A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Argyle's Matt Villis and Gary Sawyer and recently released Argyle scholarship player Wayne O'Sullivan played for 45 minutes of Exeter City's match against the Brazil veterans side yesterday. It is understood that Sawyer has been told he will get another contract at Home Park if he can find a club to join on loan for next season, with a year-long deal at Exeter a possibility
Tony Capaldi won his third full cap for Northern Ireland in their 1-1 draw against Barbados yesterday
Reports in Scotland suggest that Bobby Williamson yesterday made an official offer to Keith Lasley and that the midfielder will decide over the weekend whether to accept a move to Argyle. Lasley has already seen a switch to Coventry City fall through and although Burnley and Aberdeen are both keen on him, it's expected he will agree a move to Home Park early next week
Bobby Williamson has admitted he is close to adding another midfielder to Argyles squad with Keith Lasley believed to be top of his wanted list. "Martin Phillips and Jason Bent have moved on so there were two positions open," said Williamson. "Lee Makel's come in there and there maybe another player joining us, but we'll take our time and we'll make sure we get the right players in." Williamson feels Makel will bring something different to Argyle. "Lee Makel's playing the best football of his career at this moment in time," said Williamson. "He's experienced now. He knows how to go about his business. He's a very intelligent footballer." Williamson also feels new striker Milne has the qualities to succeed at Argyle. "Steven's a hungry player," he said. "He wants to score goals. He's got good pace, he's decent in the air and he's reasonably aggressive."
Bobby Williamson feels Argyle need a squad of around 22 players for the First Division. Speaking after completing the signings of Lee Makel and Steven Milne he said: "These guys will certainly complement the squad of players we have already got, I think they could do very well in the First Division, that's if they can get in the team because we've got a lot of talented players at this club. These two guys have to earn the right to wear the jersey. There were two guys I had been watching and I knew they were available, but I had to assess what we had here. As I've said, I think these guys will complement what we have already got. The players already here, yeah sure, they'll feel threatened for their jerseys, but that's healthy. Competition for places is what we need. If it drives players on to perform better, then so be it. I want to work with a squad of around 22 players, including the two goalkeepers, which I feel is healthy. Hopefully, we'll get talented youngsters who can put a bit of pressure on these guys as well. There's players coming out of contract next year and, hopefully, our youngsters can step in because I do feel that's the way ahead rather than going into the transfer market every season and bringing in fresh faces. I feel we've got to develop the talent we've got on our doorstep." Although impressed by Argyle's squad, Williamson admits there are still a couple of players he has not made his mind up about. "There's one or two players I would like to see more of and judge them over the course of time," he said. "But what I have seen has been impressive and encouraging and we're in good hands here. I feel we've got a good squad of players who can do themselves justice in the next division." Williamson is still keen to strengthen the squad further and admits he is in talks with players, but said: "We've not put a timescale or limit to what we can bring in. There is a budget in place and we'll make sure we utilise that to the best of the team and make sure fans see good players coming to Argyle."
Argyle are close to finalising their Austrian tour schedule. A game against a local amateur side is planned for July 17th, before facing either Legia Warsaw or Slovan Liberec on July 20th. One fixture that has been confirmed is against Wacker Burghausen on July 23rd.
Lee Makel has revealed how he decided to join Argyle after talking to Nathan Lowndes. He said: “Nathan was at Livingston with me and I spoke to him. He’s had a good time here, he loves it down here, and he said that, if I got the chance to join, I should. I’ve been in Scotland for five or six years. I’ve played in the First Division down here before and I wanted to try again. Since I arrived, I’ve been really impressed by the set-up and the manager, and I want to be involved in a successful club. It’s definitely on the up, and I want to be involved in a team like that.” Steven Milne also wished to try his luck in England: “I’ve played in Scotland for eight years now and I always wanted to come down here at some point," he said. "It’s a good club in a very good division, and obviously I know the manager as well. I spoke to a couple of Premier League clubs in Scotland but, in the end, I wanted to come down to England.”
Bobby Williamson was delighted to have secured the signatures of Lee Makel and Steven Milne but declined to talk about their qualities. “We’ll wait until the season starts and then everyone can find out for themselves,” he said. “I don’t want to forewarn managers of opposition teams how these boys go about their business. It’s great that Lee and Steven have decided to join us. They will certainly add to our squad and complement the existing players at the club, and I, for one, am looking forward to working with two quality players next season. I’ve known Steven for a few years and watched him develop as a player at Dundee and I thought that, if the opportunity arose that I was at a club that I could attract him to, I would certainly do that. Lee’s a player who’s been around a bit, and he’s played at good clubs. He is a very good footballer.”
Argyle today confirmed the signings of midfielder Lee Makel from Livingston and striker Steven Milne from Dundee. Both players join on free transfers and have signed two-year contracts.
Argyle are keen to add to their squad well in advance of the start of pre-season training. Bobby Williamson has been reluctant to confirm the identity of his targets but he has admitted that he is anxious to settle some transfer business before the holiday season kicks in. "That's the aim," he said. "Myself and Phill Gill have been working behind the scenes talking to agents and players, and hopefully we can conclude a few things before we both set off for a week's break. Until we conclude anything, I'm very reluctant to talk about players. There have been so many players linked with Argyle, but we're not in a position to bring all of them to the club. We're trying to get things sorted as quickly as possible, but we'll only be bringing in a few players that will add to the squad." After eight years of management experience in Scotland Williamson is not about to sign players he is unfamiliar with: "Players in England have been recommended to us and we've speaking to their agents," he said, "but the Scottish market is the one that I know. I've seen how well these guys have done over the years." The Argyle boss stressed that none of his signings will be guaranteed starting places next season. "I couldn't guarantee anyone first-team football - not even the players who did so well here over the past year," he said. "When we get down to pre-season work, it's up to them to impress me and stake a claim."
