A Round-up of Argyle News
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Nathan Thomas has revealed on twitter that he has signed a new contract to stay at Plymouth Argyle. In his tweet, Thomas wrote "Signed off all the paper this morning... Nathan's coming home to plymouth." Argyle fans now await official confirmation of the news.
Argyle have announced that LTC Powered Access will be the club's new shirt sponsors. LTC Powered Access, who have offices in Plymouth and Redruth, have joined the club with a two-year partnership. As part of the agreement, the Pilgrims' home and away shirts will carry the LTC Powered Access logo.
Matt Lecointe has spoken of his desire to repay John Sheridan after the Argyle manager handed him a new one-year deal. Lecointe missed the whole of last season after suffering a knee-ligament injury in a pre-season friendly but his reputation and glimpses seen on the training-ground in the last few weeks of the 2013-14 campaign persuaded Sheridan to offer him a new contract. "It's nice to know that the manager has got confidence in you to give you another one-year deal, so I'm hoping I can repay him and score some goals," said Lecointe, who made 30 appearances for his hometown club in the two seasons before his injury. "Everything feels fine. There have been no setbacks. I just hope that continues."
Only one of his previous appearances has come during Sheridan's stewardship, and Lecointe is looking forward to working again with a manager who has already targeted the play-offs as a minimum aim for 2014-15. "It's all looking really positive for next season," he said. "You have always got to look to improve, whatever you do, whatever job you're in. If we can get promotion next season, it will be dream come true for the club. He is very demanding, and that's what you need if you are going to improve, especially as a young player: if you have got someone who's not telling you what you need to do, how are you going to get better? My aim is just to try to play as much football for Plymouth Argyle; to score as many goals as I can. But my first target is just to get through pre-season, stay fit. After that, I'll reassess things."
When he does return to pre-season, Lecointe will share the dressing-room with fellow young Plymothian, midfielder River Allen, who signed his first pro contract the day before Lecointe inked his own deal. "I've been playing for Argyle since I was eight years old and I think River is about the same," he said. "There's nothing better; it is what you've always wanted to do. He deserves it and I'm happy for him."
Argyle forward Matt Lecointe has signed the professional contract which he was offered at the start of the month by Argyle manager John Sheridan. 19 year old Lecointe has had a frustrating time with injuries, having missed the entire 13/14 season due to a cruciate ligament injury. Sheridan however stated before the end of the season that the Argyle youth product would be given a chance to prove himself and today he put pen to paper on that deal.
The player re-affirmed his determination to repay Sheridan's faith in him, saying:"It's nice to know the manager has got the confidence in me to give me a one-year deal. Hopefully, I can repay him. He expects a lot out of people and I think that's why he gets the best out of most of his players. If you look at (Argyle player-of-the-year) Reuben Reid last season, he scored 21 goals and you couldn't have asked much more from him. He is very demanding and that's what you need if you are going to improve, especially as a young player. If you have got someone who isn't telling you what you need to do and how to get better, then you are never going to get better.
"I had a couple of weeks of doing nothing and just completely relaxing. But this past week I have started running again and continuing my weights programme. It's important you try to build up as much strength as possible to be ready for pre-season, and then just build on that. A lot of people say 'you are so lucky having such a long break' but it's not like at all. You have got to follow a programme, and you have still got to eat right and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids. It's still pretty strict. You have got to make sure you are doing the right things."
Two more professionals were also added to the Argyle ranks today with the confirmation that River Allen and Aaron Bentley have signed the professional contracts for Argyle which they were offered in March. Allen and Bentley came to the end of their youth team apprenticeships with Argyle and will next season be part of the professional, first team squad.
The club have offered a reserved response to the latest FA commission proposal on B Teams. Unlike the previous idea, this idea would not involve B Teams coming into the football league but would include their participation in a revised Johnstone's Paint Trophy. The club did not want to formally reply before the Football League summit in Portugal but they re-offered their initial statement which was as follows: "Plymouth Argyle supports the principle that English talent needs to be developed by playing competitive football. The solution seems straightforward to us, in concept if not execution. Clubs particularly those higher up the pyramid should commit to play more English players and/or they should allow talented English players to play for other clubs, by way of release or loan."
ARGYLE have been drawn to play opposition from three different nations in the group stage of this year's Milk Cup. The team of young Greens will travel to Northern Ireland to compete in the annual tournament in late July, and will take on Sydney United of Australia, Ireland's North Dublin SL and a team representing the Japanese FA.
