From the Off: talk a good game

It’s been a difficult week. Let’s be honest, 4-0 against your local rivals is one of the worst things that can happen to a football fan. Whether Argyle go up this season or not, the game that took place on Saturday will forever be a stain on the 2019/20 season for the club.

What is perhaps most disturbing for many members of the Green Army is the way that Ryan Lowe attempted to downplay the significance of the Devon Derby in the weekend just gone. Whether you believe that Exeter are a small club who have different ambitions or not, you don’t say it a few days before the game. You gloat afterwards, not before. Rookie error.

Worryingly, this is not the first instance of this. It’s not that long ago that we were all informed that Danny Mayor was better than two fan favourites at Home Park in Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras. That, thus far, has not appeared to be the best call. It’s a tactic that I don’t quite understand. You wait for Mayor to have an outstanding season and THEN you gloat about how smart you are, not before. You only get cocky and big headed about Exeter City once you’ve battered them, not after you’ve given their manager a free team talk and let them walk all over you.

It was a shoddy performance for sure, and analysis of all the talk before and after the game will only get you so far. It was a questionable line-up and included a flurry of questionable in-game decisions too. As discussed on the latest podcast, Will Aimson not starting was perhaps the most criminal of these decisions what with Josh Grant having been directly at fault for the first two goals and then surely able to do better individually for the third and fourth as well.

No Danny Mayor is perhaps acceptable when you have just won a game 4-0 without him, but sometimes you should just pick your strongest side. We beat Leyton Orient without thousands of professional footballers starting that game for us – it doesn’t mean that a large number of them wouldn’t ultimately improve them. These selections, matched with this recent new territorial style of football (the game against Exeter saw the second highest number of long balls in a game this season) do not exactly bode well moving forward.

Another particular aspect of the current management that I do find strange I must admit, is the complete reluctance to change from the 3142 formation that we have employed so far this season. Don’t get me wrong, long term this could well be the shape for us. But if it isn’t working then sometimes you have to change things up. I shouldn’t need to repeat the cliche of insanity and repeating things to a man with more footballing experience than I’ve had years on planet Earth.

All this could, of course, be taken the wrong way. Even if the side have been somewhat underwhelming thus far, there is plenty of room for improvement. We have a wealth of talent in the squad with more to come from many of them and a young, hungry management team who have risked a lot in coming to Plymouth Argyle to try and make a success of their coaching careers. We are only on the cusp of November and there is an awful lot of football to be played.

It’s just that these problems look so obvious. Moving forward, if fit then Danny Mayor and Will Aimson MUST start. That and, it would be great to see some manoeuvrability moving forward regarding the formation. If it isn’t working after 60 minutes – change it! There’s plenty of formations that enable you to play the way we want to. With Nicky Law man marking Joe Edwards on Saturday, why not move to a 4231, take out the DM altogether and force Exeter to react to your changes? Something more pro-active would be a nice addition.

This result is particularly a shame because there were definitely signs that the team was moving forward, certainly in results if not performances. What a way to come crashing back down to earth, though. I just hope that the next time we have a big game, there is much less of an attempt to downplay the occasion.

Sometimes you have to accept that a game is a big game that means a lot to lots of people, and approach it with the right mentality. For now, it’s time to work hard and begin to put things right on the pitch. After all, it will take an awful lot to make people forget what they have just witnessed.


Green & White: Fury follows Exeter thrashing

Player Ratings: Crawley 2-2 Plymouth Argyle

Argyle’s game against Crawley Town will be remembered slightly unfortunately for Argyle, who rightly will feel as if they should have come away from The Broadfield Stadium with three points on the board. An early goal from Grego-Cox put Crawley ahead, but Argyle battled hard and after creating a number of good opportunities were able to overturn the score to lead 2-1 thanks to a 6 minute brace from Joe Edwards.

However, a challenge from Callum McFadzean in the 85th minute brought down previous goalscorer Grego-Cox, and Crawley’s Palmer stuck the ball past Argyle’s Palmer to level the scores, with nobody really threatening either goal after that. The draw left Argyle 12th in League 2, three points outside the play-offs but now 9 away from early pace-setters and Devon rivals Exeter City.

Alex Palmer, GK – 6

A solid enough performance from the West Brom loanee, who was relatively untroubled in the Argyle goal for the majority of the game. There was nothing he could have done about the penalty albeit there is a possibility he may have done better with Crawley’s first goal, although he is far from the main culprit for the goal. Palmer covered the back 3 well and claimed crosses well, with good distribution to either full back throughout the game.

Josh Grant, CB – 6

One of two Grant’s who started for Argyle, Josh had a relatively good game albeit was largely untroubled throughout. He will face criticism for Crawley’s first goal, when a cross came from his side that he could have dealt better with but on the whole can be satisfied with his performance. His distribution was a particular highlight, looking comfortable on the ball and bringing it out from the back well. Played the last 5 minutes at RWB after Edwards move inside.

Will Aimson, CB – 7

On his full league debut for the club, Aimson looked like the sort of authoritative centre back that the team have been missing. A much more dominant force in both boxes, he should have definitely had one goal early in the second half when he blasted the ball straight at the Crawley keeper Glenn Morris. In fact, he could have scored in the first half when Morris made another smart stop to keep him out after Joel Grant had held the ball up and laid it off to him. It is certainly promising that Argyle finally have a defender who looks a threat attacking set-pieces.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 6

A competent enough performance from the Argyle captain after his recall to the starting line-up. Retained the ball well enough and was comfortable in building from the back, but there are still questions over whether he wins enough to be able to play at centre back in a team that wants to gain automatic promotion from League 2.

Jose Baxter, CDM – 7

Baxter grew as the game went on and was a key factor in Argyle’s dominance on the ball throughout. Not surprisingly, when the Pilgrims were up against it in the early stages and in the last 10 minutes up until he was substituted, he struggled to make an impact. In games where the side can dominate the ball for large periods as was the case this evening he will be a key player but where the team in green are more up against it, Joe Edwards is a much safer option in that role.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 8, Player of the Match

Edwards is in a slightly difficult position at Argyle, where it seems he may well be Ryan Lowe’s first choice option at both CDM and RWB. Against Crawley he had a good 85 minutes of football at RWB before moving inside when Baxter went off. Of course, his performance will mostly be remembered for two excellently taken goals but for the most part he was good in possession and provided an efficient outlet on the right hand side.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 8

A very good performance from Sarcevic, despite previous concerns about how he can play the role in Lowe’s system. Tonight his distribution was much improved, finding Edwards on the outside of him often as well as utilising Byron Moore through the channels. In classic Sarcevic fashion, he was brilliant driving with the ball. In a game where he was presented with space in front of him on a number of occasions he can be especially ruthless, and was a key player in nearly every opportunity Argyle could create on the counter.

