from Ben Watson deserved a mention from Holloway, but there was no doubt that Scott Sinclair stole the show with his goal. "It is wonderful to see from that young fella," said Holloway. "That was the first time they have let him wriggle away. They went forward and that left him open and, before you know it, he has scored one of the best goals I have seen in a long, long time - again. It can't be a fluke, can it? It is just wonderful to see a young fella run with a football like that." When asked whether the goal against Palace was Sinclair's best, Holloway said: "I think so because it is a higher level and he had two on him in an area where he looked like he was going nowhere. He has seen that gap, got through it and the finish was outstanding. It takes a great goal to win a Championship match and that was one, but I was just as delighted with a clean sheet." The performance of Sinclair was matched by solid displays from youngsters Dan Gosling and Gary Sawyer, and Holloway is delighted with the squad he is building. "Danny Gosling was absolutely terrific again today," said Holloway. "I have had some major plusses this year. Gary Sawyer, Danny Gosling and young Luke Summerfield coming through has been a joy. I have got a squad of players and there were some of them not involved today, who would have been really upset because, if they had played, we might still have won. We could hardly put a team together before and I then added five players in the window January. We have got to continue our progress up this division. We are not as high as I want to be and I am not settling for it."
Scott Sinclair refused to make distinction between the two superb solo goals that he has scoed for Argyle, against Crystal Palace yesterday and previously at Barnet in the FA Cup. He said: "The Barnet goal was a bit special because it was the FA Cup, but this was just as special because it was in the Championship. I'm happy with just scoring goals. I've been scoring goals for Chelsea reserves but it's nothing compared to here. Everyone is fighting for their positions here and it is much more difficult than the reserves." Luke McCormick's quick throw out saw the ball land at Sinclair's feet, and seconds later, via the underside of the crossbar, Argyle were a goal up. "Luke gave it to me and I thought I'd go on another run," said Sinclair. "I skipped past a couple of players, looked up, and just hit it. It went in the back of the net. I don't care how it goes in, just as long as it goes in. I scored the goal but I wouldn't have scored it if it wasn't for the other ten men on the pitch. The team played really well." Sinclair would have been returning to London this week had he not agreed to extend his successful loan spell for a third, and final, month. "It was my decision," he said. "It was in my hands. I didn't want to go back and play reserve football, if I wasn't training with the first team. I thought it was the much better option to play for Plymouth, to give me the experience I need. I've enjoyed it massively. I don't want to go back and be on the bench, especially at my age. If I am not getting in the Chelsea first-team, I'd like to go on loan again next season - maybe it will be here again. Let's see how it goes. If there's a new manager, I might have to stay there to try to impress him. I want to be playing for Chelsea in the long run but this has given me a great step to playing for Chelsea."
Scott Sinclair's growing reputation was given a further boost by his stunning winner yesterday against Crystal Palace. Ian Holloway is delighted with the progress Sinclair has made, and he said: "The lad is loving it here and he is enjoying playing for us. I have known him for a long time and, if you saw how he was playing for the Chelsea reserves before he came to us, it does not look like the same player. It is very difficult for a young fella in a massive club. All these clubs are buying the young players. Tottenham are buying the best young players from all around the world. It is very frustrating if you are one of those because you can't get any league games and you want experience. What he is doing here is making a name for himself. He is enjoying himself and our lads have been sensational in encouraging him. He can do things that we needed someone to do. It is nice that he is familiar with me. He knows I believe in him and you can see that in his play. He has earned the respect of the lads. On his first day here he did that to David Norris and Paul Connolly, and I don't think anybody has done that to those two this year. It is wonderful to see and it really does get people lifted off their seats." Holloway admitted that he would love to secure Sinclair on an extended loan deal next season, but that decision will be down to Chelsea and the player. Holloway said: "I am going to ask them about next year. If they say they want to keep him and put him in their first team, then great. If they don't, then I might have a chance. I will have to wait and see. Hopefully, if we can announce that we can get him next year, it will sell a few more season tickets because he is that exciting. I would probably buy one myself. I would imagine there are an awful lot of people who now know who he is and they will be asking for him. Hopefully, he is a very loyal boy and he likes people who like him. He has enjoyed himself down here and that is all we can do. We have offered ourselves to him and it is in the lap of the Gods - he belongs to Chelsea. I would like to talk to them about it because they are the people that control his destiny. They asked him whether he wanted to stay because they have got a tournament in America they wanted him to go to. He said to them 'please let me stay with Argyle because I am really enjoying it'. I can't ask any more than that." Despite his obvious excitement, Holloway was keen to keep Sinclair's progress in perspective. "Let's not get carried away," he said. "He is a young fella with the ability to do that, which is brilliant to see. Everybody likes those sort of players. I don't want Chelsea reading things in the paper that are too much. I have to deal with things professionally. Our chief scout Gary Penrice knows Brendan Rogers, who runs the Chelsea youth set-up and Gary set the whole thing up. Gary and I spent hours and hours at Scott's home a few years ago trying to persuade him to come to QPR. He had the choice of a lot of clubs. I was a bit concerned when he went to Chelsea because he is such a lovely lad, but he has come on leaps and bounds. What he needs now is get 100 games under his belt as quickly as possible and that is what we can offer him. I asked Brendan if he could join us on this little trip to Spain on Monday. I have to ask Chelsea and Scott's Mum permission because I am fully respectful that they have given him to us. Chelsea have already said that they might let me have two next year. They have invited me to go up there and have a look. They are delighted, and Jose Mourinho in particular, with what he has seen Scott do."
Argyle beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Home Park, the goal scored by Scott Sinclair after 48 minutes. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Seip, Sawyer, Gosling, Norris, Nalis, Sinclair, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs - Fallon, Hodges (not used - Summerfield, Djordjic, Gallen). Attendance - 11,239.
Bojan Djordjic is confident that Argyle can quickly banish the misery of the loss to Barnsley with a victory over Crystal Palace this afternoon. "We have to still think about the play-offs," he said. "That is the goal we have set. If you look at the results on Tuesday, only one team in the top ten won, the rest of them all lost. Against Barnsley that was a chance for us to put in a performance and take the three points. We have to pick ourselves up now. In football you are only as good as your last game, so now we have to focus on Crystal Palace on Saturday. A lot of people have gone home unhappy after the Barnsley game, we are disappointed as well, but I know the performance will be better on Saturday. Like anything, when you do something bad, you want to put it right. The thing is as well, this league is a very tough league. There is not much difference between the teams. We have beaten some teams at the top, but we've also lost against some of the teams at the bottom. It is a very tight league, it's a hard league, but we have to make sure that from the remaining games we take as many points as we can and finish as high as we can." Having not featured in the FA Cup quarter-final, Djordjic admitted it was good to get back out on the pitch on Wednesday. "The atmosphere last week was unbelievable," he said. "It was a big blow not to be part of all that, as that was probably the best atmosphere since I have been here - Home Park was rocking. It was great to see so many people. People still talk about the Cup run in 1984, and we're just hoping that don't have to wait another 23 years. This is only the beginning of something, next season it is going to be a big improvement again in what we do because we believe in ourselves a lot more."
Hungary manager Peter Varhidi had words of comfort for Akos Buzsaky, after the midfielder was unable to join four of his compatriots on the pitch on Wednesday night. Varhidi spoke to Buzsaky following the game against Barnsley, and the player said: "All of us are in his thoughts. He has been watching from Hungary every Hungarian that plays in Europe, and he has been making visits like this one to Plymouth. Not many Hungarians play in Europe, and Mr Varhidi's ideal world is players that are very aggressive, very strong, like we have to be to play in the Championship in England. Hungarians players are usually talented, but the standard at home is not very good. To play in the Championship, you have to be very good." Varhidi enjoyed his visit to Home Park. With the help of Buzsaky's translation skills, he told the media: "It was a very aggressive game with a good tempo, and the Hungarians have settled well in their teams." Varhidi is also the coach of Hungary's Under-19 side, and has been alerted to the presence of another of his compatriots at Home Park. Mark Petnehazi is in the second year of his apprenticeship, and Buzsaky added: "Mr Varhidi has the first team and he also has the Under-19 side. Mark may well get a call-up."
Tony Capaldi has withdrawn from the Northern Ireland squad for the Euro 2008 qualifying matches against Liechtenstein and Sweden due to his groin injury. Capaldi has been advised by the Argyle medical staff to rest the injury for three weeks
Argyle will submit a planning application for the Phase II redevelopment of Home Park within months. At the club's annual general meeting Paul Stapleton said: "I reported at last year's AGM on March 17, 2006, that solicitors were working on concluding the completion of the freehold purchase as a matter of urgency. Unfortunately, this matter of urgency took more than 10 months to conclude, finally completing the purchase on January 26, 2007. It is true to say that the 'swing' in our funding of the original £3m promised from the council added to the cost of the freehold of £2.8m has not helped: nor, indeed, has the considerable delay in completing the freehold deal. Since the purchase, which was only six weeks ago, Phill Gill and I have had a number of meetings with the Council concerning the Life Centre project and the possible impact on our Phase II project. We have agreed to work together to enable master planning work and site establishment works to be jointly commissioned. This is in order that both schemes are delivered in a co-ordinated way that minimises disruption and impact on Central Park. We have conducted all necessary market research and a large number of feasibility studies, the results of which are all positive. We have also established strong working relationships with key partners. There are still some issues to be resolved which we are working on, but we are confident that a planning application will be submitted in the coming months. We have applied to the Football Licensing Authority for an extension to use our terracing should this be necessary. Their response has been promised for next month. I wish I could say more but, as already said, there are still matters to resolve. I can promise you, the shareholders, that you will be the first to know, as you shall be invited to the launch of the scheme."
Dan Gosling has revealed how he played on the same team as Ashley Cole while he was training with Chelsea last week. "It was probably one of the best weeks I have had in a long time," said Gosling. "Everything about it was spot on. The facilities were different class - no disrespect to Plymouth - but you would expect that there. It was great seeing all the players coming in for training. It was a quality week and I really enjoyed it. They have 35 training pitches, and all of them are grass. It was just unbelievable walking out and looking at it. Ashley Cole and John Obi Mikel trained with us a couple of times, and that was a great privilege. I couldn't really believe I was passing the ball around to them. Ashley Cole was nice to me and very encouraging. I really enjoyed it up there, to be honest." Gosling's preferred position is in central midfield but, so far, he has not had a chance to fill that role for Argyle. He said: "I'm struggling to get into my own position in the first team at the minute. But it's only right that Nalis and Norris should be there. I have only just started playing right midfield. I wasn't really too sure how to play there at first, but I have trained there now and the gaffer has helped me positioning wise. You just pick it up as you go along." Gosling will meet up with the England under-17 squad after the game against Crystal Palace tomorrow. He said: "If someone had said to me at the start of the season that I would get an England call-up and play 10 games for Argyle I wouldn't have believed them. I'm really happy and my Mum is proud. I just can't wait to get out to Bosnia. I will meet up with the rest of the squad at a hotel near Heathrow on Saturday night and I think we fly out on the 22nd. The rest of the players are from big clubs but I don't know that much about them." Ian Holloway did not tell Gosling that the England selectors would be watching him against Sheffield Wednesday. Gosling said: "The gaffer knew he was going to be there but he didn't want me focussing on that rather than on what I had to do. I did alright and scored as well, so I think I made a good impression on him and he chose me in the squad. I'm very happy." Even Gosling has been surprised by the rapid progress he has made this season. He added: "It couldn't have gone any better really. Everything has just happened so quickly. I have had to grow up a bit and be more mature on the pitch and I think I have held my own." Gosling was one of two apprentices taken by Holloway on Argyle's pre-season tour to Austria last July. "That was within the first few weeks of actually coming to the club full-time," he said. "I got told I was on stand-by for the tour with four others and I was over the moon to go there. I was a bit nervous meeting up with the first team straight away but all the lads were good and helped me through it. It was a great experience, especially playing against Real Madrid." Gosling believes his best performance for Argyle, so far, came in the draw at Wolves on February 3rd. "I have done pretty well in the games I have played, but Wolves stands out the most," he said. "And I was delighted to get my first goal against Colchester. That was a very good moment for me. I was delighted with that." Gosling started against Watford last Sunday, although he was substituted at half-time for Barry Hayles. "It was disappointing because I don't think we deserved to lose, but that's football," he said. Gosling also admitted the step up to first team football had been made easier by the support of his team-mates. "They are spot on lads to get on with," he said. "They help you through training and encourage you in everything you do. I feel part of it now because I have played some games."
Lilian Nalis insisted Argyle had 'let a lot of people down' after the defeat to Barnsley. "That was simply not good enough," he said. "You cannot expect to win games the way we played and we all need to go away and look at ourselves in the mirror and make sure we are ready for Saturday. I thought after the performance we showed on Sunday we were going to carry on what we were doing. Wednesday, though, was the complete opposite, it was rubbish. We are very disappointed. Things did not happen because we were not doing things right, we were not the team we were supposed to be. What we have to do is make sure we do the basics right, do what is right for yourself, and do what is right for the team. Hopefully we can come back with a win on Saturday."
Ian Holloway has not ruled out shipping players out on loan before next Thursday's deadline. "You can only do loans until next Thursday," he said. "I have got a fair few players if somebody wants to come in, although we have got four games in a week and I want to win them all. If they are young ones and they are not playing, then great. I want to try to keep this together and move forward. What I don't want to do is lose games through a lack of strength in depth."
The Argyle squad will be jetting off for a three-day break in Spain on Monday. Despite losing their last two games, Ian Holloway feels his team fully deserve a rest after such a long, hard season. "They will be going away for a three-day break next Monday, which they have worked for," he said. "We have rewarded them. I won't be going because I will be too busy. They will probably be alright for not seeing me for a couple of days. If I am not happy, then I am not a nice person to be around. Sometimes I can be quite intense if I don't get what I want."