A thigh injury ruined the chances of Matt Parsons enjoying any future success with Argyle: that's the verdict of the 22-year old former Crystal Palace wing-back on his release. The left-sider today said that whilst he could not have guaranteed a contract if he were fit, it was the primary reason given to him by John Sheridan for not having one. Parsons also wished Argyle all the best next season and gave an update on his own situation. He said: "I'm not going to make any excuses and say 'if I wasn't injured I would have got a contract'. The injury was frustrating but it's just one of those things really. You just have to deal with it. All the people at the club the lads, the gaffer, John (Harbin), Paul (Atkinson), even the kit man Neil Lunnon are all good guys.
"I understood the gaffer when he told me he couldn't take a risk and offer me something. He had a similar injury as a player and was out for five months. He said they needed to sign a player who was fully fit and had proven he could play 30-40 league games in a season. He told me I had done well in certain games and that he liked me more at left wing-back, and I suited the shape they were playing, but he couldn't take the risk because of the injury.
"It was good to be back in a first team environment again, playing games week in week out. But the injury was there from the start. It went quite early and I never really had time to recover because we were pushing for the play-offs and I wanted to play in every game. I was getting through games, and we were doing well, so I wanted to stay in the team. I felt it go when I crossed a ball. It was a sharp, shooting pain so I knew something wasn't right. I took a couple of weeks off at the end of the season to get my mind off of things, and to let my leg fully heal.
"I'm back in the gym now, strengthening it up and doing a bit of running, and will be ready for June or July, wherever I go. It's still early days it's only the end of May but there has been interest from League Two, and League One as well. Nothing is certain in football so I will just see what happens.
"I think they are only going to get better. I know people were disappointed with the end to the season, but you have got to look at it as an improvement. I think finishing 10th was something to build on for next season."
John Sheridan has spoke of his happiness at having Paul Wotton around as part of his coaching and playing staff for another season. The Argyle boss said that whilst the soon-to-be 37 year old's career was in its twilight years, he believed that Wottsy could be of use to him in more ways than one over the coming season. Sheridan said: "Wottsy knows the club inside out and I think he's got something to give. His playing days are coming towards an end he knows that but he's got experience and know-how and I think I am making the right decision by keeping him as a player plus getting him involved in the coaching side.
"He's got his A Licence and I think there is something there for him. I trust him and think it will be good for us. He's played for Plymouth nearly all his life; everyone respects him; and his desire for the club to do well is a big plus."
Argyle's schedule for the 2014 pre-season is now complete with the highlight being the visit of Premier League outfit Swansea City to Home Park on Sunday the 27th of July at 5pm. Our other friendly at Home Park will be against Yeovil Town the following Wednesday, the 30th. The overall schedule for Argyle's first team, development team and youth team is as follows.
First team: Tavistock away(Tuesday July 15th), Weymouth away(Saturday July 19th), Torquay away(Tuesday July 22nd), Swansea home(Sunday July 27th),Yeovil home(Wednesday July 30th) and Hereford away (Saturday August 2nd).
Development squad: Truro away(Thursday July 24th)and Bideford away (Tuesday July 29th).
Youth team: Elburton Villa away (Wednesday July 9th), Bodmin away (Saturday July 12th), Callington away (Wednesday July 16th), Sherbourne away(Sunday July 20th) and Saltash away (Saturday July 26th).
Paul Wotton has signed a new one-year deal at Argyle in a joint playing and coaching capacity. Wotton will be undertaking a dual role in what will be his 18th season as an Argyle player over two spells. An enthusiastic Wotton said: "I am absolutely thrilled to be extending my career in the city where I was born with the club I have supported all my life.
"I can't think of a better situation for me next year than combining playing and coaching. I am not stupid enough to think I am going to be playing every game: from Day One, the manager has been first class with me if he wants me to play, I'm ready, and I will be contributing in other ways. It's a win-win situation, really.
"I am so excited about next season already, as excited as I was when I was a 17-year-old going into my first season. I am really happy."
John Sheridan has strengthened the Pilgrims' 2014-15 squad with the signing of forward Deane Smalley. Smalley, 25, is linking up with Sheridan for a third time, having previously played under him at his home-town Oldham Athletic, and arrives at Home Park from fellow League 2 side Oxford United. He scored nine goals in 25 starts for the Us last season but will be remembered by the Green Army for notching twice against the Pilgrims to give Oxford a 2-1 win at the Kassam Stadium in August 2012. Smalley comes to the Pilgrims on a two-year deal, joining Lee Cox - like Luke McCormick, a former Oxford team-mate - as a summer recruit.
Smalley will be a big asset for Argyle, says Pilgrims' manager. "I am very pleased to get him," he said. "I think he'll be a really big player for us. I've been after him for a while. I tried to get him last season, but Oxford wouldn't let him go. He was in and out at Oxford he had one or two little injuries but, when Oxford were doing well last season, he was in the team. If we can get a really good pre-season out of him get him nice and strong, get him fully fit he will be a very big asset for us. He's turned down one or two other teams to come here, which I am pleased about. He knows me; he knows what I am like. So that is beneficial to him; and I know him, which is beneficial to me."