Steven Milne is expected at Home Park for talks this week. Argyle face competition from Aberdeen and an unnamed English club for his signature whilst he has also been offered a new deal by Dundee
Reports that Argyle are on the brink of signing Andy Smith appear to be wide of the mark. Rumours suggested that Smith was due to sign a contract at Home Park as early as today but it now seems certain that Smith is not on Bobby Williamson's shopping list
Argyle are thought to be competing with Aberdeen to sign striker Steven Milne from Dundee. Reports in Scotland also suggest that Keith Lasley is close to agreeing a move to Home Park
Argyle's pre-season friendly with Southampton has been confirmed for Saturday, July 31st at Home Park (3pm kick-off). Argyle will also play Portsmouth on July 28th (7.45) and Torquay United in a testimonial for Dave Smith on July 14th (7.45)
Livingston midfielder Lee Makel is the latest player to be linked with Argyle. It is reported that he will hold talks with the club next week
Bobby Williamson has confirmed he has held 'informal talks' with Jim Clark and Gerry McCabe but Kevin Summerfield and John Blackley still officially remain in office at Home Park. Williamson said: "There's just been informal talks about what Plymouth has to offer them. We've still got two coaches at the club, who haven't moved on." Williamson expects the remainder of his new backroom staff at Home Park - Geoff Crudgington, Paul Maxwell and Stuart Gibson - to still be in place next season. “I don't see why not," he said. "Unless they want to move on. They're under contract at the club and I've been impressed with all these guys."
Bobby Williamson is reported to have made Mathias Doumbe his first signing for Argyle. The 24-year-old French central defender has signed a pre-contract agreement which will lead to a two-year deal with Argyle when his Hibs contract expires on June 30th. Doumbe had been offered a new three-year deal by the SPL club and had also attracted the interest of Glasgow Rangers and Cardiff City. However, the signing has yet to be confirmed by the club and Phill Gill said: “We are currently talking to several players and their agents and being very pro-active in the transfer market. There is plenty of rumour but I can assure all fans that when any concrete news on any player signing for the club they will be the first to know through official club channels.”
Bobby Williamson insists Argyle will not swap financial security for big names on big money in this summer's transfer market. He said: "It's shocking what's happened in the SPL, but that will never happen here. SPL clubs took revenue for granted, but the great thing about Plymouth is we haven't done that. The board has worked very hard here and they don't get the credit they deserve. We will never put ourselves in that position." Argyle will ask prospective new players to be realistic when they make wage demands this summer and new signings will also have to accept they will not be automatic selections next season. He said: "Just because you bring someone in, they're not going to walk into the team. This is a big club and players have got to be used to the challenge. When players walk in the door, they've got to realise they have to show they deserve to wear the shirt. We will play the appropriate amount of games in pre-season and give every player time on the park. We can't concentrate solely on the team in pre-season. We're going to have to chop and change, and make sure everyone's ready for the season."
Tony Capaldi has been named in the Northern Ireland squad to tour the Caribbean at the end of the month. The fixtures planned are: 30th May v Barbados, 2nd June v St Kitts and Nevis and 6th June v Trinidad and Tobago. Bobby Williamson said: "That's what it's all about. Tony's trying to go as far as he can in football and he's got the opportunity to do that. It's a great accolade for him and the club. He's a quality player - an international now. He's been recognised by his country and he's worked hard for it. He deserves it."
Bobby Williamson looks set to make Keith Lasley his first signing for the club. Williamson refuses to comment on transfer speculation but said: "Lasley is among a number of players who have been recommended to us by agents. We speak to all these people and I've got a list as long as my arm. But until we conclude business, I don't think it is right to discuss these matters. Sometimes, when it becomes public knowledge early and the player decides to go somewhere else, then it looks like he's snubbed you. So, until things are concluded and we actually speak to the other clubs about players we are interested in, I can't talk about it." Aberdeen have reportedly tried to sign Lasley on pre-contract terms and Motherwell are reluctant to lose one of the star players and are prepared to offer Lasley a new deal. An unnamed Dutch club are also believed to be interested
Bobby Williamson believes that both he and the players benefited hugely from the recent trip to Majorca. He said: "The trip was a just reward for the efforts of the players and staff for their achievements this season. They're a great bunch of players and the directors and everybody was able to mingle and socialise. So, everyone enjoyed themselves and had a good break. I don't think that I deserved to be there, but I thoroughly enjoyed their company! It's a chance to get to know each other better - we'll have another opportunity when we go to Austria later in the summer. But, obviously, that will be on a working basis - getting geared up for the season ahead. But, yes, it was a good to meet up with all the lads and see how they socialise together. They were in each other's company from the time we were there until the end, which is good and good for team spirit. That's what these trips are all about. And the players were able to see how I operate as well, and I was pleased how it turned out. There were no problems at all. That's something that's always in the back of your mind - seeing what's happened to teams who've gone abroad before - but that wouldn't happen with these lads, they just enjoyed themselves. They never disrupted anybody else's enjoyment.”
Bobby Williamson seems certain to bring in his back-room team of Jim Clark and Gerry McCabe to take over from Kevin Summerfield and John Blackley. He said: "These matters are private and confidential. Once these things are concluded, then we can talk about them openly, but it is my intention to try and get these guys. But that's what I think everybody is hoping to happen. Paul wants to take his two backroom staff to Southampton, as I would like to bring my two backroom staff down from Hibernian. But nothing's been finalised yet, and whatever happens, happens for the best.”
Bobby Williamson has called Paul Sturrocks Division Two manager of the season award 'tremendous'. He said: "It's tremendous and well-deserved. I was winding him up asking him to go and collect my award for me. Divisional managers normally win these awards if they win the championship and Paul's played a major part in that, along with his coaching staff. It's a great accolade for everybody at the club - the staff, the chairman and directors. But as I've said it's an accolade and it's well-deserved and I hope that he enjoyed his evening."
Graham Coughlan and Peter Gilbert have both been named in the Press Associations Division Two Team of the Season
Paul Sturrock has been named the Second Division manager of the season by the League Managers Association. Despite leaving for Southampton with 12 matches of the season remaining Argyle went on to claim the title under the caretaker management of Kevin Summerfield and then under Bobby Williamson. Sturrock's input was enough for him to receive a majority of the votes from the Second Division managers and he will receive the award at the LMA's end-of-season dinner tonight
Jim Clark has revealed that he is set to join Bobby Williamson at Argyle. Clark confirmed that both he and Hibs coach Gerry McCabe are set for talks with the Pilgrims. He said: "I'll be going down along with Gerry to speak to Bobby on Tuesday, but nothing is cast in stone and we will see what happens. But obviously we've worked together in the past and have enjoyed it."