Ian Holloway is looking for the right response from his players after a miserable week at Home Park, and is urging his team to put things right against Crystal Palace. He said: "We need to pick ourselves up after a horrendous week. I wish it was a bad dream and we could have the week all over again. We have lost two very important games and I am not very happy. The first game we had loads of chances and everybody patted us on the back. We started the second one very well and then let two goals in, got ourselves level by half time and then they score one of the best goals I have seen in a long, long time. The bit I was annoyed about was that we became unrecognizable. We had a bit of a panic trying to get back into the game, which has never been us. If you look at our games this season, we have been methodical and dug ourselves out. You should never panic. That is life and we have got to bounce back. I have had words but it is about us and what we want to do. It is all about me marrying up my ambitions with those of the players. I have told the board I think we can get to the play offs with this squad and I will be disappointed if we are not anywhere near it. That would mean we are not strong enough and I will have to change things around. It is in their interests to keep going because I don't ever stop." Despite his disappointment at the Barnsley loss, Holloway is now determined to focus on beating Palace. He said: "The Barnsley result is irrelevant. I am looking at the team I need to beat Crystal Palace. You can't always dominate possession and dominate territory without getting the right results from it. Unfortunately, that is happening too much at the moment. I think I have picked the right team and they have been training together. I will decide what the substitutes will be and they are likely to be very different. If some people don't like it, then that is tough. I am here to try and win as many matches as I can. I will rest three or four. I have got the luxury of having a fit squad, which we have worked very hard to put together. I am going to utilize that because this is the third game of a very stressful week and a very emotional week. Some of the players will lose their place through either fatigue but also because they did not do things right against Barnsley. Some of them are keeping their place because I have not got enough pressure on them, which I need to address." Palace come into the game full of confidence after a win at West Brom on Wednesday. "To beat West Brom at West Brom is a fantastic result," said Holloway. They have got some fantastic players and, to be honest, they should be higher up in the table and they have underachieved. We have just lost four points to Sheffield Wednesday out of six and four points to Barnsley out of six, so we have got to get six out of six against a team as good as Palace. We have not been out of the top half all season and then we have just dropped out of it at the wrong time. I don't want to see us on the second page of ceefax."
Ashley Barnes is set to join Argyle from Paulton Rovers, and Ian Holloway said: "He is set to sign for 18 months I think. He is a decent kid. He has passed every test that I have set him and he has scored some goals. It is all about his future and whether we can make him what he wants to be. Good luck to him - he is a goalscorer."
Ian Holloway was absolutely livid after Argyle’s defeat to Barnsley last night. "We got beat by a better team," he said. "We had a 20 minute spell where we thought we were David Beckham playing for Real Madrid and then we scored a goal. After that we were unrecognisable. Barnsley showed more desire. They were more focused and caused us more problems than anyone else. We sent too many bodies forward and left Lil in a situation where he had too many people all around him in the midfield. They played 4-5-1 and my boys just seemed to want to run forward. We have not done that all season. They scored four and it could have been five or six. Absolute rubbish. I am embarrassed, absolutely embarrassed by the last 15 minutes. We lumped the ball forward and nearly every Green shirt has run past it. We lose the header and nearly every yellow shirt is streaming forward. Where is our structure? You have to think clearly under pressure and that is the worst I have seen. They have not let me down all season and I am glad they have not because, if that is the standard, we are miles behind Barnsley. We were second best all night; with their striking of the ball and their finishing." Holloway was in no doubt to the source of the poor performance. He said: "I have got to be honest. It looked like a group of people who have been told they are very good and were very unlucky against Watford. A group of people who thought they had done something. I tried to say it after the game on the weekend 'wait a minute, we have lost'. We did not do a set-piece right. Watford have scored a goal and we could not score, so how good were we? I am not relieved people saw us play quite well. I am devastated we lost. Don't tell us we did well. If your proud of your team and we were on the telly, well, lovely jubbly. I want that every week. We should be refocused and we should be hurt but, if they give me that, I don't want to see them and I am glad I am going to Newbury with my daughter tomorrow. I don't want to see them tomorrow - that is not right. We have got to think about the structure, we have got to refocus and we have got to put our feet on the ground because in our last four league matches, we have got three points out of 12. That is relegation form and, by the way, we lost the FA Cup match. Were we unlucky? We were not unlucky. They put it in our net and we did not put it in theirs. Well done to Barnsley - everything they hit went in the top corner. They must be practicing shooting. They were professional in everything they did, although I wish Peter Rajczi stood up a bit more. I don't like that. The diving number 13. You stand up in England mate." The night was made even worse when Tim Breacker was sent off after trying to retrieve the ball from the Barnsley dug-out. Holloway said: "He went to get a ball. He ran out of his little technical area and got sent off. I can't understand it. You are not allowed to use the multi-ball system because people moan about it. We are down and he has run to get the ball and been sent off. I strongly think they should keep an eye on what is happening in the middle of the pitch. It should not be a little white line you have to stay in. It is getting the decisions right and the fourth officials should be helping the bloke in the middle. My bloke cares about it and runs to get the ball. I am not blaming the referee. He did not cost us the game - my team did." Holloway was also disappointed with Luke McCormick for conceding the corner that led to Barnsley’s first goal. He said: "We have let in one for a corner where my goalie could have called for it. He could have picked it up, so they did not get a corner. The corner then comes in and the bloke gets a completely free header. We have spoilt what we have done. I swear to you when that goal went in we were still swanning around thinking we were a great team. You are not if you don't stick to the process and keep doing what you are doing, and you understand why." Barnsley's second goal was equally depressing for Holloway. He added: "Their second goal came from the fact that Kevin [Gallen] should have knocked it back in but who was there to pass it to? Nobody. They pressed us and Gallen made a mistake, and they have outrun us and scored. They had two on one at the far post. Fair play to Barnsley. Their structure was fantastic and our lot were rubbish. I tried to remind the players at half time and I saw a bit of an improvement and then their bloke has scored from goodness knows how far out. We had how many chances from a lot closer than that and we could not hit a barn door from a yard, so I am not very happy. When you get patted on the back it is sometimes as bad as a punch on the nose, particularly if you have not deserved it. It might be nice that we are creating chances and how much better we are than last year. I don't care what Tony did - he is a lot higher in the league than we are. How bad a manager is he then? I don't think so, do you? This lot have got to get real. I don't want to sit and hope that we get a cup run next year. I want to try and get there week in, week out. There is no way Liverpool can get out of playing us if we are in the Premiership, but we are not going to get there playing like that. We will be lucky to play in the Championship if we carry on with that bunch of rubbish, particularly in the last ten minutes." Paul Connolly was singled out by Holloway for criticism following Barnsley's fourth goal. Connolly was caught out of position and Barnsley broke to secure their win. Holloway said: "Paul Connolly - where has he gone? We smack a ball forward and all you could see was Green shirts. They head the ball out and Chuck had four blokes up his backside. Where were the Green shirts behind him? Why has Paul Connolly gone ahead of the ball when we might not win the header? We are only one down, so where is the structure? They deserved to score and that was madness. I am embarrassed. Absolute rubbish but well done to Barnsley. They went one down and we have also equalized but not once have they folded. We let four goals in and it could have been six. It was absolute rubbish, garbage. After the Lord Mayor does his show, what happens? He has a little ride round on his horse. A man comes round with a cart and picks up what the horse leaves. My Dad always said that after the Lord Mayor's show comes the mess. That was just about the worst I have seen from my lot. If anyone says we were unlucky because we played well in the first 25 minutes, I will kill them."
Argyle lost 4-2 to Barnsley at Home Park, the goals scored by Lilian Nalis after 15 minutes, and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (41). Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Capaldi, Sinclair, Norris, Nalis, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Gallen. Subs - Hayles, Fallon, Djordjic (not used - Sawyer, Gosling). Attendance - 10,265.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has admitted he has finally come to terms with the demands of Championship football. He said: "Coming to this league, I was a bit oblivious to how fit and how dedicated you have to be because I had come from reserve-team football. If you haven't had a taste of it, it's a bit of a shock and that was what it was like for me. That is probably why I got injured a lot, because I wasn't really up to scratch. But now I feel I'm up to scratch and it's just good to get a run of games." Like all his team-mates, Ebanks-Blake was bitterly disappointed about the outcome of the game against Watford. He added: "It was a big moment in my career and my career has only just started. For me personally there is a lot more to come, but I was gutted for the lads because we work so hard for each other every game and every training session."
Ian Holloway has heaped praise on Peter Halmosi. "I am really pleased with his professionalism and how he has not moaned," said Holloway. "He is a full international and he has come here. He is on trial and I am pleased with how he has fitted in, the improvement he has made, his fitness and how much he is enjoying being here. The word for him is how professional he is and it speaks volumes for him. He has come from another country and settled quickly. He has got his family here. I think that makes all the difference because he has got his young child and wife here. I lot of people deserve credit for doing that. Sue Vallins has worked an absolute miracle to get the new boys settled so quickly and I know they are very thankful to her. It speaks volumes for the club and how well they look after people." Holloway is also delighted with the form of Halmosi's compatriot Krisztian Timar. "We said we needed someone who could win the first header and he is consistently doing that," said Holloway. "I probably need a slightly bigger team all round if we come up against teams like Watford. I might need to ask some of the basketball lads if they can head a ball." Holloway has an option to sign both men on a permanent basis in the summer and he will be discussing matters with the board in the not too distant future. He said: "The option is still there and I have got some big decisions to make. I will be talking with the board and I would imagine, with the investments we have made this year, we are probably still in a deficit. We have added Timar, Halmosi, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Barry Hayles, Kevin Gallen, Marcel Seip, Cherno Samba, Scott Sinclair and Rory Fallon. When you add it all up, it does not matter that we have had a good FA Cup run that we have not budgeted for. The facts are that we have had to buy the ground, we had to get a gym that I wanted and we have got an awful lot more to do. We have moved forward so much and that is down to the organisation and management of the directors of this football club. There was a time a few months ago when people were making noises and rattling cages. I am looking at how solid we are and I think it is fantastic." Timar and Halmosi will have a special incentive to shine against Barnsley as Peter Varhidi, the Hungarian national team coach, will be at the match. Barnsley are also likely to have two Hungarians in their side - strikers Istvan Ferenczi and Peter Rajczi. Argyle's third Hungarian, Akos Buzsaky, has returned to training after a torn hamstring, but Holloway is unlikely to include him in his squad against Barnsley. Holloway said: "Akos doesn't think it's too soon for him to be on the bench. I'm not sure. He reminded me that the Hungarian manager will be over here and he reminded me that he's now fit. The fact of the matter is that I have got to have a look at it, and it isn't about 'Me, me, me'. It's about us. I will decide whether he has deserved and earned the right to be on the bench. But he has hardly had five seconds to show me whether he has done anything or not. Am I going to go back to however many weeks ago it was and remember what he was doing then, or not? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. His Hungarian national manager should be over here watching on a regular basis. It shouldn't be about whether Akos is fit. That bloke should know what he's like, and I will be telling him and sending him DVDs and all sorts of stuff because I'm very proud to have four of his players - there is young Mark Petnehazi who hasn't played yet - in my squad. I'm sure Akos is desperate to play tonight but I don't care who is sat in the stand. It doesn't really matter."
Ian Holloway has laid down the law to Reuben Reid after a meeting with striker. Holloway said: "I have had a chat with him and his father. They know the score and they know what I'm looking for. He has told me what he intends to do and I'm watching. And if I see what I want then I haven't got a problem. If I see what I don't want and I don't like, and it ends up just words, I will have to take other action. I have made myself totally clear and I think I have encouraged him to do what I want."
With Dan Gosling and Scott Sinclair capturing a lot of attention with their recent performances for Argyle, the contribution of Gary Sawyer may have been overlooked by some supporters, but not Ian Holloway. He said: "I have been very impressed with Gary Sawyer. Over the last couple of games I have picked him on merit for his defensive qualities. That is needed in certain games so that leaves Scott Sinclair with hardly any defensive responsibilities. He is a centre-back really, but he can play left-back now, which is what I was hoping he would do. I think he has come on and done as well, if not better, than Gosling and Sinclair. For me, Luke Summerfield will be in his element when the pitch firms up a bit, with the way he crisply passes the ball around."
Scott Sinclair chose to extend his loan spell with Argyle for a third and final month rather than play for Chelsea in a youth tournament in the United States. Ian Holloway said: "What Scott has done since he has been here has been fantastic. He has given us exactly what we needed. We needed a breakaway threat with scary pace on either side of the pitch somewhere along the line, and he has done that. I brought him in at a time when Bojan was going to be out for six weeks with his fractured cheekbone." Chelsea will be competing in the Dallas Cup, an invitation-only tournament, with clubs such as Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt and Sao Paulo. Holloway added: "Scott has chosen to stay with us. He has told Chelsea how he feels. He's loving every minute of it here. I can't thank him enough for showing that he cares that much about us. I believe we have got a very special group of people here. If you're a boy of 17 you will be welcomed, you will be looked after and you will be told what's right and wrong and made to work hard. You will learn here. Maybe that wasn't the case a couple of years ago, or a year ago, or last summer. But is now. It's all about encouragement. Then enthusiasm, then enjoyment." Argyle are thought to have had informal talks with Chelsea about the possibility of Sinclair returning to Home Park on a season-long loan next season, but Holloway would not be drawn on that topic. He said: "I can't answer that one yet. Watch this space. Unfortunately, I'm not the holder of his destiny. That privilege belongs to Chelsea. The fact of the matter is that he came somewhere where he knew the bloke rated him - probably more than himself. And he knew I might give him a chance to play. What he has done is make a slight name for himself and now he's getting new challenges. All of a sudden, people are saying 'Hang on, we need to double up on this kid'. It will be great experience for him. Could he do what he does in the Premiership at the moment? I doubt it. If someone doubled up on him he might give the ball away at the wrong time. He has got to learn to keep that ball, and he can learn at our level and make the odd mistake. But he's getting there. His body is adjusting to it and his temperament is adjusting to it. It's great to see." Chelsea have a 24-hour recall clause as part of Sinclair's loan deal, but it seems unlikely they will use it. Holloway said: "If they recall him then he will have to do what they tell him, but at the moment he's delighted to stay here."