Teenager Deane was given his debut in 2007 when Sheridan was manager of Oldham Athletic, and the pair joined forces again when the manager was in charge at Chesterfield, when he borrowed Smalley from the Latics. His 12 goals in 22 starts helped the Spireites win the 2010-11 League 2 title. Sheridan said: "I had him at Oldham when he was younger; I had him at Chesterfield; and he was a really good player. He is very good in the air; he's quick; and he can play in one or two positions. At Chesterfield, we used to play him on the wing at home and down the middle away, so he gives you that little bit of variety. He's played at a higher level and I thought he should have done a lot better than he has done. That's something I have got to work on. I think I can do that. I want him to come in and fight for his place, to prove his worth his place in the side."
Sheridan will not be the only familiar face at Home Park for Smalley. He and Lewi Alessandra were contemporaries at Oldham, while Luke McCormick and fellow summer signing Lee Cox played alongside him at Oxford. "I hope I can get something out of him like I have with Lewi," said Smalley. "They know each other very well and are good friends. It's good that players know each other. It's difficult when you come to a club and don't really know anyone. If you have people around you that you know, you feel settled earlier than you may have thought. Coxy did really well for me when he was here last year and really liked it here. Again, he's a character who will give us that little bite in midfield."
With Lee Cox and Deane Smalley joining Argyle, and Luke and Curtis Nelson having re-signed, John Sheridan's 2014-15 squad is taking shape. However, he is not finished yet. "I'm hoping one or two others will come in sooner, rather than later," he said. "There are a lot of players out there and a lot of clubs that are chasing players. I'm speaking to players and want to get one or two positions filled early; then, throughout the pre-season, other players will come in. We have got to improve next season. I think I am bringing a better quality of player in, and I know what I have got to do."
It has been reported in the press that Argyle have offered a contract to Reuben Reid, after he was released by Yeovil Town. However, Argyle could face competition for the in-form hitman's signature with fellow League Two club Portsmouth showing a keen interest in Reid. Portsmouth manager Andy Awford said yesterday that Reid 'is one of many players we will weigh up over next week'. Reid underlined his threat in front of goal against Awford's ambitious Pompey, scoring in the 3-3 draw at Fratton Park on the final day of the 2013/14 season. "He did well last season for Plymouth it was a loan and he was Yeovil's player, though," Awford told the Portsmouth News. "I wouldn't be surprised to see him raise interest from other clubs. He's one of a number of players we are currently addressing and having a look at. He's not our top or bottom target, but he's a player we know about who is out of contract. We'll see. I wouldn't say he's going to walk in the door next week, but he's on the list."
However, Argyle remain favourites to land the 25-year-old, who is said to be giving serious consideration to agreeing a permanent deal at Home Park. It is believed that talks between the Pilgrims' management and the player and his agent are at an advanced stage, with the club hopeful of concluding a deal by the end of this month.
Former Argyle midfielder Luke Young has said that he believes his release from his home town club will prove to be the making of him. 21 year old Young was disappointed when manager John Sheridan made the decision to let him go but is still confident that he has a future in the game. He cited former Pilgrim Ryan Leonard as an example of someone who was released by the greens and went on to enjoy success in his career.
Young said, philosophically: "At the minute it's just a case of chilling and getting my head around things. I've got an agent and he's on the phone and told me to relax and let him deal with things. Obviously it was a big blow to be released after the amount of time I've spent here and amount of games I've played here. The manager had his reasons and what's done is done. I can only move forward and learn from what's happened and take that where I go next. As my dad says, 'this will be the making of me' and I agree. I'm going to have to move away, but it's a new challenge and is something I'm looking forward to.
"Ryan got released and he shows it's not the end of the world. He's gone to Southend and in his first year there he probably wasn't involved as much as he would have liked. But you look at him now and he's excelled and got their player of the year award and never looked back. It can make you a better player and strengthen you. I'd like to think I can get another League Two club.
"My saving grace is I've played the amount of games I have here. If someone had told me at the start of my Argyle career I would have played the amount of games I have, by the age of 21, I would have snapped their hand off. It's a privilege. Hopefully that will bode well, but football's a strange game. Anything can happen. At the end of the day I just want to get back into football, because at the minute I haven't got a club and that's not ideal. I want something to come up fairly soon, but if nothing comes up in the next few weeks it's not the end of the world. It's just a case of weighing up my options. Obviously if nothing comes up in the League of course I would consider a Conference club. Sometimes you have to take a step back before taking two steps forward."
