Wednesday, June 17, 2009

“Perform” is hardly the right word!!

It isn’t often that a club’s official website becomes a talking point but today did. How? They didn’t manage to get the new fixtures up when they were officially released at 10 am.


Many disgruntled supporters obviously grumbled to many clubs and it transpires that this was an issue between the website provider (Perform) and the 70 or so clubs it supplies a frankly sub-standard service to.


PAFC has copped loads of stick for the useless website over the years and today the worm turned and issued this statement:


Posted on: Wed 17 Jun 2009

WE apologise unreservedly for the farcical situation that struck our official website on Wednesday morning.
Fixture-list release day - Wednesday, June 17, this year - is without doubt the biggest day in the calendar for all Football League websites, not to mention you, our loyal supporters.

For days in advance, we bombard you with promotional messages promising that our official website will be the first place for the fixture news on the day of is a strict 10am embargo on the fixture-list placed on clubs by the Football League, forbidding them from revealing details before this time.

However, we were issued with a copy of the fixture-list at 7.57 on Wednesday morning, allowing us two hours to prepare stories and pinpoint the big fixtures for the Green Army. Although the vast majority of the content of the website - news, features, videos - is generated at Home Park by the Argyle Communications team, we are reliant on a company called Perform Group to provide the technical expertise to publish the content.
The articles are entered by us into an editorial toolkit; we set a time for launch and press 'save'. The articles are then picked up by the Perform server in London and pinged out to the electronic world.

On fixture-list release day, we kept our end of the bargain. Our ducks were all in a row at 10am.
Perform Group, formerly known as Premium TV, did not allow us to deliver on our promise. Five stories were prepared by us and ready to go live at 10am. Perform published them at 10.28am.

Whether it was server-error, human-error or any other sort of error, the procedure failed miserably, leaving fans disappointed and Football League webmasters nationwide seething.

The mechanics of the working relationship between clubs and Perform are complicated, but we shall attempt to give a brief outline of Wednesday's events. Three text alerts were timed to be sent at 10am, 10.02am and 10.04am. Thankfully, these were delivered at the correct times. Moving on to the official website: the lead story on the fixtures was timed to launch at 10am, with four subsidiary articles scheduled for 10.05am. Although these stories were all scheduled to launch from an editorial toolkit, powered by Perform, we monitored the website to ensure the articles filtered through successfully.
At 10.28am, all five stories finally appeared on our website, long after supporters had understandably explored other avenues to learn the fixture-list for the new season.

The contract between Perform and the vast majority of Football League clubs has now been running for eight years, and fixture-list release day has always been the key date in terms of proving ourselves as the first place to visit for official Argyle news.

Tuesday's Carling Cup draw might have provided Perform with a warning of the problems they potentially faced.
It took just under an hour for our background story on our away tie at Gillingham, along with the complete first-round draw to fully filter through. The time between 10-10.28am on Wednesday was spent refreshing the Argyle website, while scouring other clubs under the Perform umbrella to see if the problem was nationwide.
We soon discovered that a host of other clubs were experiencing the same problem. Official websites were either crashing completely or simply replicating the Argyle pattern of failing to publish scheduled stories. We received a group e-mail from Coventry City at 10.22am expressing their disappointment at Perform's failure to live up to their name. Subsequent replies from us and other clubs were considerably more damning.

At this point, the following 26 clubs have contributed to this electronic circular:

Bradford City
Southend United
Queens Park Rangers
Stoke City
Crystal Palace
Carlisle United
Bolton Wanderers
Cardiff City
Doncaster Rovers
Nottingham Forest
Derby County
Wigan Athletic
Milton Keynes Dons
Notts County
Shrewsbury Town
Hull City
Rotherham United
Cheltenham Town

This is around a third of the clubs served by Perform - and these are just the ones we know about. The fixture page on the official website should also have been automatically updated by Perform. This was finally completed at 11.22am - 82 minutes after the time promised to fans. Mistakes happen on websites. Sometimes it is our fault, sometimes it is down to failures at Perform.