Stuart Yetton and Marcus Martin have expressed their excitement at being offered professional terms by Argyle but admitted to having mixed feelings at seeing team-mates released. "We're both very pleased, of course, but we definitely have mixed emotions," said Martin. "You celebrate for yourself but then are sad because a lot of our mates, like Lee Coxon, who has been with us all the way through, didn't make it and got released. We've been given a chance, which is great, and the new boss has told us that we'll have to knuckle down and work hard. He said he's a great believer in giving youth a chance and said that it's all down to us to prove that we've got what it takes" "It's the other side of the game, if you like," added Yetton. "It's times like these that you realise just how lucky you are to be a part of it, and how much you want to be a part of the success." Stuart Gibson has been delighted with the development of Yetton over the three seasons he has been a scholarship player. "Stuart started off very well and then he had a dip in form last year, when he stopped working at his game," said Gibson. "But he listened to what we had to say and, from a coaches' point of view, that's what you want. He was just starting to slide away but he responded and the rest is history. I'm very pleased for Stuart, but I have already told him he hasn't made it yet. The hard work is only just beginning for him."
Thousands of Argyle fans queued for hours yesterday to book their memberships for next season. Queues had formed well in advance of the 9am opening of the ticket office and stayed that way all day until the office closed at 5pm. Steve Hill said: "We thought we'd have a busy first day, but we didn't expect a turnout like this. To say the fans were there in significant numbers would be a major understatement. I can honestly say that in the seven years I've been at the club I've never seen anything like this. One fan had started queuing at 6am, which is great and the club are really appreciative of that kind of reaction. We had seven people working flat out in the ticket office and even then the queue didn't seem to go down at all. I think the average time of waiting to be seen was around an hour. And the inquiries over the telephones were also very heavy, so it's been a really good start. Hopefully, this level of response augurs well for the club's hopes of reaching the 10k mark ahead of next season. The club request the patience of fans, particularly if they phone into the ticket line, it is very, very busy. And please remember that current Green Membership holders have until June 11 to renew their seat reservations. Their seats are reserved for them and they do not need to queue with those who are buying memberships for the first time."
Paul Connolly's agent has confirmed that Premiership clubs are keeping a close watch on the full-back, but insisted that he is keen to continue his career at Home Park. Neil Sang said: "Two Premiership clubs have asked about his general attitude, his background and also his approach to the game. However, we're not about to get him away from Plymouth. The lad's very, very happy at Argyle. If something happens, that's great, but all I've been doing is giving clubs an idea of what the kid's about. It really starts and stops there. If he does go on, then obviously that will be decided between another club and Plymouth Argyle, not by us." Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton have all been mentioned as possibly watching Connolly but Sang said that those clubs have not contacted him. "If he retains his place in the first team next season," Sang added, "what a great platform that will be for him, with up to 19,000 people at home games. Playing First Division football against some very good players will give clubs another indicator of exactly how good this kid is. With due respect to Plymouth, they will probably be one of the weaker sides in the First Division next season. If Paul copes and, more importantly, shines, then it will be a great indicator of the level this kid is at. And he's only a babe, it's been his first full season this year, so fingers crossed he can do it and we're all confident that he will."
Argyle have been linked with Motherwell’s Keith Lasley. The midfielder will be out of contract in the summer and sources in Scotland insist that he is set to become Bobby Williamson's first signing
Stuart Yetton has signed a two-year professional contract with Argyle
Mickey Evans believes Argyle must make Home Park 'a fortress' in the First Division next season. "It's going to be hard but, hopefully, with the fans behind us our home form will be good," he said. "I don't think many sides would like to come and play us at home. We have got to make this place a fortress and never give anything away. We try to pass the ball, but in the right areas. We are very direct, very physical and we try to play at a really good pace. If teams come down here thinking it's going to be easy, because we are coming up from the Second Division, I think they will be in for a shock." Evans is already thinking about the challenge to come: "I think next season is on everyone's mind," he said. "It's going to be a big step up but the whole club are really looking forward to it. On and off, I have been here a long time and I have never seen this club so excited. It has just been brilliant for the city. The last few days have been fantastic. I think everyone has earned a good rest, but I'm sure there will be a few lads in nice and early trying to get themselves ready for next season. It would be nice to have someone like Leeds at home in the first game. I'm sure the fans will be looking forward to it and we are all going to have to stick together." Evans is optimistic about the future for Argyle, with the talented young players at the club. "They have done so well in what has really been their first season in football," he said. "All they have got to do is not let things go to their heads and keep on going the way they have been going, and I don't think then that we will have too many problems. Take me, David Friio and maybe Cocko and Hodgie out of the side and the rest of them are kids. They are so young and the future is looking good for them."
Bobby Williamson is in no rush to strengthen Argyle's squad. "I'm not in any rush to be honest," he said. "We will make sure we do our homework and get the right players. As I said a couple of weeks ago, Andy Smith is one of a number of players who have been suggested to us. He's on a list we have got. It all depends on how the finances are, but I don't want too big a squad. Paul always worked with a small squad and he has probably got the right idea. The less players you have got sitting in the stand on a weekly basis the better off you are. They should be out working and playing football somewhere, so we will try to keep a small squad and complement it with youth. I have always been one to promote a kid if the players have picked up injuries or they have lost form. It gives the kid a boost and sometimes that lifts everybody and youthful enthusiasm rubs off on the senior players. It's a big league we are going into next season and there might be players, who are sat in the stands elsewhere, who could maybe do us a turn. I know the areas we want to strengthen in, but I will not be speaking publicly about that."
Lee Hodges has confirmed that he snubbed a lucrative contract offer from Wycombe Wanderers to stay with Argyle. Colchester United were also interested but he chose to stay at Home Park. "It has all been agreed and I'm just waiting to sign it," said Hodges. “I'm very happy. I did have a few offers but, at the end of the day, I have had enough of moving and I really am settled here. My family love it, so I think it was the best move. We had to think about it long and hard because of the financial reasons, but we decided to stay. At my age, you aren't expecting to get stuff like that, but I'm settled here and there is the lure of the first division, although it doesn't mean to say I'm going to play every game. My wife is happy here and she didn't want to move, so that was it. The last couple of games have been sell-outs and since I have been here the club has gone forward and upwards. It's just a brilliant club to play for. It's such a family club. Everybody involved wishes you well. Some days it doesn't go for you, but they still get behind you. It's a great club to be at." Hodges has recently been playing in the centre of midfield: "I have been happy with the way I have been playing over the last few weeks,” he said. “I feel that's my best position and I will be fighting for that position come next season. That's my number one target because I do enjoy playing in there. I feel really comfortable in there, but we will wait and see what happens."
