Wayne Rooney is looking forward to an "exciting project" after he was named head coach of Plymouth Argyle.

Plymouth narrowly avoided relegation from last season's Championship, finishing just a point and a place above 22nd-placed Birmingham City.

Incidentally, Rooney managed Birmingham during the campaign, though he lasted less than three months before being sacked.

Having replaced the fired John Eustace with the club sitting sixth in the Championship, Rooney was dismissed in January after winning just two of his 15 matches at the helm, with Birmingham ultimately going on to be relegated to League One.

Though his time at Birmingham was challenging to say the least, Rooney has high expectations for his new role, saying: "Taking this role at Plymouth Argyle feels like the perfect next step in my career.

"This is an opportunity to be part of an exciting project. I look forward to helping to build a squad of players to play expansive football.

“I have experienced first-hand how talented the existing group of players is here, and also the incredible atmosphere at Home Park. The club is on an exciting long-term journey, with a progressive plan in place. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of it. 

"I can't wait for the Championship season to start in August."

Plymouth director of football Neil Dewsnip was “absolutely delighted” with his side’s shock 1-0 Championship victory at home to leaders Leicester that eased their relegation worries.

Recalled Mustapha Bundu scored a 21st-minute winner with an angled strike after running onto a defence-splitting ball from Adam Forshaw.

Home goalkeeper Michael Cooper made a string of stops as Leicester piled on the pressure but the hosts held on for maximum points as they moved to 16th and now sit five points clear of the bottom three.

Dewsnip said: “We are absolutely delighted with the result. Made up but we know it’s not done yet. We still have a target and that is to stay in this league.

“Our aim is to stay in the league. It’s been the same since day one when we started in the Championship. It’s been a great night for Plymouth Argyle Football Club.

“We still have three more games to play and more points to play for. The players stuck to the shape we wanted and I am delighted we stuck to the game plan.

“Mustapha’s goal was absolutely terrific. He’s got that finish in him we see every week in training. It does fly over the railings one or two times but credit to him that was a really good goal.

“The fans from the first minute to the last were just at it. I found myself clapping with them at one point.

“I am absolutely delighted the team recorded a 1-0 win for them.

“We have not had a great record defending set -pieces, so we worked on it and got an unbelievable response.

“Thankfully tonight was our night not theirs. I am sure Leicester will have theirs in the future.

“Tomorrow I think I will be watching the scores come in, especially as 24 hours ago we weren’t sitting here with these three points.”

Leicester boss Enzo Maresca took the positives from their second-consecutive loss as they remain level on points with second-placed Ipswich, with Leeds a point further back ahead of their games on Saturday.

He said: “It has been a tough week with two defeats in a row that we did not expect so we are upset.

“The only good thing is that fortunately, it is still in our hands.

“We need to take our chances and start to win games. We have four games to go, three of them at home, with our fans behind us, so hopefully we can finish well.

“At the end – and I have said it many times – the problem is when you don’t create chances. That is when you have to be worried and find a different solution.

“At this moment we are struggling to score. We created chances inside the six-yard box, from outside the box and we struggle.

“But there are moments over the season where we need to win the game and it doesn’t matter which way we need to win the game.

“But as I said, the positive thing is it’s still in our hands in the last four games. Now we cannot lose any more chances we have to try and win those (four) games.

“At this moment we need all our players. For sure, when you don’t win games there is always a why?

“I don’t see a big difference between tonight’s game and when we started the season.

“When we lose you are always looking for the reason. The team are still competing and are still creating chances.

“I don’t know if we need all the four games to win the league but we will still go out to win those four games.

“With one chance they (Plymouth) were clinical and we had more chances and were not clinical.”

Leaders Leicester missed the chance to move clear at the top of the Championship as they suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away to relegation-threatened Plymouth, thanks to Mustapha Bundu’s 21st-minute winner.

Second-placed Ipswich remain level on points with the Foxes, with Leeds a point further back ahead of their games on Saturday with all three clubs currently having four matches left.

Managerless Argyle climbed to 16th on the back of their first home win in seven, under the caretaker management team of director of football Neil Dewsnip and first-team coach Kevin Nancekivell and now sit five points clear of the bottom three.