Danny Mayor, CM – 7

Mayor is still finding his feet at Argyle, and is under so much more pressure at the club than other new surroundings what with the weight of expectation put on him by his manager and due to his reputation because of his previous form at Bury. There were glimpses of brilliance from him tonight, his turn in his own half that started the move for Argyle’s second goal was exceptional and he showed just how good he is. Not everything comes off for him, but the best players don’t do everything perfectly all of the time. Flashes of brilliance do come and one certainly did tonight in the way he setup Edwards’ second goal.

Callum McFadzean, LWB – 6

Despite crossing that was somewhat hit and miss (not for the first game), he was still able to come up with the ball that Edwards could head home to level the game at 1-1. However, caught the wrong side of Grego-Cox going into the last 5 minutes he gave away a penalty that has ultimately cost Argyle the 3 points in a game that they fully deserved to win. Frustrating, but he remains a key and constant threat down the left hand side of the pitch. It is no wonder teams look to overload that side where it is clear Argyle threaten most.

Byron Moore, ST – 7

A good performance from Moore, who provides Argyle with an option that thus far other strikers this season do not in the way that he runs channels. He looks very capable of stretching teams and was found a number of times down the right hand side, advancing Argyle higher up the pitch in the process. Although his end product is not always as good as you would like, he is a very useful player who is good enough to cause lots of players problems in League 2.

Joel Grant, ST – 6

A respectable game from Joel Grant on his return to the team after a spell out with injury. His energy and tenacity is a useful attribute to have, it is always good to have a player who will run all day long but actually has the ability to go with it. He is very tidy on the ball and combines well with the players around him. He faded as the game went on which isn’t especially surprising given what we can all assume is a lack of match fitness after a good few weeks out from the side.


Dom Telford, ST – 6

Only a 20 minute cameo from Telford this week as another player who is only recently returning to full fitness. Another who combines well on the ball albeit he didn’t make a huge impact on the game in the time he was on the pitch. Winning a free-kick on the edge of the box that he himself then blasted straight into the wall will probably go down as one of the few moments of note from his time in the game.

Scott Wootton, CB – N/A

Unfortunate for Wootton who, only came on with 6 minutes to go and Argyle went on to concede a penalty just a single minute later. It was nothing to do with him of course and he made no real contribution – good or bad – after he came on.

Zak Rudden, ST – N/A

All but no time at all to influence the game, he ran around a bit and looked busy enough but it would be unfair to judge a player who came on with just one minute of the 90 left to play.

From The Off: The Salford Saga

When the final whistle went on Tuesday evening, I realised I had a whole new reason to dislike Salford City. If the complete ego trip of the Class of 92 wasn’t bad enough then the horrible, niggly, time-wasting group of footballers on the pitch certainly was.

There are plenty of people who actually don’t see an issue with Salford, of course. Those people are called Manchester United fans. Don’t forget, when the Class of 92 first took over The Ammies, one of the first actions they did was to change the club kit from orange to red. What team play in red that could possibly have caused them to do that?

Andy Holt, the chairman of Accrington Stanley, argued that the kind of bankrolling that Salford have experienced would lead to them stealing another team’s place in the Football League. As it so happens, they ended up taking the place of Notts County – a team relegated from the English Football League for the first time in their 157 year history.

In all honesty and, rather frustratingly, there is a perhaps valid argument that actually we can’t have too many issues with this. Lots of clubs have money and to be fair to them, they spend what they have rather than spending money against loans and thus falling into financial difficulty. After all, Argyle have profited greatly recently due to one club doing just that. Plus, loads of clubs are rich. Man City, Man United, Chelsea to name a few have all splashed the cash due to rich benefactors. Why should it be such a hardship for a non-league club to do so?

It is – quite simply – because the media seem intent on dressing the club up as an absolute fairytale story that I find so irritating. The idea that they are humble underdogs, or that millions of football fans from across the country are thrilled to see them moving up the league system. The team that spent millions and millions of pounds more than everyone else in non-league got promoted from it. Well, I for one am shocked.

This football club is a vehicle for the fantasy of rich men, those whose playing days are well behind them and so they seemingly need something else to fulfil their time with. After all, Gary Neville doesn’t seem to do much other than providing terrible, biased analysis and retweeting Salford City FC on Twitter.

When Paul Scholes was asked about the original fans at the club who were uneasy with the takeover back in 2014, his only response was that, “There weren’t many of them though, were there? 80? 90?”. Arrogance that I doubt anybody is especially surprised by. And these people wonder why nobody seems to like them or their football club.

Yet, as Argyle drew with them (with 64% possession and 27 shots may I add), it was other reasons that I found myself frustrated. They were a team who came to Home Park with virtually no intention of playing football and were more than happy to sit back, lump it to the big lad up top and that be that. How we managed to concede twice to that lot I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

Of course, Argyle can and will improve and I look forward to seeing it. But it is worth remembering when you reflect on this game that Salford almost certainly have a bigger budget than us, both for transfers and wages. Yet, who were the team wasting time at 1-1? The ones with all the niggly little fouls? The ones who for a large amount of the game stuck 10 men behind the ball and defended with all they had? It wasn’t the boys in Green, that’s for sure.

I suppose however much money your filthy rich owners can pump into the club, you can’t buy class eh?

Lowe Provides Updates on Byron Moore and Joel Grant

Ryan Lowe has provided updates on the injuries of Byron Moore and Joel Grant, following Argyle’s 1-0 defeat away at Newport County. There was a surprise when the line-up was announced, with Ryan Taylor and Dom Telford both featuring – neither of whom started the first two league games. While Joel Grant’s injury took place in the 1-0 win at home to Colchester, the reason for Moore’s absence was unknown.

Speaking to Plymouth Live, Ryan Lowe said, “Joel is not far away. He’s doing quite well in his recovery. Byron Moore, we just left him at home.

