A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
In his final game for the club, Mickey Evans scored the winner as Argyle beat Ipswich Town 2-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Tony Capaldi after 28 minutes and Evans (57). Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Wotton, Aljofree, Hodges, Buzsaky, Norris, Nalis, Capaldi, Evans, Pericard. Subs - Pulis, Chadwick, Reid (not used - McCormick, Barness). Attendance - 15,921.
David Norris was today named as Argyle's Player of the Year. Chris Zebroski took the Young Player of the Year award
David Norris has given Argyle a massive end-of-season boost by revealing he is ready to commit his long-term future to the club. He said: "The club seems to be heading in the right direction since they brought the new manager in. Things are slowly getting to where they should be. As long as we keep going forward, I'm happy down this way." Argyle first opened talks with Norris about a new contract at Christmas, but they were then put on hold. Norris said: "The club have started negotiations again so it's just a matter of trying to sort something out. My agent will be speaking to them in the very near future.".
Michael Dunford believes the number of season-tickets sold this summer will be a 'critical' test of Argyle's chances of further progress in the Championship. He said: "The response we receive from supporters will, I feel, give a very clear indication of how far this club can go in the immediate future. I am not overplaying that card, but I believe the club is now at a clear crossroads. Depending on the level of support we receive, the team that eventually emerges will be the team our level of support deserves. This summer is critical and will give the Board a very clear indication of how far the club can eventually go." Dunford said manager Tony Pulis and the Argyle directors had a clear vision of how to take the club forward. He added: "But, for a club whose average attendance this season is less than 14,000, it may become increasingly difficult to maintain the progress that you, as supporters, would ideally wish to see. Ultimately, everyone will say they want Premiership football. We all want to be in the Premiership - it is the only place to be. In freezing season-ticket prices, the board have thrown down the gauntlet to our supporters. In particular, those who are not regular attenders. We need to muster all our resources and support to be able to make the progress we desire. We are now an established Championship club and everybody should start considering us in that light, ourselves included."
Mickey Evans is sure to receive an emotional send-off when he plays his last match for Argyle tomorrow. Evans has always been grateful for the support he has received from the fans during his two spells with the club. He said: "Whenever supporters come up to me in the street they are always polite. I have never had any problems with fans. Their support during my time at Argyle has been nothing short of phenomenal and I can only thank them most sincerely. They've enjoyed it as much as I have, especially the last five years. I'm glad to have been part of that, and it will be a very emotional day on Sunday. My family will be coming up, and I've had to get a lot of tickets for people who want to come and watch my final send-off!" Evans wants to carry on playing for at least one more year, but the proud Plymothian will continue to closely follow the fortunes of the team. He said: "I will definitely be coming along to a few games next season, obviously depending on my football. I wish the football club all the best and I really, really hope they push on next season and finish higher again. It's very important because any football club can never stand still. It must go forward. If not, it ends up going backwards and that can't afford to happen after the last five years we have had. If the manager can bring in the players he wants, I would be hoping for a top eight finish. That might not be too realistic, but you have got to hope for the best you can. He will have his own team next season and, basically, it's up to him what happens with the football club." Evans has packed a lot into his Argyle career. "There are a whole host of memories," he added. "One that stands out is Paul Williams heading the ball into the net to get us to Wembley five minutes from the end of the semi-final. My goal against Colchester here at Home Park in the same game also stands out. So does my goal against QPR. I was lucky enough to score up at Darlington when we won the Third Division title as well. All the important goals stand out. I may not have scored as many as I would have liked over the years, but I have definitely scored some important goals." Asked who has had the biggest impact on his career at Home Park, Evans replied: "Neil Warnock was the first manager to put me in the team on a regular basis and give me belief. I had stops and starts under other managers, but he was the first one to believe in me and put me in the side for a whole season. I owe a great deal to Neil. Paul Sturrock was great for me as well. He was a great manager, and the way he wanted to play was the way I wanted to play. I was near enough involved every week, so I want to say a big 'thank you' to him as well." After this weekend, it will be time to look to the future. "I'm open to all offers," Evans said. "I'll see what's on the table and take it from there. I'm not discounting anything, but geographically we're a bit stuck down here. I've got a big year ahead of me with my building business, and I'm looking forward to that. I've not been able to push it forward while I've been playing football. But first of all I'm looking forward to Sunday. I hope it will be a great day."
A big crowd is the priority for Tony Pulis, as Argyle prepare for the last game of the season. "We're hoping to have 17 or 18,000 on Sunday, so it will be a big day - fingers crossed we get a big crowd," he said. "The weather forecast is fantastic, so let's hope that people don't go down the beach but come to watch us instead." Pulis will be hoping for a victory to send supporters home happy. "We always want to win and it will be a long three and a half months before we start again," he said. "I think it's important to try and win every game we play. The big thing is the gap until our next game on August 6; I know it will soon come round but it would nice to finish with a good performance and a win. It would be a fitting end, especially for the players who have kept us up." Pulis may well involve some youngsters on Sunday but, at the same time, he is mindful of the wishes of his regulars. He said: "There has been plenty of talk about playing the kids but I've spoken to the players and they're keen to be involved. They've taken the battle forwards; it's like arriving to liberate Paris and all of a sudden they're taken out of the front line, and the green horns are taking the glory without facing the bullets and bayonets. I can see it from their point of view. The youngsters will be in the squad; whether I start them or have them on the bench and bring some on, I'm not sure. I'm still milling things over. Argyle assured their Championship status a few weeks, and Pulis concedes that his team has lost a bit of their edge since then. "It's been more relaxed ever since we assured our safety, but we're at the stage at this club where everybody has got be at 110% for us to win games," he said. "I think we've seen that anything less than that and we can get beat by the odd goal. We've scored ten goals this week in two games without changing our system. The point I'm making is that the quality that you play against makes a difference."
Whatever happens at Home Park tomorrow afternoon Tony Pulis wants supporters of Argyle to salute the efforts of the group of players he inherited last September. "We've got rid of a few players and made only one full signing," he said. "That was Lilian Nalis. We've had four loans who've had experience of playing in the Championship. We've made £100,000 in the transfer market and not spent a penny. The loan signings have helped immensely, but the people who were already here have provided the backbone and pushed us forward. I'm talking about Wotton, Evans, Norris, Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges and the rest. Full credit to those players who have been here from the start to the end. Fair play to them."
Lilian Nalis has agreed a new one-year deal to stay at Home Park. He said: "I am really pleased. Things have gone really well since I have been here, so I am very happy to continue with the club. I am thinking about the club going forward. I stayed here because I think the club is going in a great way and I want to be part of it." Nails joined the club after being released from Sheffield United and has not missed a minute of the 19 games in which he has played since. "I took the risk because the club really wanted to bring me down," he said, "and I signed a new deal for next year because they gave me a hand in January." Only Mathias Kouo-Doumbe has yet to agree a new deal when his contract expires in the summer. "I hope he is going to stay," said Nalis. "We are happy over here. All the English boys are really great with us. Sometimes it is nice to mix with French people as well, and talk about your culture." A trip back to France is next on the agenda for Nalis after Sunday's final game of the season. "After the season, I just need to rest," he said. "I need to go back home. I've not been home for ten months. I am going to enjoy myself for two months and make sure I am ready for next season."
Lee Hodges has admitted he can enjoy his summer break after agreeing a new one-year contract with Argyle. He said: "It's a load off my mind. I'm really happy about it because 12 months ago I didn't have a clue what was going on. I have had a run in the team over the last couple of months and I have really enjoyed it." Since making his comeback Hodges has been deployed by Tony Pulis at left-back. He said: "As a back four, we have done well. We have kept a lot of clean sheet, which always helps your cause. I think the gaffer knows that I'm not a Shelly, who bombs on every five minutes. I take my time and when I go forward I go for it. I'm really happy just to be involved in and around the team again." Hodges feels comfortable playing at left-back, having been a regular there for Argyle during the 2002/03 season. "The gaffer doesn't complicate it," he said. "He tells you what to do and you just get on with it to the best of your ability. I have been really pleased with the way it has gone. I know when I have played well and when I haven't played well." Hodges admitted he had been unsure whether he would be offered a new contract or not. He said: "You never know. The thing I was happy about was that I got the chance to play as many games as possible. If it hadn't worked out then I would have been fit enough to get another club, but everything has gone okay and I was happy to sign. I have been here a long while now and I don't want to leave. We are playing in the Championship and, hopefully, we can finish higher again this season. Since I have been here, every season we have finished higher, which is a great achievement." Hodges will enjoy his summer holidays but knows there will be plenty of hard work ahead of him when the players return to training at the end of June. He added: "I know I have only played half-a-season but I have missed a pre-season. You do need that under your belt just to give you that little head start. We have got one more game to go now and we are all looking forward to it. Then we will have a break and see what happens from there."
A young Argyle reserve team lost 1-0 to Yeovil Town at Tiverton last night. Argyle included three trialists in their line-up, striker Marc Walton and two 18-year-olds from West Ham United - defender Liam White and midfielder Ismael Welsh.
Argyle announced today that they have reached an agreement with Bobby Williamson over the settlement of his contract
Tony Pulis is refusing to clarify whether Mickey Evans will be in the starting line-up for Sunday's game. "He will be in the squad," said Pulis. "Everybody will have to wait and see; just turn up and see if Mickey starts. It will be an emotional day, he's been here for 14 years, on and off, and played well over 400 games, which is great service." Evans was given his Argyle debut in 1991 by David Kemp, who said: "It's unusual in this day and age to have a player start and finish his career at the same club, and also for me to be here for his first game and his last. He has had a wonderful career, and been a credit to himself and the club."
Nick Chadwick and Mathias Kouo-Doumbe are the main injury concerns ahead of Argyle's final game of the season. Tony Pulis revealed that Chadwick has been suffering from an ear infection, while Doumbe has a sore foot. He said: "Nick Chadwick has got an ear infection that he's been suffering from for the last couple of days and Matty Doumbe's got a sore foot, so we'll just have to wait and see. Doumbe hasn't trained all week and his foot is bruised - he may train today, but we're not sure."
Mickey Evans has confirmed he intends to carry on playing next season. Evans has rejected a new 12-month deal with Argyle but has no immediate plans for retirement. He has a thriving construction business in Plymouth and does not want to leave the city, which could open the way for a move to Yeovil Town or Torquay United. Evans said: "Obviously, I have got business interests in the city, which I will be pushing forward a lot more. I have never wanted it to interfere with my football. My wife and I have got a child on the way in the next couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time with the family because it has been very difficult. I will be playing somewhere next season but, to be honest, I have had no offers at the moment." Evans did not even consider retirement after making the decision to quit Home Park. He said: "No, not all. I know I have got a good season to give somewhere, but you know when it's your time to leave a football club. What I could have done is stay with Argyle next season and play a few games and been in the reserves whatever happened. I just feel it's time to move on. People might say it's too early but you have got to live and die by your own decisions." Evans is sixth in Argyle's all-time appearance list and he added: "I'm very proud and very privileged to have played so many times for Argyle. I'm from Plymouth and that makes it a little bit more special as well. When I was younger, I looked up to people like Tommy Tynan. He was one of the great centre-forwards that the club has had. He has still got a close affinity with the club now, as everybody knows, and I would like to have the same when I finish."