Lee Cox has spoken of his delight at returning to a club where he already has happy memories. 23 year old Cox was on loan at Argyle for a few months in the 2012/13 season but went back to Swindon early due to breaking his shoulder. He has since been released by Swindon and returned to Home Park this week. Cox said that his previous spell with the club made his decision easier to make: "Although it was a relegation battle, I enjoyed every minute of it. There were some tough games, but I got here, got playing, and we got some good results. It ended with the injury but I went away saying 'I had a wicked time there I'd love to go back and play for them. I loved the place and heard about an interest in coming back, so straight away, I said 'Yes'. A lot of the time last year, I wanted to come back. It didn't happen, but I stayed patient and eventually got here."
Midfielder Lee Cox is returning to Home Park as Argyle manager John Sheridan's first summer signing. The 23-year-old, who enjoyed a successful ten-game loan spell at Home Park from Swindon Town in 2012-13, has agreed a two-year deal after being released by the League 1 Robins. His capture represents a third major recruitment boost for the Pilgrims after goalkeeper Luke McCormick and defender Curtis Nelson both recently put pen to paper on new deals.
Lee first came to Home Park in February 2013, signing on loan from Swindon for the second half of the season before last. He made a winning start in a 2-1 victory at Aldershot, where fellow new loan signing Jason Banton stole the headlines, and played nine further times as the Pilgrims clawed their way to Football League survival. By the time his loan was cut short by a shoulder ligament injury sustained in another valuable win, the 1-0 Devon Expressway Derby home triumph over Exeter, he had taken part in five wins and two draws. More than a few observers suggested that his earlier-than-scheduled return to the County Ground was a key factor in Argyle's relegation battle going as far the season's final match, as they lost four of their final six matches without him.
After recovering from his injury, Lee returned to action last October, coming on a substitute for Swindon in their home 2-1 Johnstone's Paint Trophy against Argyle. He had to wait until March before making his 2013-14 league bow, again as a substitute, in Town's 2-1 victory at Tranmere. That signalled a run of four successive starts, the highlight of which was the 1-0 Easter Monday win over Bradford City at the County Ground, when Lee scored the only goal of the game, and his only goal as a Swindon player.
Leicester-born Lee came to prominence with his hometown club's youth side, winning the FA Premier Academy League in 2006-07. Despite that, and a successful loan spell at Yeovil Town, he failed to break into the Leicester first team and was let go at the end of the 2008-09 season. He signed for Scottish First Division Inverness Caledonian Thistle and played all but three of Thistle's league games as they won promotion to the Scottish Premier League in 2010. After being a regular for Thistle in the SPL, he joined Paulo Di Canio's Swindon and made seven appearances as Town won the League 2 title. He was loaned to local rivals Oxford United on a six-month loan deal at the start of the 2012-13 and played 14 games. They included, in December, United's Johnstone's Paint Trophy area quarter-final penalty shoot-out win at Argyle who he joined weeks later.
A memorable season for young Pilgrim Ben Purrington has ended with a double celebration. Ben, 17, who made his full Argyle debut on Boxing Day last year while still an apprentice, has been awarded the prestigious Richard Phillips Trophy for 2013-14. This award and trophy is the gift of the family of Argyle supporter the late Richard Phillips and is awarded each year to the player aged under 19 at the beginning of the season whose ability, sportsmanship, work-rate, dedication and improvement are considered to be the best by the club's youth management.
Academy Manager Kevin Hodges and Richard's daughter Bev recently met up with Ben, who made a total of 14 appearances in the season just gone to present him with the trophy. At the same time, Kevin handed over to Ben a memento to mark his honour at being selected as one of 11 stand-out youngsters in the Football League following his debut.
He was named in a select side by League Football Education, recognising the football and academic progress of apprentices across the country, while also taking into account other factors, including involvement in charity or community based initiatives. LFE chief executive Alan Sykes said: "This competition is directly associated with apprentice reviews that are conducted by our team of regional officers throughout the season. It is a great way to showcase the achievements and progress of talented young footballers on the apprenticeship programme."
Following the publication of the FA Chairman's England Commission report, Argyle have issued the following statement: "The FA Chairman's England Commission report addresses an important issue and we thank the FA and Commission members for the time they have contributed to it. Plymouth Argyle supports the principle that English talent needs to be developed by playing competitive football. However, while we concur with the analysis of the problem, we do not agree with all the potential solutions. Disrupting the football pyramid - and, hence, professional football in cities and towns across the country - is not, in our view, an appropriate or proportionate response. The solution seems straightforward to us, in concept, if not execution: clubs - particularly those higher up the pyramid - should commit to play more English players and/or they should allow talented English players to play for other clubs, by way of release or loan."