Argyle will probably be without Barry Hayles tonight, as he suffered a dead leg against Watford on Sunday
Ian Holloway is looking for his team to erase the disappointment of Sunday's FA Cup quarter final defeat to Watford by beating Barnsley tonight. "The next goal is to try and win four or five games in a row," said Holloway. "We need to win the next five games in a row and there is no reason we can't do that. I told the players to come back to me with a target of how many points we should get from our remaining games. I have not looked at it yet but I am hoping they feel as positive as I do. I genuinely believe we are going to need a few in a row straight away. If we end up playing really well but only get one point out of nine, we are not going to do it, are we? We need to get as many of these points left as we can and my target is all 30 points. I hope they are feeling the same as me. The harder we work, the more things we nail down, the more luck we have, then who knows. We need to get on a run and start a new dream now. I am still aiming for the play-offs." The Watford defeat on Sunday was quickly followed by Holloway's birthday on the Monday. He added: "I had a glorious birthday, bursting with pride and reflection, yet still smarting from the chances we created in a 1-0 defeat. I am very excited about the sun being out, the pitch firming up and being able to walk on it. I have made my mind up what the team is. I have looked at the opposition and I have prepared. We are probably the best prepared we have ever been and the players have just got to turn up and do it again. I will have lot more of the same thank you very much but, hopefully, with a tinge more aggression in our organization. I can see us improving and, hopefully, the lads are seeing that now." The Barnsley game will be quickly followed by another home fixture for Argyle, against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Holloway is planning to pick very different teams for the two games and he is delighted by the strength of his squad. He said: "The team I pick on Saturday is likely to be very different to the one I pick tonight because of our opponents and fatigue. This is the first time I have every really had a squad. I have had a good team in the past but not strength in depth. When you have got limited resources, like we have had in the past, you sometimes fall short on your strength in depth. I don't believe that is the case anymore. Some of our young fella's coming through are proving easily good enough and causing me selection problems."
Kim Holloway helped her husband Ian overcome the disappointment of Sunday's defeat to Watford with a touch of womanly perspective. "I was bitterly disappointed and I have had time to reflect but we are still not through," said Holloway. "Everything about the game was right, apart from one set piece which the fella has struck into the net at a zillion miles per hour. The hardest thing for me to swallow was that I genuinely, totally believed that we were going to beat Watford. I was a very stunned and shocked manager after the game. It was very hard for me to not say exactly what I felt at that moment. I wish I had prepared a losing speech. My heart was so sad at that precise moment because I had seen my team run, chase, battle and fight. I had heard my crowd sing their hearts out and turn up in their droves, and they went away as disappointed as I was. It depends on how you look at things. My wife very cleverly said to me that I should look at this as just the beginning. My wife and kids have made me feel so much better. They said we were brilliant and so much better than Watford. I have only been here eight months and I can see steady improvement. I can pick different players and different teams, and they can do things equally well." Holloway concluded by wishing Watford the best of luck in the FA Cup and in their fight for Premiership survival. He said: "I hope Watford stay up there because it is genuinely inspiring. I would like to wish them all the best in the next round. The draw they have got is fantastic, either Middlesborough or Manchester United."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake admits a few Argyle players will be having sleepless nights about the chances they missed against Watford in the FA Cup quarter-final. He said: "There will be a few sleepless night for a few lads, I'm not going to lie. I think Watford's goalkeeper was the best player on the park. We had chance after chance and on another day it would have been 4-1 or 5-1 rather than 1-0. To be fair, Watford put their bodies on the line and they fought for the cause, but I thought they were very average. They didn't play a lot of football. We played them off the park, but unfortunately only after we conceded, which is never good. But football can be very cruel sometimes and you don't always get what you deserve, and that was the case on this occasion for us. But we have to focus on Wednesdays game - that's all we can do now. We can't live in the past or we'll continue to slip down the league and it will end up a terrible season. We've got to focus on continuing in the league and try and keep pushing for the play-offs. Everyone's disappointed about the result. It's natural. It's the FA Cup and everyone loves it, but we've got to get on with the next game. And while the play-offs are mathematically possible, we are going to continue to push and try and the results we need." Luke McCormick is also eager for the side to look forward rather than back. He said: "It's very disappointing when you lose a match in that manner. But you can't dwell on it as we've got a big match coming up on Wednesday night and we've got to pick ourselves up for Barnsley. It's going to be difficult, but we've got good enough character within the squad. With the lads we've got in our dressing room, that shouldn't be a problem. I think that showed when we went 1-0 down to Watford, we got straight back on with it and pushed forward. But that's behind us and our focus is on Wednesday's game, which will be a tough match. Barnsley, obviously, are fighting for their league safety and so we're going to have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down. I think it's a great chance for us to put right what we didn't do against Watford and put the ball in the back of the net. We want to try and score as many as we can."
Paulton Rovers' striker Ashley Barnes is on the verge of completing his move to Argyle. Paulton manager Andrew Jones said: "Ashley has agreed to sign for Plymouth, but they are still discussing terms. I'm delighted Plymouth have offered him a contract. It's good for Paulton and it's good for Ashley Barnes."
Scott Sinclair is extending his loan spell at Argyle by a third, and final, month. He will remain at Home Park until April 18th, after which no further loan would be possible until next season. Sinclair said: "I have enjoyed my football very much here. I have enjoyed playing first-team games although the main thing is how the team does. I am just happy to be part of things here." Sinclair played in front of a full-house on Sunday, when Argyle went out of the FA Cup on live television. He added: "It was a great game and a great atmosphere. It was fantastic to play in the quarter-final of the FA Cup - I was saying to the lads afterwards that, only three or four months ago, I was playing in the FA Youth Cup!"
Ian Holloway could not hide his bitter disappointment after Argyle were knocked out of the FA Cup. "It is the end of my dream," he said. "The dream I had last night did not go like that and, with the football I have seen out there today, it should not have gone the way it went. I am a loser. I have just lost. You can ask my Mum what I have always been like when I lose. It does not matter if it was a game of tiddlywinks or a game of draughts, whatever it was, I would throw things everywhere because I hate losing. If I ever change then I will be out of this job because you have to despise it." The winning goal came from a well worked corner by the visitors, the ball being played back to Bouazza, who thumped it into the top corner. Argyle, on the other hand, were unable to penetrate the Watford defence, despite having numerous corners and free-kicks around the Hornets' penalty area. "As the ball gets played back, you have to move along the line of it and block it," said Holloway. "They have moved the ball twice and then the third one has ended with the ball in the net. It is as simple as that. How many corners did we have? Did we do that to them? We had a lot more corners than them but they scored from their one. If you take that out of it, I would be sat here smiling from ear to ear. Unfortunately, I feel like strangling someone at the moment. I don't know who. I have spoken to the players about the process and we did the process very well apart from one set-piece, one decision from the backline." Watford's hero was goalkeeper Ben Foster, and his excellence left Holloway with a broken heart. "I have gone off that fella to be honest," said Holloway. “I don't like him at all because he has ruined my dream. He has made some great saves, which is what he is paid to do. He has cracked my heart. I am sure by Monday I will be able to weld it together or put some sellotape over it. I am no longer in the FA Cup. I cannot take Plymouth to the semi final, so I have failed." Argyle will reflect on a sluggish start when they mull over the disappointment of this defeat and Barry Hayles was left extremely frustrated. Holloway said: "My players need to start games better. I told Barry Hayles that this lot are winners, and he is very frustrated in there because that bloke is not used to losing and he hates it as much as me. He said 'why don't we ever going to start a game like we are 1-0 down'. As you could see in the second half, Barry Hayles is a handful for anybody. He should still be in the Premiership and Fulham should have never, ever, ever, ever, ever let him go. I wanted him on there because he wants to win. His aggression was a tad of what we lacked at the start." Scott Sinclair was another man to shine and he was a constant threat to the Watford defence. Unfortunately, sore calves forced his early departure. Holloway said: "Sinclair was stretching his calves. They were feeling tight because he has played lots of matches on heavy pitches. I thought Peter Halmosi and Tony Capaldi coming would get me a cross. You roll your dice in certain ways. My physio stretched his calf about six times in a minute, which normally leads to a pull or a strain. I have a duty of care to that boy and I have just told him 'any chance of limping when you come off' - I have done a lot for that boy, so he could at least limp when he came off." Holloway paid tribute to the Green Army. He said: "I am proud of them, very proud of them. They are nice people and they have made me feel very welcome. Today, I felt their team deserved to be in the hat for tomorrow's draw." Holloway admitted that his team could learn a few things from Watford in terms of professionalism and gamesmanship. He said: "There are lots of things I am going to write down that I don't think we have nailed down yet. Silly little things like time-wasting when you are in front. How long did Foster take? I am glad he got booked because that was a joke but, if that is what gamesmanship and winning matches is all about, then we have got to do more of it. At the end of the day, can the players give me more than they did today? Can they do more for this town than they did today? Yes, they can get into the play-offs. We are aspiring to be as good as Watford, if not better. Today, they beat us 1-0 on our patch. That would be three points in a league game but that was a cup game, and they have got a semi final place. Full credit to Watford's professionalism, their belief and how they did things from set-pieces because some of the things they did was awesome. They had some great monsters here, there and everywhere. We made their goalie work a lot harder than ours had to work but they were 1-0 up, so they will probably tell you it was good tactics. We threw everything at them. The kitchen sink, golf clubs, emptied the garage and threw it at them. Unfortunately, it was not enough. At least my garage is tidy."
Marcel Seip admitted to being bitterly disappointed at losing to Watford, a tie he believed Argyle could, and should, have won. Seip said: "We're all very, very disappointed, as we didn't deserve to lose. Of course, everyone is down at the moment because we knew we had such a good chance to get to the semi-finals. We controlled the whole game and had so many chances and deserved to win. But that's the difference - Watford had the chance from a set-piece and had a free shot at goal." Seip admitted the defence was at fault for not closing down Bouazza on the edge of the penalty area. "There's no blame really, but at the set-piece that was our fault, because it's just poor defending," he said. "We know who was on the edge, we know if they take a shot who has to come out, but we didn't. It's not credit to them, that goal was our fault. If they had deserved to win then I would say fair play to them. But they didn't deserve it. It's unbelievable that we lost." Seip admitted that nerves may have played a part in Argyle's slow start to the quarter-final. He said: "Yes, I think there probably were some to start with, but after the goal we went for them big time. But it's just so disappointing." However, the experience of playing in front of a capacity crowd and on prime-time television has made the defender eager for another shot at a cup run. He added: "Yes, of course, the atmosphere was fantastic. But that's why it was so disappointing, because who's to say you will get another chance?"
Barry Hayles insisted that Argyle had only themselves to blame for losing their FA Cup quarter-final clash to Watford last night. He said: "We couldn't have done a lot more, to be fair. We created a lot of good chances and their keeper has pulled off several fine saves. But I thought we definitely deserved something out of the game. They had about two shots on goal in the entire game. The lad Bouazza has hit a great strike and that's the difference between the two teams, really. We gave it our all, but our best just wasn't good enough. On another day, we could have won 4-1 or even 5-1. Once they scored, we picked the tempo up and I had a go at the lads after the game. I told them 'we should have started at that tempo and they wouldn't have lived with us'. There were decent crosses coming into the box and on another day, the boys would have got on the end of them. Unfortunately, it didn't bounce our way, really. But we just fell short." Krisztian Timar felt that Argyle did not enjoy the rub of the green in front of goal against Watford. "In my opinion, anyone who had watched the game would not have been able to tell who was the Premiership side and who was in the Championship," he said. "I thought we looked equal as Watford are not better than Plymouth. We forced a lot of corners and set-pieces and Watford were very lucky to get the win tonight. It's very disappointing for us, as we played very well." Timar added that the atmosphere at Home Park and the home support had been 'brilliant'. "The fans were brilliant - the best," he said. "Together, we are very strong."
Lilian Nalis insists that Argyle must use last night's FA Cup performance as a springboard to climb the Championship table. He said: "We have got nothing to lose now. We are in 12th spot and every game we play now we are going to try and win it. We don't have to think about drawing or losing, every game we play we need to give everything like we did tonight and if we can win four or five in a row, you never know? What is great is that we have got a lot of kids in this team, a lot of players who are 24, 25, and what they have done to arrive at this level of the competition is absolutely fantastic and they have proved that again tonight, because they were absolutely fantastic. It is a great thing for the club and that is what you have to work with, and I really think Ollie is going to do it. I think Ollie is going to continue to progress with the team and now we have got to get back to working in the League - and why not finish in the top ten and in the play-offs?" Nalis is delighted that Cup success has caused the national spotlight to shine on Plymouth. He said: "It's great that now we have got plenty of publicity because at the start of the season, when we were in the play-off position, nobody was talking about us. It was only you in the local press who were looking after the team, but that was it. Now you have got national press down here and what we have shown on TV tonight is that everyone can be proud of what they call 'a little club'. We play with our heart, we gave everything and our fans can be proud of us. It was a heart-breaker, because you are playing for a place in the semi-final, you give everything and you get opportunities to score and yet we make one mistake and it costs you a goal. I mean they have been in the Premiership for 29 games now and they have learned something from it, that's what it is all about. In the Premiership you have to be really solid and maybe if they were a Championship side they would have conceded one or two goals and maybe we would have won the game. But they defended well and put their body in there, on the line, and we tried everything and we didn't do it. You want to win a football game and so you need to score goals and when you are 1-0 down you want to score and come back to win it, so I guess we have not done everything because we have not scored a goal."