“He just felt he had a little bit of a tight hamstring and I’m very cautious that I don’t want to be risking anyone for long periods in time. It’s not worth it if there is some sort of niggle. We will get some results on him and see where he is Monday morning.”

Taylor and Telford both missed parts of Argyle’s pre-season campaign with ankle and thigh injuries respectively, with the ankle problem having caused Taylor issues for a number of years now. This leaves all four of Argyle’s current senior strike force with recent injuries, meaning it is no wonder that Lowe is being overly precautious in order to prevent any further, longer lasting injuries.

With a number of midweek games coming up, it will be important that Lowe has as many professionals fit and available for games as possible, with it likely that all four strikers will play in an important role in any success that Argyle will have in this period.


Aimson Penciled in for September Return

From The Off: Firing on Some Cylinders

When I first wrote about Ryan Lowe coming to Home Park back in June, I made a comment about Argyle breaking League 2’s record points tally and Freddie Ladapo scoring 35 goals in the season. Little did I know that, a couple months on, maybe the points tally comment might end up being right. And that 35 goal season would go to Callum McFadzean, not the now departed Ladapo.

Of course, in all seriousness, we are very much in the early stages. Three games in, six goals scored, no goals conceded, top of League 2 and into the second round of the EFL Cup. It would be fair to say that Ryan Lowe’s regime is very literally off to the perfect start.

And for me, that’s what is so exciting. Because as of yet, we look like we have not hit our highest gear. The performance in the 3-0 win against Crewe saw an excellent first half of football but some spectacular goalkeeping by new signing Alex Palmer was what would keep us ahead in parts. Following this, the 1-0 win over Colchester was bitty and uninspiring and yet Argyle still looked in complete control of the game.

All round, the win over Orient seemed to present the best overall performance, and yet EFL Cup games at this stage are not really played to the same intensity as league matches even if both sides do want to progress. This is evident in team selection of course, as Lowe used the game to give opportunities to Cooper, Taylor, Conor Grant and Telford among others throughout the game. Orient boss Ross Embleton said himself that Argyle would take some stopping when playing in the way we did so to beat them, and that’s with me sat here behind a computer saying we are still only firing on some cylinders, not all.

We are yet to play at our best, that much is clear. You do wonder, in fact, if Ryan Lowe’s philosophy has changed somewhat from last season whereby Bury played what was – on the basis of what we have seen so far – a more attacking style. With the personnel difference of course, Lowe may see us playing in a slightly more cautious way, given the fact that Joe Riley and Antoni Sarcevic in RWB and CM are substantially less attacking than Nicky Adams and Jay O’Shea who had their exact roles the year previous.

Bury only won one of their opening five games last season, and it took a while before they were playing in full swing. Thus far we have shown no signs of making a slow start albeit we are in an extremely early stage as things stand. Nothing has been won yet and there is a long way to go before we can deem this appointment to be a success.

It is worth remembering that this is only Lowe’s second full season in professional management. You wouldn’t guess it, what with the aura of the man and how he seems to connect with the club and its fans. I enjoyed the Jürgen Klopp style fist punch at the end of the Colchester game too – without even requiring any cameras on him! He is enjoying himself, that much is clear.

So there are a number of reasons to be positive then ahead of the rest of the season. Saturday’s game against Newport will be a tough test against a difficult side to beat and on what has been an atrocious pitch every time I have had the joys of visiting. I can remember in 2014 when Argyle won 2-1 there and John Sheridan started Nathan Thomas and Andres Gurrieri at wing back.. A similar tactical masterclass that Ryan Lowe would be also be credited for as his Bury team got promoted from League 2 at the first attempt.

On a personal note, I thankfully won’t have to put up with a stand that would be more fitting for scaffolding at somebody’s house than a football stadium. I will be fortunate enough to be co-commentating for BBC Radio Devon this weekend, so if you’re wondering who the bloke with the needlessly controversial opinions is on the radio this weekend, now you know!

Plymouth Argyle’s Grandstand To Be Ready for New Year’s Day

Plymouth Argyle Chief Executive Andrew Parkinson has confirmed that the club hopes to have the redeveloped Mayflower Grandstand open in time for New Year’s Day 2020 at the latest, the day Argyle host Swindon Town at Home Park.

Speaking to Plymouth Live, Parkinson reiterated that the club are still hoping for the stand to be completed by the last quarter of 2019, as per the target previously stated by Jon Back. Argyle’s Chief Executive said that the club “are looking at the end of October for the construction to have been completed, there or thereabouts”.

The club will also have to host a series of successful test events prior to allowing fans to enter the redeveloped stand for a professional match. The work on the new Grandstand, which will have cost the club around £6.5 million in total, originally began in the summer of 2018.

As well as making money from match-day sales, the new Grandstand is also expected to generate considerable revenue from the club for business functions, with a banquet hall that can seat up to 440 diners or as many as 550 people if the space is used as a conference facility. The Sandy Park facilities ensure the Exeter Chiefs bring in significant income aside from their match-day revenue, and this is the model that Home Park and Argyle are trying to model.

As well as the stand redevelopment, the Green Taverners have been overseeing the building of the two-storey supporters bar in the corner of the ground between the Mayflower and Barn Park stands. Although this is nearing completion, it will not be ready for Argyle’s first home game of the season against Colchester United on Saturday, with Parkinson confirming that the club are “hopeful it’s going to be ready for the match against Salford on Tuesday 20th August.

SP19 Team Reviews: Top-half

Port Vale

Nick Saunders Smith

Key player: Marc Cullen

It’s a bold move to pick Cullen over veteran (and last season’s top scorer with 14) Tom Pope. The 33 year-old is now entering his eighth season with the Valiants, and has showed no signs of slowing down recently. He already has more than 100 goals in white and black, and should move to second in their all time goal-scorers list this season. However, looking at the players Vale have brought in this season, Marc Cullen actually might be a better fit as a striker who can link together a swift, direct, counter-attacking team.

Just as he did during Blackpool’s run to promotion in 2016/17, Cullen can offer intelligent positioning, good awareness of his teammates and solid passing to help tie together a front-three full of raw but unrefined talent. David Amoo, Richie Bennett and Rhys Browne are all dangerous wingers, but their goals and assists come in fits and spurts. Cullen can provide the consistent glue to hold together an attack that could tear a hole in any defence on its day, helping to ensure the goals don’t run dry for significant periods during the season.

