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Nerves? What nerves?

As part of Sky Sports' League Two spotlight, Chris Burton catches up with Plymouth Argyle defender Maxime Blanchard.

League Two Spotlight - League Two Spotlight Posted 30th March 2012 view comments

With just one place and a solitary point keeping Plymouth Argyle clear of the League Two trapdoor, you would imagine that things are getting a little tense down at Home Park.

You would, however, be wrong.

Remarkably, a squad that has been through much worse in recent times is free of nerves and brimming with positivity.

With the club having sailed a little closer to the wind than they would have liked on the financial front, with extinction a distinct possibility at one stage, the Pilgrims have learned to take the good with the bad.

Maxime Blanchard: Hoping to help Plymouth steer clear of trouble and earn himself a new contract

Maxime Blanchard: Hoping to help Plymouth steer clear of trouble and earn himself a new contract

That means a basement battle holds no fear, with the overwhelming feeling on the South Coast one of optimism at what could lie ahead.

Steering clear of the non-league ranks is considered to be the first of many steps set to be taken on the road to recovery, with a club that was gracing the second tier of English football as recently as 2009/10 not planning on dwelling in the basement for long.

There may be a lot of maintenance work to be carried out before the club can realistically start thinking about a return to the upper reaches of the League pyramid, but the foundations are being put down.

Plymouth consider themselves to have already hit rock-bottom - which they did, literally, on 27th August 2011 when they slipped to 92nd place in the Football League and remained there for some time - so from here the only way is up.

That is a mindset shared by all of those inside the Pilgrims camp, with French defender Maxime Blanchard telling Sky Sports' Chris Burton that there are no jangling nerves holding the club back.

Spirit

He said: "Not really, because of where we have come from. We have come from a long way behind. When I signed the club were in trouble, so we are not nervous. We are trying not to be nervous and stay positive and just think that if we win our last seven games we will be safe, it's as simple as that. We are trying to be positive."

Plymouth are proof that hard work can carry you a long way, with the club having battled their way off the foot of the fourth tier table to give themselves a fighting chance of beating the drop.

"The team spirit is unbelievable here," said Blanchard.

"The amount of times we have come back from 1-0 down or 2-0 down, we are never dead. There is a very good team spirit.

"When I signed, four or five players signed as well, so we weren't really thinking about the table then, we were thinking about what can happen in the future. In the first game I played we won 4-1 against Northampton, so that made me think that we could be safe."

A three-match unbeaten run has arrived at just the right time for Plymouth, but Blanchard admits they need to start turning one point into three if they are to avoid taking their survival quest down to the wire.

He said: "It's a good time to start winning. Even though we didn't lose in the last few games, we draw a bit too much I think. A few wins would be great. But we are on a nice run and hopefully we can stay in good form and pick up more wins than draws."

Plymouth have some winnable games coming up as well, with their next two fixtures pitching them into archetypal relegation six-pointers against fellow strugglers Bradford and Hereford.

"Those are going to be two massive games but every game is massive now, no matter who we are playing against," said Blanchard.

Massive

"Obviously those games are massive because they are contenders as well, so they are very important games. But I try not to look at the table and just play games one by one. I don't really think about the opponents because we are trying to stay positive and not get too nervous about things. Obviously those two games are really, really important but all of the next seven games are massive. We will try to win every single game."

Asked if he expects the basement battle to go to the last day of the season, Blanchard added with a chuckle: "I hope not. I hope we will win the next four games and then we will be safe. I don't know what will happen. I try not to look at the table and not look at other teams, I just try to win every game. I hope it won't happen that way."

Helping Plymouth to beat the drop will obviously see Blanchard benefit the club, but survival could also play into his hands on a personal level - with the short-term contract he penned upon his arrival in November 2011 due to expire in the summer.

Asked if he hoped to agree an extension to that deal, the 25-year-old said: "It depends if we stay up or not, I think. If we stay up then we will talk about it. But the main thing is that you have to earn your contracts. The main objective is to keep the club up and hopefully I will then be able to stay here longer than one year. For that I think we will have to stay up and then we will see what happens."

Blanchard was plucked from the free agent pool last autumn, after spending longer than he would have liked without a club, and admits he is desperate to avoid slipping back into those choppy waters this year.

He is also keen to prolong his time in England, with a season-long stint with Tranmere Rovers prior to his release in the summer of 2011 meaning he has now experienced life in Leagues One and Two.

On his future, Blanchard said: "I don't want to be in the same situation as last year, obviously not. But the situation is a bit different. I was injured for the last part of the season last year and it was a bit more tricky. But I don't want to be out of contract again. It's hard and I don't want to repeat that.

"I came here to stay in England. I didn't come here just to play one year in England. I really want to stay here and play here. I want to stay in England and I want to prove something here.

"I think the club can look to a bright future, but for that we have to stay up. If we stay up, then I am sure there is a bright future ahead for Plymouth Argyle."

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