It only took five minutes for Leicester to test home goalkeeper Michael Cooper as Abdul Fatawu’s thumping right-footed shot – following a flowing move – forcing him into a diving save low down to his left.

Ricardo Pereira was next to test Cooper, following a defence-splitting one-two with Wilfred Ndidi. Again it was all diving Cooper could do to parry the ball away.

Stephy Mavididi latched on to the aerial ball and headed it back across the goal, which resulted in a goalmouth scramble and Argyle eventually clearing the ball.

Mavididi went close with a curling 13th-minute shot after being teed up by playmaker Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall on the edge of the box. The attacking midfielder’s shot beat Cooper for pace but flew just past the post.

Totally against the run of play, Plymouth stunned their visitors with a 21st-minute goal on the counter.

Adam Forshaw intercepted a Leicester attack and released recalled striker Bundu with a superb, measured pass through the middle of the park.

Bundu sprinted forward and – as he got into the penalty box – let fly with a fierce angled drive from the right that beat diving Mads Hermansen and rocketed into the far corner.

Harry Winks fired wide from 20 yards as Argyle failed to clear their lines following another City corner with the half-hour mark approaching.

Argyle’s next best chance fell to Bundu, after good work by Forshaw and substitute Joe Edwards, but this time the striker fired high over.

Cooper did well to save low at his near post as Dewsbury-Hall fired across the face of goal in the 44th minute from close range.

Cooper was again called into action early in the second half as he made another save, while Dewsbury-Hall tried his luck from 25 yards moments later.

Central defender Dan Scarr did well to stoop and head a pacy Fatawu cross from the right away at the near post as Leicester continued to press or an equaliser.

Fatawu’s next cross from the right – after 56 minutes – found striker Patson Daka and his deft near-post touch beat Cooper but spun past the far upright.

Daka’s last action was firing wide when well placed at the far post after 67 minutes. He was replaced by former England international striker Jamie Vardy.

With just over 15 minutes remaining, Wout Faes’ cross from the right was smashed towards goal by Mavididi but again, Cooper was equal to the effort.

Cooper made an even better stop, bravely diving in to deny Vardy as the Leicester striker broke into the box, one-on-one, in the 88th minute but the hosts held on for the much-needed victory.

Leicester missed the chance to go four points clear at the top of the Championship after a 1-0 loss at Millwall.

Ryan Longman’s brilliant top corner finish was the difference for the Lions, who climbed into 17th.

Leicester stayed one point clear at the summit after Leeds moved into second following a goalless draw against Sunderland.

Substitute Milutin Osmajic bagged a quickfire hat-trick as Preston completed an incredible second-half comeback to beat relegation-threatened Huddersfield 4-1.

Josh Koroma handed the Terriers the lead in the 42nd minute, but Preston equalised when Will Keane levelled from the penalty spot.

Osmajic starred from the bench in the final stages, striking twice in three minutes before completing his treble in the second minute of stoppage time to snatch three points and leave Town outside the bottom three on goal difference.

Sheffield Wednesday scored two late goals to salvage a crucial point in their relegation battle after a 2-2 draw against Norwich.

The visitors struck quickly in the opening stages with Josh Sargent putting the Canaries ahead in the 11th minute before Borja Sainz doubled the advantage five minutes later.

However, Wednesday turned the game around in the final 15 minutes with Michael Ihiekwe pulling one back before Michael Smith levelled in the 85th minute to leave them alongside Huddersfield.

Fourth-placed Southampton continued their play-off push with a 2-1 win against Coventry.

Haji Wright missed a penalty for the Sky Blues in the 10th minute and Southampton struck just eight minutes later through Kyle Walker-Peters.

Che Adams doubled the lead just before the break before Jake Bidwell pulled one back for Coventry, who remain just outside the play-off places.

Plymouth earned a valuable point after drawing 1-1 with QPR.

Sam Field put the visitors ahead from a corner, but Argyle are two points above the drop zone as Albert Adomah turned the ball into his own net.

Plymouth director of football Neil Dewsnip praised his side for their “never say die” attitude after claiming a late leveller in a 1-1 Championship draw with relegation-rivals QPR.