Argyle have been awarded 'The Football League Family Excellence Award' for the 2013/14 season. Created in 2007, the Award recognises the outstanding experience provided by clubs for young fans and families as part of a scheme that won the Gold Award at the European Professional Football Leagues' Best Practice Awards, earlier this season. A total of 47 clubs from across all three divisions of The Football League have been given the Award for 2014, the same number as in 2013 despite a significant increase in the benchmark standard being applied by the judging panel. More than ever this year, Football League clubs are providing families with engaging family areas and offering innovative matchday entertainment that delivers a money can't buy experience for young fans. In announcing the successful clubs, Football League Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said: "The Football League Family Excellence Award gives clubs a standard to aspire to when planning their efforts to attract more families and young fans to their matches."
The Football League has already recognised the clubs delivering the very best family experience in each division this season through the 'Family Club of the Year' award at this season's Football League Awards. Argyle were crowned as League 2. Middlesbrough were announced as overall winners, with Wolverhampton Wanderers picking up the League 1 award. "It is hugely encouraging to see so many clubs receiving the accolade, demonstrating The Football League's ongoing commitment to securing the next generation of fans."
Curtis Nelson has put pen to paper on a new deal to stay at Home Park. The popular centre-back, who made 52 appearance for the Pilgrims in the 2013-14 season, was out of contract in the summer, but has now penned a deal to remain an Argyle player for another two years. "I'm happy to have signed again," said Curtis. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. Football is a cut-throat sport. You can be in contract one moment and out of it the next. You've got to be grateful for the contract, work hard at keeping it and being in the manager's mind for next season obviously that's what I have done. It's a really good club. I enjoy myself here; I'm settled. It's a nice place to live. The manager is a really honest guy. He knows what he wants us to do and he drives us every day in training. He has his ways, which have paid this year, and with the right squad we'll get going again."
Curtis, who will turn 21 later this month, has already made 143 appearances for Argyle, including several as captain in the absence of Conor Hourihane. He joined the club as an apprentice in 2009 after being released by his hometown club, Stoke City. He made his debut aged just 17 in a League Cup tie against Notts County, and then made his league bow, against the same team, two months later. He would go on to make 38 appearances in his first season, playing either in central midfield, centre-back or at right-back. Curtis was named as Argyle's Young Player of the Year for this season - and garnered a fair few votes in the race to be overall Player of the Year, too.
Having been with Argyle since the dark days of administration, Nelson is understandably as keen as anyone to put those days behind him and look to being part of Argyle's, hopefully upwardly mobile, future. He said: "I do think about that. We have been through some tough times. Looking forward, we are going to be going up the leagues that's the aim of everyone at the club. I'm happy to have played so many games. It is an aim every season to stay injury free and play as many games as you can. Promotion is the main goal. Get out of this league and when we are in League One, get out of that league. And keep on going. It's going to be a good two years." His re-signing comes as another boost to manager John Sheridan, who recently was buoyed by goalkeeper Luke McCormick's decision to also extend his stay at Argyle beyond next season.
John Sheridan has spoken of his delight in the news that defender Curtis Nelson has signed a new contract with the Pilgrims. "I'm obviously pleased to get him," said Sheridan. "He's been a really good player for us and I think he has improved a hell of a lot this season. I think people have got to realise that he has been playing out of position. He has been playing on the left side and he is naturally right-footed. Hopefully, once I get one or two players in, he will be playing predominantly on the right hand side, where he will be a lot stronger.
"He has good attributes. He is quick, he is a really good athlete a specimen of a lad. He is one of the fittest if not, the fittest at the club. He has played a lot of games for his ages, played a lot of games for a young lad, but he has played a lot in a struggling side. I think he has picked up a lot of bad habits. Hopefully I can carry on getting them out of him. He still has things to learn in his game we'll work a lot harder on his distribution but he has so much to offer. Hopefully he will be a big player for us next season. He has improved a hell of a lot this season, and hopefully he will keep on improving. I think he has a great chance of playing at a higher level hopefully that will be with Plymouth."
The Plymouth Argyle retained and released list has been announced and is as follows. Retained: Paul Wotton, Andres Gurrieri, Nathan Thomas, Tyler Harvey, Durrell Berry, Curtis Nelson, Matt Lecointe. Released: Luke Young, Neal Trotman, Isaac Vassell, Matt Parsons, Rommy Boco, Max Blanchard, Jake Cole. Already under contract: Conor Hourihane, Lewi Alessandra, Dominic Blizzard, Ben Purrington, Marvin Morgan, Luke McCormick, Jamie Richards, Jason Banton.