Vincent Pericard will hold talks with Tony Pulis on Friday, when Pulis hopes to find out whether Pericard is interested in a permanent move to Argyle in the summer. Pulis said: "Vincent came to see me on Monday and I said I would see him at the end of the week. I would like to know whether he wants to stay or whether he has got other things in the pipeline. I will find out on Friday."
Argyle seem highly unlikely to commence work on phase two of the redevelopment of Home Park before May 2007. The announcement of season-ticket details for next season include standing on the Mayflower Terrace, which would suggest demolition of the Grandstand will not start until next summer. Argyle's three-year dispensation to retain terracing following their promotion to the Championship in 2004 ends next May, so the club would have to close the standing area for the 2007/08 season even if work on phase two does not start by then
Tony Pulis paid tribute to Mickey Evans after the striker announced his intention to leave the club at the end of the season. He said: "Mickey has shown a fantastic attitude since I joined the football club and has been a big reason why the club has stayed up. I know people will say he hasn't scored a goal in the time I have been here but there are so many other things that he has contributed to the team, and to the club, in that period. I wish him all the best. If anybody ever rang me up, I would say what a great attitude he has got and what a good lad he is as well. The club have offered him a contract and Mickey didn't think it was right. That's fine. He's a big boy now - he's 33 - and he will make his own decisions. He has got to do his best for Mickey Evans and I understand that." Pulis admitted he had not decided yet whether to include Evans in the squad for the game against Ipswich. He said: "I'm not sure. I will speak to Mickey on that one, but I know a lot of people will want to give him a good send-off."
Argyle won 5-0 in their friendly at Dorchester Town last night. The goals scored by Vincent Pericard, Nick Chadwick, Tony Capaldi, Lilian Nalis and Luke Summerfield. Tony Pulis said: "It was a difficult pitch tonight, but the lads have still shown a first-class attitude, especially with the end of the season only days away." Among Argyle's substitutes was 20-year-old trialist Marc Walton, a former Newcastle United reserve and youth team striker. Argyle: Larrieu, Pulis, Wotton, Aljofree, Hodges, Summerfield, Nalis, Capaldi, Djordjic, Chadwick, Pericard. Subs – Mason, Hopkinson, Walton
Argyle's reserve side won 5-0 at Swansea last night, the goals coming from a Leon Clarke hat-trick, and one each from Mickey Evans and Scott Laird. Geoff Crudgington said: "It was a good win. They all did well. It was an experienced side, so you'd expect them to be too good for a young Swansea side. The attitude was excellent - that was the main thing. We had an experienced team out and Swansea were very young, but you've got to show the right attitude - no complaints." Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Barness, White, Laird.S, Gosling, Reid, Buzsaky, Evans, Clarke, Zebroski. Subs not used - Kendall, Debbage, Smith, Laird.J
Mickey Evans is leaving Argyle. He said today: "After playing most of the season, it was time to sit down with my family and decide what I was going to do. I decided it was right for me to leave the club on a high. I'm very, very lucky. I've had a great career with the club. I'm a little bit sad to leave, obviously, but I have got to do what is right at the right time, and going out on a high is the most important thing for me. There was a new contract on offer from the club, but that didn't play a major part in my thinking. I wanted to make sure that, when I left Argyle, the decision was mine. I think it's the right time to leave. I've left at a time when, hopefully, we will finish the highest we have for a couple of decades. This is the strongest the club has ever been. The chairman and the board have done a magnificent job over the last five years, and I'd like to thank them for everything they have done. The club can only go from strength to strength. I'm leaving after a good five or six years since I came back and the club is in the best position it has ever been. I think the time is right for me to move on to pastures new." He continued: "Winning the championship a couple of seasons ago was the highlight for me, but, in 20 or 30 years time, people will remember the day we played at Wembley - okay, it wasn't a great game, but it was a great atmosphere. Moving away to Southampton was a bit of a wrench, but, if the club had been in a better situation, I would have loved to have stayed and played all of my career here. It has been very, very special for me and for everyone around me." After Graeme Souness was sacked at Southampton Evans fell out of favour, and then injury and illness affected his career. Following moves to West Bromwich Albion and Bristol Rovers, Paul Sturrock paid £30,000 to bring Trigger home in March 2001. Mickey said: "I jumped at the chance to get back to the club. Sturrock was the right man for the job, and the rest is history, as they say." The second half of his Argyle career saw Evans become a fixture in the side which won the old Third Division, his hold-up play and willingness to lay his body on the line for the cause more than once earning the admiration colleague and fans alike. "I never scored a lot of goals," he said. "I don't think that was my game, anyway - it was the person beside me who got the goals - but I've scored some important goals." In parting, Evans paid tribute to the Argyle supporters who have followed his career. "I'd like to say a special 'thank you' to all the fans for all their great support down the years," he said. "I'm going to miss the camaraderie with them - they have always been brilliant to me - but I hope I can enjoy that again when I come to watch Argyle in the future."
Every senior squad member will be in action tonight, when Argyle send teams to Dorchester Town for a friendly and to Swansea City for a reserve fixture. Visiting Dorchester will be: Romain Larrieu, Lilian Nalis, Vincent Pericard, Nick Chadwick Tony Capaldi, Paul Wotton, Hasney Aljofree, Bojan Djordjic, Lee Hodges, Luke Summerfield and Anthony Pulis. The rest of the squad: Luke McCormick, Anthony Barness, David Norris, Akos Buzsaky, Mickey Evans, Mat Doumbe, Leon Clarke, Paul Connolly, Chris Zebroski, Reuben Reid and Scott Laird, will face Swansea reserves. The two squads will also include apprentices, to fill the substitutes' benches. At this stage of the season, Tony Pulis feels that playing matches will be more beneficial than hard labour on the practice pitches. He said: "We can train all week, or we can give them another game and a couple of days off to break the week up. That's what we've decided we'll do. It's the end of the season, and I think all the lads would prefer to play rather than train at the moment." David Kemp will be in charge of the side at Swansea, while Mark O'Connor will be at Dorchester to take the helm if Pulis's plans for a scouting trip do not fall through. "If I can get to Dorchester, I'll be there," Pulis said, "but I might be at another game." Good performances in either of tonight's matches are unlikely to influence selection for the final game of the season on Sunday. "I've got a squad in mind for Sunday," Pulis said. "Tonight will just allow everybody to get a game, rather than train." Having decided against using any youth-team prospects in either of the last two games, Pulis may do so against Ipswich - but he is not making any promises. "There might be one or two involved on Sunday, but I'm not sure," he said. The desire to field Argyle's strongest side at every opportunity was the reason for the non-appearance of Reuben Reid against Luton Town and Leicester City. "I got to the stage where I really wanted to put some points on the board, and finish off on a real high," Pulis added. "I just wanted to win, and set everything up for next season, but there's one kid in particular who I'll look to get involved this weekend, but I don't want to put too much pressure on him."
Argyle have frozen the price of season-tickets renewals for next season. Green members will not have to pay any more than they did this term, provided they buy their season-tickets by May 27th. The prices will increase from May 28th to July 1st however, and then show a further rise from July 2nd to July 29th. Paul Stapleton said: "There was a sound business argument for the board to consider raising the price of a full season-ticket Green Membership. However, to show loyalty to those fans who back us at every home fixture, we decided that prices should remain unchanged. That means, in effect, anyone renewing their season-tickets will not only see six games for free, but will also actually be making a saving in real terms." Stapleton underlined that the more season-tickets that are sold, the more money the club can invest in the playing squad. He said: "We have told Tony Pulis that the squad will be strengthened by the introduction of further quality players and he is extremely enthusiastic about our prospects next season. The better the sales of season-tickets, the better position we will be in to back his ambitions and those of everyone who supports Argyle. We all want to continue our progress of recent years and move higher up the Championship table, a task which becomes increasingly harder to maintain. However, everyone at Home Park is deeply committed to ensuring that progress continues. In many ways, this is a momentous time for the club: we are currently completing the purchase of Home Park from the City Council, which means, for the first time in its history, Argyle will own their own ground, and Phase II is high on the agenda. Also, we will shortly be setting out a new five-year plan, for which we will seek the thoughts, ideas and opinions of fans. Regular season-ticket income helps the club to plan ahead, not only for this season, but also for future seasons. " The club is aiming to set a new record by attracting more than 10,000 Green Members and, if it does, at least 11 lucky fans, will become director for the day at any Argyle game, with all the privileges that entails, including traveling with the team, staying at the team hotel, meeting the management and players, and watching the game from the best seats in the ground. All will also be invited to take part in the official team pre-season photocall. Those fans - the first person to buy a season-ticket when they go on sale on May 2nd, then the 1,000th, 2,000th, and so on for every multiple of 1,000 - will then be entered into a draw, with the lucky winner being assigned a squad number for the entire season. That fan's name will appear in every home programme for the season, with their name, picture and profile being included on the official club website and sent to opposition clubs for their programme
Tony Pulis is juggling quite a few balls at once as contract negotiations continue this week. Micky Evans has been offered a new one year deal but, as Pulis revealed, Trigger is not too enamoured with the offer. "Micky has been made an offer, which I think everybody knows now that he is not too happy with," said Pulis. "He has a big affiliation with the club and he's been a gem for us this year. Lee Hodges has been made an offer and he's been a massive bonus since he came back from injury. Michael Dunford will be the man to talk to when it comes to contracts. Matt Doumbe and David Norris have also been offered new deals. I hope Doumbe is here next season because he's done fantastically well, and I like him. As the season has progressed, he has got stronger and stronger." Pulis is particularly keen to secure the services of Doumbe and Norris because of their value to the club. Evans and Hodges, on the other hand, are arguably more like squad players. "No disrespect to Micky Evans and Hodges but they have become more squad players, if you're going to bracket people," said Pulis. "They are both Plymouth through and through, and they want the club to do well. Doumbe and Norris are bigger assets to the club, purely because they are younger. Lilian Nalis is another man to have been offered a new contract. Pulis added: "Lilian Nalis has also been offered a contract. What happens now is that the players' agents will get in contact with Michael Dunford and he will deal with things." The future of loan strikers Leon Clarke and Vincent Pericard remains unclear, but Pulis is planning to have things sorted out sooner rather than later. He said: "I'll speak to Leon Clarke and then, if needs be, speak to Wolves; he still has another year on his contract at Wolves. Vincent Pericard came to see me today and I'll speak to him again at the end of the week - he also has another year with his club, Portsmouth. I'll find out what he wants to do at the end of the week. A budget is laid out and you have to work around that to bring in new players."