Albert Adomah scored an 85th-minute own goal as Argyle piled on the pressure from a later corner after Sam Field had fired Rangers into a 73rd-minute lead following a goalmouth scramble in which home goalkeeper Michael Cooper made two incredible saves.

Dewsnip said: “When QPR scored, the team had to show incredible resilience. ‘Never say die’ is a part of the culture here. The team were superb and the fans fantastic.”

Managerless Argyle slipped to 20th as a result to sit just two points above the relegation zone, but Dewsnip said: “We see it as a point gained at home not an opportunity missed as that’s now four points in two games.

“It means momentum is changing and we go again on Friday. I like to look forward so hopefully we will score more than one on Friday.

“We will look forward rather than backwards. I see the point as a positive point, we are going the right direction again.

“Michael (Cooper) has been injured but he is getting sharper game by game and made some superb saves again tonight, as he did at Rotherham.

“All the players were superb tonight. Michael had a fantastic game, Adam Randell did, Dan Scarr, Lewis Gibson but I could go on and on and name every one of them because I thought they all played their part in a tremendous performance.

“Friday night against Leicester is huge. The players will recover now and then we all go again on Friday.”

QPR head coach Marti Cifuentes – whose side hover four points above the bottom three – said: “It was disappointing not to win as we did enough to win the game. We needed to score a second (goal).

“That’s always going to be the target at 1-0. We not only created chances to win the game but enough to close the game out.

“I have mentioned this not once, not twice that unfortunately, it’s something we have experienced many times this season.

“And then you know if the opposition get a half-chance in this type of situation they will score and that’s exactly what happened.

“For us today it was important for us to react in a strong way after losing and I am delighted to say that’s what we did.

“After we scored we kept pushing hard for a second and I know if we carry on playing this way we are going to win football matches.

“I don’t usually look at the table. Tonight it was about the last five games.

“Now we have four games left and I want to win all of them. We need to keep on pushing, we need more points.

“Our focus is on the next game and we know that Hull will be difficult because they are chasing the play-offs but there are no easy games in this division.

“We have to make sure that collectively we recover from this one and be well prepared to go again.”

Managerless Plymouth claimed a much-needed 85th-minute leveller to earn a late 1-1 Championship draw at home to relegation-rivals QPR.

Following a goalmouth scramble in which Plymouth goalkeeper Michael Cooper twice brilliantly saved on his line, Sam Field hammered the ball home from close range after 73 minutes to give the visitors the lead.

But Albert Adomah put into his own net with five minutes remaining as Argyle claimed a share of the spoils.

Ilias Chair fired over from 20 yards out as the ball fell to him from QPR’s first corner of the game.

Adam Randall won and took a 13th-minute free-kick for the hosts which flew over from 20 yards out.

Top scorer Morgan Whittaker went the closest with his 25-yard shot on the run which went just wide of Asmir Bergovic’s goal in the 15th minute.

It was the closest either side went in a tentative getting-to-know-you start from both teams.

Callum Wright helped continue a flowing move with a cheeky acrobatic back heel which resulted in a shooting opportunity for the attacking midfielder just outside the QPR penalty area.

Wright’s thumping 26th-minute shot from 20 yards flew just over the crossbar, while Chair continued to be a thorn in Argyle’s side and when he cut inside from the left – three minutes later – his low goal-bound shot had to be blocked by a defender.

Minutes later Lucas Andersen beat two defenders as he cut inside from the right and let fly with a low angled drive that flew just wide of the diving Cooper’s far post.

Paul Smyth went even closer in the 36th minute, latching onto a Chair cross from the left at the far post. Smyth controlled the ball well and his first-time shot on the half volley rocketed into the side netting.

Ryan Hardie’s shot from centre of the penalty area eight minutes before the break was comfortably saved by Begovic.

A slip on the ball by Anthony Phillips allowed Chair a run-on goal from the halfway. The Morocco international homed in on goal before firing just wide from the edge of the box.

Cooper made a brilliant 56th-minute save to deny Smyth as he looked certain to score after being teed up inside the box by Lydon Dykes. Somehow the Argyle number one kept out Smyth’s measured shot.