Argyle lost 4-3 to St Blazey in the South Western League on Saturday, the goals scored by Martin Watts, Damian McCrory and Sam Malsom
Luke McCormick experienced one of his quietest nights of the season, but Argyle still lost their FA Cup quarter-final. He said: "The ball just wouldn't go in for us. We seemed to do everything but put it in the back of the net. We got in some great areas, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. We dominated in terms of the amount of possession we had and the number of balls we got into their box. The fans got behind us really well. It was all or nothing really and we gave it our best shot, but it just wasn't enough." Apart from Bouazza's goal, McCormick had only one other save to make. "I've had one of the quietest nights I have had all season," he said. "They just punished us with that one moment of quality. It took us a little bit longer than we would have liked to get into the game. That is one of our main frustrations. Once they scored they did go a little bit more negative, which obviously opened it up for us to go and attack a bit more, but we would still have liked to have started a little bit more positively." McCormick was particularly disappointed with the manner of the goal, which he had no chance of keeping out of the net, such was the power of the strike. "We are disappointed because we work very hard on our set-pieces defensively, and to concede one like that is a bit hard to take," he said. "As far as the shot went, I didn't see it until it was through all the bodies, and by that time it was already in." Argyle do not have long to dwell on the defeat as they are back in action on Wednesday against Barnsley. "We can't dwell on the result. We have got a big game coming up on Wednesday, and we have got to pick ourselves up for the Barnsley match," said McCormick. "We have got a good enough character within the squad to do that. I think that showed when we went 1-0 down and pushed forward. With the lads we have got in our dressing room, that shouldn't be a problem."
Paul Connolly was full of praise for Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster, after last nights game. Connolly said: "Their best player was their goalkeeper. He was top quality and I can definitely see him being called back to Manchester United next season. He will probably end up being their number one in the future. He is still young and in the future he will also end up being England's number one. He is top drawer, you could see that tonight." Connolly admitted the players were struggling to come to terms with the fact they had failed to at least earn a draw from the match, after creating a hatful of chances. "I can't believe it. I think we have totally dominated the game, especially after they scored," he said. "At the start it was a very quiet game and it looked like it had 0-0 written all over it. But once they scored we absolutely battered them. I don't think they hardly came out of their half, and I think they had only one shot, whereas we had about 10 to 15 shots, with a few on target." Watford's goal came after the Hornets had enjoyed much the better of the opening exchanges, a point conceded by Connolly. He added: "In the first 15 minutes they were sort of on top, but they weren't really creating chances. They were just turning us by putting the ball in behind us, but our gaffer warned us before the game that they would do that, because that is their game plan, even in the Premiership. They came down here to try and bully us, but as soon as they scored we totally matched them and even outplayed them for large parts of the game, and the lads are absolutely devastated. It was a great strike but it was one of those which he probably does in training and puts about 15 of them over the bar, and he does one tonight and spanks it into the roof of the net. It has gone through loads of bodies and our goalkeeper, Luke McCormick, hasn't seen a thing and it has flown in, but it was an absolute one-off. It was the only real chance they had and it was from a set piece. To be honest, I think a couple of us switched off for the set-piece and it was a bit bad from our part." Argyle carried on the second half where they had left off in the first, creating numerous chances but without finding the back of the net. Connolly said: "The gaffer told us at half-time to keep it going and keep believing and that he was sure it would turn for us and that the ball would drop in the box, but, to be fair to them, the times the ball did drop in the box for us, their defenders threw their bodies in the way. You could tell they really, really wanted to progress in the Cup, and their two centre-halves were magnificent in terms of blocking our shots." Connolly was eager to thank the Argyle fans, who really got behind the team. "The fans were absolutely different class," he said. "Even half an hour before kick-off they were unbelievable and I have never seen anything like it down here. We are full of pride in our performance and I would like to wish Watford all the best in the next round. The FA Cup dream is over for us now. We must move on with the League and try and finish in a very respectable position in the table and as high up as we possibly can."
Argyle lost 1-0 to Watford in the FA Cup sixth round at Home Park. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Seip, Timar, Sawyer, Gosling, Norris, Nalis, Sinclair, Ebanks-Blake, Gallen. Subs - Hayles, Capaldi, Halmosi (not used - Hodges, Summerfield). Attendance - 20,652.
Marcel Seip has displayed his calm temperament on numerous occasions since joining Argyle last September, and has pledged to approach the FA Cup Quarter Final against Watford in the same way as he would any other game. "I never get nervous to be honest," he said. "I see it as just another game. It is an important game but you don't have to be nervous because you will not play very well." Despite this, Seip is well aware of the prestige of the FA Cup, although he has never been an avid watcher of football. "There is no FA Cup in Holland but we do have a Cup competition," he said. "It is not as big as the FA Cup. The FA Cup is one of the biggest and best competitions in the world. I never used to watch that much football to be honest. I do now but when I was in Holland, I did not stay in to watch football. I know that 1984 is the last time we have got this far and this is a big opportunity to get to the Semi Finals. It is a massive game for us." Seip is also well aware of the financial benefits of Argyle's Cup run. He said: "It is good for the club to get lots of money for this. We can do things like buy more players or maybe do stuff with the ground. That is why it is important to win the game. I don't know how much we will get but it is always good. Everybody knows we are the smallest team left in, so people want to know about Argyle. It is good for the club and the players. We are getting more attention and we can prove ourselves on Sunday. We can test ourselves against a Premiership club, which is good for everyone. You don't want to play against lower teams. You want to play against the big teams and test yourself against the best teams. It is better for you and you want to play in front of as many people as possible. You can show what level you are to all of these people. Everyone is living for it. When you go to the City centre, everybody is talking about the FA Cup. I don't like making predictions. We just have to win and I don't care if it is 5-4 or 1-0. It is still a win."
Ian Holloway is 'very optimistic' as Argyle prepare for their FA Cup quarter-final against Watford. He said: "I'm very optimistic - I always am. I know what we are up against and we will need to be absolutely pedal to the metal. If we can be that, then we are no mean opponent ourselves. I just hope it won't be a refereeing decision that spoils it, it will be the best team on the day that wins it. I'm hoping with all my heart and soul that it's us, but I know only too well we are going to have to earn it." Watford may be 19th in the Premiership and facing relegation, but Holloway is not under-estimating them. "I believe they are, potentially, the most dangerous opponent left in the competition because of the way they are," he said. "They never, ever give up. They press and squeeze the ball all over the pitch. They turn you, they keep looking for a weakness and they never, ever stop. There is no danger whatsoever of them turning up here and not fancying it." Argyle qualified for the quarter-finals by beating Derby County in the fifth round, and Holloway added: "Did Derby actually come here and have a full eye on the FA Cup, or where they thinking about the league? I have to say in their defence, the way they are still going, they probably had half an eye on the league, but that isn't going to happen with Watford. Their manager is far too much of a professional to not take every single game on its merit. People have repeatedly used the phrase 'it's a winnable tie'. Well, don't you think Watford think exactly the same as us? It's finely balanced and you have got some previous history in it where they beat us in the semi-final in 1984, so it's great for everybody. I just want the game here now. Let's see if my lads can actually go out there, not get caught up in the situation and leave all the people inside the ground very, very proud of them in the end." Holloway admitted he was 'delighted' the draw had paired Argyle with Watford at Home Park, and not Vicarage Road. "There is a huge prize on the end of it," he said. "If you stop to think for one minute, you could get to the semi-final of the FA Cup and that's what we dream about when we start to play. I have had dreams where I have held aloft the FA Cup at Wembley. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do it as a player. I'm sure anybody who has ever played for a pub team would have the same dream. That's the beautiful thing about football. The furthest I ever got was the quarter-finals, and it broke my heart when we lost away to Manchester United. I'm glad we got Watford at home. I wouldn't have wanted to be going to Vicarage Road. I think we need the extra advantage of our crowd, and the carnival atmosphere they are going to create. But we aren't here for a day out. We are here to do a job and I'm determined to do that job, as Aidy will be. Hopefully, we can have a right clash up and may the best man win. I believe in my boys, so let's see. We are professional people and you have got to try to get out of the emotion of the situation and deal with it. Sometimes people can freeze, but I don't believe for one minute my boys are anything like that. You don't end up champions twice, being bottlers. It doesn't work that way. This is a little bit different but I can assure you all we will be trying to do is to go through the process to get the right score at the end of it. That's all that matters, and we will prepare for them as well as we can."
Barry Hayles admits he is desperate to play against Watford. He said: "Without a doubt I want to be in the team - I'm desperate to play. I'll be out there even if they have to wheel me out. I did a bit of light training on Thursday, which went OK, and we'll assess the injury situation closer to the game. But I am anticipating playing, to be honest - it's going to be a massive occasion and I want to be part of it. We're a pretty young side overall, I think the average age is about 23, so it's good to have experienced players like myself, Lil and Hodgie around." Hayles warned his team-mates against letting the occasion getting to them. "We must take Watford as another game and treat them with respect like we have all teams this season," he said. "If we can keep our focus on that, then we have a chance of winning the game. We've got to remember Watford are in the Premiership and are going to be used to playing at a high level. They will be dangerous in and around the box; they've got a number of players who read situations well in that area. We've just got to try and win our first headers and stand up to all that. Really, we have to go out and play like we did against Derby in the previous round. It's not that they played badly, we were just better than them. We outplayed them and we'll need to be up to that standard again tomorrow." Hayles' views were echoed by Lilian Nalis, who said: "I'm just looking forward to playing in a football game and hearing all the home crowd cheering loudly. We will need to stand courageous, though. I don't see why we should be nervous, but in order to defeat Watford we will have to be at our best. We'll need to reach the standard that we managed against Derby and Colchester."
Argyle's FA Cup showdown against Watford will be screened live on TV in Hungary. For Krisztian Timar and Peter Halmosi it means their family and friends at home will be able to watch them in action for Argyle for the first time. Timar said: "Usually, the Hungarian sport television only shows the FA Cup final. But yesterday I heard they will be showing Plymouth versus Watford. Everybody is looking forward to the game because, maybe, three Hungarians will be playing. It's a very big thing and everybody can watch how we do. I know the FA Cup has a very big tradition in England. I'm looking forward to the game. A lot of supporters are coming to watch and it's going to be a full house so it will be a good occasion. I don't know too much about Watford, but they have got Tamas Priskin, who is a young Hungarian striker. I have watched the Premiership on the TV a few times. I think Ollie will give me more information." Timar has made six appearances for Argyle since his loan move from Ferencvaros in January. He said: "I have enjoyed my time with Plymouth. Everything is very good, and we are still in the FA Cup. My fiancee is also very happy. Plymouth is a nice town, and the weather is much better now. I hope the pitch will be a little bit better on Sunday because it has been very heavy."
David Norris is looking forward to kick-off time tomorrow afternoon. He said: "I'm sure I'm the same as everyone else. I really can't wait for the game now. When I have been in town you get a lot of 'Good luck on Sunday' and 'We will be there supporting you' from people. The couple of times that games have sold-out while I have played at the club has been a real boost for the lads. Our fans are usually really good at home, and with a full house on Sunday the atmosphere should be brilliant." Norris was rested for the draw against Stoke City last Saturday to avoid a potential booking which would have meant he was suspended for the quarter-final, and he had mixed feelings about that. "Looking back now, it probably was for the best," he said. "But, at the time, I was a little disappointed because I don't like to miss games, especially if I'm fit. I understood what the gaffer was saying to me. Once he explained his decision I didn't really kick up too much of a fuss. I could see where he was coming from. And should I have got booked and had to miss the quarter-final I would have been gutted with myself. I think it was the right decision in the end." The 6pm Sunday kick-off is because of the requirements of the BBC, who will be showing the tie live, and Norris said: "It's not quite a night game as we are used to - that's a couple of hours later - but it's not an afternoon game either. We will have to adjust ourselves to that, so it will be an unusual preparation." Norris played for Argyle in their two draw's against Watford in the Championship last season, and he added: "I don't think their squad has changed that much since then so we will know a bit about them. Obviously, they are in the Premiership so they are a good team. There has been a lot about this being a good chance for us to go through, but it's still going to be a really tough game with the players they have got. I'm sure the manager has done his homework on them anyway, so we will be well prepared." Norris knows there is a lot at stake, with a place in the semi-finals awaiting the winners. He said: "You try to take it one game at a time, but anyone who says they aren't thinking about what could possibly be is a liar. I'm sure it has gone through every player's head that if we win this we are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. It's that close, and it's just how we perform in this one game. It all started against Peterborough, and we only got through after a tough game at Home Park. It has been a really enjoyable cup run. This is a game we can win, especially with it being at home. We know it's going to be difficult but they aren't going to fancy coming down here either, so we will be confident."