Argyle will receive about £700,000 next season in television and sponsorship income as members of the rebranded Coca-Cola First Division. The exact amount Argyle will earn will depend on how often their matches are screened. Paul Stapleton said: "We were not expecting to earn a great deal more than this year," insisting that the club will continue to be run on a sensible basis and that there is little likelihood of the directors spending money the club cannot afford. "If the board puts money in, it's debt," he said. "We're trying to work debt free. We could all put in £1 million, and suddenly you've got a lot of debt. We want this club to be run on a financially sound basis and, when gate money comes in, it's our income and we've got expenditure to work with. More money on the gate means more in wages for the manager. We're trying to do it properly. We've had three years in a row of profits, which is almost unheralded in the Football League, and long may that continue. I know we've had to put season-ticket prices up, but there will be a better quality of football here next season. That's what we deserve. Progress."
David Friio will be suspended at the start of next season following his sending off on Saturday. Deliberate handball usually results in a one-match suspension but Friio was sent-off earlier in the season against Oldham so the punishment could be doubled. Friio said: "I'm really disappointed. It was a reaction - you cannot let the ball go into the net. And even the referee was disappointed, but he had to send me off, I can understand that. Fortunately, they missed the penalty, although I didn't see it because I was in the dressing room. It did spoil the day a bit because when you work hard in pre-season you want to be involved in the first league game, and I cannot play in it now." Bobby Williamson said: "It was unfortunate, but that's the rules. He used his hand and most of the guys are complaining he should have held it! But he has managed to get one hand to it and found himself up the tunnel for an early bath. I think he will miss a game next season but I will not dwell on that just now." Friio had scored his 15th goal of the season, which was the target he set himself at the start of the campaign. "I knew what the second division was all about and I knew it was possible to do it," he said. "I'm really happy with my 15 goals. I cannot see it being any different in the first division. I think I can score in the first division as well. But the most important thing at Argyle is the team, and I'm sure we are going to do well next season. I'm looking forward to it. Playing in the first division with Argyle will be a dream come true and I'm really happy about that. We are going to have a good break now. We need it, because we were under pressure for the last two or three months. We are going to go into the first division with a lot of ambition. We are not thinking about it being a relegation battle. We have a fantastic record at home and I don't think that's going to change. We have got to go into it with no fear and play our own game. I'm sure we can have a consistent season."
Home Park's re-development could be completed by the 2005-6 season, according to Council leader Tudor Evans. Evans said he has asked the board to submit planning applications as 'we want to get on with the job now'. But Paul Stapleton said that the club's priority was staying in the first division rather than concentrating on Phase Two. He said: "Our aim is make sure everything is alright on the pitch first. Therefore, we're giving priority to staying in the first division. After a wonderful season and great day at the civic reception, next week we will sit down and regroup and think about the stadium issues. Yes, we're talking with the council about matters to do with completing the building work, but, we will need to know how our needs will be met against the council's. We'll be looking into all aspects of it and will be making our own contributions. In our view, it is better to manage your expectations beforehand, that's why we want to make sure everything is in place." Cllr Evans said: "The club have made it quite clear that their priority is to stay in the first division next year. The money has got to go on the field rather than around the field. We have been doing a bit of talking and the club and us are pretty clear about the kinds of things that we want. But we need to get on with the job now. That's why I'm doing all these planning applications and traffic studies and all this sort of stuff - to help speed things up. By getting on with that now, planning all that, it makes the timescale shorter. However, you musn't underestimate the quality of the board of directors at this club. They are really ambitious. Also, they are fans, they are passionate, Argyle to them are not just a business proposition." Stapleton confirmed that the club's original capacity of 20,000 for Phase Two is under review. He said: "The figure is under review. We're looking into it all, right now, as we want to get it right. We had thought of 20,000 being the right number, but after this season we're having a rethink. It could be when the work on Phase Two goes ahead that we'll move into the region of 25,000 to 28,000. But, nothing's concrete yet, but we're giving it a lot of thought."
Paul Stapleton saluted Argyle's success yesterday, and predicted more progress. "It's been absolutely fantastic," he said. "The new manager has been fantastic. He's won three out of three and has taken us over the finishing line. You just can't start better than that. The players have been fantastic and we've got to say thank you to the fans. They didn't pick up a medal on the pitch but I really would like to thank them personally. I want to thank Paul Sturrock as well. The crowd were singing 'There's only one Paul Sturrock' and I was clapping to that, it was really appreciated. He was part of 34 games of our season and was an integral part of our success over the last three years. We are now looking forward with Bobby Williamson to Division One. We've got a very strong squad of players which is going to be strengthened. Our ambition is not to set ourselves a target of fourth bottom. Our ambition is to be at least middle of the table but aiming higher, and if the fans are behind us we'll do it and we'll progress and we'll do a Norwich or an Ipswich and go on from there. Then we'll perhaps do a Charlton or a Birmingham. Who knows? There's no limit to what this club can achieve, we're back where we belong. The new manager is in tune with us and he's been an excellent choice for us. Again I've got to thank all the players. They've been a fantastic team and they've scored more goals than anybody else in the league. It's absolutely amazing and it augurs well for the future. It's been a fantastic season. When we started off we were aiming for the play-offs but at the end of the day we're top of the league. It's an absolutely wonderful feeling to win two championships in three years with a new board of directors. It's just brilliant. We're not going to be a yo-yo team. We're not going to go up and down this league. We're going to establish ourselves in Division One with ambitions for the next league. Look at teams like Millwall. They've been in the First Division for a number of years and now they've got to the FA Cup final. If we can do the same, that would be wonderful."