Normally, we will grudgingly take the criticism for Perform errors.

Sorry, not today.

The club then found itself in hot water with the Football league who forced them to remove the above statement. Things are set to improve imminently ~ we only have another 20 years of the contract with Perform to run!!


I wonder how long before I get told to remove this?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Valerie Kelway R.I.P.


Valerie was my sister.


Thursday before last at about 11 pm I received a phone call from Val’s husband. “She’s gone” he said. “Can you make the phone calls?” I did.


Her illness was vicious, brief and brutally finaL There was nothing that could be done. In my more lucid moments I can console myself that at least this showed its own mercy but that is little consolation right now.


Val was a keen amateur singer and had a beautiful singing voice ~ so much so that she used to compete in competitions of the barbershop style which I believe is more accurately referred to as close harmony singing; she belonged to a group called The Mayflowers. Her cremation was today. There was some singing. It was at once the saddest and most beautiful thing I have ever heard.


She leaves a husband, son, daughter and 3 grandchildren who will all desperately miss her as will Mum, my two brothers and I.


I wish she was still here.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Reserves v Bristol City 17/03/09

Argyle (4-4-2): 27 Lloyd Saxton; 2 David McNamee, 4 Simon Walton, 5 Krisztián Timár, 3 Damien McCrory; 7 Chris Clark, 6 Jim Paterson, 8 Luke Summerfield (capt), 11 Craig Noone; 9 Jermaine Easter, 10 Steve MacLean (14 George Donnelly 75)

Substitutes (not used): 12 Ryan Brett, 13 Dan Smith, 15 Yoann Folly, 23 Ollie Chenoweth.

Bristol City (4-4-2): 1 Stephen Henderson; 2 Jordan Walker (15 Daryn Hennessy 6), 5 Izzy Iriekpen (14 Robert Stambolsiev 76), 6 Joe Edwards, 3 James Wilson; 8 Frankie Artus, 7 Tristan Plumber, 4 Ashley Kingston, 11 Jennison Myrie-Williams; 9 Peter Styvar (12 Marlon Jackson 66), 10 Lee Trundle.

Substitutes (not used): 13 Tom Bradley.

Referee: Adam Hopkins

It's difficult to read much into a reserve game but Argyle utterly dominated the match in terms of possession and chances created. I don't know how strong the Turnip team was but it only included 2 names that I have ever heard (Trundle and Iriekpen ~ and I'm not sure it was the same one of those). The Turnips weren't helped when Jordan Walker went down and stayed down early on after an innocuous tussle with McCrory and had to be stretchered away.

Anyway the first chance fell to Argyle when we attacked the BPE goal. Patterson set Noone free with a lovely little left-footed pass, Noonie got foward and crossed perfectly for Easter to stroll in at the back post and head wide. He really should have scored. It was begging. Not long after more good work from Noone saw a mishit Clark shot fall to MaClean. Maclean had a defender up his exhaust pipe and laid the simplest of balls back to Easter who really couldn't, and didn't, miss. 1-0.

It was all Green ball really. McNamee fed Clarky down the other wing who put in a great cross that the Turnips did well to scramble clear.
The Turnips then managed a rare threat on goal and Ashley Kingston turned well in the box and fired hard and low at the right hand post. It was sneaking in but Saxton got down well and got a strong right hand to it and parried away for a corner. It was a good save and could easily have gone in.

We then had a free kick on the right edge of the box. Summers floated it across, Paterson headed across goal and MacLean at the back post misread it and got underneath the ball. He really should have done better but MacLean was getting involved well. Soon after there was good work by MacLean again in the box. It was almost a re-run of the goal and he laid back a perfect pass to Paterson. The loyal 150 or so were about to acclaim a goal but Paterson's sweet connection fired wide. He should have scored it really was begging. Again.