A minute later, Begovic was forced to save low at the foot of his post to keep out a Bali Mumba shot.

Central defender Lewis Gibson looked set to score when a corner, flicked on, landed at his feet at the far post but his shot across goal curled away from the target and sailed inches wide.

Plymouth defender Dan Scarr did brilliantly to head off the goal line in the 68th minute as QPR upped the pressure and Smyth’s cross looked to be heading in.

Field finally broke the deadlock from close range after 73 minutes to give QPR the lead.

Begovic made a brilliant stop to deny Mumba – as Argyle piled on the pressure – but Adomah appeared to score an own goal, under pressure from substitute striker Mustapha Bundu, at the far post as QPR failed to clear the 85th-minute corner.

Norwich maintained their Sky Bet Championship play-off push as they saw off plucky Plymouth 2-1 to make it seven successive home wins in the league.

The struggling visitors stunned the Canaries by taking in the lead after 10 minutes as Morgan Whittaker headed home his 20th goal of the season.

But David Wagner’s side, who had lost 6-2 at Plymouth earlier in the season, responded well to the setback and two goals in seven second-half minutes, from top scorer Josh Sargent and an Ashley Phillips own goal, settled a hard-fought encounter in which the relegation threatened Pilgrims played their part.

Plymouth found themselves on the backfoot from the off but managed to take the lead from their first attack.

An impressive switch in play from Alfie Devine allowed Matthew Sorinola to make ground down the right flank before crossing for Whittaker to find the bottom corner with a powerful header.

Norwich had a chance to hit back a few minutes later when Sargent burst through but a superb last-ditch block from Phillips snuffed out the danger.

Sargent later hit the post with a deflected drive from a Gabriel Sara corner, while on the stroke of half-time Borja Sainz got to the byline, only to fail to pick out an unmarked Sargent, who would have had a simple tap-in.

Plymouth were largely on the defensive, although they nearly made it 2-0 after 37 minutes when Ryan Hardie skipped past keeper Angus Gunn only to miss the target from a narrow angle.

Norwich continued to dominate after the break and deservedly got back on level terms after 67 minutes from a clever short corner routine.

Substitute Christian Fassnacht picked out the deep lying Sargent with a low delivery and the United States international had the space to sweep home his 14th goal of the season.

The Canaries now had the bit between their teeth and seven minutes later took the lead from another corner.

This time Sara took it and his conventional delivery was headed goalwards by Sam McCallum, with Argyle defender Phillips then inadvertently deflecting the ball home from close range.

Gunn produced an excellent block to foil Hardie as Plymouth pressed for an equaliser before an audacious 30-yard free-kick from Sara hit the underside of the crossbar, with Fassnacht’s follow-up header going just over.

Leeds boss Daniel Farke praised his side for their 4-1 extra-time win at Championship rivals Plymouth.

Extra-time goals by substitutes Georginio Rutter and Crysencio Summerville and a Ryan Hardie own goal settled the FA Cup fourth-round replay and sealed Leeds’ passage into the last 16 – and a trip to Aston Villa or Chelsea.

Brendan Galloway’s 78th-minute chested goal for Argyle had cancelled out Wilfried Gnonto’s 66th-minute opener to force extra time.

Farke said: “It was nearly the perfect away performance. We were so dominant, we created so many chances, scored the goals but we also hit the crossbar twice and the post.

“The scoreline flattered us, yes but not that we had to play 120 minutes and it was also a replay.

“I want to say firstly congratulations to Plymouth, a brave side, a confident side, they never know when they are beaten.

“They found a way in both games to get a foot in the door although we were so dominant.

“We dominated the second half, I just saw the statistics that we had 82 per cent of the possession. But Plymouth had the free-kick and they managed to score so they were pretty effective.

“Plymouth scored out of nothing but we showed great heart to win this. We invested so much energy and mentality into the game and showed a real will to win.

“We took risks and pressed them high and also defended with discipline. I am happy with the performance as we gave everything.

“I don’t look too far ahead but we can think about the next round when it comes around. It will be an exciting game.”

Argyle boss Ian Foster said: “I said to them after the game how proud I am of them.