Paul Wotton addressed the thousands outside the city's Civic Centre yesterday with the words 'We've only gone and done it, again!'. He said: "Yes, we've only gone and done it again, but I didn't think I would be saying it so soon after last time. It's a fantastic achievement for the club and everyone associated with it. It's been a great season and days like today just bring it home and show what we have achieved. It's been a real team effort. It's not about one player, it's about a squad of players doing their business on the pitch. We have been successful through being a team and though sheer hard work and determination. I remember when we got relegated to the Third Division, I said I wanted to be in the team that got us back into the Second. Fortunately I have been in the team that has got us back into the First Division. To be skipper of two championship-winning sides just adds to it all. You know, in 30 years' time I can look back with immense pride at what I have achieved and what the team has achieved. It's been three great years and hopefully it will carry on. Next season we're going to being playing some real top sides at some fantastic stadiums. We'll go out there and give it a good go - and hopefully that will be good enough."
Luke McCormick was thrilled to win Argyle's most promising player award. He said: "It's crazy how this season has turned out for me and I'm absolutely delighted. To be honest, everyone has played their part and everyone has done fantastic. To win the most promising player award is an honour and it's the icing on the cake for me. I couldn't have asked for any more and I just want to thank the fans. It's nice to know they think so highly of me. I have really, really enjoyed the season and to have won the championship as well has been fantastic." McCormick recently signed a new contract and believes the club has a bright future. "It gives me some security and Argyle are a fantastic club who are going into the first division. I was just so pleased to get something sorted so I could put it to the back of my mind. I'm here for three more years, which I'm chuffed to bits about."
Mickey Evans was yesterday named as Argyle's player of the year. Trigger finished just ahead of Luke McCormick with Graham Coughlan third in the vote. "It's the first time I have won the player of the year award and I'm absolutely delighted," said Evans. "Everyone has played so well this season and it must have been very hard to pick someone out. Luke has had a tremendous year. He has been outstanding for us. For a young lad to come into the team and keep as many clean sheets as he has done, under a lot of pressure, has been fantastic. Graham won the second division player-of-the-year award, which is a great achievement, which shows we are not forgotten about in this part of the world. It's great to win the award, and I thank everyone who voted for me, but football is a team game and the rest of the lads deserve a lot of credit. We don't have any superstars in our side. The team spirit is excellent and we all work hard for each other. It has been a privilege and an honour to be involved in the side this season. The way the team has been set up, we seem to score goals from all over the pitch." Luke McCormick was named as Argyle's most promising player with Paul Connolly second and Peter Gilbert third. Mickey Evans had words of praise for all three of them. He said: "None of them had much league experience before they came into the side this season and they have done a great job. It all bodes well for the future."
Bobby Williamson is confident the players he has inherited from Paul Sturrock can make the step up to the first division next term. "I have no doubt they can, because they have got a great team ethic," said Williamson. "They work hard for each other and that's what you look for when you try to build a team. This team is built. It just needs a couple added to it to make it a stronger squad and complement the players we have got here. Hopefully, we can add to it in the summer." Williamson was pleased Argyle finished their season on a high note. He said: "Everybody was getting sidetracked with the occasion and we were trying to get the guys to focus on winning the match and then celebrating afterwards. We have got a long time to celebrate, but we only had 90 minutes to win this game. I'm pleased they have gone out there and done that. They have done themselves justice once again and proved worthy champions. Colchester gave a good account of themselves and they will be disappointed they never managed to get on the scoresheet. We rode our luck at times and there were a couple of decent saves from Luke but there was some good defending on our part. We managed to get a couple at the other end, and could have added to that also. First and foremost, we are pleased we have won the match and sent everybody home happy. Hopefully, they will have a great weekend."
Argyle beat Colchester United 2-0 at Home Park before collecting the Second Division Championship trophy after the match. David Friio after 17 minutes, and David Norris (47) scored the goals. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Norris, Friio, Hodges, Capaldi, Evans, Keith. Subs - Lowndes, Wotton, Adams (not used - Stonebridge, Worrell). Attendance - 19,868.
Lee Hodges and Marino Keith have accepted new deals to stay at Home Park. Hodges, understood to have rejected the chance to join Wycombe on a three-year deal, has agreed a two-year contract and Keith a one-year extension. Bobby Williamson welcomed the completion of negotiations with the pair. He said: “I am very pleased that the board has been able to secure the services of these two players. They have had a great season and are an integral part of Argyle, and now they have a chance to take their abilities into the First Division.” Phill Gill, who helped negotiate the new deals said: “We are delighted that Lee and Marino will be staying at the club – they are winners, and have now been part of two championship-winning sides. We believe that what they bring to the team will stand us in good stead in the First Division.”
Martin Phillips and Jason Bent will be leaving Argyle when their current contracts expire in the summer. It was injury that prevented Bobby Williamson from seeing Bent and Phillips in action over the last two games and the manager said: “I didn’t have the chance to assess either of the players, which is a shame. They have been fabulous servants of the club and, of course, we wish them well. I am sure they will have no problem fixing themselves up with other clubs.”