Manager: John Askey

Having made over 650 appearances for Macclesfield in his career, John Askey took over as their manager on a permanent basis during the 2012/13 season. Coming a year after the Silkmen’s relegation to non-league football, he turned their fortunes around. Despite consistently working with one of the lowest budgets in the division, he had them probing around the play-off places before he somehow led them to the league title and automatic promotion in 2018. 

Shrewsbury then swooped in and took Askey in to replace the departing Paul Hurst, but the move didn’t work out and he was sacked by November. He then signed on at Vale, his boyhood club, and helped to keep them in the division. Now, he’ll look to get back to overachieving as Vale target a season of progress in League Two.

Stopper: Scott Brown

Currently, Vale only have one ‘keeper on their books, but fortunately for them Scott Brown has been a consistently superb lower-league stopper for well over a decade now. Averaging a clean sheet better than once every four games at League Two level in 322 appearances, Brown has been a player more accustomed to competing for promotion from League Two, but at Vale last season he bailed them out time and time again to ensure the club remained in the Football League.

He has twice won promotion from this league, most recently with Wycombe in 2018, and previously with Cheltenham Town in 2014. Between that time, he spent time at Aberdeen, winning two runner-up medals in the SPL. Having joined Vale at the beginning of last season, he went on to scoop every award available at the end of season awards night. His penalty save against Mansfield – which helped launch their turnaround in form – was described as one of their most important moments in the season.

Last season: 20th

The eight point difference between Vale and relegation betrays a much closer, more dangerous season than it really was. Going into March they were just three points clear of danger, before hitting form with four wins in six – launched by Brown’s penalty save in the 2-1 win against Mansfield – as Askey finally picked up his first victories after taking over as manager.

Vale had the worst attack in the entire division, scoring just 39 league goals, more than a quarter coming from target-man Tom Pope. They provided very little threat to opposition defences and that was the source of their trouble. At the other end, Brown and his defence kept fifteen clean-sheets, worth at least 17 points on their own, to help them to an uncomfortable survival.

Key transfer: David Amoo

As one of the four attackers Askey has signed to turn around Vale’s cumbersome attack, David Amoo will provide a direct counter-attacking threat. The winger is strong, fast and direct, though inconsistent, as he showed at Cambridge last season. His one man show against Bury – a game in which he tore their defence apart – was contrasted with several no-shows across the campaign.

He will now join an even more dynamic attack, with fellow wingers Bennett and Browne playing off Cullen and/or Pope up front. If Vale can coax consistency out of Amoo, then they’ll have a game-changer on their hands. At full-speed, it’s hard for any team to deal with him bursting in off the wing.

Target: Mid-table

Now that they have an attacking ensemble to match their stronger defence, Vale should look to target a top-half finish this season. the defensive core has been mostly kept intact, with Brown protected by promising young centre-back Nathan Smith and veteran Leon Legge, and screened by Luke Joyce.

The key will be balancing their dynamic but inconsistent attackers. If two or more show up then they’ll be a handful on the counter for teams across the league, but the problem will be how often that happens. Marc Cullen might be the answer, as a more selfless and intelligent striker, but whether or not they manage to piece that puzzle together is another matter.


Leyton Orient

Tom Sleeman

Key player: Jobi McAnuff

Certainly in the twilight of his career, the 37-year-old provides vital experience in the Orient midfield, having played in the Premier League for Reading and made over 350 appearances at Championship level. The O’s captain returned to Brisbane Road in 2017 after enduring a miserable first spell in which then owner Francesco Becchetti forced him to train with the youth team as a tactic to force him out of the club. Making 38 appearances last season, McAnuff registered five goals and six assists as Orient were crowned champions ahead of big spending Salford City. 

Manager: Ross Embleton

Embleton is currently serving as interim head coach at Orient following the tragic death of manager Justin Edinburgh in June 2019. The 37-year-old has previously been involved in academy roles with Orient as well as Premier League clubs Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich City before moving on to Swindon as a first-team coach. The former Bedford player returned to the O’s in 2017 to be assistant manager, first to Steve Davis and then later to Edinburgh.

Danger man: Conor Wilkinson

Having fallen out of the Football League after spells with Bolton and Gillingham, 24-year-old forward Wilkinson finally found form with Dagenham & Redbridge in the National League last season. His record of 12 goals in 23 appearances helped steer the Daggers away from the relegation zone and earned a move back to the Football League with Orient for an undisclosed fee.

The 6ft 2in man is often deployed as a target man with a quicker forward alongside him which will work particularly well in Orient’s 4-2-2 (double six) formation. With the departure of Macauley Bonne to Charlton (23 goals) and Josh Koroma (11 goals) returning to parent club Huddersfield, the former Portsmouth loanee will certainly have big shoes to fill.

Last season: 1st (promoted)

After finishing a dismal 15th the previous season amid financial despair off the field, Orient finally clinched promotion back to the Football League. Despite sharing a division with big spending Salford, who would also eventually gain promotion, Orient claimed top spot after beating Bromley 3-1 in December and ultimately never looked back, staying top for every match day bar one until the end of the season to be crowned champions by three points ahead of Solihull.

The O’s lost just seven games all season, scoring an impressive 73 goals along the way. Despite Bonne and Koroma providing 34 of these, centre-backs Josh Coulson (seven) and Marvin Ekpiteta (six) contributed a further 13 to ensure goals were spread throughout the side rather than a total overreliance on their frontmen. 

Key transfer: Josh Wright

Despite a couple of poor seasons by his usual standards, midfielder Josh Wright could turn out to be a fantastic signing for Orient after dropping a level to League Two. The 29-year-old was relegated with Bradford from League One last season. Starting the season as captain, he was eventually stripped of his role and spent five months without making a single start as he fell out of favour before new manager Gary Bowyer reinstated him to the side in March.

Wright made just 18 league appearances and failed to register a goal or an assist. Originally captain with previous club Southend in League One, the Englishman enjoyed a prolific 2016/17 campaign, registered 13 goals in 41 appearances. Should Embleton manage to get that form out of him once more, Orient will have a very good player on their hands and a replacement for Koroma’s goals from midfield. 

Target: Top-half

Following  a fantastic season that saw them crowned champions in a very tight National League promotion race, Orient will be hoping to emulate Tranmere’s heroics last season and challenge for promotion once more. Yet, consolidation is a far more likely goal. Though the majority of last season’s side remains, they have lost two of their best players and made just three signings to help them cope with the step up.