Newly retained Paul Wotton has spoke of his pride at equalling Sammy Black's appearance total of 491. Wotton was brought on for the last five minutes at Portsmouth and has thus climbed to joint second in the list of all time Argyle appearances. Wottsy said: "I would be lying if I said it's just a number. When I started a million years ago I never dreamt of something like this so I'm really proud. I was aware of it, but only because people were talking about it. I thank the gaffer for giving me the last five minutes. I had a feeling I would get on."
A little bit of extra time on the training ground paid handsome dividends for Argyle skipper Conor Hourihane. Conor's brace at Portsmouth took his tally for the season to nine, an achievement he puts down to some voluntary extra work with Pilgrims' coach Sean McCarthy no stranger the back of the net back in the day. "I stay behind after training a lot of the time with Macca, practising finishing," said Conor. "It's not coincidence that, when I practice my finishing, goals come in games. On Thursday and Friday, even though it was two days before the end of the season, I stayed out practising with Macca. I was the only guy there. Sometimes, when you put in that little bit extra work, it pays off."
The game was played out in front of more than 18,000 supporters, including nearly 1,600 of the Green Army, and gave Conor a taste for more of the same when the 2014-15 season starts in August. "It was a fantastic game to play in; a great game to finish the season," he said. "Two massive clubs; the two biggest teams in the league by a million miles. To have an atmosphere like that is something we all want to see more: get in the top four or five, and we will get bigger crowds, as well. Next year, we are going to try to come back bigger and better and stronger, and finish higher."
Conor's first goal came when he and team-mate Luke Young noticed Pompey goalkeeper Trevor Carson's positioning at a free-kick. He said: "There were so many lads in the wall, I said to Youngy: 'If I get this around it, he's going to be so unsighted; it's going to go in'. Luckily enough, the ball found its way through and went into the corner." The second strike arrived in the dying moments of the season, in front of the Green Army, after Portsmouth had failed to deal with substitute Paul Wotton's header following a corner. "I saw the ball break," said Conor, "and saw I had the opportunity there. Luckily I got there just before the defender and it snuck in. It's fantastic. It's nice to see [the fans] buzzing and to give them something to finish the season on a high. It's something that I want to do a lot more.
"Personally, I think I've made massive strides this season. We've all had our good and bad days but to get nine goals is fantastic. I'd love to get double-figures, but it's still a huge positive for myself. To be fair, Portsmouth were probably the slightly better team but we went behind three times, so it showed the character of the lads. It was nice to finish the season on a little positive. I know we were aiming for the play-offs and we didn't get there but, to finish in the top ten was nice. If we'd dropped down to 12th or 13th, it would have been disappointing, but to see us in the top ten is a big improvement, obviously. You still haven't achieved anything but, if you really look at the season, it's been a positive one."
John Sheridan was also pleased with Hourihane's contribution towards the end of the season. "I think Conor's improved a hell of a lot," he said, "He's got goals in him; he's a great finisher; and he's improved going forward to score nine goals is a great comeback from him. I think he should be getting ten goals a season. Hopefully, next season, he'll be getting them, too; it's always good to get goals from all areas. I expect him to be around that figure next season. Usually, when he gets a chance, he puts it away. He's learning. Other than Paul Wotton, he's probably the most vocal, and that's something that goes with the armband. He's led by example this season you can't say he hasn't. He's still a young lad; he's got a lot to learn; and he has lots on his shoulder when you're captain at a young age. As long as I believe in him, he can do the job."
Barely had the Pompey chimes drifted away on the warm Southsea breeze after Argyle's 3-3 season-concluding draw at Portsmouth, before John Sheridan was looking ahead to August and, beyond that, promotion. Three times Argyle fell behind to a Danny Hollands goal in front of a sensational 18,000-plus crowd; three times they levelled each leg of the on-loan Charlton player's first senior hat-trick, first through Reuben Reid and then twice through captain Conor Hourihane. The skipper's second equaliser, a minute from time, sent the Green Army into raptures and ensured the Pilgrims ended the season in tenth place. "I was pleased that we came back three times from conceding goals," said John. "We were behind three times, so it was a bit of character and we put a lot of effort in. I don't think we played well but Portsmouth are a decent team and I am pleased for the supporters that we got something out of the game. The lads battled. They put a lot of heart into the game and showed a will to win and get something out of the game. To score three goals away from home and get something out of the game is good for us. We scored three really good goals although I wasn't very happy with the ones we conceded. I think they were comical. Again. Poor, poor defending. We have got to improve next season. I have got to make decisions and bring people in who are going to make us better. And I'll do that. We ended up tenth, so we have got to finish higher and, if we do that, we'll have a very good chance of going up. I'm going to work very, very hard to do that. I need to improve and I need people on the pitch who are going to be vocal. The team is very, very quiet. It has been a problem for us. I need people who are vocal and not frightened to say something on the pitch."