23 years on, Paul Stapleton admits the torment of losing to Watford in the semi-finals of the FA Cup refuses to go away. "We all remember the disappointment of '84, losing to Watford and George Reilly scoring that winning goal," he said. "I still see it now, John Barnes went down the left, he whipped the ball across and Reilly just got in front of Lindsay Smith to head it past Crudgie. At the time, you felt we gave it our best shot and we didn't quite make it. You felt you couldn't be too disappointed because we had such a great run. The whole day was just fantastic, albeit without the end result. I only saw the other day the shot by Kevin Hodges right at the end of the game, I thought it was much closer than that, and perhaps Tommy could have poked it in. So when we got drawn against Watford this time round, I have to admit I was quite excited about it. It's taken all this time to get here, so why not a bit of revenge? That day, I know, hurt us more than them losing to Everton in the final. At least they went to Wembley, we didn't. When we talked to Ollie about the Cup earlier in the season he told us his record was worse than ours. I told him we don't normally make it past the first game and he replied: 'Neither do I'. However, here we are a few months down the line, a few games later, and we're in the last eight of the FA Cup, it's just terrific." Stapleton, though, admits that his club's progression is something he is keen to savour, especially after he reserved mixed feelings early on in the campaign. "I'll be honest, I was a little bit worried about what this week and Sunday would be like," he added. "I spoke to my wife, Kim, who said to me: 'Just go out and enjoy it', which is right, really. We didn't expect to be here, yet we are. We have had all sorts of things thrown at us along the way, yet suddenly we are in the quarter-finals and battling for a place in the last four of the Cup." Watford are second from bottom in the top flight, but Stapleton is not predicting an easy ride tomorrrow. "Whilst some may think it is a winnable tie, I don't think anyone is under any illusions that Watford are going to be easy to overcome," he said. "They were a very strong team last year, they are organised, well run both on and off the field, and, as we found to our cost, they are a side that don't give up easily. People need to realise that Sunday is going to be tougher than the Derby game. I know Derby were top of our league at the time, but Watford are a team that actually got promotion last year. They did it the hard way and they've now learnt how to play against the Manchester Uniteds and the Chelseas of this world. They will have learnt something from playing against those top-quality sides each week." Stapleton though, was quick to stress that there is now an abundance of talent within the Argyle ranks as well. "What has helped pilot this run is the fact that in January Ollie came to us as a board and asked us to increase the budget. He wanted to bring in some more players. At that time we had injuries to the likes of Wotton, Doumbe, Chadwick, Ebanks-Blake and Djordjic, Hayles was suspended, so he asked us the question. "He said he felt that if we pushed the boat out a little we could keep in contention in the league and perhaps do something in the Cup. We had a chat, then suddenly we had five new players at the club, all of whom have really helped lift the place. They've all added something. As have people like Marcel Seip and, more recently, Dan Gosling. The strength we have now was shown by the fact that we had almost two different sides for our last two League games. Adrian Boothroyd was sat behind me at Sheffield the other night making notes, but I don't think he'd be able to work out just who will start for us on Sunday. That's the options we have in place now." As well as those on the field, Stapleton believes the Green Army also have their part to play. He said: "The supporters have the biggest part to play. They can turn a defeat into a draw, or a draw into a victory. The support we had against Derby was fantastic, but let's make it even better this time. Let's make it a place they are going to feel intimidated in. I know they have been to the top clubs this season, but let's shows them Plymouth Argyle are a force to be reckoned with."
Paul Connolly doesn't know whether to laugh or cry ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final with Watford tomorrow. He finds it hard to believe that Argyle have made it further in this year's Cup than either the Everton or Liverpool. But he can't wait to start the biggest match of his career so far. He said: "It's definitely on a par with the QPR game, if not bigger than that one. I think it's a really massive game and one that I'm looking forward to, I really can't wait. The FA Cup is in my blood, especially with Everton winning a couple of times and obviously Liverpool as well. There's a lot of nostalgia surrounding the city of Liverpool and the FA Cup. But out of the three teams - Plymouth, Everton and Liverpool - we're still in it while those two are out of it, so it's unbelievable, really." Connolly's friends and family have clamoured to support him, but a planned coach trip from Merseyside has been scuppered by a shortage of tickets for those travelling down. "My mum booked the coach and everything," he said, "35 people were coming down, 33 from the family and the coach drivers were fighting over who wanted to come down and do it. But because there was a massive demand for tickets, I couldn't get my hands on the 35, so I've had to disappoint a lot of family members. I think four or five are coming now and that's it." Connolly revealed that Argyle are not content with just reaching the quarter-finals and added: "I'd rather be at home, especially to a team like Watford, who, no disrespect, have come from the Championship last season. If you look at their squad and you look at our's, it's not far off a Championship game - I think this one's a real cracker at home for us. I'm not really the kind of lad, and I think our squad is not really that fearful, we just go and play. It could be Watford or Real Madrid, you just have to go and play them. It's a game of football, it's a game that you've loved playing since you can ever remember. There's not one of us who are fearful, we're just going in to to give it our best shot - hopefully it will be enough." Connolly has even allowed himself to dream of Wembley. He said: "It's two games away. If you win this and get another half-decent draw, there's still a couple of beatable teams left if we win this and you think it is just two 90 minutes and you're there - walking up Wembley way for the first time to open it. It's memories that will stick with you for the rest of your life. If I get too hyped up about it, I think I would be suicidal if our result doesn't come off, so it's best just to relax about it and don't even think about it, really, although it is hard not to." One element that does displease Connolly, however, is the unusual kick-off time. He said: "It's a six o'clock kick-off, so I'll be there in the house on my own because my family are coming down straight to the game. I'll be at home festering all day until I come in. I'll just have to stick the horse racing on or something just to take my mind off it! But once it gets close to six you start getting yourself up for it." Connolly points to the atmosphere at Home Park against Derby in the last round as a perfect example that the magic of the FA Cup is still going strong. "We park in the ground here and just walking from the car to the changing room, and you could sense everyone going 'come on boys, let's do it'," he said. "Usually when you go out and warm up there are a hand-picked few who clap you on, but we warmed up and you see the FA Cup fever and I thought: 'Maybe this could be our day'. It's just been building but we haven't even played a top-flight Premiership team yet. Just the Derby game was massive. Hopefully all the boys can feel the atmosphere from the ground - it just gets you up for it so much. You really want to do it for the fans." Some of those fans will still have memories of Argyle's Cup semi-final defeat to Watford in 1984, and Connolly has promised to do all he can to lay the old ghost to rest. He said: "There will be a lot of fans, especially in the Mayflower terrace stand, all the older ones, who probably went to Villa Park, so it would be nice to get some revenge for them as well. At the end of the day, I don't think we're really concentrating too much on revenge. We're trying to win the game and get to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, which is undoubtedly the biggest cup competition in the world."
Luke McCormick hopes that his recent bad luck with refereeing decisions will turn around tomorrow against Watford. He said: "We fancy ourselves against most teams at home. Hopefully we can use all the elements to our advantage and go through. I think decisions will balance themselves out for the course of the season, and hopefully we'll have a little bit of luck on Sunday. They say things come in threes but hopefully that won't be the case. You can only keep your fingers crossed. It's been a funny couple of weeks, to be honest, with the incidents that have happened - it's just one of those things." McCormick says that Argyle are ready to challenge Watford. "I don't think it can come quick enough for us now," he added. "We've got the Sheffield Wednesday game over and done with and I just wish the game was tonight. I think a lot of the lads feel like that. We've got time to get our heads right for it and I think everyone's looking forward to it." McCormick thinks that the FA Cup hype only really started after their win over Derby in the last round. "I think we've come through the rounds quite quietly, in a sense," he said. "Peterborough and Barnet gave us three good games, if you count the two with Peterborough, and then there was the Derby game. It started against Derby, really, and we've had to come through some tough games before we've actually got there. We've got a massive opportunity to get to the semi-finals. Without any disrespect to Watford, I think it's a good draw for us, particularly being at home." McCormick was less than a year old when Argyle met Watford in '84, but he says he has heard enough stories over the last few weeks to want revenge. He said: "It's something that's been much talked about over the last few weeks, with the history between ourselves and Watford. It would be nice one to put right for the fans from all those years ago."Although nobody dares predict too much, if Argyle were to get to the next stage, they know that anything could happen. "That's what the FA Cup is all about," said McCormick, "but we're trying not to think that far ahead for the minute. We know we've got a really tough game coming up on Sunday and we'll wait and see what happens after that."
Marcel Seip and Krisztian Timar were pretty much unknown to Argyle fans at the start of the season, but now form a formidable back-line partnership for the club. For both, success in the FA Cup is earning more recognition for them in their homelands. "I have always enjoyed watching English football, and the FA Cup final is always on the television in Hungary," said Timar. "I heard today that Sunday's game can be seen in Hungary as well. There is special interest there because we will play. There are stories about us and Plymouth in the Hungarian newspapers as well. Everyone there is looking forward to the game. I hope we win!" Seip said: "In Holland the FA Cup final is also on television every year, and our game on Sunday will be seen there as well. They can watch the BBC in Holland. When I moved here first, I had a couple of interviews with Dutch football magazines and now they are calling me again because of the FA Cup. It's good that they still keep in contact." Timar has relished the chance to build a defensive partnership with Seip. "We are a good team," he said. "We talk all the time and we work well together. We are getting better as we know each other." Seip shares that opinion. "It's good now," he said. "In the beginning it is always difficult when you have a new partner, because you have to work out each other's strengths, but I think now we have played together a few times, I know his qualities and he knows mine. We talk a lot more now and I think we have a very good partnership now." Argyle's players have been quick to notice just how good Timar and Seip are. Lee Hodges said: "They've come in and done a fantastic job, as have the whole back four. It shows that what we're doing is right, because we went through a stage where we were conceding too many goals. We've tightened up at the back, and we're always capable of scoring goals, so we think we've got every chance of winning games." Barry Hayles added: "I'm very impressed. You need a firm base, and the two centre-halves pick themselves by the way they've played recently. No one has really caught them out. Their communication and the way they hold the line has been brilliant. They're both what we call front-foot defenders. They're not the type to back off, they're going to make a challenge." The challenge this weekend is finding a way to conquer Premiership opposition in the Cup. It is one that Seip and his colleagues will do their best to rise to. "I'm always confident, no matter what team we play," Seip said. "You always have to go for the win, and this is a good opportunity for us to reach the semi-finals. We have to go for it, and then we'll see where we end up." Timar added: "If we can win, we go to the semis and great things are possible. I think we will win, in front of our own supporters."
Ian Holloway will make himself even more of a hero than he already is with the 'Green Army' if he succeeds in steering Argyle into the semi-finals of the FA Cup this weekend. When he met the media on Thursday, the Bristolian declared: "There's no prouder Westcountry person than me at the moment. I grew up just up the road and now I'm a fully fledged member of the Green Army. I only joined up last year, but I've been made to feel so welcome, which I can't believe. People have been so good to me and my family, and now here we are. We have a chance to get to the last four of one of the most fantastic competitions there's ever been. It's a very proud moment for me, but I've not really been able to enjoy it up until now. We've had so many other things to take care of, but between now and the game I'm going to try and enjoy every minute of it. I tell you what, this is what it's all about for me. No one can ever take it away from you. People are still talking about the fellow whose goal got Argyle into the semi- finals last time. Geoff Crudgington is being interviewed more than he's ever been interviewed before. I'd be so proud for these boys here now if they can have a share of something that the club has only achieved once before, and they've got a fighting chance to do it on Sunday. There's still a hell of a scrap in front of us, but we're on our own turf. We haven't got to travel. We'll have the majority of the supporters with us. It will be an outstanding day." Holloway, who is totally at home in Plymouth, added: "Sometimes I feel that things are heaven-made or heaven-given, and I feel that I'm at the place where I should be. Hopefully people appreciate that, because I really mean it. Everything I say is genuine. It might not make sense to people, but it does to me, and all I can say is that I couldn't be prouder - even if we don't get what we want on Sunday." The prospect of defeat is not something that Holloway is paying much attention to, however. He said: "You're never, ever beaten, you only run out of time, and I don't want us to run out of time in this game. I didn't expect this, because it's years since I had a Cup run. Hopefully we can make a statement this weekend, and we'll need to, otherwise there will be so many people disappointed." Those people will include some members of Argyle's squad. Just about every fit player has been given time on the pitch in the two games, but a few will not make the cut tomorrow. "Every single one of them deserves to play or be involved, but unfortunately I'm paid to upset people now and then," Holloway said. "I don't care about doing that, because at the end of the day we've got to try and win." Victory will also be the target next Wednesday, when Argyle entertain Barnsley, and a week today, when they are at home to Crystal Palace. "We've got one massive game coming up this weekend, but in reality we've got three massive games coming up within a week," Holloway added. "There's only one which will get us an awful lot of plaudits, but the other two are absolutely vital to me. What I'm trying to do is keep everybody up to speed, because they will be needed. You're only as good as your competition for places. I've been saying it all year, and I really think our lads are beginning to understand it. I know we're going to have be at our best tomorrow, and let's hope we will be. If we can leave the huge television audience remembering Plymouth, I'll be a very proud man. Bring it on, because it's a fantastic feeling."
Luke McCormick has called on his team-mates to be in the face of Watford on Sunday. He said: "We are a very in your face kind of team and we will need to work very hard. It is going to be a very tough game against Premiership opposition. They are in the Premiership for a reason and we are well aware of what we will be coming up against. It is important that we try to concentrate on ourselves and getting the right result." McCormick accepts that there is plenty of quality in the Watford squad, and picked out Dan Shittu and Tommy Smith as particular threats. McCormick said: "They have got a lot of good players. We know a lot about the boy Shittu at the back. He is a tough character and we have come across him before. They have got an awful lot of quality in their side and Smith on the wing will be a threat." McCormick added: "I am very excited now that Tuesday's game is out of the way. I was a bit sore but it has settled down now. The cross has come in and that is the only thing I am looking at. Burton got a bit of a nudge and that is why he went over. He has hit my legs as I am in the air and sent me into a bit of a somersault. I landed very awkwardly and had no chance of holding onto the ball. I was obviously very disappointed that the referee did not give a foul but you have to just get on with it."