“We spoke about coming away with no regrets and I am proud of the way we approached the game and how difficult we made it for Leeds over two games.

“The scoreline is quite sobering for us in terms of their ruthlessness at the end. We won’t be downtrodden about the result because we know how well we played over two games.

“Look at the quality that Leeds had on the pitch late on, it makes it challenging for you. We will learn from playing against top-quality opposition.

“Leeds are a smashing outfit and they deserved to go through on the balance of the game and we wish them well.

“We have been caught a couple of times and that is fine. We will stick together and keep learning and improving. We are a young and inexperienced team at this level.

“It’s quite difficult because it was a sobering scoreline but we will take the positives from it, dust ourselves down and move on.

“We have got four boys who were ineligible, which is fine, because we knew that. I have got no issues with the number of subs we had today (six, of the permitted nine); we had to go with what we had.

“We will be good to go for Sunderland on Saturday. We will have six more players available to us on Saturday, which is good.

“Late in the game we were still in it, but we want to leave our top scorers on the pitch. We wanted to give it a good go.”

Plymouth got back to winning ways with a surprise 2-0 home Championship victory over high-flying Sunderland.

Another top-class strike from Morgan Whittaker and a superbly-crafted goal from fellow playmaker Finn Azaz put Argyle 2-0 up at half-time.

Try as they might, Plymouth found it hard to get out of their half in the opening 20 minutes but the game was turned on its head by a superb Whittaker strike in the 24th minute as Argyle made the most of a counter attack.

Luke Cundle, who was pivotal in both goals, had sent the ball down the right channel for attacking midfielder Whittaker to run at the Sunderland defence.

The summer buy from Swansea cut inside and let fly with a thumping left-foot shot from outside the box that flew into the opposite top corner, giving Anthony Patterson – at full stretch in the Sunderland goal – little chance.

The Sunderland number one was again left clutching thin air when Argyle surged further ahead on another counter attack in the 40th minute.

Again central midfield ace Cundle was instrumental in the counter attack, this time sending Azaz down the left flank with a measured pass, enabling the attacking midfielder to cut into the penalty area and place a shot out of the reach of the diving Patterson.

The home side had two let-offs either side of half-time as Sunderland twice hit the woodwork.

After 44 minutes Jack Clarke cut in from the left and teed up Jobe Bellingham, whose first-time low strike came back off the woodwork.

In the 54th minute Sunderland again went close.

This time Clarke’s cross was met by Trai Hume, whose towering headed effort came back off a post, with home keeper Michael Cooper only able to watch.

Substitute Adil Aouchiche’s follow-up flew into the side netting.

Sunderland continued to press, with Patrick Roberts sending an angled shot from the right just over the bar after the hour.

Another Clarke cross, from the left, was headed just high and wide by substitute Abdoullah Ba.

On another counter Whittaker sent Bali Mumba away from the halfway line and the winger’s shot on the run flew just wide from the right side.

Sunderland hit straight back, with Clarke forcing a near-post save from Cooper after 76 minutes.

Fit-again striker Mustapha Bundu – on as a sub – should have put Argyle out of sight but fired over from close range after a superb run from Mumba and cutback from sub Adam Randell.

Swansea made it four Championship wins on the spin following a 3-1 comeback success at sun-blessed Plymouth.

The icing on the cake came with the Swans’ superb 90th-minute breakaway goal, with substitute Liam Walsh playing the ball out to the right to Jamie Paterson on the run.

His precise pass inside enabled Josh Key, who timed his run to perfection, to finish past stranded goalkeeper Conor Hazard as Argyle were committed to attack in search of a leveller.

Sub Ollie Cooper had made it 2-1 with a brilliant 68th-minute long-range strike – a minute after coming on.

Cooper initially collected the ball on the right and exchanged passes with skipper Matt Grimes before unleashing a superb strike from fully 25 yards and into the corner which gave Hazard no chance.

Attacking midfielder Luke Cundle, who spent a spell on loan at Swansea last season, fired Argyle ahead in the 18th minute.

Ryan Hardie broke down the right, beating the offside trap, before cutting back a cross into the penalty area.