Lee Hodges has agreed a new one year deal that will keep him at Home Park next season. Michael Dunford said: "Lee Hodges has come in today and we have agreed a new one-year deal with him, which is good news. It's very nice for Lee to have come through a traumatic period, and we are very pleased that he has warranted the offer of a new contract. He is just very glad to still be playing professional football. I think everybody is very pleased that we are even in a position to be able to talk to Lee Hodges because the injury was giving everybody concern. It was more worrying for him though because it's his career. His contract has incentives built into it so that if he continues to play on a regular basis then it will improve, and that's the way it should be. I know Tony is delighted that Lee has come back and shown him he's a valued member of the squad. When Tony came here, he didn't really know Lee, although he knew of him. It wasn't until two or three months into Tony's reign that he saw what Lee Hodges is capable of and, in fairness, I think in a position which people didn't expect him to be playing."
David Norris has been offered an extension to his current deal at Home Park. His present contract runs out in 15 months, and the club are extremely keen to secure his services until 2009. Michael Dunford said: "We've opened negotiations with David Norris's agent to extend his contract, which expires in 2007, by a further two years. I think that anybody who has watched Argyle play this season will probably know that Norris is one of our best performers. When you have a player of his age, and with a lot speculation about clubs showing an interest in him, we obviously want to protect our interests. In my conversations with him, and from what Tony has told me, he has no desire to leave and any approach, which he haven't had as yet, would be discouraged. We have him under contract for 15 months, and we want to extend it because he is a valuable asset to this club. Under the present system, he would technically be able to gain a free transfer when his contract expires. We can't allow that situation to develop, and we hope we can reach an agreement because we want to keep our best players." Norris is not the only Argyle player to be considering a new deal at the moment. "It's quite straightforward, and no different to all other clubs in the country," said Dunford. "We've got a number of players who are out of contract this summer - we've made offers to them all, and it's really now down to them to come back to us and decide whether they wish to decline that offer, or whether there will be a further period of negotiation. Tony Pulis has got his budget - the board has sanctioned that. We now have to get the best possible value for money, as you would expect because Tony wants to bring in additional players in the summer to strengthen the squad. Our brief is to try and negotiate the most commercially acceptable deals for Plymouth Argyle Football Club." Mat Kouo-Doumbe and Lilian Nalis are also considering new offers, as well as Michael Evans. Dunford added: "Mathias Kouo-Doumbe's contract is up, and he's been offered a new two year deal and we are waiting to hear his response. Michael Evans has been offered a one-year deal, and so has Lilian Nalis who has settled in well at the club." Contract negotiations are all part of the planning for next season as Tony Pulis prepares for the new campaign. "Tony is very sensible and he knows the type of squad he wants next season, and he knows the budget," said Dunford. "Every club has to work to a budget, and there are numerous clubs in the Championship who will be reducing their wage budget whereas our budget has increased. That shows the enthusiasm that we have here, and the commitment to back the manager. We've got four or five players out of contract and they obviously want to know their future is secure. We have to make offers that we feel are sensible given the age of the players and the positions within the squad that Tony is looking to strengthen. The manager is a canny operator and he has an input in each decision we make because he has a value in his mind of a players' contract in comparison to other players in the squad. This is normal, everyday life for a football club at this time of year. Contracts expire at the end of June, and I would hope that by the middle of May most of these decisions are concluded."
Mat Doumbe is adamant that Argyle still want to finish the season with a flourish, despite defeats in their last two games. He said: "Maybe we didn't deserve to lose, but we did. Everyone is disappointed. We wanted to get a good result." Along with Paul Connolly and Lee Hodges, Tony Pulis felt that Doumbe was at fault for the Leicester goal on Saturday. Doumbe said: "I don't think there is ever a goal where nobody makes a mistake. As a team maybe we didn't react that well, but we nearly scored as well. We had chances, but we were punished for that one mistake. We want to finish as high in the table as we can and we want to prove ourselves, so this defeat was a big disappointment. Our last game is at home, so we are going to try to do our best against Ipswich. We'll see what happens. We want to finish the season on a good note." There is increasing speculation that Doumbe's two-year stay at Argyle could end this summer. Argyle started contract talks with him a couple of months ago, but his future seems to be up in the air. Asked about his contract talks, he said: "There have been discussions, but I'm still concentrating on the season. After the season is over, we'll see. I don't want to think too much about it now. When we agree on something, I can talk about it."
Lilian Nalis admitted there was an end-of-season feel to Argyle's defeat by Leicester City on Saturday. He said: "It's always a pleasure to come here but my head is down because I hate losing, even at Leicester. I would have preferred a draw or a win, but that's football. Vincent had a great chance to equalise when they made a mistake, but there weren't many chances today. It looked like an end-of-season game. I wouldn't say we weren't motivated. I think all the lads tried to put in the best performance they could." After losing two successive matches, Argyle will try to finish the season on a winning note against Ipswich Town on Sunday. Nalis added: "We have to focus on that game and make sure we get a good result." When asked about his future Nalis said: "I don't know yet. For the moment the most important thing is the team and the football. I had a talk with the manager this week so let's see what's going to happen next week."
Tony Pulis declined to blame his players after Argyle's final away game ended in defeat at Leicester. He said: "I think Leicester had Fryatt's chance, a long-range shot from Iain Hume in the second half that Romain makes a good save from, and that was it. Vincent's had a chance in the second half: There were two clear-cut chances in the game: Fryatt scores, Vincent misses. Fryatt's goal started with Mathias Kouo-Doumbe not doing his job, and Paul Connolly really should have done better stopping the cross. Then Lee Hodges gets caught flat. We were all working in our slots when Matty Doumbe switches off and they get behind us. Once they get behind us, they can get crosses in from dangerous areas." That criticism aside, Pulis praised his players for their efforts, both in the match and during the season. "They worked hard; they've had right go," he said. "We've not come here and strolled around, it's just that little bit of quality? It's the same old, same old. I'm saying the same things every week - the team's got spirit, commitment, we just need that cutting edge. We had some good opportunities, got in some good positions, but that final ball, that final touch, lets you down in the final third. We needed that little bit of quality wide and down the middle to deliver that quality cross and get someone on the end of it. Sometimes when that edge goes, it does take away a little bit when you are safe, but I will not fault my players. Just look where the club is playing today - and we are going to do it again next year. That's testimony to the players." Pulis made one change to his starting line-up, reintroducing Romain Larrieu at Luke McCormick's expense, and used three substitutes - Akos Buzsaky, Nick Chadwick and his son Anthony - early in the second half. He said: "My preference all season has been Romain. I had a look at Luke last week. I wanted to give him a game and thought the Luton game was the best game for him to play. I like Romain. I think he's an outstanding goalkeeper. We're very fortunate that we have got two good goalkeepers. It's a bit hard on Luke, but Romain hasn't let me down all season. I brought Buzsaky on, hoping he might do something; Chadders had couple of good opportunities, looked more dangerous; and I though Ant did well when he came on, he passed it well, kept the ball." For the second successive match Reuben Reid was on the bench, but is still waiting to make his first team debut. Pulis added: "Reuben will get his opportunity, but I will decide when that is. No-one else."
Argyle lost 1-0 at Leicester City. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Clarke. Subs - Buzsaky, Pulis, Chadwick (not used - McCormick, Reid). Attendance - 22,796.
Argyle will play six pre-season friendlies in preparation for next season. The first game will be against Tiverton Town at Ladysmead on Wednesday, July 12th. The club will then play the previously announced fixture at Grays Athletic on Saturday, July 15th before flying out to Austria. Argyle will play two matches during the trip, although the opposition has still to be finalised. Argyle will play a game against yet-to-be confirmed opponents at Home Park on Tuesday, July 25th before concluding pre-season with a visit to Bristol Rovers on Friday, July 28th. Michael Dunford revealed it would be another four to six weeks before the opponents for the two matches in Austria would be finalised. He said: "I have got two or three irons in the fire for the game at Home Park on the 25th. Tony wants to play a British team but trying to get a Premiership club is proving extremely difficult because they are starting their season later because of the World Cup this summer and it does not fit in with their pre-season schedules. It's probably going to have to be against local opposition. There seems no point in bringing teams down from the North or the Midlands." Pulis has confirmed Argyle will start pre-season training on Thursday, June 29th. He always begins pre-season training five weeks and three days before a league campaign kicks off, which means the players will have an eight-and-a-half week break over the summer
Former Argyle left-back Brian McGlinchey is returning to the club. He was recently forced to retire following a persistent back problem but will now be involved with the coaching of Argyle's young players. Since finishing his career, McGlinchey has successfully obtained a UEFA C Licence coaching certificate, on a course that was also completed by Paul Wotton
Tony Pulis is looking forward to the challenge of Argyle's trip to Leicester tomorrow. He said: "It would be nice to go to Leicester and get three points. I'm looking for a performance to enable us to finish as high up the league as we can." Once again, Pulis is planning to take some youngsters on the road with the squad. He said: "I'll put some kids on the bench on Saturday and, hopefully, with a better performance from the group they will get a game. I was reluctant to bring them on against Luton because it was a struggle for us. The senior players have worked really hard all season, and they're desperate to maintain their appearance in the team. I think a few of them feel it is a little unjust to be left out." The one change against Luton was Luke McCormick and Pulis was happy to see him turn in a good performance. He said: "It was nice to see Luke McCormick play on Monday - I thought he did ever so well but, then again, Romain has been absolutely outstanding. If there is one area this club is strong, it is between the sticks."
Air travel is the future for Argyle according to Tony Pulis. "Flying is the best way of travelling to away games but it is expensive," he said. "If we can afford it then we will fly, and if not, so be it. The club has been travelling long distances for over a hundred years but we now have the modern day options of flights from Exeter and Plymouth. We have to fly to places as much as possible, especially with the distances we travel." Argyle have endured some arduous coach journeys this season, with the trip to Leeds a particular killer. "It took us nine hours on the coach to Leeds. By the time we leave, get there, train and then get to the hotel, you could cross the Atlantic. The players then play 90 minutes of football, and do the journey all over again. It's no wonder we look a bit tired and jaded come the end of the season." Despite the difficult journeys, Argyle have put in some good performances away from home this season. "Ever since I've been here we have gone away from home and always had a go," said Pulis. "We've never been really turned over, and I don't think we've had the good fortune that some other clubs have had. That is the way it goes sometimes but I think the lads have put in some fantastic performances on the road without always getting the results. We just need a little bit more quality and a little more luck. In our last five games, we've been denied four penalties and had a definite goal turned down, so the gods are not with us at the moment. I know I keep saying it, but with a bit more luck we could have beaten both Leeds and Preston on the road - that's two sides in the play-offs."
