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Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Loss of Reda Johnson worries Plymouth boss Paul Mariner

Reda Johnson
Johnson moved to Plymouth from French club Amiens

Plymouth Argyle head coach Paul Mariner has said losing defender Reda Johnson to the African Cup of Nations in January will be a big blow.

Johnson, 20, who signed for Plymouth in July, is a Benin international.

Mariner said: "We're desperate to use him, we need him and it would be ideal if he didn't have to go away."

Plymouth are short of defenders after both David Gray and Shane Lowry returned to their parent clubs following loan spells at Home Park.

"Reda's become a very important player for us, although he's obviously not played many games," Mariner told BBC Sport.

"He can leap, head the ball, attack the ball, tackle and close people down, and he's got a nice eye for a pass.

"To temper those thoughts he's young and has got a long way to go, but he's got some tremendous attributes."

The African Cup of Nations is being held in Angola and runs from 10-31 January.

And with countries allowed to call-up their players from 27 December, Mariner could find himself without the option of Johnson for over a month.

The Plymouth boss said: "I've actually spoken to the head coach of Benin to see if we can get a little bit of help with him not going so early, so we're very hopeful that can happen."

With the Pilgrims currently languishing at the foot of the Championship table, having won only four games all season, even the prospect of Johnson picking up valuable experience in Angola does little to ease Mariner's concerns.

"Playing in tournaments of the ilk of the African nations means of course you play against some fantastic players," said Mariner.

"But equally his employers at the present moment are Plymouth Argyle Football Club, and they're in dire straights and we need a defender of his quality."

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see also
Summerfield returns to Plymouth
23 Dec 09 |  Plymouth
Argyle try to extend Arnason deal
22 Dec 09 |  Plymouth
Plymouth Argyle 0-1 Coventry City
19 Dec 09 |  Championship
Premier League set for African exodus
15 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Plymouth snap up defender Johnson
29 Jul 09 |  Plymouth

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