The ball was scrambled clear but only into the path of Cundle who side-footed home, first time, into the roof of the net from just inside the left-hand side of the box.

The Swans levelled after 56 minutes having started the second half well.

Paterson crossed to the left where Liam Cullen headed the ball back across the face of goal enabling striker Jerry Yates to bundle it home on the goal-line.

Carl Rushworth made a brilliant one-handed stop, low down, to deny Bali Mumba as he went one-on-one with the keeper on the hour after wriggling through the middle of the penalty area.

Argyle had started the game well with skipper Joe Edwards connecting with a far-post header to greet a sixth-minute corner from the left but Cullen made a brilliant diving headed clearance to deny him.

The Swans responded with Josh Tymon’s superb 12th-minute cross from the left into the box skipping past everyone before being cleared at the far post by Macaulay Gillesphey, with Cullen ready to pounce.

Argyle’s Northern Ireland keeper Hazard was forced to go full stretch to keep out Cullen’s measured strike from the right-hand side of the box after being teed up by Josh Key.

Rushworth and his defenders did well to keep out a string of Argyle shots as the home side pressed for a second in a goalmouth scramble as half-time approached.

Shortly after the break, Rushworth made a brilliant one-handed save from Hardie’s rising drive on the run, which seemed destined for the top corner, before two Swansea goals won it for the Welsh side.

Millwall boss Gary Rowett was delighted with his side’s response to Saturday’s defeat to Swansea as they moved up to 11th in the Championship on the back of a superb defensive display in a 2-0 win at Plymouth.

Zian Flemming put Millwall ahead in the 59th minute and then teed up substitute George Saville for a second goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time to seal victory.

Rowett said: “We needed to respond from our previous game at home, which we weren’t happy about but this is what the Championship is made of.

“You have got to move on very quickly and find a way to win the next game and that’s what we’ve done.”

He said: “When I saw it was Plymouth away, I knew it would be a tough game.

“I have seen them play and seen a lot of their games at home. We saw the Norwich game and they have got a lot of quality and a lot of energy and more importantly a lot of confidence.

“You can feel the excitement and the energy of the crowd. I knew it would be a test for us today and our game plan was to sit a little deeper and see if they can break us down and entice them forward.

“I just felt that would open up some spaces on the transition.

“They are a good side and I think they will win a lot of games here.

“We were diligent and did enough to stop them breaking us down.

“You have to ride out some of those defensive moments of pressure and I felt our forward players would have the beating of their defenders if we got into those transitions spaces.

“You wait for that moment of brilliance and I think Duncan Watmore showed it, lovely touch bought it down, cuts inside and a lovely little flick pass with the outside of his boot and then Zian with a good timing of his run, splits the defence and lifts it over the keeper.

“It’s a good-quality finish. Just at that moment when you think ‘are we going to see it out?’, it’s always nice to get that second one. It doesn’t half make you feel good because you know the game is over then.”

Frustrated Argyle boss Steven Schumacher said: “Obviously we wanted to get a better result than that.

“I felt the way we played, especially early on in the game, the way we passed the ball, the energy and the quality that we showed was really good.

“We got into some dangerous areas but didn’t quite make the most of those opportunities. Some of that was excellent defending from them and some of it was poor decision making from us.

“It was frustrating overall because on the balance of it I thought we definitely deserved something from the game.

“I think we will play worse than that and get a result and as I said, it was not the way we wanted the game to go. Especially once they scored it got harder.

“I think we got in around the back of them a few times in the first half but there was a couple of opportunities where we should have been allowed to continue but the referee pulled the game back on the counter attack.

“Once they got their first goal, I thought they defended their box really well. They weren’t interested in coming out again and did what you expected a Millwall team to do.”

Plymouth manager Steven Schumacher made their League One title success about everyone but himself following a 3-1 victory over Port Vale on the final day.

Argyle had to come from behind as Vale were determined to spoil the party by taking an early lead through James Plant.

Goals from Adam Randell and Joe Edwards fired Plymouth in front before Finn Azaz put Vale out of sight.

Schumacher said: “This means the world to us, we’ve fought so hard week in and week out since the last day last season when we just fell short in the play-offs.

