HAMZA Bencherif’s Argyle debut was one to remember for the 25-year-old Frenchman.
Thrust into the Pilgrim’s engine-room for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Cheltenham, and without a pre-season under his belt, Hamza scored and later filled in as an emergency centre-back as Argyle prevailed in a topsy-turvy tie through a rare penalty shoot-out win.
He would not have had it any other way.
He said: “A friendly game last week; a few training sessions; a full 90 minutes on Tuesday: even though it is hard on the body, you feel good about it because, as a professional footballer, that’s what you want to do.
“That’s what I wanted. Once you miss pre-season training, you really miss football. You can’t imagine how much.”
Although Hamza’s goal came when he headed home Conor Hourihane’s wonderfully flighted free-kick, he revealed that team-mate Reuben Reid also deserved to be credited for an assist on the strike.
“I’m always happy to score,” he said. “It was a very good free-kick, a good delivery. Credit to Reuben, who, literally two seconds before the free-kick, told me ‘Just get in the middle of the goal’. You can probably see it on the video.
“I ran in towards where he told me to go and scored.”
Within ten minutes, Hamza had dropped from midfield to centre-back to fill in when Curtis Nelson was red-carded for a foul in the penalty area.
He said: “I have played centre-back a few times in my career. It’s been a long time and I quite like it so it was no problem, but it was hard and the goals we conceded were a bit cheap.
“Hopefully we’ll sort that before Saturday. I think we will do really well on Saturday.
“Team spirit is spot-on. I think we made it hard on ourselves and we could have finished the game more comfortably. Apart from that, we have got the quality in the team to do well.
“Once we sort out those little dysfunctions, we can look forward to performing and try to play for the top of the league.
“The manager has shown me his plans – we see eye to eye – and it’s a great club to be at.”
The aforementioned manager – John Sheridan – has not said whether Hamza will retain his place for the visit of Bristol Rovers to Home Park on Saturday, but he is ready.
He said: “If I am called to play, or to come on – whatever part I’ll take on Saturday – I will make sure I will be there and give it everything.”