Having to deal with the loss of Bonne and Koroma was bad enough, but the real hammer blow came with the death of Edinburgh. Dealing with the loss of the man who had just led them to the league title is nearly impossible, both from a footballing standpoint and in terms of the mental impact. Hopefully the whole club can overcome that and continue his project, but nobody will blame them if that doesn’t happen.

Rest in peace.


Newport County

Luke Folland

Key player: Padraig Amond

Irish forward Padraig Amond transferred to the Welsh side in the summer of 2017 from Hartlepool. The poacher like forward saw great success for the Exiles last year, being rewarded with a call up to Republic of Ireland’s national team, and will look to continue his rich vein of form in the 2019/20 season under Mike Flynn. 

After his brief cameo on the international stage Amond continued his good run of form by finishing the campaign as club top goal scorer and top assister. He found the back of the net 23 times and assisted 11 more. The Carlow born forward worked well in a front two throughout the season as former Pilgrim Jamille Matt was able to occupy defenders with his daunting physical presence. Expect more of the same from the deadly Irishman this season.

Manager: Michael Flynn

County manager Michael Flynn is still at the dawn of his managerial career but is quickly finding his feet in the modern game with a robust style. Although criticised, it has proved incredibly effective, as it is extremely hard to break down while producing goals at the other end of the pitch. The style consists of what is commonly referred to as “hoof ball.”

Flynn has used the transfer market to bolster his squad so that he can utilise this style once more. With a lower tier budget and often a battlefield like pitch, the prospect of good football at Rodney Parade, why attempt to bring Barcelona to Newport when you can do even better with a different style? After miraculously saving the club from relegation in 2017 turning them into promotion contenders, Flynn is seeing his stock rise season on season. 

Defensive rock: Micky Demetriou

A hidden star in the depths of the County team must be centre-half Micky Demetriou. An ever present figure in the backline, Demetriou showed his defensive capabilities whilst also contributing in the final third. He  predominantly operated as the central centre back within a back three system, though he was also deployed as a left-sided centre-half during the Exiles play-off venture.

His 5ft 10 frame allows him to be more mobile across the backline compared to taller, stronger centre-backs and he pairs this with neat ball control, making him a good foil for his defensive partners. Although this short frame would lead you to believe that he is not an aerially threat, the 4 goals he scored would suggest otherwise. Demetriou was one of the un-sung heroes of Newport’s 2018/19 campaign and there is no doubt that their fans will be delighted by the fact that their he has renewed his contract at Rodney Parade.

Last season: 7th

Seven wins in their first ten had the Exiles flying high in second come the end of September, and they held onto their top-three spot until late October. From there they tumbled out off the play-offs, dropping as low as 15th at the beginning of March, eight points off the play-offs. Yet, an unbeaten run in their final ten games saw them steal the last play-off spot from Exeter and Colchester.

After a feisty 1-1 draw against Mansfield Town at Rodney Parade in the first-leg, they held the Stags to a stalemate at the One Call Stadium, with Flynn’s men came out victorious in the penalty shoot-out. Despite the success of the semi-finals the Exiles couldn’t finish the job, losing after a 119th minute winner by Connor Jennings at Wembley, resulting as Tranmere Rovers sealing promotion. 

Key transfer: Dan Butler

The key departure for the Welsh side would be their left sided full-back Dan Butler, who made the move to League One side Peterborough United. The full-back was a main stay in the County line-up as he made 60 appearances across last years campaign. From left wing-back, Butler contributed greatly to the defensive stability of his Newport side, while taking advantage of his Mo Farah-like engine to contribute regularly at the other end too.

The Cowes born full-back paired this with his fierce cross, accumulating 6 assists last term, the sort of return you’d expect from a wing-back. Aged just 24, Butler has more room to grow and is a good signing for Posh, but he will be a huge miss for Flynn’s men next season.

Target: Top-half

Yes, the spine of last season’s team remains, as does its coach, but for Newport to repeat the feat and reach the play-offs again this year will be tricky. Plenty of middling sides experience seasons like Newport went through, having a shot at promotion, mostly keeping the team together, but failing to deliver the next season. Hell, Argyle kept most of the squad that almost delivered the play-offs in 2018 and we were relegated last season!

The robust style that Newport use will make the difficult to break down, and their attacking duo of Matt and Amond will likely fire again, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to align the stars for another play-off push. A top-half finish would be a far more realistic target. 


Oldham Athletic

Louis Killick

Key player: Christopher Missilou

Christopher Missilou excelled in his first season in English football, having played his football in France up until 2018. Missilou played the fourth highest amount of minutes for Oldham in the 2018/2019 season, and was so influential in the centre of midfield, a contract extension was triggered for the forthcoming season.

The Congo international is an industrious midfielder, winning ball after ball in the middle of the park and passing it on to others after doing the dirty work. One of the success stories of Oldham’s overseas recruitment policy, he will bring stability to a shaky Oldham team. 

Manager: Laurent Banide

Laurent Banide is just the latest imporrt made by owner Abdallah Lemsagam. Banide started his coaching career in France with Monaco, which was then followed by an extensive stint in the Middle East, with spells in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Banide brings a wealth of overseas experience with him, though will have to adapt to managing in England. In truth, we do not know much about the main, so it will be interesting to see how he gets along, but given the hit-and-miss nature of Oldham’s (well, Lemsagam’s) transfer activity and discontent behind the scenes, he starts the season on high on the sack list of potential managerial departures. 

Danger man: Gevaro Nepomuceno

Oldham’s greatest attacking threat, Gevaro Nepomuceno scored and assisted 16 league goals last season, having featured predominantly on the left side of midfield. He formed a good partnership on the wing with left-back Alex Iacovitti, who has just signed on a permanent deal following a loan deal last season, and the duo will look to pick up where they left off this time around.

Another product of Oldham’s overseas recruitment, the Curaçaoan winger is highly talented with the ball at his feet, and is at his best driving to goal at speed. Nepomuceno’s contributions will be valuable for Oldham this season, a player who can get fans out of their seats is a valuable commodity, especially for a team that many are tipping to struggle. 

Last season: 14th

The 2018/2019 season for Oldham was a bit up and down, featuring some high scoring games including such as the 6-0 loss to Carlisle which was followed 3 days later by a 4-1 win against Port Vale. The team went through three managers over the course of the campaign, with Paul Scholes receiving media attention after speaking to the press following his decision to quit, citing problems with the way the club was run. 