John Sheridan will begin his squad restructuring this week. John is targeting improved home form and a flying start in three months' time, and is looking to achieve that by assembling a lean, mean group of players from his playing budget. "I'll have a smaller, tighter squad," he said. "I'll have one or two young ones who will be around the fringes, but if I could get 14-15 players that I am going to use throughout the season we have got to hit the ground running. We have just got to improve on our home form. That's a big thing. We have got to work on how we are going to play at home. We have done well away from home; our home form has got to be much improved. There will be people with a less budget and people with more; whatever I've got, I've just got to deal with it. There are going to be a lot of players available. I have got to work hard to try to get the right ones in, the ones we can afford. That's part and parcel of the job." Getting people in inevitably means letting others go, with the details of the club's retained list scheduled to be made public this week. John said: "Everything will come out who I am keeping and who I am letting go. Some people might disagree with who I am letting go, but that's my job; I've just got to do that. It's not a thing I like doing, believe me, but hopefully it will make us better next year. I have still got to see a couple of players. I've told one or two. It's difficult. I'm really fond of them all. They are a really good group of lads, but I have got to look at what I can improve and I have got to make those decisions. Everyone will know by 11am on Tuesday."
John Sheridan hailed Paul Wotton after the evergreen Green made a landmark 491st appearance against Portsmouth. When Wottsy entered the fray as an 85th-minute substitute for Neal Trotman he joined the legendary Sammy Black at joint-second on the list of players who have made most appearances for Argyle. "It's a great achievement," said John, who decided before the game to pay his own tribute to the two-time Player of the Year and captain of the club's two title-winning seasons between 2001-04. "I was always going to put him on. I think it's it only right if it helps him to get that record. You can see the fans are really fond of him and to play that many games at one club is testament to him. Like I say, it is a great achievement."
Curtis Nelson is enjoying living life on an upward curve, but he has no desire for the progression to stop. For the first three seasons of Curtis' career, Home Park was not a happy place to be. His indoctrination into the world of football came during dark days at Argyle, with financial difficulties compounded by relegation battles that were not always won. After his tumultuous introduction has come a season of relative calm, and one that surely can be considered a personal success for Nelson. The talented young defender, still a few weeks away from his 21st birthday, has already made 142 appearances in his short career thus far, and his performances this year have earned him praise from many quarters. His contribution is certainly recognised by the Green Army, who voted him Argyle's Young Player of the Season. When asked his thought on how his season has gone, the self-effacing Nelson simply deflected the question, and did so as unerringly as when denying opposition attackers. "I feel like it's been a good season for the team," he said. "Not being in the relegation fight is a lot more positive than in previous seasons. We're not going back down that way. We're coming off two or three bad seasons and we did just miss out on the play-offs. It was late on that we faded away. Next year, if we get some points early doors we didn't have the best of starts this year then I think we'll be up there." Curtis and his colleagues now have seven weeks or so to recharge batteries ahead of a new season. Before reporting back in July to gear up for the new campaign on August 9, Nelson outlined that there is still work to be done during the summer. He said: "I'll have a couple of weeks off, completely not doing anything, to let my body recover. Then slowly I'll get into doing something, because if you come back stiff having not done anything for seven weeks you'll pick up injuries. That's the last thing you want in pre-season."
Argyle's season concluded with a 3-3 draw away to Portsmouth. On three occasions midfielder Danny Hollands put the home side in the lead, but Reuben Reid and then Conor Hourihane, twice, would level things up for Argyle. Portsmouth's third came with only 90 seconds having elapsed in the second half. With the same amount of time remaining in the 90 minutes though, Hourihane equalised again. Argyle: Cole, Blanchard, Trotman (Wotton), Nelson, Berry, Young, Banton (Thomas), Harvey (Showunmi), Hourihane, Alessandra, Reid. Substitutes (not used): Boco, Blizzard, Gurrieri, Dawson
John Sheridan has re-iterated his determination to see top goalscorer Reuben Reid become a Plymouth Argyle player on a permanent basis this summer. Reid who is currently on loan from Yeovil becomes out of contract at the end of the season. The manager wants Reid to put pen to paper with Argyle and keep on improving: "I've spoken to him and he seems happy here. I've made him aware I want to keep him. He's done well this season; he should have done better in my eyes and scored more goals, but I think he has improved a lot. Whether that is down to my management I don't know, but I've been on top of him. And if he stays I'll keep on top of him he knows what I am like. I think he needs that. I think he respects that and you can see the signs in his game of how he has come on."