Tony Pulis is looking forward to a chance to see Ryan Dickson in action in pre-season. He said: "One player I haven't had a chance to see since I have been at the club is Ryan, who has been out all season with a back problem. I know he played in the game at Rotherham last season and I have spoken to a couple of people who were there that day. They said he's a left-sided player with good ability so it has been disappointing not having Ryan around the group. But the most important thing for Ryan is to make sure he gets back 100 per cent fit and raring to go. We are hoping that will be for pre-season, but I leave all that to physio Paul Maxwell and he will keep me posted."
Akos Buzsaky has promised to keep pushing for a recall to Argyle's starting line-up, following his substitute appearance and goal last weekend. He said: "When I come on, I always try to show that my position is in the starting line-up. I was happy to score against Luton and, until the last 10 minutes, it seemed like the winning goal. It's a shame it wasn't. It's not my job to pick the team though. I just have to train well every day and we will see what will happen at the weekend." When Buzsaky has come as a substitute, it has been usually been on the right-side of midfield, although in the past two games he has played on the left. He said: "I enjoy playing in the middle more but sometimes you have to play where the team need you. I haven't played very much the last couple of months and I'm really disappointed because I want to start the games." After his goal some of his pent-up frustration spilled out as he celebrated by rushing towards the Devonport End, which earned him a yellow card. Buzsaky, though, had no regrets about his actions. He said: "If you score a goal it's hard to keep yourself on the pitch if you are really happy and really enjoyed it. I didn't care if I got a yellow card or not because the last time I scored was against Ipswich last November so I was really pleased." A persistent groin injury has hampered Buzsaky since Christmas and Tony Pulis concedes that he probably rushed him back into action too quickly, and that his form has suffered as a consequence. "I rushed Akos back into the team around Christmas time, and I don't think he was ready," said Pulis. "He is still feeling it now and again in training. I would love him to go away, have a really nice close season, relax, and come back 110% on it for next season. There is no other player at the club who can do the things Akos can do. I certainly don't want to lose him or put him through any problems during the summer. The last thing we want is for him to return to pre-season still feeling his groin. I know some people may criticise me for not playing him but the long term picture is more important. We have reached our objectives for this season, and now it's all about next year."
Tony Pulis has explained the reasons for Argyle's friendly at Dorchester Town next week. The Magpies' are managed by Mark Morris, who played under Pulis at Bournemouth, and Pulis was pleased to step in after Portsmouth cancelled. He said: "They originally arranged a game with Portsmouth. Unfortunately, Pompey's match against Arsenal was re-arranged, and Harry Redknapp was unable to fulfil the commitment. It was a desperate situation for Mark, as they were hoping to get a lot of people through the gate. I'm really pleased to help him out - he was a former player of mine at Bournemouth, and he's a great lad. I think it's their centenary celebrations, so I'll be taking the first team squad. It's always nice to help smaller clubs. The reserve game on the same night will have a mixture of kids, and more senior players."
Tony Pulis is planning to watch plenty of games once the season is completed. His coaching team of Lindsay Parsons, David Kemp and Mark O'Connor will be jetting off to Eastern Europe this week. And Pulis will be taking the opportunity to go scouting some players of his own, once his duties with the first team have been reduced by the close season break. "The lads are going away to Eastern Europe this week," he said. "They will be watching players, and if we feel it's worthwhile I'll go out to watch them again. I've got three weeks spare in May to go and watch games, and players, both at home and abroad."
Argyle reserves lost 1-0 to Bournemouth at Tiverton last night. Argyle: Debbage, Churchill, Laird.J, Gosling, Kendall, White, Smith, Hopkinson, Mason, Reski, Watts. Subs - Crayford, Groves, Davis, Grant
Argyle are urging fans to let their hair down and party whilst wearing spectacular headgear for the final game of the season next week. The club have designated the visit of Ipswich Town as a 'Hats and Hairdos' themed afternoon and is marking the end of the season by putting on a variety of entertainment before, during, and after the game. A local rock band will provide the pre-match music, while the RN Volunteer Band HMS Drake will perform a marching display on the pitch during the half-time interval. Tony Pulis said: "This season has been a long, hard campaign, but we've got plenty to celebrate - we're assured of Championship football again next season, and Phase II looks to be on the horizon. I'd like to encourage fans to enter into the spirit of the day, get their hats or wigs on, and really enjoy the occasion, enjoy being an Argyle supporter with all their fellow fans." Also on the agenda for the afternoon is the presentation of the Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season awards, and following the final whistle, Tony Pulis and his players will take part in a lap of appreciation for the supporters. "Normally, it's the players who take the applause from the fans," Pulis added, "but this time it will be us applauding the tremendous support that we have had this season."
Decisions on the future of several Argyle players will be made before the season ends next Sunday. Four members of the squad are out-of-contract in the summer - Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, Mickey Evans, Lee Hodges and Lilian Nalis. Tony Pulis said: "There will be discussions this week and next week with players who are out of contract or on loan. There is a lot of work to be done. It has been important that Mickey, Hodgie and Lilian have been involved in the games lately. I think it's only right they should be given the opportunity to show what they can do. Although that has affected the likes of Barness and Chadwick, who have got contracts for next season, it's the way I have wanted to do it. I think it's only fair on them because they have played an important part in keeping the club in the Championship this season. It will all be done over the next two weeks. I think it's only right they should know what the situation is before they go off on their holidays. I will also be speaking to Vincent and Leon."
Luke McCormick was happy to find himself in the first-team again on Monday - but he also admitted how painful it has been to wait for his League debut this season. He said: "I found out I was playing on Saturday evening, at the airport on the way home from Millwall. The gaffer had a little whisper in my ear, and I spoke to Crudgie on Sunday. He told me to get my mind right and prepare properly. When we knew we were safe from relegation, I thought I had a chance of playing. Throughout the season Romain has done so well, but I was always hoping to be picked because the manager hadn't really seen me play at a competitive level. I was very happy to get a run-out." Although McCormick was unable to help Argyle win on Monday, he still seized his chance to impress. "I was fairly pleased with my performance, considering that I hadn't played for such a long time," he added. "I just enjoyed being back out there. It's been a while, and I didn't feel too rusty." Argyle took the lead against Luton with a goal from Akos Buzsaky, who has largely been excluded from the first-team picture lately. "I was ever so pleased for Akos," McCormick said. "I'm sure he's found it difficult as well this season, but he took his goal brilliantly. He has shown this season that he can finish, and fair play to him for getting himself on the scoresheet." Unfortunately for Argyle, Luton's two late goals took the points. "The goals weren't good from our point of view," McCormick said. "It was a shame, as we looked comfortable at 1-0, but we were taught a harsh lesson." This season has been a harsh experience for McCormick. "I can't tell you how hard it has been, but I've just had to keep plugging away," he said. "I don't think there was too much between me and Romain in pre-season, but he got the shout. All credit to Romain. I can't say enough about how well he has done this season. He's been absolutely remarkable. For the sake of my career, I don't want to sit on the bench for another season. We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the summer. I don't really want to leave Plymouth, but we'll have to wait and see what pre-season holds in store. You never know what's round the corner."
Argyle are to play Dorchester Town in a friendly next week. The first team will visit the Avenue Stadium on Tuesday, April 25th and the game kicks off at 7.45pm
Akos Buzsaky scored for Argyle for the first time since November yesterday - but was disappointed with the defeat. He said: "I'm happy because I scored. The last time I scored was against Ipswich, and it was a long time ago. I'm not happy because we didn't win the game, and I'm not happy for myself because I want to play football. That's my job, and I'm not very happy to sit on the bench. I try to use every opportunity I am given, if I can, and today I was lucky because I scored but I was unlucky because we lost the game. One half of me is laughing, the other half is crying. We wanted to win the game, and we tried our best, but I think the team was tired today. We couldn't play like we do when we have a week's rest." Buzsaky would be delighted if he was picked in Argyle's starting line-up at Leicester next weekend, but he is not allowing himself to become too optimistic about that prospect. "It is a long time since I started," he said, "so I'm not dreaming too much of starting a game now."
Luke McCormick played in his first Championship match for more than 11 months yesterday, and after the defeat said: "It's a shame because at 1-0 I felt very comfortable but it just goes to show how quickly things can change. It was brilliant to be out there again. I really enjoyed it and I was fairly pleased with how I played as well. You realise when you get back how much you do miss it. It has been really frustrating this season." McCormick admitted Luton striker Steve Howard had been a thorn in the side for Argyle. He said: "He doesn't lose many headers and he showed today how good he is. He caused us a few problems. That's what Luton are all about. They hit it up to Howard and they play for the knock downs. They have it done really well today. Vine has produced a great finish for the first goal."
Paul Maxwell has been suspended from the touchline for two games following an altercation with a match official at Home Park. Maxwell was found guilty by the FA of using abusive or insulting words towards fourth official Brian Malone during the defeat by Cardiff on March 18th. The club is considering whether to appeal against the ban, which comes into effect at the beginning of next season
Andy Hall yesterday became the latest official to frustrate Tony Pulis. Argyle were denied a clear goal when Marlon Beresford spilled a Vincent Pericard header and the ball briefly rolled over the line. Pulis said: "I couldn't tell if it was over the line from where I was stood. Those decisions have not been going for us in the last few games." In what was a tired looking performance from both teams Argyle improved after taking the lead and Luton's late double strike was a surprise to everyone. "I thought we lacked a little bit of spark today," said Pulis. "We looked tired and jaded but once we got the goal, there was a good tempo and I honestly couldn't see them scoring. The equalizer knocked the stuffing out of us, and the second goal was a kick in the proverbials. I don't think they deserved to win the game. I'm disappointed - we had gone four games unbeaten, and we wanted to keep that going to the end of the season. We've played Wolves, Preston, Leeds and Millwall - all tough games, and the lads looked a bit tired. They did very well at Millwall and I wanted to keep them together - they were all looking forward to the game. Howard caused us problems all day by pulling off at angles. I believe that we struggle a bit against big strikers. Matty and Has have done excellent for us, but we played against May on Saturday and he caused us a lot of problems. Steve Howard has done the same against us today. Our two are good centre backs but they're not the biggest physically. I had Vine at Portsmouth - he's a goalscorer and will score goals for Luton." Luke McCormick made his first league appearance of the season in place of Romain Larrieu, and could do nothing about the Luton goals, but made an excellent save from Howard late in the first half. "I wanted to give Luke a game and I thought he did well," said Pulis. "He made a very good save from Steve Howard after Matty made a mistake. I also had Summerfield and Reid on the bench and I would have put them on if the game had gone better for us. The way the game developed, I didn't want to bring them on. We may have a look at some others at Leicester. I'll probably play the team that has featured in most of the games against Ipswich." Despite Buzsaky's goal, Pulis baulked at suggestions that he should have played him more often in recent games. He said: "Akos can do that sort of thing. Some people will suggest that Tony Capaldi and David Norris have been instrumental in keeping us in the league. Everybody has an opinion. People talk about the likes of Akos and Bojan Djordjic but, as the manager, I have to pick the team." Pulis had some sympathy for Vincent Pericard who can't seem to buy a free-kick from officials. "I don't think Vincent gets any protection from officials," he said. "There were two or three incidents today that were absolutely embarrassing. I don't think he's had any good fortune with referees since he joined the club. I think Vincent has done exceptionally well, and he's a good lad as well." Micky Evans replaced Leon Clarke early in the second half, and immediately caused problems. Pulis has decisions to make concerning strikers in the coming weeks. "Micky did well when he came on - he's still fighting for a contract," said Pulis. "Chadwick has got a contract, and we're still looking at Pericard and Clarke. Despite the defeat, Pulis remains delighted with the season as a whole and can't wait to bring new players to the club. He said: "I'm delighted with the way the season has gone - we set out to stay in the league and we've done that. Now we need to push on. We'll see what is available and what we can afford - that's the name of the game. There are a lot of clubs working on a tight budget and we're no different. We've got to get the best we can and make them gel."