Argyle yesterday released details of their 2004-05 season memberships. A Green membership bought before June 30th will cost £340 (concessions £220, under 16s £75) and existing members can renew their seat until June 11th. Any un-reclaimed seats will then go on sale and after June 20th the price is £400 (concessions £300). Mayflower standing tickets will cost £255 before June 20th (concessions £200, under 16s £75) and £300 (concessions £240) from June 21st. Tickets for the disabled enclosure will cost £220 (concessions £170, under 16s £50). White memberships replace Tangerine memberships and will cost £125 (concessions £83, under 16s £35) and a Pilgrim membership (replacing the old White membership) will be £25. Match-day prices will increase to: £22 adult (£15 OAP and students, £5 children) for seating and £16 adult (£13 OAPs and students, £5 children) for standing. Tickets purchased up to 5pm the day before a match will cost £20 adult (£13 OAPs and students, £5 children) for seating and £15 adult (£12 OAPs and students, £5 children) for standing. The stand for registered disabled will cost £13 adult (£10 OAPs and students, £5 children). Peter Jones said: “There’s already a lot of hard work underway to prepare for next season. And what a season it promises to be. The First Division is a real step up. Argyle will be playing the likes of Leeds, Wolves, Leicester, Nottingham Forest. Now, we are determined to compete very hard against clubs like these. We have no intention to roll over in the face of our new rivals. We have to be able to finance an even stronger squad of players. In order to do so, we are going to have to put up our admission prices. We kept them pretty much the same for this season but 2004-05 will place major new demands on the club. Furthermore, we’ll be putting on great matches here at Home Park. Our new pricing structure will have to reflect this.” Memberships will be available from the ticket office from May 13th
Argyle are inviting supporters to help to decorate the three open-top buses that will take the squad from Home Park to the city centre. "We really want our supporters to share in as much of this special day as possible," Rick Cowdery said yesterday. "Fans who want to hang their flags off the buses will be most welcome, but we regret that, although we will endeavour to ensure that all are safely returned, we cannot accept any responsibility if they should become lost or damaged." The buses will assemble at Home Park from 9am on Sunday and are due to embark at 11.15am
Argyle look likely to play three games during their trip to Austria. Dates and opponents have not yet been confirmed, but one match may be against another English team. When the team return home there will be two friendlies at Home Park against Premiership sides, one against Southampton and a match Portsmouth which has been pencilled in for July 28th
All 20 of Argyle's first-team squad are to receive second division championship winners' medals. The Football League usually recommend that they should be presented to players who have made more than 11 appearances but that would have excluded Romain Larrieu and Martin Phillips. Paul Stapleton has taken steps to ensure that all of the players collect medals, along with the behind-the-scenes staff at Home Park. There will also be a medal for Paul Sturrock. Stapleton said: "We are going to give all the players a medal, along with all the coaching and backroom staff and Paul Sturrock. I'm sure everybody will agree that Paul definitely deserves to receive a medal. The Football League suggest that only players who have played 11 league games should receive medals, which would mean the likes of Romain Larrieu missing out. Due to his knee injury in September, Romain only played six games this season, but we are not leaving him out."
Bobby Williamson wants his team to end their season in style. "I thought the QPR game was a party occasion," he said. "The fans were certainly geared up for a celebration. Thankfully, it didn't fall flat and we managed to make it happen. Saturday is no different. We want to prove we are worthy champions and finish with a home victory, but Colchester will be here to spoil the party, I'm sure. The players have been well-warned about that, and if the guys approach the game in the same manner as the previous two we should be okay." The players have a chance to make it three successive wins with Williamson as their manager. "I have not really made a big mark on it," he insisted. "But my presence being here might just have been enough to stimulate a few players to do a bit better. They are a good bunch of lads and they do work hard for each other. It's extremely important there is a good work ethic. When they are allowed to play football they can certainly pass the ball about as well and create chances. I have not been surprised by what they have been doing, but it has been pleasing, definitely."
Mickey Evans, David Friio and Paul Connolly are expected to return to the team tomorrow. Bobby Williamson said: "The guys who have done ever so well for us throughout the season deserve an opportunity to play in the final match. We will see what we have got available for selection and then pick a team accordingly."
Stuart Yetton, Marcus Martin and Gary Sawyer have all been offered professional terms by Argyle but Lee Coxon and Wayne O'Sullivan are leaving Home Park. Second-year scholars Dan Bulley, Tom Entwisle and Darren Parrish have also been released
David Worrell is determined to put up a fight for the right-back spot when Argyle return for pre-season training. “The manager has come in and has said he doesn't have any pre-conceived ideas about anyone," said Worrell. "He said everyone was going to get the chance to prove themselves and everyone was starting off with a clean slate. I had a conversation with Shelly last week and he was saying to me 'you have been different class, you haven't been a nightmare with me, being an older pro.' He said a very nice thing. 'Probably the reason why I have been so consistent is that I know you are there, and if I don't play well you are going to come in.' There are 20 senior players at the club who expect to be playing in our team every week, and 20 into 11 doesn't go. I have probably been unfortunate that because I play right-back the manager isn't going to have me on the bench. That has been a bit hard to swallow at times but you have just got to get on with it. The manager has said there is a clean slate and everyone is back to square one so, hopefully, I will have a good pre-season."
Graham Coughlan has been named the Umbro Isotonic Second Division player of the season. Cocko just held off David Friio to earn the award and he said: "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled and honoured to receive this award but truly, I feel that Graham Coughlan has won nothing this season - it's all down to the hard work of the team and the coaching staff. It's the team's achievements this season and, obviously, Paul Sturrock, Kevin Summerfield and John Blackley, who have put me in this position. And, although I'm not a great believer in individual awards in a team game, on a personal front, I'm really thrilled." He added: “I'm surprised, really, as it's unusual for a defender to be so rewarded. Normally, it's the goalscorers and headline-makers who win the big prizes. That's what makes this award very special to me. As a defender you're used to being involved when the muck and bullets are flying, while a striker can pop up in the 88th minute, score the winner and nick all the plaudits. But, seriously, I owe Kevin, Paul and Sloop a lot for helping me become the player I am. They've all spent extra hours with me, working on defence and I think all the hard work has paid off - not just for me but team-wise, too. And, if I look after myself, I think I've got years left in me yet.” Coughlan wants to finish the season in style this Saturday: “I'm available for selection," he said. "And if selected, I will be hoping to help the lads win our final game. I know they dearly want to win this match and finish in style and on 90 points - that'd be great. We will adopt the same attitude that we do for all the games - 'there's three points on offer and we want them'. So we'll be going all out to win the game, but once the match is over, it's going to be party time. It's bound to be a tremendous occasion and I would urge all Argyle fans, whether they're at the match or not, to remember these moments. After all, they won't come along that often. So my advice to the supporters is go along and enjoy it - it's going be an emotional and memorable occasion alright."
Allan Evans has denied rumours that he is to become involved with Argyle under Bobby Williamson. The former Aston Villa and Scotland forward has just quit as manager of Saltash United but said: "I knew Bobby when I was manager of Morton, I also know Bobby's assistant at Hibernian, Gerry McCabe, very well, as we played for the same team in Canada. But there is no truth in any rumours whatsoever."
Argyle have released young striker Andy Watkins and he has signed for Bodmin Town
Argyle are urging fans to ensure they only buy official merchandise on Saturday. In order to make sure as many fans as possible are able to get their hands on the new range of championship memorabilia, the club is employing vendors outside the ground before the match. The vendors will be easily and instantly recognisable as club-shop employees. Rachel Fry said: “Our message to fans is ‘If you can’t tell that it’s official, it probably isn’t’.”