“The work has been going since then and we felt we could mount a challenge.

“All the staff, all the players, everybody has just given everything they’ve got and we managed to become champions. We’ve deserved it.

“The game was a good game, credit to Port Vale. I thought they had a great spirit and played the game the right way.

“They took a great goal to score but our lads showed brilliant character to come from behind and win the game.

“The bus journey back is going to be very lively. Everybody should be really proud and now it’s time to get the party started.”

Interim Vale boss Andy Crosby felt his side had a good first half but that they have a lot of work to do in the summer ahead of next season.

He said: “First of all I have to say congratulations to Plymouth.

“To reach the points they have in a 46-game season is a massive credit to them – the whole football club, from the owner to the manager and the players.

“I was delighted with how we started the game but then we couldn’t maintain possession for long enough periods of time.

“It’s a really big two months for the football club to recruit to the level required at League One football.

“There’s a massive difference between League Two and if you can’t do the basics of the game you’re going to really struggle.

“We were a play-off winning team and had a great first half of the season.

“We plateaued and the signs have been there, it’s a big summer ahead. Recruiting players to play the way we want to play is vital.

“My future will become clearer over the next few days. I’ve been a player, an assistant manager and now I think I’m ready.

“There’s no guarantee in any appointment for any football club, there’s always a risk and we will see what happens.”

Chelsea coach Arno Michels said Kepa Arrizabalaga deserves the trust of the club after his crucial penalty save secured their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the expense of Plymouth Argyle.

The Blues fought back from a goal down to beat the League One side 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, Marcos Alonso netting an extra-time winner after Cesar Azpilicueta had cancelled out Macaulay Gillesphey's shock eighth-minute opener.

Plymouth had a great chance to force a shoot-out after Ryan Hardie won a penalty from Malang Sarr in the 116th minute, but his tame effort was comfortably saved by Kepa.

The Spain international, who became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Chelsea from Athletic Bilbao for £71.6million (€80m) in 2018, has not always proved reliable as a regular number one but his penalty record has been impressive.

In this season's UEFA Super Cup, he came off the bench for the shoot-out against Villarreal and made two saves to seal the trophy for his side.

"It's not about his penalty save but also about his performance, which was very good," said Michels. "Since the last matches, I found him very reliable in his game, so we're very happy with Kepa.

"He deserves our trust because he's a fantastic guy who is doing constantly very good and reliable work in training.


"He has these strengths to save penalties and has shown it a few times now, in the [EFL] Cup twice and against Villarreal. Even in training, it is hard to beat him. He has the ability to read the mind of the player and what he's going to do so we're pleased he could save us today."

Chelsea's coaching staff took a collective approach to overseeing Saturday's game as head coach Thomas Tuchel is isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19.

Tuchel was in contact with assistant coach and analyst Benni Weber through the contest as Chelsea eventually battled their way through.

"We saw it as a team effort with Zsolt Low, Anthony Barry and me as well, with Hilario and Benni included," said Michels.

"We all felt a little bit excited because we're used to having Thomas on our side, so it was definitely different, but the team made it very easy for us and helped us in our work. We felt very good and supported."

Chelsea now head to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup, for which they will hope to have a few players recover from muscular concerns.

"Mason [Mount] felt it in extra time when he had a shot," said Michels. "It was not a serious problem during the game, and he realised quickly that he felt pain, so we took him off and there will be further exams. Hopefully, it’s not too bad but right now I cannot promise what the situation is.

"Hakim [Ziyech] had a bit of a problem and Azpi with his hamstring. I wouldn't say they are injuries, but we have a few muscular problems. Hopefully, they are only little ones, so they are back in training tomorrow [Sunday] or Monday."

Chelsea escaped an FA Cup shock at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 after extra time.

Thomas Tuchel, absent from the game after a positive COVID-19 test, saw his side battle back from an early Macaulay Gillesphey header through the unlikely duo of Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

Azpilicueta's stylish finish drew the Blues level but it was not until the 16th minute of the additional period that Alonso struck to send them into round five.

Plymouth nearly forced a shoot-out but Ryan Hardie's penalty was comfortably saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga in a dramatic finish, the Chelsea keeper sparing the blushes of Malang Sarr. 