Tony Pulis made light work of suggestions that Romain Larrieu had stormed out of Home Park in a huff on yesterday. He said: "It's complete nonsense. He knew on Saturday that Luke would be playing and he's actually been taking part in the pre-match hospitality in the marquee. He took it in the exact manner I expected. He is a solid, honest lad who has been absolutely fantastic for us all year. It's not about Romain or any individual; it's about the team - I just wanted to have a look at Luke. If you speak to Luke, you'll find that the first person to gee him up before the game was Romain."
Argyle lost 2-1 to Luton Town at Home Park, the goal scored by Akos Buzsaky after 69 minutes. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Clarke. Subs - Evans, Buzsaky (not used - Pulis, Reid, Summerfield). Attendance - 13,486. The usual excellent coverage can be found onGreens On Screen
Vincent Pericard scored Argyle's first away goal in 595 minutes as they drew with Millwall on Saturday. He said: "It was very good to score again because it has been frustrating for me, but we didn't win the game so that was a bit disappointing. I have stayed positive because I was playing well and making opportunities for others, so that was okay. We know we could have won. It wasn't an easy game for them but I think a draw is a fair result." Pericard scored with a header after ten minutes, but should have opened the scoring eight minutes earlier when he missed a sitter. He said: "I wasn't switched on for the first opportunity; it was two minutes into the game and I wasn't expecting to have a chance like that, but it's one of those things." Overall Pericard was a little disappointed with his performance but he wasn't the only player to be a little below par as Argyle move towards the end of the season. "I thought I could have played better, but I think it was one of those games where everyone could have done better," he said. "It's always difficult when everyone knows that there are only four games to go, so a point was probably a good result." Pericard, who has made 12 appearances for Argyle since signing on a season-long loan, is out-of-contract with Portsmouth in the summer and, at the moment, his future seems to be up in the air. He said: "I don't have a clue what's going to happen at the end of the season. I'm just going to keep playing, hopefully doing well and scoring goals, and we will see what happens." Tony Pulis was evasive when asked about whether he wanted to keep Pericard. He said: "The football club has done exceptionally well. We are assured of Championship football and we will be looking to see what we do for next season."
Romain Larrieu admitted he was at fault for Millwall's goal as Argyle had to settle for a draw yesterday. He said: "The shot deflected and spun into the air. I decided to come for it but I slipped. It was my mistake. I kept going for the ball because I was committed. I tried to get something on it but I was nowhere near it. It's a shame because the last thing I wanted to do was to give them a goal. I'm really disappointed. When you play a team in their position you really want a good start and to put them under pressure. We scored, from very poor marking from their point of view, but we didn't build on that at all. That's why it's disappointing for us. After that, we started to drop off and we didn't really play in the first half. We did better in the second half but we gave them too much hope after we had scored and it was really hard for us to get back on top." Larrieu insisted Argyle were aiming for a final position in the top half of the table. He added: "We have two teams to play at home who are just above us in the table. When you consider where we have been for so many months in the league, for us to finish in the top 10 or in the first half of the table, for me that's a lot to play for. It's not like we have been in the dropzone for ages and we will be just safe. We have been safe for a while. We can put the club on the map if we can finish at least in the first half, or the top 10. I think that's a lot to play for, and I know the lads are thinking that way, too." Tony Pulis has admitted he might experiment with his side in the final three matches, but Larrieu wants to retain his place until the end of the season so he can finish as an ever present. He said: "It's very important to me and I hope I will be able to do it. I have never played 46 games in a season for Argyle and I would take a lot of pride out of it, considering the competition I'm under. I can't make the decision for the gaffer, but I hope he makes that one. I would be very proud to be an ever present this season." Last season, Larrieu and Luke McCormick played 23 games each, but this term Larrieu has been the undisputed first choice. He said: "You know when the season starts everybody is going to be trying to be in the team every week. That's what I have tried to do, and that's what Luke has tried. It went my way this season and long may it continue. We will see."
Yesterdays result meant Argyle equalled, and stayed on course to beat, last season's Championship total of 53 points, and also gave them a good chance of improving on the 17th-placed finish of 12 months ago. Tony Pulis said after the game: "We've done exceptionally well at the football club. The club has pushed on and we're assured of Championship football. Now we're looking to see what we do for next year. Argyle is a unique club. It's miles away from anywhere. It's got the potential to get more than 20,000 every week, but, to fulfil that potential, you have got to get good players in. If we win games down there and you show that you are pushing on, you will get 20,000 every week - I'm absolutely convinced of that. We are the premier club in the South West and it's there for everyone to see." Pulis was less enthusiastic about the overall performance against Millwall. "I thought we started brightly enough, missed a couple of good chances, scored the goal," he said. "Vincent missed the chance of the game, the chance of the season. I just expected that to end up in the back of the net from where I was but he missed it completely. I was very pleased he scored afterwards because that could have laid with him for a while. Then we just dropped off. For whatever reason, I don't know. We took a step back and invited pressure. That was disappointing for us. We're not that sort of team; we're not that good that we can drop off the pace; we've got to play at full tilt all the time. Fair play to Millwall because they gave their everything, which we knew would happen. They threw balls forward and made it very, very difficult for us. They had something to play for today, massively, and you always get that edge when a team has got something to play for. Without doing my own lads down, they did seem to have that little bit more grit and determination at times. It shows the resilience of the players that we've got that we stuck in there." Pulis declined to blame either Hasney Aljofree or Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, or Romain Larrieu for a defensive mix-up which led to the equaliser. "Mat and Has were a little bit below par today; there's no way I'm criticising Romain," he said. "He has been absolutely magnificent, so have the two centre-backs. They've not had their best day today, but we've come away with a point, which is very pleasing. It's nice for Plymouth to come here and be disappointed that we've only drawn. Millwall were in the FA Cup final two years ago; Plymouth were in the Third Division five or six years ago. There have been massive improvements at the football club. We've done smashing. We've gone to Preston, we've gone to Leeds, and now we've come to Millwall and got draws and today was always going to be difficult for us."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Millwall, the goal scored by Vincent Pericard after 9 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Clarke. Subs - Evans, Buzsaky, Pulis (not used - McCormick, Chadwick). Attendance - 9,183.
Tony Pulis insists he is expecting a strong display from his team when Luton Town visit Home Park on Monday. He said: "I don't know about the rivalry, obviously, and what's happened in the past. I'm just looking forward to the game. The lads have been brilliant - we've gone up to Leeds last Saturday and gave a really really, good show. I think Luton are a good side - Mike Newell's had a fantastic year with them. They got promoted last year and have done really well this season. It's only lately, that they've dropped off a little bit. Big Howard up front is a handful for anybody. They've also got Brkovic on the one side and Edwards on the other. They've got some good players. I've watched them a few times - they may not have the star names that one or two other clubs in the league have got, but the balance of the team is very good. It's going to be a tough game for us. And if there is that added edge there, too, then I don't mind that."
Tony Pulis is already preparing for a summer shopping spree. Argyle still have the twin targets of aiming for their best final league position for two decades, which they will achieve if they finish 16th or above, as well overhauling last season's total of 53 points. However, Pulis said: "I'm far more concerned with next year and getting players that will improve us and push us on again next season. We know we're in this league again, and it's about getting players in that will improve us again and push us on next year. That's the most important thing for me - that and the players having a go in the next four games. Win, lose or, draw - as long as they have a go and do the best they possibly can, then there will be no one more pleased than myself. Four wins would be lovely. I've been given a budget and we've got to discuss it, but the board have told us what it is and what it isn't. The priority is to get as many good players into the football club as we possibly can. I hope we can attract better players."
David Norris has revealed talks over a new contract with Argyle are on hold. Norris still has another season remaining on his current two-year deal, and he said: "I haven't heard anything from the club about a new contract for a good while. Originally, they did start speaking to me around Christmas time I think it was. I will just see how the summer goes and maybe wait to hear from them." Norris, a potential Argyle player-of-the-season, had another good game as Argyle drew at Leeds last Saturday. He said: "At least we didn't lose on Saturday. It has not gone too much our way away from home this season but recently we have put in some better performances. To get a point at Leeds, with them still playing for everything, was a good result for us I think." Argyle are now in 14th position in the Championship and Norris added: "After the first month, if someone had told me we would be safe from relegation with four games to go I would have been more than happy. We have turned it around. The management have come in and done a right job and the boys have responded as well. Overall, I think we have got to be happy with our season. Hopefully, we can pick up a few more points and finish near mid-table."
Tony Pulis is expecting a real battle on Saturday, as Millwall desperately try to claw their way out of relegation trouble. He said: "It will be a test for the squad but we're looking forward to the challenge. A trip to the New Den is always difficult; I've never had an easy game there, and I don't think the club has a great record at Millwall. I think people will probably give us a good chance of getting a result, particularly with our recent good form, but we won't be underestimating them, especially at their own ground. They've got something serious to play for, which can sometimes give a team the edge." Pulis has been delighted with the recent form of his team and, with a bit more luck, results could have gone even better. "The lads have been brilliant; we went to Leeds last Saturday and put on a good show, and we'll be looking for the same over the next two games," he said. "This group have been very good and they haven't let us down at all, so let's hope they don't at Millwall. Refereeing decisions have cost us dearly in two of the last three games; we've been very unfortunate, but sometimes factors outside the team can affect results." With Millwall in dire need of points, Pulis is planning to put his rotation policy on hold. "I'm not sure about the youngsters for the Milwall game," said Pulis. "I think I'll leave them at home for a day with their families on Saturday, and perhaps have at look at them in the last three games. As long as the players keep having a go over the next four games, there will be no-one more pleased than me. We'll be trying to get four wins."
Argyle are close to finalising a pre-season friendly against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium in July. The club are also planning a pre-season game away to Tiverton Town
Tony Pulis was relieved to see an empty treatment room as Argyle approach the Easter fixtures and is now keeping his fingers crossed that his small squad can stay fit, especially in the defensive area. "Lee Hodges trained on Tuesday, and he was fine," said Pulis. "The one area that we're short is the centre of defence, so we have to hope that Hasney Aljofree and Mathias Doumbe stay fit. We could push Paul Wotton back if required, but he has been doing very well in midfield."