Meanwhile, Reid himself has also expressed a desire to stay at the club and hopes that a deal to keep him here can be arranged sooner rather than later. Argyle's player of the year is grateful to the club for helping to improve him and hopes to be part of a promotion campaign next season. Reid: "We have had a little chat and he has asked me what I have got planned. I don't know what I have got planned. I will see what he wants to do after the Portsmouth game. I hope we can work something out that will keep me here because it would be silly for me not to be here next season. It would be good for my football development, with the support of the manager. I'm still only 25. We didn't go up this season but we are definitely building towards something. I think Plymouth Argyle, with the manager here, will be serious contenders for promotion. If you want to be harsh, we should have minimum made the play-offs this season with the way we can potentially perform, but we haven't quite got there.
"Hopefully, next season we can challenge for automatic (promotion) or nailed on play-offs.I would love to be a part of that. It would be nice to achieve something. Hopefully, something can be sorted out and it does happen here, but you never know in football. We will just have to wait and see. "I don't feel like a loan player at all. Even when I came back here on loan last season, it was as if I had never left. When I was 17 I left Bristol and came down here up until I was 19-20, when I left the club. It's a club that is always going to be with me because it's where I made my Football League debut. Coming here from a background of no football whatsoever was a massive step in my life, not just my football career. I feel like I'm Plymouth Argyle, 100 per cent."
Luke McCormick is pleased with the way he has recovered from the finger injury that he incurred in the match against Mansfield at the start of February and has been told that no lasting damage is on the cards. McCormick has missed the last three months of the season but has been injured that he will be back to full fitness when pre-season rolls around. McCormick went on to talk about the stability and optimism he feels after signing his new two year contract, saying: "It's an occupational hazard I'm afraid. I consider myself very lucky that I haven't had many injuries throughout my career. I guess it was just my turn, but I'm extremely happy the way it is coming on. I joined in full training last week. Obviously, I have to be quite careful and sensible with it because I don't want to have any setbacks at this stage. It's coming on nicely and I'm certain that it won't have any repercussions come next season. They have assured me it will be bomb-proof come July, so that's music to my ears really. I can just get on with it and I won't have to worry.
"I wear my wedding ring under my glove, which I'm probably not supposed to do, but as it's in my glove I don't feel there is any reason not to. Once I came off, they spent most of the time running around trying to find a ring cutter to saw it off. It needed a K-wire, just to stabilise the joint, which was in there for four weeks. They whipped it out after that time and it has settled down nicely. They have chucked a lot at it, in terms of exercises and stuff like that, simply because of the need to get it moving as quickly as possible really. The people that have been looking after me at hospital have been fantastic, as well as physio Paul Atkinson and Vicki Hannaford at the club, so I feel like I'm in very good hands. I was playing week-in, week-out, which is great for me, and I was playing okay as well. I still felt and I still do feel like I have got a lot more to give. I have shown glimpses of what I feel I can do, but I'm still quite far away from my full potential.
"So I'm grateful to be given the next couple of seasons to make sure that I reach the top of my game and I can sustain that consistently. I think the older you get the more you have to look after yourself, and pay attention to your body a little bit.I'm learning to do that as I go along, but I feel good in mind and body. I have obviously had a few years out of football, which I think will help me with my longevity. At the moment I feel good and just really excited about the next couple of years, and hopefully being part of something good again at this football club. The talks were all positive and I was happy with that until the contract was drawn up, and then it was a just case of getting it signed, and I was more than happy to do that.I'm thoroughly enjoying my time at Argyle," added McCormick, who first played for the Pilgrims between 2000 and 2008. I have always been happy at this club, and I feel like I'm probably the happiest I have been in all my years here at the moment. In terms of signing the contract and extending my stay, it was a no-brainer for me.
John Sheridan will announce the list of players who are being retained by Argyle next season on Tuesday after the Bank Holiday weekend. He expressed his regret at having to undertake the task but re-affirmed that it was for the good of the club going into next season. Sheridan: "That's the most important thing on my mind at the moment. The players need to know what decisions I have made. It's a real difficult time for me as a manager. I wish someone else could have my job for three weeks, but it's just part and parcel of the job. It's not something I like doing but I have got to do it. Whatever decisions I make are to make sure we improve on this season. I'm still in the process of telling players. It will all come out on Tuesday. Everyone will know who I want to stay and who I have released. I spoke briefly to one or two. I didn't expect it but they wanted to come and see me. I fully respect they have got families and they have got to live their lives. They want to know where they are.
"Everything will come out on Tuesday. They will all know as a group together. I want to take them all to Portsmouth for the last game because, like I have said before, I have got a really good group of players. There is not a bad one amongst them. I'm fond of one or two and to get rid of people is not nice a thing to do. I want us to go out as a group and try to get a result against Portsmouth, and we will stick together just for this final game, and on Tuesday everyone will know what the decisions I have made are."
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