Ian Holloway is expected to add Barry Hayles to his squad for Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final game with Watford. Holloway said: "I have pretty much got a fit squad and we are just waiting on Barry now. He has been out for a few weeks with his broken toe, but I'm pretty confident he will be okay to join up with the others, although we might need to give him a painkilling injection. He's in a better position than Nick Chadwick, who has been out recovering from his injury for a couple of months." Holloway justifiably piled praise on Hayles, who has scored 11 goals this season. He said: "I think I probably raised a few eyebrows when I paid £100,000 for Barry last summer. I didn't have any doubts about bringing Barry to Plymouth and he has been excellent both for me and the club since he has been here. He has been absolutely brilliant, scoring goals and showing all his cleverness and experience against defences. We have done our best to accommodate him as he's married with a family. So it has been important that he goes back to London to be with them. Both Barry and Maxine are busy people - she is extremely successful in her own career. So we have tried to balance everything for him - work, training and his personal life. And he has repaid us by being the player that I remembered when I had took him to Bristol Rovers. Barry is the type of player who needs to care about the club he's playing for and he has certainly shown that for us." Hayles, for his part, said he has always believed in his ability and just needed the right club in which to rediscover his enthusiasm for the game. "No, the fact I have done well hasn't come as a big surprise to me," he said. "People tend to forget that I was injured for most of my time at Millwall. That was the main reason it was disappointing, as I still had the hunger and desire. I agree with Ollie when he talks about me caring about the club - that's important to me. There are many footballers around who just play for the money alone, but that's not for me. I'm still in love with the game and it's important for me not to let the boys down. I've trained fully for the last two days, and I've had no problems. I feel fine." Hayles is well aware of how well Kevin Gallen and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake did in the last round of the Cup, and that a recall to the starting line-up may not be a certainty. "The boys went on to beat Derby while I was banned, and it was a massive performance from them," Hayles added. "I was watching and thinking that I might struggle to get back into the side." Once his two-game suspension had been served, Hayles volunteered to play in Championship matches with the aid of a pain-killing injection, but Ian Holloway chose not to take that course of action. The striker was asked to wait until he was fully fit - which he is now - before being considered. "I said to the gaffer that I wanted to play as soon as the crack in the toe had healed up. I couldn't jog properly on it, though, so the gaffer told me we'd better leave it. I was a bit frustrated, to be honest, but obviously it's down to the manager if I start against Watford or not. But I'm ready." Watford are struggling near the bottom of the Premiership but Hayles knows that they must be regarded as formidable opponents. "We can't be complacent in any way," he said. "The Derby game was a fantastic win, and we thoroughly deserved it, but we need to take that as an example to follow and try to do it again. Hopefully, we will. If we do, that could be enough to win the game. We've got home advantage, which should balance it out, with them being a Premiership side. I reckon it's all set for a great game." FA Cup glory was not at the forefront of Hayles' thoughts at the start of the current campaign. "When I came here, I said to the players that I was looking at a top-six finish in the League," he said. "I said that you've got to aim high and see how far you can get. If you fall short, at least you've tried. If you make it, you can tell yourself that it was what you expected. That's what the gaffer has been trying to get across to the players down here. Sometimes he thinks that we don't all fully believe in our ability. We've drawn too many games this season, and he puts it down to not having the belief to kill off teams. Maybe he has a point." Hayles has plenty of respect for Holloway - and he is glad to be based in Plymouth. "I'm enjoying life and I'm just glad to be playing again," he added. "I missed most of last season at Millwall because of injury, so maybe I'm making up for last time. I settled in straight away when I came here, and I felt relaxed and at home."
Krisztian Timar is looking forward to facing fellow Hungarian Tamas Priskin in Sunday's FA Cup match with Watford. Timar said: "There may be three Hungarians playing in the game. Me, Peter Halmosi and Tamas Priskin for Watford is a young Hungarian striker I have played against him in the Hungarian First Division and I know he has got quality. The game will be shown on Hungarian Sports' Television and everybody is looking forward to the game in Hungary." Timar has formed an excellent defensive partnership with Dutchman Marcel Seip and Timar feels it is a relationship that will continue to improve. "We have played a few games together and we are getting to know each other," he said. "I know his quality and he knows me. It is now a little easier and it will continue to get better the more we play together." Along with his defending, Timar has also been acting as a translator for Peter Halmosi. "He is trying to learn English," said Timar. "He played in Austria and can speak German, so he is trying to learn English. He knows a few words now and he understands more, but it is difficult for him. I am translating for him but he knows the words we use on the pitch. He also has better fitness now. He has been great for the last two games and the language does not matter. It all depends on how he can play." Timar also admitted that he never expected to be playing in the quarter finals of the FA Cup less than two months after joining Argyle. He said: "I never thought I would play in the last eight of the cup. I am very happy that we won against Derby County and we can now play against a Premiership team. It is a great thing."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake will take to the field on Sunday to face Watford dreaming of an FA Cup semi-final clash against his old club, Manchester United. He said: "It would be the perfect draw if we got Manchester United, there would be nothing better for any club, in any division, in any part of the world. For me, it would just be even more momentous because I played there and I know people there, so it would be brilliant, but it's only dreams right now. Let's hope we can make dreams reality. It would be the fairy-tale story." If there was anyone Argyle would have fancied in the quarter-finals, it would have been Watford. "A lot of people have said that," said Ebanks-Blake. "The boys played against Watford last season in the Championship - I wasn't here then - but they know what Watford are about and hopefully we can match them. We've always thought that, if we can match teams, we can win. And when Derby drew us in the last round, I don't think they were best pleased. They came down here and they realised that we're a team to be reckoned with. We matched them player for player, man for man, and beat them. So I think teams have got to take note of that. We're an honest team, we know what we're good at, and we stick to that." Argyle's Cup run has given Ebanks-Blake the perfect answer to those who might question his decision to leave United. He said: "I always knew it was the right thing for me. When it first came about, it was a bit of a shock to the system. But an ambitious person like myself needs to play first-team football. The opportunity presented itself and there was only one thing I was going to do, and that was to come here and play football." Ebanks-Blake was born almost two years after Argyle's FA Cup run of 1984, but feels like he owes the supporters a bit of revenge against the side that dumped them out in the semi-finals that year. He said: "I was just a twinkle in my mum's eye in 1984! But I've spoken to a lot of people who were at the game at Villa Park, and I've heard all the stories. It's massive and I'm just pleased to be a part of it, it's so refreshing and nice to listen to people talk so positively about the team, about the FA Cup, and about football. It's a passion for all of us, we all love football and we all want to play football. To hear the way people talk about it and smile about it, it's just a beautiful thing for me." Ian Holloway has done as much as he can to prevent his players being distracted by Sunday's game, but Ebanks-Blake admits that it has always been in the back of everybody's mind. "We always just try and look at the next game in front of us," he said, "but I'm sure, secretly, he has been thinking about the FA Cup a lot, like we all have. But we can only ever focus on our next game, and now the FA Cup is our next game we can all talk about it freely. For us, in the week it's pretty much the same. There's always plenty of banter and we're always buzzing about and with the manager here as well, who's a massive personality. For me, it's not really come to light until the last couple of days with all this here. It's started to become a reality, and it's a massive occasion."
Paul Connolly has vowed that the Argyle team will prepare for the FA Cup quarter final with Watford in the same way they would for any other game. He said: "It is a massive game for us but you have just got to prepare in the same way as you would for any other game. You have got to eat the right stuff, drink the right stuff and then, hopefully, go out there and do the business on Sunday. Fans come up to you when you are walking around town and want to talk about Sunday, but you have got to try and block that out. Otherwise you will just sit at home festering over it. You will lose so much nervous energy that you will be shot to bits by the time the game starts." Connolly identified Tommy Smith as Watford's main threat. "I would say one of their main players is probably Tommy Smith," said Connolly. "I have watched him on Match of the Day and played against him a couple of times as well when he was at Derby County. We have had a good few tussles. He is a good lad with some good banter on the pitch, but he is a real threat with the ball. He can play on both wings. He is a right footed player, so if he plays on the left he can come inside and he can go on the outside if he plays on the right. You have got to try and keep him on his left foot, although that is not too bad either. He is one of those players you have to stay tight to and not give him space. As soon as he gets it, you have to get straight up his backside and make him play backwards. He can score goals and create goals as well. He is very dangerous." Connolly's favourite memory from the FA Cup past was the 1995 final between Everton and Manchester United. "I was 12 in 1995 and I remember sitting with my Uncle Bob in the living room," he said. "Bob is a massive Everton supporter and the reason I supported them. The rest of my family support Liverpool. I remember Paul Rideout popping up to score the winner. Neville Southall pulled off five or six great saves for us and it was a great day." Connolly would love to get to the semi finals and he feels Cup fever would really set in if Argyle beat Watford. He said: "We are only in the quarter finals and, if we get knocked out on Sunday, all the memories might go. Touch wood we don't because I am hoping to get to the semi final, which will be a proper day out. You play at a neutral venue and it would be massive Cup fever."
Luke McCormick is suffering from a sore shoulder which he sustained against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, but it will not keep him out of the FA Cup quarter-final against Watford. McCormick was bitterly disappointed that the goal was allowed to stand, even though Argyle did draw level afterwards. He said: "For the second time in two weeks I have gone up to catch the ball, expecting the referee to blow for a foul, and he hasn't. I don't know what I have got to do to get a bit of protection off a referee. I had the ball in my hands for even longer than I did at QPR. You just can't legislate for decisions like that. Our lads had stopped and I think it was a token gesture when the lad put it in. I don't think even he expected it to count. We were really hard done-by. I didn't think you could get worse than the QPR one, but obviously you can, and it has happened. Because I landed on my shoulder, I wasn't too aware of what was going on afterwards. The referee came over and I tried to ask him what his reasoning was, and he just didn't seem to have an answer. He didn't say anything so I think he knew he had made a mistake. It would have been such an injustice if we had come away from that game with nothing after how they scored the goal. The lads showed a lot of character to come back and get the goal, and we possibly could have had another one."
Watford will not find it easy to work out which 11 Argyle players will be lining up against them in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final. Ian Holloway has given 19 members of his squad starting appearances in the last two games, and he has been impressed by the way his players have applied themselves despite the looming distraction of the Cup tie. "We've had this Cup business coming up, but they've still kept going, they've kept their focus and they're totally committed," he said. "I'm proud of them. I'm going to have to break someone's heart, if that's what they're going to show me. Someone who played at Sheffield might not even be a substitute on Sunday, but that's why we're moving forward. We're no longer just a good team. I think we're a good squad. I'm very, very proud of them. I haven't been well in the last week, and they've cheered me right up."
Dan Gosling has been selected for the England Under-17 squad for a UEFA Tournament, which takes place between between March 17th –29th in Sarajevo. England will play Bosnia & Herzegovina, Azerbaijan, and Serbia. Gosling qualifies for the Under-17s because he was still 16 at the turn of the year
Ian Holloway was unimpressed with the refereeing of last nights game, specifically the goal which Sheffield Wednesday scored. He said: "Good gracious me. One of my old favourite cartoon characters, Mr Magoo, would have seen that. It looked like the bloke was fired out of a canon. I have seen it on the laptop and I don't think anybody in the ground would have worried if he had blown up for a free kick, which it obviously was. The Referee said he did not see it and neither did the linesman. He just did not see why my goalie dropped the ball. Hopefully, what goes around comes around and we will get what we deserve." It is the second away game in a row that Argyle have suffered from a dubious decision, but Holloway was proud of the discipline his men showed. He said: "We were very strong and I was very proud of the performance. I am fed up of carping on about it. I am very proud of my team. This time we did not get booked or Lilian sent off." Holloway was bulging with pride at Dan Gosling’s performance and felt his team could well have won the game. He said: "I have got a 17-year-old kid smack in the equaliser from the edge of the box. We have hit the bar and, to a point, I think we dominated proceedings. I could not be more proud of Gosling if he was my own kid. What a fantastic lad. Wherever you play him, he is like a man in that position. I have never seen anything quite like that. He has not done anything until he has played 100 games, and neither has Scott Sinclair, but they are making a name for themselves. They are still keeping their feet on the ground because that is Plymouth." Another man singled out for praise was Bojan Djordjic, who was making his first start since breaking his cheekbone in December. Holloway said: "Fantastic. He showed bravery again. He went for a couple of headers and it is not nice when you have cracked your cheekbone and had a big operation. He did himself proud." Despite the referee's baffling error, Holloway was still able to enjoy some banter with the home supporters. He even got a sweet for his troubles. He said: "We did not make any excuses and I had some great banter with the Sheffield Wednesday fans. They are a legend in their own lifetime. A lady even gave me a sweet, which was absolutely fantastic."
Ian Holloway made eight changes to his team for last nights draw at Sheffield Wednesday and admitted to having one eye on the Watford game. "I made eight changes with the cup game in mind," he said. "If that is what they are going to show me, I am going to have to break someone's heart. That is why we are moving forward. We are no longer just a good team. We are a good squad. It is like your life goes on hold. I am so proud of them because they have still kept going, still been committed and still shown focus while we have had this cup situation building." Holloway also rubbished the suggestion that the game with Watford is 'winnable'. He added: "I am fed up with people saying it is winnable tie. There is no such thing. You have to go there and your opponents are very dangerous because they never give up. That is Aidy Boothroyd and Watford. We are going to have to be all stops out and I can't wait now. I think it is massively disrespectful to Watford to call it a winnable tie." Holloway also called on the neutrals to give Argyle their backing and paid tribute to the Green Army. He said: "We try to win and make people smile everywhere we go. If anybody is scratching their head and wondering who to support on Sunday, please put something Green on for us. Our fans are an absolute credit to the football club. They travel the length and breadth of the country. They never stop singing. We played terribly at Southampton, lost 1-0 and it should have been 3-0, and they did not stop singing. The whole club deserves credit for how they have sorted their lives out in the last six years. What they have done on and off the field has been terrific."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday, the goal scored by Dan Gosling after 56 minutes. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Capaldi, Djordjic, Gosling, Norris, Nalis, Halmosi, Fallon. Subs - Hodges, Sinclair (not used - Summerfield, Sawyer, Gallen). Attendance - 19,449.
