Ladjie Soukouna could return from injury to replace Darren Purse
LADJIE SOUKOUNA could be a contender to replace the suspended Darren Purse when Plymouth Argyle travel to Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day.
The 21-year-old Frenchman has been out of action for the last two months because of injury, but is nearing a return to full fitness.
That could coincide with the game against Bristol Rovers, when Purse will start a three-match suspension.
The experienced centre-back was sent off in the closing stages of the 1-1 draw with Hereford United at Hereford United last Saturday.
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Argyle are short of options to replace Purse, and one of the possibilities – Curtis Nelson – was ruled out by injury against Hereford.
So manager Carl Fletcher could turn to Soukouna as the centre-back partner to Maxime Blanchard although, typically, he is not giving much away when it comes to that.
He told Herald Sport: "We have a few ideas of what we might do (to replace Purse). Ladjie is working hard to get his fitness back."
Soukouna was signed as a free agent by former Argyle manager Peter Reid in July, and started the season playing at centre-back before being moved into a midfield role.
Fletcher believes the versatility of Soukouna, who can also play at left-back, is a valuable asset for the Pilgrims.
He said: "When we first took over we used Ladjie in midfield. We were a bit concerned about him playing at centre-back when he couldn't speak English that well.
"That has improved with learning, which is credit to him, and with Max being there (at centre-back) it kind of solves the problem anyway because he's French as well."
Soukouna last appeared for Argyle as a substitute in the 5-1 defeat away to Oxford United on October 25.
Fletcher added: "Ladjie can play in midfield, at centre-back and at left-back. Versatile people like that are worth their weight in gold.
"When Ladjie is fully fit, I think he's good enough to play wherever we want him to."
Fletcher stated it was too soon to tell whether Nelson or captain Simon Walton would be fit for the trip to Bristol Rovers.
Walton was substituted in the second half against Hereford because of a hamstring problem which first flared up the previous Saturday, in another 1-1 draw at Bradford City.
Argyle considered whether to appeal against the dismissal of Purse, for a sliding late tackle on Hereford substitute Nathan Elder but, after careful consideration, they decided not to.
Fletcher said: "Had we done so and not been successful, we would have run the risk of Darren getting an extra game ban.
"He has apologised to everyone and we move on. Like I always say when there is an injury or a suspension, it's a chance for someone else to step into the team and put in a good performance."