The video and DVD of Argyle’s season will be launched at the club’s Centenary Ball on May 21st. The video will contain all the highlights of the season including special days such as the return to Home Park of Paul Mariner and Billy Rafferty, and the Parade of Pilgrims. Provisionally titled ’Avin’ A Laugh the video will be shown and first available to buy at the Ball after which it will be on sale in the Club Shop. Also available, from this Saturday, is a DVD release of the title-clinching win over QPR. The Champions DVD includes the whole game, plus clips of the pre-match preparation, post-match interviews and the scenes after the final whistle. The 118 minute DVD costs £17.99 from the club shop
Scott Laird captained Scotlands under-17s to third place in the International Tournament in Northern Ireland and was also named as Scotland's best player at the event. Scotland finished runners-up in their group after beating Austria 3-1, losing 2-0 to the United States and drawing 0-0 with Belgium. They then met Finland in a play-off on Monday and thrashed them 5-1. Stuart Gibson saw Laird play in the first two games: "He did very well and was definitely one of the players who stood out, although there were a couple of others who were quite decent," said Gibson.
Argyle are close to finalising the arrangements for their pre-season tour to Austria. The squad will be returning to the sports training camp in Obertraun and the party will leave on July 16th, returning on July 25th. No fixtures have been confirmed, although it is thought Bobby Williamson would like to play two games. Williamson visited the Bundessport under Freizeitzentren in Obertraun when he was the manager at Kilmarnock. "I actually recommended it to Paul Sturrock," said Williamson. "I had been over there with Kilmarnock and it was a great location with good facilities. The food was fine and there was no problem whatsoever. When Paul phoned me I said 'if you get an opportunity to go over there, grasp it.' I had been over there with Kilmarnock and it was well worthwhile and, thankfully, that looks as if it's going to be happening this year. I think it's good for a team to get away and get to know each other. It gives me the chance to get to know the players better and see how they live their lives, and for them to get to know me better. I think it is beneficial and it's great for the fans as well. They can book their holidays around about and go and support the team as usual." Williamson is also busy planning a programme of pre-season friendlies. "That's in hand and, hopefully, we will be able to tell the fans what's happening over the next few days," he said.
Bobby Williamson does not believe Argyle will need to change their style of play next season. He said: "I don't think our style will change much, and the personnel is not going to change much between now and next season. These guys have done really well here and they have taken it onto the next level. We will see how they cope with that."
Bobby Williamson is finding time to focus on the club's long-term future and is determined to ensure that the youth development programme continues to supply the senior squad with players like Mickey Evans, Paul Wotton, Steve Adams, Luke McCormick and Paul Connolly, who all progressed through the system at Home Park. "These are players that the fans can identify with," Williamson said. "They have seen them develop and come through the ranks, and we've got to try and encourage as many of our young players as possible to try and make that breakthrough." Third-year scholar Stuart Yetton made a late substitute appearance on Saturday at Hartlepool, a reward for some impressive performances for the reserves in recent weeks and fellow trainee Ryan Dickson was also on the bench. "It lifts everybody," Williamson said. ""I think Stuart deserves a wee bit of recognition. He has scored a few goals for the reserves and you have got to keep encouraging the kids to perform. If they do that you have got to reward them by putting them on the bench or trying to get them through into the team. It shows all the kids that they've got a chance to impress if they perform to their capabilities.” 17 year-old John Hoyles scored a hat-trick for the reserves only two days after Yetton got his call-up and Williamson said: "That might just have been the wee gee-up John needed. I watched him playing against Cardiff last week and he had a couple of efforts at goal and was unfortunate not to get himself a goal. He took it on further on Monday and scored a hat-trick, so I'm pleased for him. It doesn't matter which club I've been at, I've always tried to develop talent and help it come through. I think it's a great reward for the youth coaches who work so hard behind the scenes. They get a kick out of seeing the talent they have developed get an opportunity "
Argyle could add up to four new faces to their squad over the summer, according to Paul Stapleton. With Jason Bent and Martin Phillips seemingly set to leave Home Park, the Chairman has said that would leave Bobby Williamson with the scope to sign 'three or four' players. Stapleton said: "Bobby has been busy working on players for next season. There was an agent at our game against Hartlepool on Saturday, who gave Bobby a videotape of a Scottish player for him to take a look at. I think Bobby's idea would be to get the new players in before our tour to Austria in July so they can bond together with the rest of the squad."
Argyle's reserves won their final game of the season 6-1 against Oxford United at Home Park. The goals were scored by Luke Summerfield, a Jon Hoyles hat-trick, Ryan Dickson and Stuart Yetton. Argyle: Schofield, Drew, Villis, Routledge, Sawyer, Summerfield, Evans.D, Martin, Dickson, Hoyles, Yetton. Subs – Bulley, O’Sullivan, Robotham (not used - Parish, Coxon)
Following his spectacular equaliser on Saturday Lee Hodges said: "After last week and becoming champions, the last thing we wanted to do was go out and get a good hiding. So today it was all about us and showing why we are champions, and I think we put on a good performance. The away fans have been unbelievable all season and for them to come out today and fill the away stand at Hartlepool was incredible. All the players appreciated that - they've been brilliant." Hodges played in central midfield and is desperate to keep his place there. "It's my favourite position," he said. "Hopefully I can carry on playing there for as long as possible."
David Worrell made his first appearance since November at Hartlepool: "I really enjoyed it," he said. "It has been a long time out of the team, but it was nice to be involved today. I'm honest enough to admit that it has been hard looking in, but full credit to Paul. He's been different class and he's got better and better with every game he's played. He came in and took his chance and I'm big enough to admit that." Worrell knew there was no danger of the team relaxing with the title won. "The rest of the league were looking at us today," he added, "thinking that maybe we've been having a jolly-up all week after winning the title, but we showed how professional we are. We showed our character and proved what a good bunch of players we've got at the club. Nobody can have any complaints about us and the way we applied ourselves today."
