Plymouth Argyle are starting to piece their squad together for the 2021-22 season. It’s therefore time for us to start looking at the free agents who may be available to sign during this summer transfer window.
Ryan Lowe’s side are currently short in goal. Not necessarily in terms of the first team; Mike Cooper had a highly encouraging first full season between the sticks last term. Rather, there is a lack of depth following Jack Ruddy’s departure and Luke McCormick being offered an alternate role at Home Park. Incomings therefore appear inevitable in this position. Here are 10 who Argyle may chase.
Club: Huddersfield Town
Appearances: 18 (for Fleetwood Town)
Clean sheets: 7
Leutwiler’s name will be familiar to long-term followers of lower league football in England, and particularly to supporters of Shrewsbury Town. He was instrumental in Shrews’ promotion from League Two in 2015, with his side boasting the best defensive record in the division. He continued as Salop’s shot-stopper right up to 2017, where his performances earned him a move to Blackburn Rovers for an undisclosed fee.
Things, however, seemed to unravel from there. At Ewood Park he was backup to the impressive David Raya, who has since earned promotion to the Premier League with Brentford. Leutwiler was never likely to get a look-in, and short-lived spells at Fleetwood and Huddersfield have since followed with no real success.
Now 32, Leutwiler would seem to have an ideal level of experience to provide depth to Argyle’s books. But one wonders whether he’ll be after a starting berth this summer to reignite his career.
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Jordi van Stappershoef
Club: Bristol Rovers
Clean sheets: 4
This is one of the names on the list that just feels as though would make a lot of sense. We know Dutchman van Stappershoef has ability – he was arguably the star of the show in Bristol Rovers’ 3-0 win over Argyle in December last year. Add in the fact that he has already spent a couple of years providing backup in the Westcountry with Rovers, and you begin to suspect that the opportunity to stay in League One to do the same with Argyle would appeal to the 25-year-old.
van Stappershoef’s career has taken quite the turn to lead him to the south-west of England. Before his move to Bristol, his only club had been FC Volendam in the second division in the Netherlands. He turned out on a number of occasions for the first team and the reserve side before heading to Rovers. Manager at the time Graham Coughlan said his head of recruitment had “travelled to watch Jordi in action on a number of occasions.” We’ll take Cocko’s word for it.
Standing at 6 ft 6, van Stappershoef would be the ideal candidate for those who’d just like a big fella to provide some backup to Cooper.
Status: Contract rejected
Clean sheets: 12
Here’s an option with some serious League One experience. Bonham has been at Gillingham since 2019, and was an almost ever-present for the Priestfield side last season, missing just a couple of games nearer to the start of the campaign after going off injured against Ipswich. Argyle fans may indeed recall him facing the Greens twice across the course of the campaign, conceding a winner to Luke Jephcott at Home Park before keeping a clean sheet on the final day.
Bonham’s career took a little while to take off. He spent a fair amount of time on the books at Brentford, and his first real run of football came on loan at non-league Arlesey Town in the 2013-14 season. In the last few years though, he’s really come into his own. Successful loan spells at Carlisle and Bristol Rovers (yep, it’s that Westcountry link again) followed, before his current spell in Kent.
Bonham has rejected a new deal at Gillingham this summer. Whether that’s down to dissatisfaction with the terms offered or ambitions to play elsewhere we simply don’t know. But he’d be a coup for Argyle in any case.
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Clean sheets: 3
I feel like every time we mention goalkeepers and Plymouth Argyle, Remi Matthews always gets a mention. And here we are again. The now 27-year-old had a memorable spell at Home Park in the 2017-18 season as Derek Adams’ side came within a whisker of making the League One play-offs. Many speculated that Matthews may have been tempted into a return the following year, but it wasn’t to be.
In fact, the player’s career has been hit by a series of bad decisions since he turned out for the Greens. An ill-feted spell at Bolton was his next permanent move as he walked directly into a crisis club. In a truncated 2019-20 season, Matthews still managed to concede 76 goals as Wanderers were relegated from League Two. But even Jan Oblak would have found it a challenge to stop the goals leaking at Bolton that year.
He’s since been released from Sunderland having played a bit-part role last season. Considering his successes at Argyle three years ago, the opportunity to return to Home Park and reignite his career must be in the back of his mind.
Club: Cheltenham Town
Status: Offered new contract
Clean sheets: 2
Scott Flinders is your quintessential lower league goalkeeper. Making his debut in 2005 for Barnsley, he’s gone on to make a whopping 552 appearances in all competitions across the course of his career. Most will remember him for his days at Hartlepool United, where he made almost half of his total appearances in a six-year spell between 2009 and 2015.
More recently, he’s spent time at Cheltenham Town. He was first choice for the first couple of years he was at the club, but has dropped to the bench more recently after breaking his leg in early 2020. His playing time across Cheltenham’s promotion season last year was limited, with West Brom loanee Joshua Griffiths preferred. However, he has done enough to have been offered a new deal by the club for the forthcoming League One campaign.