Akos Buzsaky senior has admitted that he feels very let down by Argyle's unexpected decision to cancel a trip to Hungary next month for the club's youth team. He said: "We invited the Plymouth Argyle Under-18 team to participate in the tournament that we planned in celebration of the 20th anniversary of our club in September 2005, when Stuart Gibson was here in Budapest on a visit. I was in Plymouth in November and met with Michael Dunford and Stuart Gibson, and we agreed that Plymouth would participate in the tournament in May 2006 in Budapest. I was very surprised when they notified me on March 30 that, even though the board of directors of Plymouth Argyle approved their participation in the tournament, Tony Pulis did not give them permission. I have the greatest esteem for Tony Pulis, for his professionalism, for the results he has accomplished so far at the club, at the same time, I am deeply saddened by the cancellation of this tour. The players of Grund FC are terribly disappointed, they can hardly believe that such a thing could happen at an English team. There are neither professional nor financial reasons which would give an explanation for the cancellation. Besides Grund FC two more Hungarian teams would have been playing against Plymouth, the strongest youth teams of Hungary, among them members of the national youth team of Hungary. A few strong Slovakian teams also accepted our invitation to participate. For a four-day visit to Budapest, our team would have paid all expenses for the players of the Plymouth team and their coaches. If they had stayed for six days, they would have had to meet a minimal cost to be able to participate in the tournament." Michael Dunford said: "Tony Pulis does not feel the trip to Hungary fits into his conception of what the youth team should be doing at the present time, and he feels it is inappropriate for the lads to take part. The club have written to Grund FC informing them of the decision and wishing them well for their celebrations."
Stuart Gibson has revealed how it took a showdown meeting with Chris Zebroski for the forward to begin realising his potential. He said: "On a personal note, I'm really pleased with the work I have been able to do with Chris. When he came to the club he had a reputation as a strong, quick player, but we also knew he was a little bit laid back and had an attitude problem at times. But I think one of my strengths is getting inside the heads of people and finding out what makes them tick. The boy is a credit to himself because he has got himself right mentally. He just went on such a great run of scoring goals and he might never ever do that again in his career. It doesn't matter where you play, you can only score goals in the matches you play. He has come on leaps and bounds this season and I'm very pleased for him and for everybody concerned at the football club." Gibson believes there are some similarities between Zebroski and Reuben Reid, who has also signed a professional contract with Argyle. He added: "Reuben has got something different to Chris. The problem we have found with Reuben is that because he didn't do a proper pre-season he needs a better base from which to build on. The ingredients you can see at the moment are very tasty indeed. There is massive potential there. I only hope he realises that those ingredients are not enough. He has got to work really, really hard to get his fitness levels up and, more so, the application to want to do it has got to be there. That was the ultimatum I gave to Chris Zebroski at the start of the season. I told him 'if you want to be a professional football player, you come and tell me you want to be a professional football player' and he did and he has not looked back from then. Every young player who wants to make the grade has got to have that attitude, but it's no guarantee of success just because you have got it." Scott Laird is the third member of this season's youth team squad to make the step-up to the professional ranks and he also has international experience, having captained Scotland at under-16 and under-17 level. Gibson said: "Scott just loves defending. The bigger the game the bigger the player. He's a good lad to work with and he's leadership material. He has made steady progress over the last two years." Gibson has been in his post since 2001, during which time the first team have risen from the old Third Division to the Championship. That has raised the bar in terms of the quality of young players needed by the club. Gibson said: "You have got to remember the club has come a long way in a very short space of time. Arguably, quite a few of the young players we have got now could have been first team players if we had still been in the Third Division, but we are not. The standard has gone up - you see that with the first team. We have got one player there, Vincent Pericard, who has played Champions' League football. If you had said five years ago that we would have somebody at the club who had played for Juventus, people would have laughed. But that is the standard we have come to now, and that is the standard we have got to aspire to with our young players."
Tony Pulis insists he will use his side's four remaining fixtures to look at his options for next season. Anthony Barness, Bojan Djordjic and Nick Chadwick were all absent from Saturday's draw at Leeds, but Pulis insisted they were very much in his planning. He said: "Djordjic has a contract for next year, Chadwick is on contract, Barness is on contract, they are set in stone in respect that they are at the football club next year. It just gives me the opportunity and the chance to look at other people. People can read into it what they want to read into it, but that's the situation." Pulis believes that youngsters like Chris Zebroski and Reuben Reid can benefit from his ideas, adding: "I think it was nice for the kids to go to Leeds. It's different taking them to Millwall, that's a different proposition, but going to Elland Road and having a look at what was a big, big Premiership club was nice for them." Millwall are next for Argyle and Pulis is expecting a tough clash, who will be without injured pair Barry Hayles and Jody Morris. "I've never gone to The Den and had an easy game," said Pulis. "I think anyone can beat anyone in our league. We've proved that over the last couple of weeks by playing three very experienced Championship sides, three sides who have got the resources to push for the Premiership, and we haven't conceded a goal. We've done exceptionally well, but we won't be taking Millwall lightly. There is often an argument that someone wants it more than others in a psychological sense. We're on a good run and we hope we can keep it going for the rest of the season." Once again Pulis is likely to be without members of his backroom staff for the trip to the capital. Lindsay Parsons, David Kemp and Mark O'Connor were all away on scouting missions over the weekend and a similar situation is expected over the Easter period and beyond. "The coaches will probably be away again this weekend and probably for the remaining part of the season," added Pulis. "Obviously it's nice to have Linds, Kempy and Mark around the place, but the majority of the work has been done now. The players know the system and what we want and what we need, so we can get through it. There are more important matters now and I trust that if I am here with the team, I expect them to be out - especially this time of year - to be looking for new material for next year." Pulis reported a near clean bill of health for his squad, his only concern was over Lee Hodges who picked up a knock to his knee in Saturday's game. He said: "Lee Hodges has got a bit of a sore knee from the knock he had in the first half at Leeds but other than that, everybody's fine. "It's a case of keeping it steady this week, making sure we run through the things we have in mind, whilst ensuring they've got enough energy to get through two games in three days."
Tony Capaldi has made himself available for Northern Ireland's two-match tour to the United States next month. Capaldi said: "Lawrie Sanchez told us last time there might be an American tour and asked who would be interested in going. I think quite a few of the senior ones might be pulling out, but I said that I would be available to go. So when the squad is announced, probably after the end of the season, I would expect to be in it as long as I'm injury free." Northern Ireland will play Uruguay and Romania on the tour and Capaldi added: "It's going to be a tough trip. It will be a bit more relaxed with it being in the summer time. It will not be as cut-throat as the Euro 2008 qualifiers will be but they will be tough games and played in the heat as well. It will be a fantastic experience. You don't get this sort of opportunity every week so it's something to look forward to."
Tony Pulis is still finding it tough to forget the penalty incident in the last minute of the draw with Leeds on Saturday. He said; "I thought it was a penalty, but there is no point crying over spilt milk. I was desperately disappointed on Saturday, and there is the big club/small club argument. Clubs were going to Manchester United a few years ago and never getting a decision but every time a United player fell over, they got a penalty. You've just got to accept that those decisions will go against you, especially at certain places, and Elland Road is one of them. If that had been down the other end, it would have been a penalty - no question." The non-penalty was not the only thing to rankle Pulis at Elland Road. He said: "They've got a multi-ball system, where the keeper is taking a goal-kick before the other ball has reached the stand. At the other end, they take their time and make sure the home side is set-up and prepared. These are the things that go on." Despite his disappointment, Pulis will not be dwelling on the incidents too much. He is just hoping that lady luck shines on Argyle in the next few games. "It's difficult for referees and I understand that," he said. "We're hoping that things even out over the next four games and we do get a penalty. We could easily have had three penalties in the last three games, Hull away, Leeds away and the home game with Wolves. However, it's much easier to be philosophical when you've got 52 points."
Tony Pulis and his staff and players have been given a huge pat on the back by the Argyle board after securing the club's Championship future. Paul Stapleton said: "We are delighted that the club is continuing to make such healthy progress and all credit must go to the hard work of Tony Pulis and his players. They deserve all the plaudits going. Thanks to them, the club has achieved one of its primary aims of securing its Championship status with four games still to play, and we are on target to beat both last season's points total and position. That is a tremendous feat which should not be underestimated. As we have progressed through the leagues over the past five seasons, it inevitably takes a greater effort and resource to maintain that forward momentum. That makes this season's achievement all the more special. Stapleton believes that the completion of 'Phase II' will help the club make further progression. He said: "There can't be many clubs, if any, that have improved their league position every year for five years and improved financially for the last four. A state-of-the-art stadium will highlight to the rest of the football world the fact that we are highly ambitious. The manager is anxious that players can come here and not look at a 1951 grandstand with old changing-rooms and showers, and the board absolutely shares that ambition. We need now to build on the new heights we have reached this year and in the four seasons before it, push on, and continue to move forward season by season. If we can match the efforts of the past five seasons, on and off the pitch, during the next five - and, crucially, continue to enjoy the support of our magnificent Green Army - we will not be far away from achieving the dream of everyone connected with the club of playing in the top flight for the first time in our history."
Tony Capaldi was certain Argyle deserved a penalty at Leeds on Saturday. He said: "It looked like it was well inside the area. I thought it was a penalty, but the referee didn't give much all game. It's an intimidating place to come and I think he bottled it with a few big decisions - especially that one." The penalty claim was not the only occasion when Argyle gave Leeds a scare. Capaldi set up a second-half chance for Leon Clarke, whose drive was kept out by a good save from Neil Sullivan. "I laid it into Chuck and he played it back to me and I pulled it back for Clarkey," Capaldi said. "It was a good effort and a good save. We were very unlucky, but it showed we can play some good stuff when we get the ball down and knock it about. The first half was very scrappy and we didn't really get the ball down and play, but in the second half we did exceptionally well. We had a few good chances, and we could have easily nicked it." With four games to go, Argyle are in 14th place in the Championship, even though they have not won or even scored away from home since January. "We've had some tough games away from home," Capaldi added, "and we've not been conceding many goals, which is always a good platform to build on. We've got things to work on, but we've done really well and we can look forward to next season."