Oldham finished the season in mid-table at 14th, while scoring the joint highest amount of goals outside the top 5 with 67. They actually scored and conceded at an acceptable rate, the issue was these goals often came in bundles, preventing the side from really building up a head of steam. Off the pitch, there were problems, with a dispute between owner Abdallah Lemsagam and a fan led group who are upset with his running of the club. That shows no signs of going away soon, particularly with financial threats to other Greater Manchester clubs ongoing. 

Key transfer: Scott Wilson

Scott Wilson, who joins Oldham from Macclesfield, has big boots to fill. Callum Lang has returned to Wigan following a successful season long loan which saw the former Liverpool youth player score 13 league goals for the Latics. He was also supported in the first half of the season by fellow loanee Sam Surridge, who enjoyed an equally productive start to the campaign alongside Lang. 

Wilson, who scored 10 goals himself in League 2 last year, has now come in to replace them, and Oldham would need him to replicate or exceed this tally to have the best chance at success this season. He should get plenty of service from his left-wing in particular, but there will be a lot of pressure on him form the off to deliver the goals. 

Target: Mid-table

Some good signings mixed with some disappointing departures should lead to another mid-table season for Oldham. The club lost both starting centre-halves in George Edmundson and Peter Clarke, and the goals of former loanees Callum Lang and Sam Surridge. They have signed Wilson as a replacement, and also brought over lively full-back Zac Mills from Morecambe, but it will be hard for them to make up for those who have moved on. 

Oldham have good names on paper, but they didn’t add up to a particularly impressive team last year, and should be set for another hit-and-miss campaign this time around. The off-field troubles will likely continue throughout 2019/20, and though goals won’t be hard to come by, the defence looks worse this season compared to last. Assuming they don’t ship too many, they should make the top-half of the table, but if things go wrong then they might find themselves in deeper waters.



Josh Pope

Key player: Liam Kinsella

Midfielder Liam Kinsella is one player who has not jumped ship despite relegation, and appears to be a key figure in Walsall’s fight to return to League One. The 23 year old came through the youth system at the club and has so far made 89 appearances, with many more set to come after he signed an improved contract this summer.

Kinsella is keen to make amends for the club’s relegation last season, though he was one of their few bright points in a season of disappointment, earning young player of the season award. Their fans will be delighted that they fought off interest from a number of other clubs to keep him at Walsall, given all the change around the club this summer.

Manager: Darrell Clarke

Darrell Clarke joined the Sadlers in May after Walsall sacked club legend Dean Keates towards the end of a disappointing League One season which culminated in relegation. Clarke was himself sacked by Bristol Rovers in December of 2018 while he was, at the time, the fourth longest serving manager in the EFL.

Clarke has had success before in the lower leagues, after a double promotion in 14/15 and 15/16 with Bristol Rovers lifted them from the National League to League One. He continued the upward trend in his first two seasons in League One, but couldn’t spark the team last season and it will be interesting to see if the 41 year old do better at a different club.

Engine: Stuart Sinclair

Effectively the replacement for George Dobson, Stuart Sinclair has a large gap to fill in central midfield. One of Darrel Clarke’s favourite players for three and a half seasons at Bristol Rovers, he will provide the engine and functionality within Walsall’s midfield.

While he was not part of Graham Coughlan’s plans at The Memorial Stadium for the second half of last season, he has plenty of Football League experience, having made 161 appearances in four years for Rovers, featuring regularly in both of their two promotion seasons. That experience will be vital for Walsall in the coming season, especially as Clarke attempts to implement his own style.

Last season: 22nd (relegated)

2018/19 was a very disappointing season for Walsall as they succumbed to relegation, finishing one position behind Argyle in 22nd and – like the Pilgrims – had their fate sealed on the final day. After A 12 game unbeaten run across all competitions at the start of the season, sparked by a controversial 2-1 win against Argyle on the opening day, Walsall sat in 5th place in League One by mid-September.

However, their form soon dropped off and they finished with a run of just four wins in their final 25 games. This led to Dean Keates’ dismissal in mid-April, a sacking that proved too late to save their League One status. They went down with a lifeless draw against close rivals Shrewsbury.

Key departure: George Dobson

Among the departures at the Bescot Stadium was George Dobson, who moved to Sunderland for an undisclosed fee on the 25th July. As a strong and composed defensive midfielder, Dobson will be a key loss for Walsall this season and at the age of just 21 was a player they had high hopes for the future.

On top of this, he was Walsall’s captain so will be a big miss all round as they look to rebuild in League Two. Strong off the ball and talented with it, he will prove a very difficult player to replace for Darrell Clarke this season. Stuart Sinclair can bring energy and drive, but can he add the quality in possession that Dobson brought?

Target: Mid-table

Normally, the aim would be for Darrell Clarke will be to return the Sadlers to League One at the first time of asking, though this may prove to be a challenge that is easier said than done. A large turnover of players means it will be hard to hit the ground running this season, and that’s not to mention that they have lost many of the few bright-sparks from last year. It won’t be easy for them to transition to a new squad and a new manager.

That being said, Darrell Clarke is a manager who has had prolonged period of success with Rovers and knows what it takes to gain promotion from League Two. While the automatics appear well out of reach at the time of writing, the play-offs could be achieved if they hit their stride, but a year of consolidation leading to a more concerted push next year may be the right way to go as Walsall transition following the end of an era in League One.


Carlisle United

Josh Pope

Key player: Hallam Hope

Hallam Hope is one of the few key players from last season who has remained with Carlisle for the season ahead. Hope made 44 appearances across all competitions last season, and finished as the side’s top scorer with 15 goals. The centre forward also recorded 10 assists, as he proved himself to be one of Carlisle’s main goal contributors.

If they are to have any success next season, then Hope will be key. They have lost key players behind him, principally Jamie Devitt, who left for Blackpool, so the onus will be on him to create even more chances for himself in a squad that has lost some of its stardust.

Manager: Steven Pressley

A former Scottish national team member, Pressley took over at Brunton Park in January after former Plymouth Argyle manager John Sheridan resigned to join Chesterfield. Pressley made over 450 appearances as a player playing for both Rangers and Celtic, as well as Hearts and Dundee United among others before retiring and becoming a manager.