There are a lot of parallels we can draw here with Luke McCormick. Granted, Flinders doesn’t have the same experience with Argyle, but he could still bring that sort of knowledge to Home Park despite having been offered a new deal to be backup at a newly promoted club in a similar region. You imagine Flinders would be a signing Ryan Lowe would like.
Club: Forest Green Rovers
Appearances: 45 (on loan at Yeovil Town)
Clean sheets: 10
Smith’s career has been through numerous peaks and troughs so far, and he’s still yet to reach the age of 30. Highly rated at Leicester, his contract was terminated after the infamous sex-tape scandal in the summer of 2015. But he recovered excellently from the setback, joining Northampton and playing an important role in their stunning promotion the following season.
Since then, things have taken a downturn again. He had a reasonable spell at Bristol Rovers after departing Sixfields, but his place never felt nailed down. And whilst he’s been on the books of Forest Green since 2019, they appear to be holding him simply for the benefit of Yeovil. He’s had three loan spells at Huish Park in that time, including playing every minute of the Glovers’ National League campaign last season.
One suspects Yeovil may be interested in bringing him back permanently now his Forest Green deal has expired, but Argyle may interest the player. It’s not far, and would give him another chance outside of non-league even if it is as a backup option.
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Appearances: 28 (on loan at Rotherham United)
Clean sheets: 6
It’s scarcely believable, but Jamal Blackman’s contract at Chelsea has finally come to an end. I never thought I’d see the day.
The 27-year-old has been on the books at Stamford Bridge since 2006, but hasn’t made a single first team appearance for the club. Instead, he’s racked up 138 appearances across eight different loan spells, with his most notable stints coming at Wycombe, Sheffield United and most recently Rotherham. He even had a spell at Swedish side Ostersunds during Graham Potter’s spell in charge. He’s now finally looking for his next permanent contract.
It’s more likely than not that said contract will be in League One. He was indeed at Championship Rotherham last season, but he was far from ever-present, and the Millers were indeed relegated on the final day. If he is indeed heading to League One, why not Argyle?
Clean sheets: 1
Few will remember or care, but Frank Fielding does in fact have an England senior squad call-up to his name. It was for an international friendly against Hungary 11 years ago, during an injury crisis and he still didn’t play, but still, the fact is true. What many more will remember him for, however, is a lengthy spell at Bristol City between 2013 and 2019, where he made 181 appearances.
Whilst there’s another obvious regional link there, what may make Fielding more accessible to Argyle is his recent record. He moved to Millwall in the summer of 2019 and has suffered a torrid time. He was injured 43 minutes into his debut and didn’t play again for the rest of the season. In the most recent campaign, he was limited to just two FA Cup appearances before being released this summer.
Fielding’s stock has clearly fallen since his Bristol City days, and indeed his day sat on the bench for Fabio Capello’s England side. But he still has relevant experience, and would be an asset to Argyle and Lowe should he sign.
Appearances: 16 (2 on loan at Blackpool, 14 on loan at AFC Wimbledon)
Conceded: 29 (3 Blackpool, 26 Wimbledon)
Clean sheets: 2 (both Wimbledon)
Sam Walker is a player I am unashamed to say I first came across on Football Manager rather than by closely following his four-year stint at Colchester. I know, shoot me. But his career does have some merit to it outside of the pixelated reality of the virtual world.
He, like many others, started at Chelsea and was the subject of many loan moves. The last two of those loan spells came at Colchester, and indeed that move was made permanent in 2014. He made 213 appearances for the Us in all, and the club wanted to keep him after his four-year spell, but he ended up accepting an offer at Reading. That move has proved less successful – he’s appeared just 14 times in three years for the Royals and has more recently spent time on loan again at both Blackpool and Wimbledon.
His Reading contract is now up, and it appears unlikely that he’ll be offered another shot in the Championship. It’s likely that he’ll set his sights on League One, and Argyle may well be a destination that makes sense.
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Club: Wycombe Wanderers
Clean sheets: 4
I surely can’t be the only one who always thinks of Peter Hartley when Ryan Allsop’s name pops up? It was after all his failure to deal with Graham Carey’s corner that allowed Hartley to bundle that play-off header home five years ago. Five years? God, I feel old.
Anyway, his career thankfully carries a little more depth than that moment. After a nomadic start, Allsop eventually spent a considerable time on the books of Bournemouth. However, he was far from a regular, and spent most of his time as a recognisable football league loanee. More recently, he’s spent a considerable part of the last three years on the deck playing for Wycombe, but his contract will not be renewed following the Chairboys’ relegation.
Wycombe was really the first settled home of Allsop’s career, and one suspects he’ll be looking to settle again with some regular playing time next season. With Cooper around, he may struggle for that at Home Park, but it remains that a team like Argyle are probably around his current level.
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