David Norris was in no doubt that the referee should have awarded Argyle a penalty in the latter stages of the draw against Leeds. "I thought it was a definite penalty," he said. "If the referee is going to give a foul, he has got to give a penalty because once I was down and I looked around, I was about two or three yards inside then. I looked at the slide marks from the defender as well. The referee pointed to the edge as if he could see a slide mark for a foul but I personally thought it was clearly in the box. I just think that it was at Leeds, in front of a big crowd, and they couldn't afford to lose, and I think the referee might have bottled it a little bit. I just dropped a shoulder on the centre-back and he went inside, so, as I went forward, I thought I would get away a shot there, but the guy gambled with a late tackle. He did get a bit of the ball, but, because the ball was going forward, the referee gave a foul." Norris and Thorpe were involved in further controversy later on, when the referee ignored a linesman's flag for another foul, and Robbie Blake broke away and nearly scored. "It was a definite foul," said Norris. "The guy tripped me. If they had gone away and scored then, it would have been such an injustice. Luckily, it didn't happen." Despite his disappointment, Norris was pleased that Argyle overcame a nightmare trip to Leeds on the eve of the game and bookmakers' scepticism to leave Elland Road with a result. He said: "I think that, the longer the game went on, we found spaces behind their midfield and we got a lot of from that. We were 5-1, 6-1, to win here today and the draw was a decent price as well, so no-one gave us a chance. The preparation yesterday was terrible, with eight hours we spent on the coach, so I think it's all credit to the players and the management team that we came here and got a result."
Referee Mike Thorpe's decision to award a free-kick, rather than a penalty, when Liam Miller hauled down David Norris late in yesterdays game angered Tony Pulis. He said: "When you come to Leeds United, you are very lucky when you get a throw-in, never mind a free-kick or anything else. I thought it was a definite penalty. It was two yards inside the box. I'm 120% biased, so I will see everything through green eyes, but I think it was a stone-banker penalty. It's the third one in three weeks that we've not got a decision. We had a penalty - stone-banker - against Wolves last week that was a yard inside the box; we played at Preston the other week and Mawene handled the ball. That's the way it's going but, having said that, I thought the lads worked hard." Pulis took heart from the performance and felt that his team had the best opportunity to win the match when Neil Sullivan made a good save from Leon Clarke. "The first half was very scrappy and I was disappointed with our work on the ball," he said. "In the second half, we stepped it up a bit and created some good opportunities, and I thought Sullivan made the save of the game. I thought it was a great save. Leon's hit the target and Sullivan's made a fantastic save. We should have tested the goalkeeper more again, we got in good positions. We've had four or five really good opportunities round the edge of the box in the last couple of weeks. I'm delighted we've come here and put a performance on, especially in the second half - I thought we played a little better on the ball. We opened them up quite a few times and I thought we were unfortunate. In the first half, we grafted away, and that's what we are. Compare the two clubs, compare the budgets, compare what's been spent, and my players deserve a hell of a lot of credit for the way they've worked and played. The expectations of Leeds are that they should beat Plymouth, and rightly so. There's no question about that: have a look at the size of the club, the size of the squad, the budgets, everything else - we're coming here today miles behind Leeds United. Hulse, Healy, Blake, are players you would die for."
Argyle drew 0-0 at Leeds United. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Pericard, Clarke. Subs – Evans, Buzsaky, Pulis (not used - McCormick, Zebroski). Attendance - 20,650.
Paul Connolly grew up dreaming of playing at grounds like Elland Road, where Argyle will run out this afternoon. He said: "Elland Road is a Premiership ground. There's a lot of history around it, and as a club Leeds are a Premiership club trapped in the Championship. For me and the team to go there and have the chance to express ourselves on such a big stage is really good for us. Hopefully, we can do that." Connolly was part of the Argyle line-up which lost 3-0 to Leeds at Home Park in January, the last time that any team has outclassed Argyle, according to him. "In the first half, we matched them all over the pitch," Connolly said, "but in the second half I think we were totally outplayed. All the lads who played and the manager will tell you the same story. The lads weren't happy with that result. We don't like teams coming to our ground and taking the mickey out of us, and they're the only team who have done that to us this year. In the second half they were passing it around and their fans were cheering them. Now it's up to us to go up there and try and do the same to them. We'll try and keep them quiet first and hopefully nerves will kick in, and we can start playing our football. We're going into the game full of confidence, and we think we can get something out of it. I'm sure we'll have a big following of fans up there, and we want to put on a show for them. Their fans will still think they've got a little bit of a chance of getting promoted automatically, so that should add spice to the game. I'd rather play in games like this, than in games between two teams that are playing for nothing. At least there'll be something in it. It was like that against Wolves . It made us rise to the challenge, because Wolves wanted it and we knew they wanted it." Beating teams of the calibre of Wolves, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Reading this season has proved to Connolly that Argyle belong in the Championship and that they are more than holding their own. "It is a good feeling," Connolly added. "We really do look more solid, and there is a good mood around the place. We feel like we belong. There's no reason to fear dropping back down the leagues and going back to the old way of thinking with Plymouth Argyle. Long may that continue."
Tony Pulis has promised that his players will not be in holiday mood when they face Leeds United this afternoon. He said. "I don't want our lads to be carefree, I want them to be professional. There is a difference. Everybody should understand that. Every time they pull on a Plymouth Argyle shirt, it's a proper game and it has to be addressed in a proper manner. We've got five games to go and we really have to try and get as many points as we can."
Lee Hodges is hoping his return to the first team will help win him a new deal with Argyle. He said: "I've been very pleased with the way things have gone since coming back to the first team - in fact, I've been over the moon, really. I've really enjoyed playing again and, hopefully, I can keep my place and be part of the squad for next season. I've been happy with my form and it's no secret that I'd like to stay here. But I'm not taking anything for granted, like any footballer, you never know whether you'll be picked for the next match. Those decisions are the manager's - all you can do is work hard and do your best. It was a worrying time being out - there's always that nagging thought in the back of your mind about the future. But since I've come back from injury, the lads have been excellent and the boss is first rate and is professional in everything he does. The whole team works hard for one another - there's a great spirit among the players."
Argyle's reserves may play Southampton and Norwich in the Combination next season. The football authorities have decided that from now on only teams in the Premiership will play in the Premier League Reserve League, which will mean any relegated teams joining the Combination
Tony Pulis is looking for a repeat of the performance Argyle delivered against Wolves, but with more goals, as they prepare to face Leeds United. "It was a terrific performance last Saturday; the players were really up for it, and it was nice to do it at our place," he said. "Everybody's worked really hard in every game, and nobody has let us down. Everything fell into place for us against Wolves, and we showed that we can pass the ball, we can move the opposition around, and we can score goals. I just hope we take that form into the next game." Argyle have not scored away from home for five matches but Pulis feels that his team are due more goals, especially as chances are consistently being created. He said: "We've been desperately disappointed that we haven't scored more goals. Even against Wolves we created enough opportunities to score a lot more, and could have won the game by five or six. In the end, we only scored two - an own goal from Paul Ince, and a goal from our centre back, so it's an area that we're looking at."
Argyle's reserve game against Swindon Town next week has been postponed and a new date is yet to be arranged. The reserve game against Yeovil Town, postponed on March 28th, has now been rearranged for April 27th
Paul Maxwell will not appeal against an FA charge brought against him following the home match with Cardiff City on March 18th. Michael Dunsford said: "Paul has decided against making an appeal or asking for a personal hearing. He has written to the Football Association with a full explanation and will accept whatever measures the FA deem appropriate."
Tony Pulis has confirmed that Anthony Barness remains in his plans for next season. Pulis said: "Anthony Barness is fit and ready. He is under contract for next year; I've seen what he can do, and he is an important member of the club. Others, like Lee Hodges, are fighting for a contract and need to perform and show what they can do. There are also some youngsters I would like to see. It's nothing personal against Anthony Barness that he hasn't been in the team. If I leave the likes of Nick Chadwick or Micky Evans out of the team, it's nothing against them; it's just a chance to see what others can do."
Lilian Nalis is open to offers from Argyle about a contract for next season. Nalis signed a short-term deal when he moved from Sheffield United in January and, so far, no decision has been taken on whether it will be extended. When asked whether he would be with Argyle for next season, Nalis said: "I don't know. You always need to wait to be safe from relegation before working for the next season. Now we have got 51 points, maybe the club is going to start working and start talking. We will see what happens. I have really enjoyed my time since I have been here. I have really enjoyed working with all the players and the manager. I have great relations with everybody at the club. Everybody has been really kind to me since the first day I have been here. You need to have a lot of respect for that." If Argyle do not offer Nalis a new contract, he does not intend to return to his homeland to wind up his career. He added: "I think when you have tasted English football, there's no way you can go back to France to play football." Nalis will be 35 in September but he is not even contemplating retirement at the moment. He said: "Physically, I feel really good. Last week, I had a bad back but I was always looking forward to the game against Wolves on Saturday and playing in it. I tell you what, as you get older and you have still got the pleasure of playing football and going to training every day then you just want to continue to do it. I definitely appreciate it more now than I did when I was younger. All of the friends I have got who are now retired are telling me the same thing - 'as long as you can play, just play and enjoy yourself'. My head is right and my body is right so why decide to retire?"
Leon Clarke has declared that the team spirit at Argyle may be the best he has encountered in his career so far. He said: "The team spirit is fantastic. It's one of the best I've experienced. I've been at Wolves for a long time and I've been to a few other clubs. I went to Kidderminster on loan when I was in the Wolves youth team and I've been to QPR, but the team spirit here is second to none. It's as good as it is at Wolves, if not better. The lads are brilliant. They all have a laugh, and there's a good togetherness. Sometimes you get dressing-rooms where there are little groups, with the foreign boys and the English boys keeping to themselves, but here everyone is all together." Clarke missed out on a home debut for Argyle last Saturday because he was not allowed to play against Wolves, and he admitted it was an unusual experience. "It was strange," he said. "I didn't really know which dug-out to go to, at first. It was 50-50 as to who I wanted to win, split down the middle, but Plymouth played well. They deserved to win. By their standards, Wolves were poor. I've come to a good team. They're a good bunch of lads here and they all want to work hard for another. They never give anything less than 100 per cent." That will need to be the case once more this weekend, if Argyle are to gain a positive result at Leeds - a venue which Clarke is very familiar with, having played there twice already this season, for Wolves and QPR. "Leeds is a hard place to go to," he said. "I don't think I've been there and got a point or any sort of result. Hopefully, if I can get back in the team. I can help the lads get three points, but I know it will be hard to get in the team after the result against Wolves." Leeds are seven points adrift of an automatic promotion place with only five games to go, and 13 points clear of seventh-placed Wolves. They might be forgiven if they take a breather prior to the play-offs, which they seem likely to feature in. "It looks like that, the way results have been going for them in the last few games," Clarke said, "but I can't see them being like that just yet. They can still get automatic promotion, and it's a lot better than going up via the play-offs. It means less games for the players. They'll want to finish as high as possible, and I'm sure they won't be taking their foot off the gas at all."
Tony Pulis was pleased to have a fully-fit squad to work with in training yesterday. "Everybody is bright and breezy," he said. "We gave them a day off yesterday and they'll have another day off tomorrow, but they've worked hard this morning. We want to keep the same tempo when we train, but we've just eased it off a little bit in respect of how often they train, especially with the hard grounds coming. It takes a little bit more out of the players. We'll work hard on Thursday, and then we have the long journey on Friday."