Lee Hodges and Marino Keith are expected to sign new contracts in the next couple of days but there is still uncertainty over the future of Martin Phillips. Phillips dropped out of Argyle's squad for the win at Hartlepool United after complaining of a tight hamstring. Bobby Williamson said: "Nothing has been concluded yet and until they are concluded there is not much to really talk about. Hopefully, we will get these things sorted out in the fullness of time. Buster was feeling his hamstring and didn't want to risk it so he got left behind. We will need to see him during the course of the week."
Bobby Williamson praised his players for coming from behind to win yesterday, he said: “We told them that they cannot let their standards drop - they’re the champions, there’s people who’ve come to see why they are the champions, and I think they showed it because they went a goal down away from home and went on to win the game 3-1. You have got to treat the game with respect. There’s teams trying to fight to get into that play-off spot and we would have let them down if we’d just come to make up the numbers. You never do that, especially when the fans have come in good numbers and spent a lot of money to get here. I’m very pleased we managed to get a result.” Williamson paid tribute to the staff at Home Park: “There’s a fantastic work-ethic at the club and they have got to keep that going. It’s not just on the park - it’s off the park, from the directors, right down through the staff. Everybody’s working their hardest to try and put Argyle on the map. It’s heading in the right direction and you see that out on the park - it just epitomises what the club is all about. There is a lot of spirit here. It is a championship-winning team. I had that at Rotherham, in the Fourth Division, when you get that feeling, that camaraderie in the dressing-room, and they’ve got that in abundance. That all stems from John Blackley, Kevin Summerfield and Paul Sturrock and the rest of the backroom staff. What they’ve instilled in these guys will hopefully hold them in good stead in the First Division. You have got to have squad that’s capable, especially going into the First Division, who are committed and who work hard for each other. I was a bit disappointed with the goal, there were a few mistakes made which culminated with us conceding, but we got right back into the game. We pushed up, and maybe the wind kept Hodgy’s effort down, because we were shooting into the wind, and it’s flown in the back of the net. We’re pleased for Hodgy. He worked very, very hard today, got us back into the game. Then we got a good second goal, with Nathan doing some donkey-work in closing down and he got his rewards. He finished it very well. Stevie Adams came in and did very well in there with Hodgy. The two of them worked away and nullified anything they had to throw at us in the centre of the park and kept everything going forward. Nathan got his rewards by getting himself a goal and David Worrell had a very good game after being out for so long. He did very, very well. Paul Connolly played so well last week and was unlucky to find himself on the bench but I felt we had to give David an opportunity because I think we’ll need to put Connolly back in next week."
Argyle have been linked with Glentoran striker Andy Smith. It is thought an Argyle scout watched Smith at Saturday's Irish Cup Final and that the club have already approached Glentoran to seek permission to speak to the striker
Bobby Williamson believes Tony Capaldi is gaining valuable experience playing at left-back for Northern Ireland. He said: "The more versatility you have got in your play, the better. Most teams are trying to carry smaller squads, and we are no different. If you have got players who can play in a few positions it will certainly help if you are coming up against injuries and suspensions." Williamson admitted the one reservation he had about players being called up for international duty was the number of games they were involved in but he added: "I have never stopped a player representing his country. I think it's a great accolade. It broadens his horizons and his profile as well, so I would encourage them to go and stake a claim and put themselves forward, and Tony is no different. I'm glad he has had that recognition. By all accounts he has deserved it."
Argyle won 3-1 at Hartlepool United, the goals coming from Lee Hodges after 12 minutes, Nathan Lowndes (43) and a Mark Tinkler own goal (48). Argyle: McCormick, Worrell, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Norris, Adams, Hodges, Capaldi, Keith, Lowndes. Subs - Stonebridge, Sturrock, Yetton (not used - Dickson, Connolly). Attendance - 7,437. The usual superb coverage can be found on Greens On Screen. After the game Bobby Williamson said: "We got the goals at good times again. It has been great to be a part of winning promotion in the last couple of weeks - even if it has been a small part. I'm quite happy with the team going into next season and that's why there won't be too many changes. I was pleased with the performance again and with the result."
Sunderland-born Peter Gilbert will have no shortage of motivation to put on a good performance this afternoon. "There's a lot of friends and family coming down," he said. "They've been bugging me the last couple of weeks for tickets. It will be nice to see them all, especially now that we're a bit more relaxed. It will be a good day." Gilbert insisted that Argyle will be seeking maximum points today and at home next Saturday. "There's no way we'll want to ease up," he said. "Professionalism is what it's all about. There are other teams involved. They need points and everyone else is still playing for something, so we can't afford to let up now. It wouldn't be very fair on anyone else and, to be honest, it wouldn't be fair on us. We've come this far and we want to finish the last two games on a high. It's business as usual." He continued: "I can't wait for next season. I don't think this was what anyone expected. We started off slowly but picked up at the right time. That gave us confidence to go on from there. Once we had a few wins we were on our way. The wins at Port Vale and Sheffield Wednesday were a big turning point psychologically. After those results, we believed deep down that we could go and do something. It was all about confidence and belief in ourselves. From then on we just got stronger and worked harder and harder. They're a great set of lads, they're honest and they want to do well for one another. We've had our backs against the wall at times. There was a lot of pressure on us because of some of our performances and results before last Saturday, but we've done well and we came through. It was almost as though it was meant to be for us against QPR. I never dreamed about this, at the beginning of the season I just wanted to come and play as many games as possible. This is just superb."
Romain Larrieu will not feature in Bobby Williamson's selection plans for the last two games of the current season. "I don't think Romain has anything to gain from playing now," Williamson said. "He's been out for such a long time that if I put him in now he may feel he has to impress me by trying to make saves, or to put himself in positions where he doesn't really need to be. He can start the next season with a clean slate and impress me in the pre-season games, and then I'll pick the goalkeeper I see fit to start the season. The way it works is that if he's doing well he stays in the team and the other guy has to sit in the background until he gets an opportunity. I know what Romain's capabilities are. He's a good goalkeeper, he has established himself in this country. But young Luke has done well and he has made the jersey his own over the last few months and he deserves to keep it until the end of the season. When we get around to pre-season games we'll alternate them and make sure they get the same amount of match practice. The one who makes the least mistakes up to the start of the season will get the nod, although Luke will have a slight advantage because he finished the season."
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