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05/06: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 09/08/05, 7.45pm
Plymouth Argyle
Home Improvement
By Mike Smart

I flippin' hate decorating. Painting's OK, but in a Victorian house such as mine it takes ages to get to the painting stage, especially when a previous occupant has put that horrible bumpy wallpaper everywhere.

But that's where I find myself at the moment. The wallpaper is stripped, revealing a message on the bare walls saying: 'Carol 7/9/82'. Hmm. Thanks Carol. I hope your taste in decorating has improved in the last 23 years. Now, we have reached the decision to put lining paper up; the trouble with Victorian houses is that when you take the wallpaper down, you take a large portion of the wall as well, so lining paper is the only solution. And I flippin' hate lining paper the most. Only when that is done - the edges lined up, the bubbles smoothed out - can you think about painting.

Like I said, the painting bit's OK. The trouble is that in terms of decision-making, it's the most important bit. It's a bit disconcerting when your son comes into the room and says, 'Dad, why is it all purple?'

Finally, eventually, you get to the bit where you sit down and survey your handiwork. This is when you discover if it's all been worthwhile. Maybe, if you're very proficient in such matters, you look proudly around you and revel in your triumph. Never a feeling I've had, post-decorating. More likely for the amateur, just relief that you've finished, and mild satisfaction at a job reasonably well done. Or, usually in my case, you start noticing all the bubbles, the gaps between the strips of paper, the horrific colour scheme; with hindsight, the 'different shades of purple' experiment of July 2002 was a mistake.

This is kind of where 72 football managers find themselves at the moment. The summer's work is pretty much finished, and now they've seen their 'improvements' in action for the first time. They are assessing the effect they've had on their squads.

For some, only minimal changes have been made. A new border here, the skirting spruced up there. For others, the whole lot has been trashed and it's been a complete rebuild. Perhaps, in some cases, the wallpaper was hastily ripped off the wall, meaning there really was no going back on the project. Perhaps, in some cases, the wallpaper was perfectly adequate in the first place, relative to budgetary constraints.

Plymouth fall somewhere between the two categories. A few out, a few in; only three of the departures (Coughlan, Gilbert, Worrell) were first team regulars. In their place, a few trinkets from around the globe: Akos Buszacky (following a successful loan last season), Bojan Djordjic, Nuno Mendes, Taribo West and, erm, Anthony Barness and Rufus Brevett. On the evidence so far, Bobby Williamson will be feeling quite pleased with himself following an excellent 2-1 win at Reading on Saturday.

In goal will probably be Roman Larrieu; he played at Reading, although youngster Luke McCormick is said to have had an impressive pre-season and may challenge again soon.

Between full backs Barness and Brevett will probably be Hasney Aljofree and Mathias Doumbe. 21-year-old Paul Connolly may be on the bench and Mendes is another option. West is not; a passport/visa problem is detaining the Nigerian at present. He may be available by the weekend. It's worth pausing here for a moment to consider what is probably the most unlikely transfer story of the summer. A very talented player - you don't get to play in World Cups if you aren'teh? What do you mean, 'Pierre Issa'? Oh, OK then, you don't get to play for Inter if you aren't - but what is he doing in Plymouth? If his attitude's right, he'll be a great signing. But somehow Ramon Vega and Patrick Blondeau come to mind. For Plymouth's sake, I hope he turns out to be more of a Filippo Galli.

At Reading, Plymouth employed a 4-5-1. They are likely to be less cautious at home to Watford, so one of David Norris, Bjarni Gudjonsson, Paul Wotton, Tony Capaldi and Buzsacky is likely to lose his place. I doubt it will be Buzsacky; he's an attacking midfielder with blonde hair. Such players tend to go off the boil when their egos overtake them, but are usually at their most effective early on at a new club (Ramage, Kavanagh, Koumas). He was impressive in the corresponding fixture last year, and is a crowd-pleaser. Djordjic came on in the 90th minute on Saturday and will hope for more involvement on Tuesday, and Keith Lasley is another that apparently had an impressive pre-season but was left out on Saturday. Lee Hodges appears to have long-term back problems, so is unlikely to feature. Like ourselves, Argyle boast some young midfielders. Unlike ourselves, they are likely to introduce them slowly to the first team scene. Expect appearances during the season for Ryan Dickson, Luke Summerfield and Marcus Martin.

The lone striker on Saturday was the immortal Mickey Evans, voted in the BSaD survey as the club's weakest link. He scored too, so will probably keep his place. Evans' replacement five minutes from time,ex-Everton man Nick Chadwick, scored the winner. Scott Taylor, late of just about every lower-division club in the North West, is another option. Indeed, the other option; perhaps Plymouth need a striker-ometer.

There's much to be admired about Plymouth; they are arguably punching above their weight, and doing so very well. They only briefly flirted with relegation last season after a good start. Best of all, they hate Luton. Tomorrow, though, we will have to hope they don't get to grips with our wingers quite as quickly as Preston did. More of what happened in the first 20 minutes, but for much longer than 20 minutes, would be most welcome. I'm afraid I won't be there, though. I'll be listening to the radio while attempting to get to grips with the sodding lining paper.