He has not enjoyed a long stint with a club since his first permanent job managing Falkirk between 2010 and 2013, which led to his appointment at Coventry City. He lasted less than two years there and after an underwhelming spell at Fleetwood, he is yet to enjoy any prolonged success at an English club.

Stopper: Adam Collin

Veteran goalkeeper Adam Collin is, like Hallam Hope, one of the few important players from Carlisle’s side to remain with them. At 34 and having made over 300 professional appearances, he is also one of the more experienced figures in the side.

Collin had a respectable first season at Brunton Park, managing to keep 10 clean sheets in the league across 42 appearances, conceding on average 1.3 goals a game. His leadership will be important to help settle the large changeover in players at Carlisle this season as they look to enjoy a better first half of the season in 2019/20.

Last season: 11th

After being a part of the promotion race in the early weeks of the season, an 11th placed finish for Carlisle was somewhat of a disappointment. The biggest factor influencing the drop in the team’s form was ultimately the resignation of John Sheridan in January, who left for Chesterfield to become the highest paid manager in the fourth and fifth tier of English football.

Sheridan left the team after a run of five successive victories had pushed them back into the play-off race, and though this form sustained itself until the end of the month, which saw them in fourth, they eventually petered out and won just four games for the rest of the season.

Key transfer: Nathan Thomas

Nathan Thomas was, arguably, somewhat of a fortunate re-signing for Carlisle this season and they have no doubt bagged a coup for League Two. Having been sent on loan from Sheffield United to Gillingham, Thomas’ family were unable to settle in the South East and as such the loan was cancelled last week and he has moved much closer to his home in the North East.

He returns to provide support to Hope in Carlisle’s attack, having joined the team after the winning run ended last season. His four goals and one assist in sixteen games showed that he can provide some threat, but stepping into the shoes of Jamie Devitt is going to be very tricky, and he will likely fail to match his impact over the course of a season.

Target: Top-half

Despite having been play-off contenders for much of last season, aims for Carlisle this year will realistically look a bit different. There has been a high turnover of players from last season; aside from losing talisman Jamie Devitt, Carlisle have also lost a number of key players such as Anthony Gerrard, Gary Liddle and Tom Parkes.

That, combined with Pressley’s hardly sparkling career, suggests that they won’t threaten the play-offs as much this year. A push for the top seven in a league the standard of League Two is hardly unfathomable, but the Cumbrians would be wiser to target mid-table mediocrity once more, rather than setting their hopes too high.



SP19 Team Reviews: Play-offs

Player Ratings: Parkway 0 Plymouth Argyle 2

Despite losing the opening game of pre-season to Truro, optimism at Plymouth Argyle remains high and we saw an improved performance against Parkway, with new signings Mayor and Telford on show. Yet, first year professionals Klaidi Lolos and Adam Randell largely stole the show.

13. Jordan Holmes – 6

He appeared a little shaky a couple of times when attempting to command his area. In particular, he dropped the ball after attacking a cross in the second half only for Parkway to fail to scramble in the rebound. Otherwise, he didn’t have a great deal to do.

Made the odd decent save on the rare occasion he was tested and showed the kind of distribution under pressure that Ryan Lowe probably wants from a keeper.

28. Michael Peck – 6

Peck had an indifferent game. His passing was his major weakness, as he sprayed balls into touch from deep repeatedly and very nearly sold Holmes short to allow Parkway in for the opening goal.

His defending was strong though, both in the air and on the ground, and he dribbled the ball out from the back well. There are clear improvements that he will need to make before he is ready to step up to the first team on a permanent basis, but this is his first pre season as a professional after all so there’s no hurry for him to stand out yet.

14. Niall Canavan – 7

One poor pass that was intercepted easily aside, the Irishman was probably the best of the back three in the first half for the second game in a row.

He let nothing past him and his distribution was good from the middle of the three centre back positions. He’s showed signs of being one of the best at adapting to Lowe’s style thus far and, based on his displays, can expect to start the season in Lowe’s first choice back three.

3. Gary Sawyer – 6

Started on the left of the three defenders and was generally what we’d expect: solid though not particularly spectacular. He still seems to be adapting to the new system and his role within it – he occasionally appeared to be slow to get himself into positions that would allow for a quick ball out from the back.

However, there were a couple of notable areas for improvement. First, he wasn’t tight enough to his striker when Parkway launched clearances, allowing them to being the ball down and set up attacks. Second, he needs to be quicker and more proactive with the ball. Canavan and Peck both sought the ball out more, with the former making a good impact in possession.

20. Adam Randell – 8

Man of the match for Argyle on the day. Randell applied himself very well to the defensive midfield positions, winning the ball back on a number of occasions. However, he stood out most with the ball. He was so composed in possession, routinely finding the spaces in Parkway’s midfield by either passing the ball into them or breaking forward himself.

Surely, he is one of the players Lowe is referring to when he mentions the youngsters who will be part of the first team for the season ahead. Randell ran the game from that position and demonstrated he can challenge for a starting spot this year.

22. Tafari Moore – 5

He’s shown some signs of promise going forward, putting in one excellent ball that Lolos headed over the bar in a lot of space. He also bombed forward with and without the ball to offer options in possession.

However he once again seems jittery at the back, twice finding himself caught too wide when his man had dropped inside. Yet again, he was outshone by Riley in attack and defence. Moore is now running out of time to show Lowe exactly why he should be retained.

15. Conor Grant – 6

He both won and scored Argyle’s penalty and delivered some good set pieces into the box. As well as that, he won ground down the right wing with good passing and dribbling.

After his display against Truro, Grant has now edged ahead of Sarcevic in the competition to partner Mayor in the curtain raiser against Crewe.

10. Danny Mayor – 7

He had a little dip halfway through the first half due to picking up a knock, but on the whole he was Argyle’s most creative threat before his substitution. He’s a player with some real quality about him and he’s fed through some superb passes, one of which led to the penalty just before the break.

He suffered from the lack of mobility from the rest of Argyle’s attack, with few players making good runs he was either forced to make something happen himself or retain possession. Shame for him that the half time subs showed better movement that he could have benefited from, but had already come off by then.

23. Ashley Smith-Brown – 6

He’s a full-back rather than a a winger and sadly it does show. In the first half he seemed to have a nosebleed when he got near to the penalty box which slowed down our play.

He got better in the second half though, both in attacking intent and distribution, but still needs some lessons from Joe Riley in how to operate as a full back in this new style.