There was another wobble when a Walton, playing at CB, back pass bobbled as Saxton went to kick. He sliced it horribly and it went for a corner which the young goalie came and caught well. He wasn't busy but he really did look quite assured with all that he did.
There was still time for a couple more chances and Summerfield, who was tidy and moved the ball on quickly and unfussily throughout, overhit a free kick from a promising position luckily the ref played an advantage as MacLean got clattered and Noone's shot on the follow up was deflected away.

1-0 at half time.

McCrory got forward far more in the second half and linking well with Noone and McCrory won an early corner with a good over-lapping run but Summerfield overhit it, which to be honest was something of a theme, but he was to make amends later.

MacLean figured strongly throughout but his performance was an odd one. He did not seem overly bothered about the game at all. His body language isn't great at all and at one point he loudly and profanely expressed discontent after a dodgy ball to him from McCrory but on the plus side he set up Easter's goal and time and again turned beautifully to thread a ball to over-lapping wide players. Easter, by comparison despite his goal, was far less effective and had a frustrating time of it as the referee gave him nothing against his marker, the strapping Joe Edwards, and then penalised him for the softest of infringements.

One of those MacLean balls set Noone away and he crossed but crossed poorly which probably only increased Easter's frustration as he lurked hopefully in anticipation. Maclean and Easter then combined to set Noone up. Noone shot but shot weakly and the goalie saved easily low and to his left. The ball went for a corner which Noone this time cocked up. We used to be so good at taking corners...

Paterson who had sat centarally knitting things together nicely started to come forward now and showed no little verve and purpose on several occasions. McCrory and Paterson set Noone away and he put a great cross across the face of the goal. All it needed was a touch but everybody missed it.

Paterson followed that with another good, direct run which was crudely ended by their #15 (he was meant to be a goalie according to the team sheet so I don't know who he was) which resulted in the captain being called over and a stern warning, but no card, given. The free kick was in a great position slightly to the left and maybe 5 yards outside the box. MacLean got in the wall and peeled around the back as Summerfield shot low and hard with a hint of curl into the gap he left. The 'keeper Henderson stood no chance. Great goal. 2-0.

The foul on Paterson was the first iffy one in the match but Timar soon followed when he went through the back of one of theirs in a senseless and poor fashion. He could easily have been dismissed for it on another day and should have been booked. Another telling off from the ref but, again, no card. Timar was very, very lucky. At this point it's worth noting that Walton lasted the entire match as his partner looking calm and assured throughout and did nothing to suggest that his temper was not in control. In fact Trundle really didn't figure at all so you have to say Walton did well although I barely noticed him to be honest.

McCrory made another good run from left back and passed to Paterson who tried to set MacLean away but MacLean had wandered offside. Argyle's best move of the match came next. Loads of passes from defence through the midfield to Easter who fed Maclean. Maclean once again turned and set Clark away who crossed dangerously. Somehow it was scrambled away for a corner which Summers played short and then crossed to Timar at the back stick who really should have done better than he did.

It's not often you hear a player scream but the sparse reserve crowd were treated to a mighty holler from McCrory as Frankie Artus arrived late and a bit two-footed for a 60/40 ball and seemed to rake his studs up McCrory's back. McCrory was clearly unhappy and this could easily have been a red card too. I think the ref left his cards behind today but it was never a dirty game.

There was more good work from MacLean who crossed to Timar, who inexplicably was in the centre forward position, but Timar again headed poorly. At this stage Argyle were rampant, really, and doing much as they pleased ~ as far as that is possible in a game played at about 3/4 pace by everybody on both sides.

McNamee was quiet really but as the game wore on he got forward dangerously on several occasions too, then an excellent dummy by MacLean allowed Clark to cross but it was cleared.

With 15 minutes to go Donnelly came on for MacLean. MacLean again did himself no favours by heading off straight down the tunnel and despite being involved in nearly everything we did that threatened his attitude must be in question. I don't think there was even the customary handshake as he came off but I wouldn't swear to it as I may have been making a note at the time. Make no mistake his passing and contribution over all were excellent but he just, at times, looks like he doesn't give a toss. Maybe I'm being unfair but he really is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I think there's a great player in there if we or he can get his head right.