Ian Holloway feels his team are now beginning to fully appreciate their own ability, and that the new additions he has made and the understanding his players have struck up together has seen the squad develop in every department. "I believe they are getting an understanding and the new lads have come in and helped," he said. "We are altogether stronger mentally and physically in the departments we needed to strengthen. We have got pace in the right areas now to unlock doors. Anybody we play, we have got the chance to break at them and hurt them. I felt we were a little bit pedestrian at times earlier in the season. We have added some exciting players and some young fella's have come into the team and done well. I am very, very pleased with the whole set-up. There is hardly any deadwood at all and there is not a lot of doctoring we need to do, and the lads are enjoying it."
Nick Chadwick is still some way from returning to fitness after a couple of months on the sidelines. Ian Holloway admitted he is not sure why the problem with his back and groin has kept Chadwick out for so long. "It has been a long hard road and I really feel for him," said Holloway. "I am not sure what it is. It is an awkward problem and my physio is trying to get it done. It has been frustrating but that is part and parcel of football sometimes. It just goes to show that I needed to bring in other people. It would be great to have a full squad to pick from and Chadders is one of those. He did brilliantly for us at the start of the season."
With Krisztian Timar becoming a regular in the side, Ian Holloway feels that Argyle have finally filled the void left by the departure of Graham Coughlan a couple of years ago. When asked what he thought of Timar, Holloway said: "He is a big Hungarian fella. He had the desire to come here and he believed in our club. It is absolutely vital for the future that we get people who care and believe. He has added something that we maybe have not had since Coughlan left. He is that type of person who will stand there and fight, and put their head in where others wouldn't. I think he will compliment the other people I have inherited and he has only just started."
Ian Holloway is set to make wholesale changes to Argyle's starting line-up for the game against Sheffield Wednesday tonight. Lilian Nalis and David Norris should both be recalled, and also available are Hasney Aljofree, Tony Capaldi, Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, Dan Gosling, Bojan Djordjic and Rory Fallon. Holloway wants to give as many of his squad as possible a chance to stake a claim to be in the team against Watford, but that does not mean he is not bothered about the outcome tonight. He said: "There is only one team which has taken six points off us this season - and that's Birmingham City. But, if we are not careful, Sheffield Wednesday could be the second. If you keep dropping six points to teams it means you aren't very good. I don't mind Birmingham doing it, but I don't want Sheffield Wednesday doing it. I'm looking for a win tonight." Barry Hayles is still sidelined by a broken toe, but Holloway confirmed he would 'definitely' be available for the FA Cup tie against Watford. Holloway added: "I will be picking a totally different team tonight from the one on Saturday. It means they will have all had an opportunity over these two games to show me what they can do at first team level. I will then pick the side that I think is right to beat Watford." Hayles’ absence has given Sylvan Ebanks-Blake the chance to stake a claim for a regular place, and Holloway is pleased for the player. "Sylvan is getting more and more alive, more and more of a threat. He's only 20, and he's still learning his trade," he said. "People aren't instant hits. That doesn't happen any more, so you have to believe in your players and bring them on. I believe in everybody we've got here, and players progress at different rates." Argyle are 11 points outside the play-off positions with as many matches remaining this season, but Holloway does not want his players to start easing up in the Championship. "We have got to keep marching forward," he said. "There are still a lot of points to play for." Argyle were beaten by Wednesday at Home Park in August despite leading 1-0 at half-time. Holloway said: "I couldn't believe they beat us in the first game. I felt they got out of jail, to be perfectly honest. Their manager has changed since then but it's the same outfit we are up against. I felt we tried too hard to win it and, consequently, we lost all three points. It's a great big pitch at Sheffield Wednesday and we are going there to get three points. That's all I'm concerned with at this precise moment." Djordjic looks set to make his first start for Argyle since he suffered a broken nose and fractured cheekbone against West Brom in December. Holloway added: "We will be trying to maximise the pitch they have got up there with the team I pick and the way we line-up. Whoever comes into the side should be fresh, up for it and ready to go."
Tony Capaldi has been called up to the Northern Ireland squad for the forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Liechtenstein on March 24th and Sweden on March 28th
Jose Mourinho has given a ringing endorsement of Scott Sinclair's loan spell with Argyle. Last week Sinclair returned to Chelsea's training ground, and was accompanied by Dan Gosling and Luke Summerfield. And word has filtered through to Ian Holloway that Mourinho was very pleased with Sinclair. Holloway said: "Mr Mourinho was very complimentary about what we have done to help Scotty, so that's really nice. He noticed how much more aggressive he was, how he had more belief in himself going forward and how much more disciplined he was when he didn't have the ball." Sinclair's second month on loan to Argyle ends after the home game against Crystal Palace on March 17th, but Holloway believes it will be extended for a third and final month. He said: "I spoke to Brendan a couple of days ago and, hopefully, that will be done soon." Sinclair's form has seen him included in the England under-18 squad for a friendly against Holland at Yeovil on March 27th
Romain Larrieu is set to stay on loan at Gillingham for another month. Ian Holloway said: "As long as we have got a 24-hour recall clause I haven't got a problem with the loan being extended. It's much better for him to be playing first team football for Gillingham than sitting on our bench. I think Romain has come on leaps and bounds because of it."
Rory Fallon, who is cup-tied, is taking a commendably unselfish attitude towards what has happened at Home Park since his arrival. He said: "It's good to see the boys doing so well, so I don't really mind. I've been through it all before at Swansea, when they won the Football League Trophy final last season. I'll still get behind the boys on Sunday and get on with it in the games I can play in. That's football." Argyle’s immediate priority is tonight's game at Hillsborough. "For me it's an important game, and I'm sure the rest of the boys think that as well," Fallon said. "It's a great place to go and try and get a win. Sheffield Wednesday are a great football club. No one is taking it lightly, and everyone is going to take the game seriously." Fallon hopes to return to the starting line-up tonight after a late run-out as a substitute in Saturday's draw with Stoke, and he is confident that the squad at Home Park is deep enough to cope with the demands being faced. "We've got a big enough squad," he said. "As you saw on Saturday, there were a lot of changes and the boys who came in all held their own really well." Fallon’s last start came at QPR two Saturdays ago. "It was good to get a game there," he added. "It was a really hard game, to be fair. QPR put a lot into it, especially to try and get one over their old gaffer. It was just a battle and there weren't many chances going. I thought I did well, I didn't lose much ball and I kept it well. I thought everyone played well there, and we could have got a win. We're getting a few too many draws at the moment." Fallon knows that finding the best front two in the squad for Championship games is no easy task for Ian Holloway, and simply wants to make the most of his opportunities. "Everyone wants to stay in the team and get a run of games going, but I know I've got to look at the bigger picture," he added. "I've got to do as well as I can when I get a chance, so hopefully I'll have a bigger part to play at Sheffield Wednesday than I did on Saturday."
Ian Holloway admitted the saturated Home Park pitch had made it difficult for Argyle to take the game to Stoke on Saturday. He said: "The game was a little bit flat, but I think the pitch didn't really help today. The groundsman Colin has done a marvellous job. If we hadn't had the tent over it we would have never got the game on. Unfortunately, with the rain we are having, the pitch isn't drying out. It hasn't got anywhere to go. It's like a pudding and the ball is just not going anywhere. It really isn't leaving your foot crisply or neatly. This groundsman is absolutely spot on. He said on Friday that at 12 o'clock we had better get off the training ground because it was going to hammer down, and it hammered down at 12 o'clock. I'm going to ask him to pick me some lottery numbers this weekend!"
Lee Hodges admitted he was proud to captain Argyle for the first time in the draw against Stoke City on Saturday. He said: "It's the first time I have captained any team and it was a lovely honour. I didn't know until I came in today and it was written on the board that I was captain. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the game, but I was disappointed with the result. It was always going to be a scrappy game. We knew what it was going to be like. We got a goal ahead and I think we were on top and we didn't want the first half to end. But in the second half we didn't seem to get going and put things in the right places like we had been doing. They made a few changes and maybe it worked in their favour a little bit. I don't know. They seemed to push on a bit more than us and maybe a couple of times we went too gung-ho when the ball did go forward. Maybe we were pushing on too much and leaving them on the break. At the end of the day, it was a shame we didn't win the game but I really enjoyed playing 90 minutes. It was good." Tony Pulis claimed referee Mike Russell had been wrong to award Argyle a penalty, but Hodges said: "I thought Halmosi got clipped. It's the second penalty Sylv has taken now and it was a great strike." Hodges had not started a game for Argyle since the home win against Luton Town on November 28th, and he added: "It's a heavy pitch but I really enjoyed it and I felt good. I think I was the same as everyone towards the end. We were all getting tired. It's an energy-draining pitch but you have to get on with it. There's nothing you can do about it." Argyle's face Watford in the FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday, but first have an away game against Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow. Hodges said: "None of the boys are really talking about Watford. I think it's everyone on the outside. It would have been nice to get the win today and then go to Sheffield Wednesday, which is going to be another tough game. That's all we are thinking of really, getting ready for Sheffield Wednesday. Hopefully, we can get a win there and then everyone can start talking about Watford."
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is the latest Argyle player to take on the role of penalty taker in Paul Wotton’s absence, and so far is no danger of relinquishing it. He was on target again against Stoke, with a savage drive aimed high into the middle of the net at the Devonport End. "I just see what the 'keeper does and I focus on what I do, and I've stuck two away," he said. "I'm pleased with that. If you put power through them rather than placing them, then you give yourself more of a chance." The penalty gave Argyle the lead late in the first half, but Stoke secured a point thanks to a goal from Darel Russell early in the second period. Ebanks-Blake admitted that a stalemate seemed a fair outcome. "If you look at the 90 minutes, then a draw was probably the right result," he added, "but we felt it might have been different if we'd got a second goal. Their 'keeper has made two great saves at 0-0 and at 1-0, but it was a game of two halves and they had their chances as well. I wouldn't say we're happy with the result, but it was a fair result. They could have nicked a win, but I don't think they came here for a win. They set up for a draw, and we knew that."
Ian Holloway felt the defining moment of yesterdays game came seconds before Darel Russell scored, when Kevin Gallen was denied by an excellent Steve Simonsen save. "It was a very difficult surface today but I am disappointed that we shared the spoils," he said. "They had a couple of chances but I felt the defining moment was when we could have gone two up. Their 'keeper made a great save and then they went up the other end and scored. I told the lads at the end that you can try and win it too much. It reminded me of when I first came here and, by trying to win it so much, we almost lost it. I think that was a little bit of the Tony Pulis factor. I was disappointed with the last ten minutes because we went a bit gung-ho and left ourselves bare at the back." The Green Army did not give Tony Pulis the best of receptions - a reaction Holloway felt was slightly unfair. "Tony can handle it and I thought the fans were a little bit unfair to him," said Holloway. "He did ever so well for them last year but he knows the job he did here and he knows the challenge he has got with Stoke. They were a hard working side and he gets them organized and that is what they were. They were dogged and difficult to break down. He has done very well and that is what Stoke want, and I know what we want. I want to have as many points as them. Unfortunately, we needed to beat them today because we had a game in hand and we could have gone above them. It was a little bit of a stumble but I thought we just lacked that little bit of a spark, which Hayles might have given us if he was available." The performance of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was, once again, a real positive. "He is getting fitter all the time," said Holloway. "He had a terrible injury before he came to us. He broke his leg and then had a hamstring problem. What I like about him is that he is a fighter and he showed that again today. Stoke are a very tough team to play against. Tony's teams are always very physical and he never gave in. That trait shows through and he thoroughly deserved to take the penalty, and he smashed it in the net. He has got no fear about scoring goals. He has got to make sure he forgets about the fear with his hamstring and be is a thorn in their side." The other positive came in the form of Lee Hodges, who capped his return to fitness by being named captain in the absence of Paul Wotton, Barry Hayles, and Lilian Nalis. Holloway said: "Hodges has been very unfortunate because Lilian Nalis has been playing out of his skin and they can both do a similar job. Hodges is one of the true gentlemen in the game. He loves this club and, hopefully, he will have a lot longer here. He is a wonderful fella but I just can't pick everybody. There are some other fantastic players who were not even stripped today." Tuesday's trip to Sheffield Wednesday is next on the agenda and then comes the FA Cup quarter final. Holloway said: "It will come down to next week when I have got another choice. I will have to leave one or two out but it is all about the spirit. I don't think we have got as many points as we have deserved this year. Maybe we need to sharpen up. We have forced teams and tried to attack teams. We have tried to play entertaining football and I think the fans have appreciated. We now have to try and get three points of Sheffield Wednesday. It is only Birmingham City who have taken six points from us, while we have done it to three teams."
Sickness almost forced Ian Holloway to miss the draw with Stoke yesterday. Holloway said: "If I was as bad as I was on Wednesday or Thursday, then I would not have been here and I have tried to stay away from the lads as much as I can. I can't thank Tim Breacker enough - he has been fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the game once I got here. The lads were prepared fantastically well. I did not want anybody to miss next week by feeling like this. I was up in the stand and then came down to the bench after about 30 minutes. It is surreal from up there. I saw the referee and linesman getting shouted at, so I thought I better get down there and make it fair."