The visitors, whose last win over Chelsea was in the EFL Cup 42 years ago, had previously gone 13 consecutive FA Cup ties against top-flight teams without going through since they beat West Brom in 1983-84.

Their travelling fans were understandably in raptures when Gillesphey outmuscled Romelu Lukaku to glance in Jordan Houghton's cross in just the eighth minute to put them ahead.

Luck then played its part in preserving Plymouth's lead, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi each hitting the crossbar and the former rifling a low shot off the left-hand post.

Chelsea got their equaliser four minutes before the break, though, Azpilicueta backheeling home Mason Mount's low cross from the right.

The Spain defender repeated the trick just before the hour mark, but he was clearly offside following a header from Lukaku, who had earlier failed to meet a teasing Mount cross.

Chelsea could not turn dominance of the ball into many meaningful chances, though, and Kepa Arrizabalaga had to be alert to block an effort from Hardie, who was through on goal.

Michael Cooper then flew to his right to tip over a Mount strike as Plymouth stayed resolute against an attacking quintet of Lukaku, Mount, Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to force the extra 30 minutes.

Just before the extra-time interval, Chelsea finally put a clinical move together, Havertz playing a one-two with Werner before squaring for Alonso to side-foot home.

That looked like being the end of the drama but, in the 117th minute, Hardie won a penalty from Sarr only to see his poor attempt saved by Kepa.


Reece James is still a few weeks from his return from injury as Thomas Tuchel confirmed the defender will not travel with Chelsea to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup.

James suffered a hamstring injury at the end of December and has been unable to return to team training since.

His absence proved a big blow for the Blues given James' importance in his right wing-back role – between the start of the season and December 29, he had a hand in the joint-most goals (11) across all competitions in their squad, while only Mason Mount (42) laid on more key passes than James (38).

James' injury was especially frustrating for Chelsea given they had already lost Ben Chilwell for the rest of the season after sustained a serious knee injury the previous month.

And James will not be back in the immediate future, Tuchel confirmed on Friday, though he did not seem too disheartened at Chelsea's inability to bring in extra cover for the wing-backs during the January transfer window.

"We tried and had ideas, but in the end we stick to what we have and are happy," Tuchel told reporters ahead of Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round clash with Plymouth Argyle.

"Reece will come back at some point [this season], unfortunately not Ben Chilwell, but Reece will come back and compete for a place in the squad.

"Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] at the moment is in fantastic form and a fantastic place. That is why it's fine. We try to find solutions in our squad.

"[James] is not in team training yet. After a couple of weeks, he will need some time in team training to get the rhythm and confidence back before we think about playing him.


"So he does not travel with us to the Club World Cup. For Reece, I am too long a coach to get overexcited by pure dates that are maybe out there.

"I know you can have setbacks and can take longer sometimes. The injury was a big injury and I felt it straight away. The diagnosis was straight away it was a big injury and from there we have to be patient.

"It's always a bit of a tricky one, and he is a physical player. He caught flu in the last week and lost days in his process of coming back to the team.

"We are patient and we want to have him on the pitch [on Saturday], of course, but it's not happening at the moment and we have to stay patient."

Although Chelsea did not sign anyone in January, Kenedy returned from a loan spell with Flamengo and will fill a void in the squad for the rest of the season.

Tuchel believes the winger could be a useful option as a wing-back and he was enthusiastic about giving the 25-year-old Brazilian a second chance at Chelsea, for whom he has played just 15 Premier League games since joining from Fluminense in 2015.

"It's a clean slate and I think he knows it," Tuchel said. "I followed Kenedy for many years, I followed him when he played for Newcastle.

"He was very promising in the early part of his career. He lost track a little bit and maybe couldn't fulfil the demands from the outside I had, but this is life.

"He gets a second or third chance to be here, and it's not about what happened. He was good in pre-season, he decided he wanted to go back to Brazil and try there. But having Kenedy and Emerson on loan, Kenedy was possible [to bring back] and now he is here.

"He is a very nice guy, very talented, and let's see where he is. It's a huge opportunity, and I am very happy to give it to him and help him make the best of it."

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