Donnelly came on and looked like a dedicated chaser of lost causes. He looked direct, pacy and committed. Then again the game wasn't full-on pace-wise and given the circumstances his attitude was to be expected. In fact when Donnelly made his first touch he was crunched by Ashley Kingston. Welcome to the pros, George.

That was about it apart from a late turn by Trundle who fired at Saxton who saved, fumbled and recovered easily and for Noone to set Paterson away with a back hell, Paterson then crossed to Easter who missed yet again.

Everybody did well today really with Easter looking like the weakest link. The goal apart he really contributed very little. The youngsters McCrory and Saxton on a rare chance to play with the big boys did not look out of place at all. The pairings of Noone/McCrory, Clark/McNamee, Walton/Timar, Summerfield/Paterson all looked good in their slots.
MacLean and Easter? The scoreline says it all really. It was all Argyle and ended up only 2-0. It might have been 10.

How good were the Turnips? Poor, if truth be told. Totally out-classed.

Any hoof? I can't remember a single hoof up the field in all of the match.

MotM? Could be any of Noone, McCrory, MacLean or Paterson. I'll opt for Paterson who was excellent throughout and despite being so incredibly one footed that it's embarrassing used the ball well, showed great judgement and was a genuine attacking threat when he came forward.

Friday, June 05, 2009

5 Year Plan

The need for a 5YP is often mentioned following the rip-roaring success that was the last one. At least the club was successful and it achieved that success by blowing the 5YP to smithereens but that isn’t important right now.

I’d actually question whether we need a publicly-stated 5YP at all now. What would it say? It was easy to set out a series of objectives for the last one due to a number of factors. One of them was the relative strength of Argyle and our famed and oft-mentioned potential. We should never have been in the 4th Division at all to start with. We are not a small club ~ at least not in those terms we are not. Quite the reverse. We were a Big Fish in a small pond back then. It had taken a series of quite astonishingly bad decisions from Dan McCauley to get us there in the first instance and just a short period of sensible leadership would have bestowed, in all likelihood, fairly instant results.

I can’t remember what the original 5YP stated now but it went something like this (if I am wrong it doesn’t really matter):

Year 1: Stay up

Year 2: Get a Play-Off spot.

Year 3: Get promoted to Division 1.

Year 4: Stay Up

Year 5: Aim for a Ply-Off spot.

Most who read this won’t need to be reminded that we actually did this:

Year 1: Stay up

Year 2: Promoted as Champions to Division 1

Year 3: Consolidate in mid-table

Year 4: Promoted as Champions to Coca-Cola Championship

Year 5: Stay Up

This led us to where we still are today. “What we need is another 5YP like the first one” is the mantra that comes from many but I do not agree at all. From where we are what would anybody expect it to say? If it sets out a timescale for getting a Play-Off or Promotion spot then looks all Billy Big Bollocks and completely ignores the fact that there are no “easy” fixtures for us anymore. We are not a Big Fish anymore; we are one of the Littlest Fish now. It is not going to be impossible for us to progress but it is going to be extremely hard and there is nothing in our 100+ years of history as a club to suggest that we will. If we went into print and laid out objectives and a timescale and then failed to achieve them then the criticism would cascade from all directions.

For now we can set an easy objective against which to monitor our on-field  performance: we should try to beat the league position of the previous year. It’s not glamourous or exciting and the longer we manage to do that then the harder it becomes for us to continue doing it but it is realistic and achievable.

Off the pitch it is a different thing altogether. Quite simply we must find ways to raise the club’s turnover; I don’t think we can charge much more than we do now so that means we need to either get more bums on seats or find other revenue streams.

One thing is certain in my mind though and that is that a 5YP will actually achieve nothing. Anybody can write anything down on a piece of paper. It is what actually transpires that will dictate what the future holds for us as a club.