A young Argyle reserve side lost 4-0 at Swindon Town this afternoon. Argyle: Debbage, Churchill, Laird.J, White, Kendall, Gosling, O'Neil, Watts, Davis, Grant, Deekes. Subs - Hopkinson, Groves, Cayford
Tony Pulis has defended his decision to pull the club's under-18s squad out of a four-team tournament in Hungary next month. Pulis does not believe the players would benefit from making the trip at this stage of their careers but it comes at a time when there is thought to be a strained relationship between the first team management and the youth department. Pulis insisted the pull-out was not based on the cost of the trip, but on its footballing merits, pointing out that he worked with the youth department at Bristol Rovers when he was a player there. He also mentioned the rest of his backroom staff - David Kemp, Mark O'Connor and Lindsay Parsons - all had past coaching experience in youth team football. Pulis said: "My reservations about this trip were, firstly, I didn't know much about it. Secondly, taking under-18s overseas is not what I would see as the right thing to do. Maybe under-16s or under-14s, but not under-18s. Under-18s should be working at coming away on overseas trips with the first team, such as our pre-season tour to Austria. I'm looking at things in our youth set-up very closely. I will make some suggestions and it's up to the club to decide on them. I have got no axe to grind with anybody. I just want the club to be an efficient organisation from top to bottom." Stuart Gibson declined to comment about Argyle's withdrawal from the tournament. Gibson has formed close links with FC Grund and Akos Buzsaky senior over the past 10 months. Pulis used a large part of his notes in last Saturdays programme to make a thinly-veiled criticism of the youth set-up. When asked whether Gibson's future as director of youth was under threat, Pulis said: "I'm looking at everything that's going on at that level. We are all under pressure. It's not just one person." Argyle recently signed three of their young players on one-year professional contracts - Scott Laird, Reuben Reid and Chris Zebroski and Pulis added: "You could say we have taken three kids from the youth set-up, but we have had them working with us. No disrespect to anybody, but Kempy and I went to watch Reuben one Saturday morning when he was on trial with the club and we fancied him more than anybody else did." Pulis is surprised and concerned that so few young players from Plymouth and the surrounding area make the grade for Argyle. He said: "The club have had stability at youth level for five years. I'm just asking where are all the kids from Devon and Cornwall?"
Hasney Aljofree believes Argyle have come a long way in a short space of time since Tony Pulis became manager in September. He said: "When the new manager came in he installed a work ethic in the club and he told us 'win, lose or draw, I want 100-per-cent'. The amount of effort that has gone in since he came to the club has been tremendous. The team has really gelled together. Players have come in on loan and helped us out and they have gone. Then other players have come in and just carried it on. I'm delighted. I think we have come a long way in a short period." Aljofree did have one spell out of the line-up after Elliott Ward arrived from West Ham and took over at centre-back. However, during that three-month spell, Aljofree played several times at left-back. Aljofree, though, never doubted his ability to play at a consistent level in the Championship. He said: "Before Elliott came in, I thought me and Mattie were starting to pick up a really good understanding, but that's football for you. Players come in and go out. I know that if I play, I'm not going to let anyone down. I have always said that. I know I can play at this level. Elliott did well when he came in. If he was a bad player and I wasn't playing then I wouldn't have been happy, but he brought the team up and fair play to him. I want to give 100-per-cent for myself, first and foremost, and then, hopefully, help the team along the way. I got a goal on Saturday and that helped the team because we won." Aljofree thought Argyle's work ethic was clearly demonstrated in the victory over Wolves. He said: "Last season, we might have tried to grind the result out and there would have been a big panic, but there was no panic on Saturday. We outfought them and we outpassed them. We were comfortable in every position and that's credit to everyone. It was not one person. Everyone just rolled over the top of Wolves, which is no mean feat." Aljofree can now look forward to the trip to Leeds without the worry of relegation lingering over Argyle. He added: "You would rather go to Leeds than other places in the leagues below. It will be a good occasion for the players, like it was on Saturday. Everyone was up for it because we were playing a massive club. It's what you want."
Hasney Aljofree should not have scored Argyle's opening goal in the win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, according to Paul Connolly. He said. "It was a training-ground move, but it was set up for Lilian. I don't think it was set up for Hasney. I think Hasney took it off Lilian, so I don't think he'll be too happy with that, but at the end of the day the team isn't bothered who scores as long as it goes in the back of the net."
Connolly felt that the win was a just reward for perhaps Argyle's best display of the season. "We were so organised," he said, "and I think Wolves could have played for three days and they wouldn't have scored. They didn't cut us open once, we were so strong, and going forward we always looked dangerous. All-round, it was a great performance." Connolly got through the 90 minutes without any further damage to the head injury he suffered at Preston the previous weekend - even though no bandage was in place to protect the 15 stitches. "We decided to put loads of Vaseline on it instead of using a big bandage," he said. "A bandage would just have invited the elbows and late headers, so we went with the Vaseline and just hoped it wouldn't open up. It didn't, and I'm happy with it. There were a couple of times when the ball was in the air and I had to go and head it, but it was all right. I'm just happy with the three points, as well."
Hasney Aljofree believes his early strike helped laid the foundations for Argyle's best consummate home performance of the season yesterday. "In the last few weeks, we haven't had the goals and now we've shown what we can do if we score," he said. "Everyone's settled down and we could have gone and scored three or four, especially first half. The performances of the last few weeks, we've really worked hard and not got our rewards. Today was a real team effort - we've out-battled and out-played Wolves. We tore them apart at times and it's a credit to every player at the club how far we've come in a short period. Wolves might have had an off-day, but we put them right on the back foot from the word 'go'. Right from the first minute, we did not let them settle anywhere - we rushed their big-time players into looking mediocre, really. We pushed them into places they shouldn't really be. The manager is always harping on that everyone has got to be on the top of their game in this league. There are some players in this league that can cut you up, and Wolves have got some players who can hurt you. We did not let them do it to us. Like I say, it's a credit to every player. Everyone battled and showed what work-ethic can do." Aljofree's goal came from a corner - the pass though, was intended for Lilian Nalis and Aljofree said: "I don't go up for set-pieces any more. I've tended to defend. I was up for one today and I managed to score. It was planned yesterday. I wasn't meant for me - it was meant for Lilian, but no-one was marking me and I came round the back. The ball came to me, it landed really nicely and it's gone in the back of the net. I caught it well. Sometimes it can go in Row Z - in the second half, I had a good chance and that went into Row Z." Argyle now go to Leeds, who beat Argyle 3-0 at Home Park in January. Aljofree added:"They showed their class when they came down here, and. Obviously, they are pushing for promotion. Like Wolves today, they have got something play for. It's another big occasion for the club. We have just got to face it, have 100% from everyone, and hopefully come out on top."
Tony Pulis was delighted after his side battered Wolves at Home Park yesterday. He said: "That is as good as we have played. I thought the lads stuck to their task and played some good stuff. The only disappointment today is that we've only won 2-0. I would say that we out-passed them by a country mile. Not only did we out-work them, we also out-played them. We have out-played one of the best teams in the league." Pulis was expecting a far more difficult encounter and said: "I thought they would be more direct today with Cort in the team. They hit a lot of long balls up to him, so we knew we had to be careful of that. We knew they would play with three in midfield, so we worked on a few things in training and sometimes, as a manager, things come off, and it did today. We knew that there would be certain areas inside, and outside their full backs, that we could exploit. To do that, we had to control the ball and do the unglamorous side of things." Given Argyle's recent goal drought, Pulis was disappointed that his side didn't notch up the goals they deserved, particularly as he felt his team was denied a clear penalty. "We were absolutely devastated at half time that we've come in only one goal up," he said. "We think we should have had a penalty as well, but I'm overjoyed with what the players have done. I don't want to criticize the referee and deflect from what the players have done, but we were desperately disappointed to have not been given a penalty." Both Argyle goals came from set-pieces from Tony Capaldi. "It was a great cross by Tony Capaldi," said Pulis. "Ince is marking Nalis and he didn't have another option. He was going towards goal and sometimes you get caught out in that position. The first goal was something we've worked on, with Hasney on the edge and Lilian coming in late to keep the ball away from their big players." Pulis believes the foundation of the victory was the commitment of his players. "You can have the best players in the world but you also need team spirit, commitment and energy," he said. "I felt that everybody played their part today in a comprehensive performance. The disappointing thing was that we didn't score more goals, and you're always on edge because, with the quality they have, they only need one chance." I think Romain Larrieu only had one shot to save in each half. The big thing we've worked on is the togetherness and commitment of the group, and I'm absolutely delighted for the players." Commitment and togetherness are the phrases that many would attribute to teams managed by Tony Pulis, and Argyle are no different. "Togetherness and commitment are the foundations of my teams," said Pulis. "Unlike Wolves, we're not able to spend £1.4 million on a new striker who sits on the bench. We've got people who are free transfers, or they've been released by other clubs. To combat that, togetherness, commitment and organization are vital. I'm more pleased for the players than anything." Pulis added: "When I arrived at Argyle, the dressing room was a little bit down and low on confidence, but nothing compared to when I went to Stoke three years ago - they had three or four massive splits in the camp. This wasn't as bad, and they've come together as a group. The players are certainly fitter, more together, and they know the basic plan of what we are trying to do." Pulis concluded by turning his thoughts to the remaining games this season, and the planning for the next campaign. "I think we're safe now," he said. "I'm delighted that we have reached 51 points with five games to go, and I can relax a bit now, and build for next season. The building started three months ago, but when we play teams who still have something to play for, we will show respect to their closest rivals by playing a strong team. Otherwise, we will take the opportunity to play some youngsters."
Argyle beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at Home Park, the goals scored by Hasney Aljofree after 9 minutes and a Paul Ince own goal (80). Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Kouo-Doumbe, Aljofree, Hodges, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi, Chadwick, Pericard. Subs - Evans, Buzsaky, Pulis (not used - McCormick, Djordjic). Attendance - 15,871.
Argyle could receive an approach from Stoke City for Tony Pulis - if a former chairman of the club is successful in his latest attempted takeover bid at the Britannia Stadium. Ex-Stoke chairman Peter Coates made an attempt to win back control of the Potters last summer, but stepped back when Pulis was dismissed and there has been speculation that the Argyle boss might be in demand - but only if Coates can complete a takeover. That looks unlikely as things stand. The financial terms of the £13 million takeover package put to the Icelanders by Coates are not to their liking. Stoke chairman Gunnar Gislason said yesterday: "I do not foresee that a change in ownership of the club is imminent." Such a remark could just be a negotiating tactic, however. Gislason added: "It is safe to assume that Icelandic ownership of the majority interest in the club will not be eternal." Yesterday Pulis said: "I'm aware of the speculation, but that's all it is. Speculation. All I'm concentrating on now is three points for Plymouth Argyle tomorrow."
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