A rough guide to... Plymouth Argyle

Cod Almighty | Article

by Kelly Billings

1 August 2016

Financial troubles precipitated a six-season spell in the fourth flight for the Pilgrims. Now they are on track to start climbing the Football League again

How are you?

The last time Grimsby Town beat Plymouth Argyle was at Blundell Park with a 1-0 victory and a Paul Groves goal on 24 March 1998. Yup, that season! Those were the days.

Plymouth was granted city status in the same year we were last victorious in a game of football against them. It lies on the south-west coast of Devon and is home to the largest naval base in western Europe; Plymouth University; and the Plymouth Gin Distillery. In 2003 the 'Vision for Plymouth' regeneration project began, with plans for new housing, shopping centres, a cruise terminal, landmarks and visitor attractions as well as additional educational facilities, among other developments – all expected to be completed by 2020. It is indeed an exciting expansion for what is now a very attractive city to visit.

Plymouth Argyle, nicknamed the Pilgrims, were founded in 1886 and were originally known as Argyle FC. Their primary kit colours are green and white although they did dabble with an all-white attire during the 1960s before reverting to the green (ironically considered an unlucky colour by those seafaring folks down our neck of the woods). Traditionally they have rivalries with Exeter, Torquay and with Portsmouth, now also in the fourth flight; the 'Dockland derby' is a fixture many a fan of the two clubs will eagerly anticipate.

GTFC have been involved in exactly 30 fixtures with Argyle over the years – between 1921-2004 to be precise. Generally speaking, it's been pretty 'even stevens' in terms of results, with 13 draws, 9 wins for Argyle and 8 for us. Having not faced them since 2004, there is no recent history to suggest which way this next game will go when we make the long trek down there this weekend.

What have you been up to?

Plymouth have endured a somewhat turbulent couple of decades both on and off the field. Since we last faced them they have been through 12 managers – with notable names such as Tony Pulis, Ian Holloway, Peter Reid and John Sheridan among them. Currently at the helm is Derek Adams, who has been in place since June 2015.

Under Ian Holloway, the Pilgrims reached their highest league position in 20 years in the 2006-07 season – finishing 11th in the second flight. The following season, in an acrimonious parting of the ways, Holloway departed for Leicester City. Some might say this was when Plymouth's fortunes began to falter.

In 2010 Plymouth were relegated from the second tier, and with declining attendances the club's finances started to be more than a little stretched. Before the year was out HRMC issued the club with a winding-up petition. Administration followed shortly, and the standard 10-point deduction led to a second successive relegation. Peter Ridsdale – ex Leeds, Cardiff and Barnsley, and since disqualified as acting as a company director due to financial irregularities – oversaw Plymouth until current owner and chairman James Brent completed his takeover of the club in 2013.

Meanwhile Plymouth faced off-the-field controversy when goalkeeper Luke McCormick was involved in a car accident in 2008 which resulted in the deaths of two young children. Convicted of causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of excess alcohol, he was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and his contract was cancelled by mutual consent. However, this was not the end of McCormick's relationship with Plymouth Argyle. After McCormick's release in 2012, and subsequent spells at Truro City and Oxford, Plymouth controversially re-signed the player in 2013 and the following year made him club captain.

What kind of season did you have?

Plymouth are now in their sixth season in the fourth flight. Last season was one of mixed fortunes. They bowed out of both the FA Cup and the League Cup in the first round. They had better luck with the Football League Trophy, reaching the southern area quarter-final where they lost out to Millwall.

In the league, a very promising start to the campaign dwindled off towards the business end of the season, so automatic promotion was out of reach. From a final position of fifth, they secured a place in the play-off final at Wembley but their bid for promotion was halted by AFC Wimbledon, who beat them 2-0. This historic victory saw AFC finally reach the same league as MK Dons, the franchise that left Wimbledon behind. Sad for fans of Plymouth, but a nice little moral victory for football.

How are you feeling?

Plymouth have undeniably enjoyed a flying start to the current campaign, sitting pretty and seven points clear at the top of the table. After the disappointment of last season, manager Derek Adams brought in 16 new faces for the current campaign. Having stretched their unbeaten run to 14 games last weekend with a 2-1 win over Crewe after going a goal down, confidence going into the GTFC fixture must be at an all-time high. Make no mistake about it – they want that automatic place. So far so good, then.

One face in the Plymouth camp GTFC fans will be familiar with is their goalkeeping coach Rhys Wilmot, who played between the sticks for Town from 2002 to 2004. Our own Luke Summerfield began his career at Argyle – starting in the youth system in 1998 before breaking through to the first team in 2005 and not leaving for new challenges until 2011. Martin Gritton also enjoyed spells with both clubs, as did midfielder Chris Leadbitter, a Town apprentice of the 1980s who failed to make the breakthrough at Blundell Park but made more than 400 appearances in the Football League with a succession of other clubs.

Finally, John Newman played for Plymouth in the 1960s before managing Grimsby Town, masterminding the Mariners' promotion to Division Three in 1979.

Where are you from?

Home to Argyle is the aptly named Home Park. With an all-seater capacity of 16,388, it is a stadium clearly capable of hosting higher-tier football without immediate issues after improvements were made to the ground in 2001, including the rebuilding of three stands. There are plans in place to reconstruct the grandstand by 2020 to hold 5,000 supporters. Away support is seated in the Barn Park End, which is fully covered and can house up to 1,300 fans.

More importantly, the pub recommended for away fans is the nearby Wetherspoon's – the Britannia – which is within a 10-minute walking distance of the ground. See some of you in there, no doubt; mine's a cider! As a word of warning to Town fans – as we have been known to have the odd pub sing-song – singing is strictly frowned upon and those breaking this rule will be asked to leave.

For those unlucky enough to be driving and not drinking, there is a large car park at the ground, happily free of charge. Enter PL2 3DQ in your satnav, but early arrival is recommended or you'll be looking at street parking.

You must be wondering if you will ever play top-flight football?

Plymouth are the bearers of the unfortunate 'statto' fact that they are the largest city in England never to have hosted top-flight football. Maybe one day...

The front page image is © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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