19. Klaidi Lolos – 7

Gave a decent account of himself in a system that doesn’t seem to suit him as a player. Certainly should have done better with a header near the end of the first half, but made up for it with a sharp finish to notch Argyle’s second goal.

From a deeper midfield position in the second half he fared much better. He made some impressive third man runs, including the one for his goal, and fed through some good passes.

29. Alex Fletcher – 7

One of the best players in the first half before his substitution. Started well but seemed to fade a little as his half went on. Still managed to show how his mobility, and was the player most likely to position themselves well to threaten Parkway when the rest of his teammates were largely static in attack.

Perhaps could have done better with a couple of half chances, but this was much better than against Truro.


26. Cameron Sangster – 6

Like on Tuesday, he didn’t get on for long enough to fully throw himself into the game and, in truth, didn’t quite impress as much as Randell did in the same position. However, he did still show some neat touches and composure under pressure so there’s definitely a player there to be worked on. He might be concerned that the aforementioned Randell is getting ahead of him in the pecking order.

30. Tom Purrington – 6

Purrington entered the pitch in his favoured central midfield position but was forced to drop back to defence shortly after due to the lack of defenders available on the day. He was strong and athletic after his introduction but didn’t have much to do as Argyle were strong in midfield.

2. Joe Riley – 7

Looked good; certainly the best of the full backs on show today. He demonstrated that he had the ability to trouble opponents, albeit lowly ones on this occasion, in attacking areas. He ran at then with the ball, pushed high up the pitch, swung crosses in and made a couple of great late runs into the box, connecting with one cross from Smith-Brown that only missed by a narrow margin.

Whereas others would give off all the hallmarks of full backs trying to be successful in wide attacking areas of the field, Riley looked like he could genuinely be a success in the position, and emerges with credit.

16. Joel Grant – 6

Grant was nothing special once he came on, and still seems more likely play from wing back once the season starts. Too relaxed in attack and didn’t force the issue enough. He was also slow to find the incisive pass or dribble once he did end up in a good attacking position.

9. Ryan Taylor – 6

Taylor made a number off good touches once he came off the bench, including the flick to put Lolos clean through for second. However, he needs to pose more of a goal threat. He wasn’t dangerous enough when Argyle got the ball into attacking positions, though he did peel off into good areas at times only to not receive the ball.

Has to get a goal at some point in pre-season, otherwise he is unlikely to start the opening game.

11. Dominic Telford – 6

In what was only a brief first appearance as an Argyle player, Telford did not have a significant amount of time to impact the game.
We did see a few good runs and a higher work rate than most to chase down opponents. He also got into a couple of good positions, wasting one great chance to score clean through, on the volley from ten yards as he completely missed the ball by a fraction of a second when it was in mid air.

24. Luke Jephcott – 5

He was poor when he first came on up front and it’s doubtful this will be his best position going into the season after he also struggled in the same spot against Truro.

He was better and more involved after moving into central midfield but his distribution was still iffy. His best moment came when creating Telford’s 1-on-1 with a lovely chipped through ball, but otherwise he was wasteful every time he got into a good position. Overall, it’s fair to say he’s still looking for an identity in this team.

New Signing: Dominic Telford Analysed


From The Off: Panic Stations

In the life of a Plymouth Argyle fan, things never seem to be especially positive for long. In recent years, whilst there have been positive vibes on and off the pitch, they never seem to last for an especially long time. Perhaps that’s why, just over two weeks after the arrival of new manager Ryan Lowe, people are already hitting panic stations.

Maybe in this scenario people are right to be concerned somewhat. That is, the concern could be voiced without the needless added drama and aspersions on his managerial abilities just because he hasn’t pulled rabbits out of hats thus far. Albeit there is far more fun in complaining than there is in contentment. One area of legitimate worry is our friendly schedule.

Thus far, Argyle only have four pre-season games scheduled and all of these are against non-league sides. Newly promoted to the National League side Torquay are the best of these teams, albeit still some way off the level of opposition Argyle will face throughout the season. Truro, Plymouth Parkway and Tavistock make up the rest of the games, and are – with the greatest of respects – unlikely to prepare Argyle well for the season ahead. Such games are little more than ceremonial pieces used for clubs in the city and surrounding areas to bring in a few quid and advertise themselves to local football fans.

You would assume that there must be something in the pipeline because otherwise cancelling Argyle’s planned visit to the Netherlands would not make any sense. Perhaps it was seen by the new management team as a waste of time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere? Whatever the case, we had better hope that alternative plans (and good ones at that) are in place and ready to be confirmed soon.

This is just the match preparation for the season, too. There’s plenty of concerns right now about the playing squad, with a large number of ‘professionals’ at the club made up of young players who are very early in to their footballing careers or more experienced pros who have not impressed in their time at the club so far, such as Scott Wootton and Calum Dyson. The current squad is not up to scratch, and while it will obviously have a number of boosts in the next few weeks, good players seem to be finding new clubs all over the place right now and the pool of possible players is ever diminishing.

This doesn’t even factor in the fact that talisman Graham Carey has left the club. Furthermore, Ruben Lameiras seems certain to having missed Lowe’s deadline to him by what feels like about four months, and chief goalscorer Freddie Ladapo is surrounded by constant talk about joining League 1 clubs for a fee of around £500,000. A questionable squad that has lost key members already is not a fantastic start with pre-season training edging closer each day.

Plenty of cause for concern then it’s fair to say. Am I worried? In a word, no. Everything the board have done so far since Adams left the club has been calm, calculated and has resulted in a positive outcome. I arguably trust Ryan Lowe more than my entire family already, so I would be lying if I said that I was worried. There are situations and issues that need to be addressed but you can bet your bottom dollar that those figures at the club are doing their upmost to ensure Argyle end up in the best possible position to start the season in the right way.

Keep the faith, people.

Plymouth Argyle drawn at home to Leyton Orient

Plymouth Argyle have been drawn at home to Leyton Orient in the first round of the EFL Cup. The tie will take place on the week commencing August 12th. Victory would be only Argyle’s second in the past ten years.

It will be the second time that Plymouth Argyle and Leyton Orient have faced off in the League Cup first round in five years after Orient won on penalties following a 3-3 draw at Home Park in 2015.

Leyton Orient are returning to the League Cup for the first time since 2016 after winning promotion from the National League last season.