David Norris played no part in the draw with Stoke as Ian Holloway decided not to risk him getting booked. "I can't ask from any more commitment from any of my players, especially David Norris," said Holloway. "I would have been heartbroken for him if he had missed out on the chance to get us to the semi final - that would have been ridiculous. I talk about how high we can finish in the league but, realistically, they are all getting a little bit far away from us. We need two or three more points to be safe, whereas my old club, QPR, needed 17 after last week. We have got the chance to make some history and try to get to the semi final and I think Chuck, out of everybody here, deserves that chance. If he plays on Tuesday night and gets booked, I can still pick him for Sunday. I did not want to break his heart."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Stoke City at Home Park, the goal scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 40 minutes. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Seip, Timar, Sawyer, Sinclair, Hodges, Summerfield, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Gallen. Subs - Fallon, Gosling (not used - Kouo-Doumbe, Capaldi, Djordjic). Attendance - 12,539.
Lee Hodges is looking forward to today's reunion with the manager who helped to resurrect his Home Park career. He said: "Tony came in when we were struggling. He was very organised and he set out how we were going to play for the rest of the season. Maybe it wasn't the most attractive football to watch, but we were hard to beat and we ended up finishing 14th. He did a good job for us. We were struggling when he came in, and we couldn't get a win together. When he came in, everyone knew what they were doing and if he felt we weren't doing it then he would make changes. He stuck to what he knows, and he kept us in this league. He gave me a little bit of a run in the team towards the end of the season, which helped me to earn a new contract. I got on fine with him, and I think a lot of the boys did." Hodges' last start was at left-back in the home win over Luton at the end of November, but today he has the chance of a place in midfield. He has had a couple of knee injuries this term, but has proved his fitness in recent reserve games. "My fitness is OK," Hodges said. "I've had a good few run-outs in the reserves, and I'm just enjoying being around the first team. If I get my opportunity, I'll give it my best shot and see what happens." Argyle are looking for a victory today to keep alive their slim prospects of a place in the play-offs. "We can't give up until it's mathematically impossible," Hodges added. "Everyone in the top half will be playing each other and dropping points, but we've played most of them now. If we can go on a little run, you never know what might happen."
Scott Laird will now not be joining Bridgwater Town on loan. Craig Laird said: "We thought it was only a question of the paperwork going through, but when Ian Holloway, who has been in bed ill, was asked to approve it, he put the block on the move. It's because he wants Scott to go on loan to a league club for experience and if he came to us, the time window for that to happen would be closed. We can't argue with that, so Scott won't be coming."
Luke McCormick insists he has nothing but respect for Tony Pulis ahead of tomorrow's game with Stoke City. "It was a tough season for me last season but I thought he was a good manager," he said. "All of that is in the past and I think the reason I was not playing was down to Romain's good form and nothing to do with Pulis. Every time I spoke to him he was always ok. I have got a lot of respect for him and I don't think I need to prove a point." McCormick is expecting a very physical game against Stoke but he does not feel the Pulis factor will make it any different to a normal Championship match. He said: "It is another game and I don't think there will be that many lads playing who were here last season. For the ones who were here, it is just another game, except that we will know what it is coming. It will definitely be very physical just like last Saturday against QPR, which was a very physical game. We know how he plays from last year, so we may possibly have the upper hand." There are obvious differences between the approach of Pulis and the more enterprising style of Holloway, but McCormick feels both methods are effective. He said: "It was little bit more regimented under Pulis, on and off the field. They are different but both very good and very effective. Tony did what he had to do last season and got us to safety. We have now seen how much we have kicked on under Ollie this season." McCormick admitted that the FA Cup game against Watford is in his thoughts. However, he also feels the play-offs are not an impossible target for Argyle. "It is obviously in the back of your mind because it is a massive game," said McCormick. We have two games before that, which are too important not to think about. It is going to be a big week for us. You have always got hope and, until it is not possible mathematically, we will keep trying to pick up the three points and try to form a late charge up the table."
Bojan Djordjic has insisted that he holds no grudge against Tony Pulis ahead of tomorrow's game. "You learn in this world that you can't hold a grudge against anybody," said Djordjic. "You just have to take everything on board. Not everybody can like you and not everybody in Plymouth loves me. Some people like me and some people dislike me, and he probably disliked the way I played. He usually played me when the team was losing and he needed to change things but I did not get enough games under him." Djordjic feels the situation is very different now for everybody involved with the club and he is just looking for three points against Stoke. He said: "I have no grudges against Tony Pulis. That era has long gone and we have a new manager now, and we are in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. We also have a solid position in the League, so I don't want to waste more time talking about Tony Pulis. It is different for everybody at the club, not just the players. It is not only the players that make the club. It is the staff and the fans. They have been great for us in recent weeks and I think they will give us the support to get three points tomorrow as well." Djordjic may not hold any grudges against Pulis but he is not convinced the Green Army will give the Welshman a warm reception. He said: "I think it will be mostly negative because that is the way it is. He left on a sour note. He promised things and they did not quite happen. It is not my thing to discuss. We will see the kind of reception he gets when he walks out to the dug-out. Fair play to him - we were not doing that well when he came to us and he cemented our place in the League. The only thing he did wrong was knocking down Plymouth, saying it was a small place and we could not get players. People started to believe that and nobody could see past it. We had the foundation to build on and become a proper Championship side and not just hang on to 17th or 18th place." Djordjic fractured his cheekbone in December and is now just delighted to be back in contention for the climax of the season. He said: "I feel alright but it has been a long struggle, not only with the injury. Everything that has happened to me at this club over the last two seasons has not always been nice but I always find a solution to my problems. It has been hard, especially after scoring three goals in three games, and then I broke my cheekbone against West Brom. It was not very nice but I have been through worse struggles in my life, so I managed to fight my way through this one as well. I have come back from the transfer list and playing in places people don't even want to watch. I have now come back from injury and I feel really fit. Of course I need match-fitness but how can you get that if you don't play games? My base fitness is very good and I just hope that I will get my chance."
It is still unclear whether David Norris will start tomorrows game with Stoke City at Home Park. Ian Holloway has been struggling with a virus this week but Tim Breacker, has been in discussion with the boss and Norris. “It is something we will have to look at," he said. "I will be speaking to Ian and we will discuss it. We have got to take everything into consideration. I spoke to Chuck yesterday and we will discuss it again. It is a very difficult one for everybody involved - the player, the club and the team."
Barry Hayles is continuing to struggle with the broken toe that has kept him out of the Argyle team in recent weeks. Tim Breacker said it is a situation that is being assessed on a daily basis and Hayles is a major doubt for the game with Stoke City. "He is progressing and we assessing it day-by-day," said Breacker. "We were hoping he would be close last Saturday and now for this Saturday but it is one of those we have to look at each day. It might have to wait until next week. We will be guided by his symptoms and the pain." Hasney Aljofree and Tony Capaldi, both came through Tuesday's reserve win over Exeter unscathed, and Breacker said: "They are fine. Other than Wotton, Chadwick and Dickson, we have got everybody available." Lilian Nalis is out through suspension and Lee Hodges looks to be the ideal replacement but Breacker insisted there are plenty of options. He said: "Obviously Lilian is suspended but we need to go into this period of games with everybody fit. Hodges fits the bill in terms of the closest we have in the squad to Lilian. There are other candidates and we can change our shape. There are a number of things we could do with the players we have got at our disposal." Whoever plays Breacker insisted the rest of the team will be there to offer support and encouragement. He added: "The character of the lads is very good and whoever goes out there, the rest of the team will shake their hand and wish them luck. That is all you can ask for and we will need that between now and the end of the season because we have a lot of games in a short space of time."
Ian Holloway has insisted he has no plans to sell Dan Gosling to Chelsea. He said: "It's absolute rubbish. I wouldn't sell him yet anyway. We have got a duty of care to him. He has got two years left on the contract he signed with us when he was 17 last month and, for his own good, he needs to see that out. This is not about selling him. It's about giving him a taste of life at Chelsea, seeing what it's like and comparing him to their young players. I'm not trying to get rid of my young players. I'm trying to inspire them to be as good as they can be. Chelsea have loaned us Scott Sinclair and, obviously, they have been keeping tabs on him. Their scout quite liked Gosling and Summerfield against Wolves. I spoke to Brendan Rodgers, Chelsea's reserve team manager, and said 'Why don't you take a look at them yourself in training? I thought it would do the lads the world of good if they could see what it was like at a club like Chelsea. Down here at the moment, our training pitches are absolutely diabolical after all the rain we have had. By going up there this week, it will have saved their legs and, hopefully, inspired them to be as good as what they have got at Chelsea. I didn't see how we could lose from it. Both of the lads have been at Plymouth all their lives and, hopefully, this will have opened their eyes. I wanted them to go out and see the rest of the world and then come back absolutely buzzing, wanting a piece of it. It was important Scott Sinclair went back with them because he knows everybody up there."
Argyle have hired a huge inflatable pitch cover to protect Home Park from further deluges of rain. Colin Wheatcroft has been fighting a losing battle to drain away the water, and with long-term weather forecasts predicting further heavy rain, Argyle have taken steps to make sure the games against Stoke and Watford go ahead. The huge pitch cover, which is kept inflated by an industrial blower, comes in seven separate panels, which can be zipped together. The cover is waterproof and made of the same high-tech material as spacesuits. It will remain at Home Park until after Argyle's BBC1-televised FA Cup clash with Watford on March 11th, and it is believed the BBC have contributed to the cost of hiring the cover. Tim Breacker admitted the state of the pitch had been a cause of concern for the players and the coaching staff. He said: "It doesn't help, especially down the middle area. We had a couple of pitch inspections before Colchester, but you have to play the conditions, and I think we have played really well to them in the last two games. In terms of the football we have played, I don't think we could have done a lot more in the circumstances. Fair play to the lads, they haven't used that as an excuse. They have done as well as they can on that surface. And the groundsman has done fantastic to get the games on, full stop. Now he has got a little bit of help and the next two games won't be in any danger, so great."The pitch cover will stop any more rain getting to the sodden turf, but it will be a long time before the playing surface starts to recover. Breacker added: "I spoke to one of the guys and he said it does dry it out, although there is no actual heating involved. The atmosphere it creates underneath helps to dry it out as well."
Tim Breacker has had a busy week at Home Park with Ian Holloway struggling to recover from a virus. Breacker insisted that preparations for the game against Stoke had not been affected by Holloway's absence, with the coaching team of himself, Des Bulpin, Geoff Crudgington and Paul Maxwell all pulling together to ensure the players are ready for the game. "It has not really affected anything," said Breacker. "He gives everything 100% when he is here and, if he feels that he can't do that, then he trusts me, Des, Crudgie and Maxi to work with the lads." The return of Tony Pulis to Home Park will add an edge to the game but Breacker was full of praise for the work the Welshman did in his nine months with Argyle. He said: "It always adds something to the game. I don't know him personally but the job he did here was obviously very good at the time and exactly what was needed. At the time, he helped the club massively. I think everybody at the club has got a lot of respect for him. I went up there on Monday. I know the game was on Sky but you don't get the full view. Obviously, they will be very disappointed not to have won but they will be very difficult to play against. Tony's teams are always very disciplined and they will be exactly the same. They have still got a lot to go for and so have we. It should be an interesting game." Vincent Pericard is winning his battle for fitness and could line up against Argyle, which would be a huge boost for a Stoke squad short of strikers. "Lee Hendrie played up front with Sidibe on Monday, but I think Pericard is quite close to playing," said Breacker. I know he did not play in their reserve game on Tuesday, so he has got a chance of playing." Breacker admitted that the players were bound to have the Watford game in the back of their minds but he is looking for a similar reaction to the one shown after the fifth round win over Derby. He said: "No matter what you say to the players they would not be human if that was not at the back of their minds. To be fair to them, they same thing happened when we played Derby and had the draw on the Monday. They got their feet back on the ground very quickly and the Colchester performance was exactly what we wanted. Since I have been here I can't speak highly enough of the lads in terms of their attitude and professionalism."
Scott Laird is set to join his hometown club Bridgwater Town on a three-match loan spell. Town manager, Craig Laird - Scotts father, said: "With Matt Pitcher and Jamie Price still suspended for a further two games, I asked Argyle if we could have a couple of players on loan and I actually had my second son Jamie in mind. But he is a scholar and they wouldn't let him go on loan. They suggested Scott instead. He has been playing in Argyle Reserves and they had been considering putting him out on loan to a league club to gain experience, but they have had injuries, so they changed their minds. If all the paperwork can be completed in time, he will play against Calne, otherwise, his first game will be in the Les Phillips Cup tie at Sherborne on Wednesday. Getting him on loan is no reflection on the players we have already, it's just the continuing process of keeping the squad up to strength."
Dan Gosling and Luke Summerfield have been training with Chelsea this week. The midfielders joined Scott Sinclair, who is currently on loan at Home Park, for a week's work with Jose Mourinho's team. Tim Breacker said: "Scotty was going back this week, and Dan and Luke went with him after the game at QPR. It is a great experience for them to train with a top Premiership side, and it is good for us, as a club, to build up a relationship with Chelsea."
Ian Holloway must decide whether to risk playing David Norris against Stoke City on Saturday. Norris was booked for the ninth time this season in the draw at QPR last weekend, and a further yellow card would result in an automatic two-match suspension, starting with the FA Cup quarter-final at home to Watford. Lilian Nalis is already suspended for Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, there is some good news on the disciplinary front for Paul Connolly, who has been booked four times this season. Should he now receive a fifth yellow card he will not face an automatic one-match suspension because there is a cut-off date of February 28th. If Connolly is cautioned for a fifth time between now and the end of the season, he will only be warned as to his future conduct
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