Final Whistle: Oscar’s Weekend
The second day of July last year was a rollercoaster for Argyle supporters. After the ill-fated announcement of Carl McHugh’s new deal that never was, the club led the fans into believing that Josh Lelan was set to sign. In a wild twist of fate, however, the club’s social media played a blinder, and Oscar Threlkeld was announced as Derek Adams’ latest summer signing. I assure you this is entirely by chance, but with Oscars weekend in full swing, it’s about time we offered some appreciation to an Oscar of our own.
It’s no secret that Oscar Threlkeld is a man widely revered by Argyle supporters. Why? Well, much of the praise for Threlkeld comes from his versatility. Indeed, Adams himself mentioned this as a key factor in going after the 23-year-old in the summer, and Argyle fans knew of this, with his loan spell at Home Park in 2015-16 proving he’s equally proficient at right-back as well as the heart of midfield. If anything, that premonition has only grown through this campaign, with Threlkeld splendidly filling in at left-back in the injury absences of Gary Sawyer and Ben Purrington. Frankly, it often seems like Threlkeld could be put in goal and still deliver a performance far beyond League Two standard.
However, it’s Threlkeld clear and demonstrable dedication to the cause which sets him apart as a fan favourite, and that’s the factor making this piece relevant in the aftermath of Saturday’s 1-1 draw away at Luton Town. Around the world, football supporters are often able to tolerate players who are not fantastic technically, but they’ll be up in arms if a player isn’t seen to be putting in a sufficient amount of effort. Luckily, in the eyes of the supporters at least, Threlkeld has both technical ability and work rate in his locker. Saturday’s incredibly courageous diving header as Luton’s Ollie Palmer rushed in on goal demonstrated Threlkeld’s commitment to Plymouth Argyle perfectly.
Threlkeld can also be seen as a relatable player, the fan on the field to some, and is perhaps comparable to Ryan Brunt last season when considering how work rate can shoot a player to the top of the charts for some supporters. Saying that alone does admittedly do a disservice to the footballing abilities of both Threlkeld and Brunt, but Oscar does himself an awful lot of favours with his general demeanour, and whilst no supporter can truly know what a player is like as a person outside of the game, Threlkeld’s attitude makes him instantly likable. His blossoming ‘bromance’ with Craig Tanner is as entertaining as it is well documented, his aforementioned bravery and commitment makes supporters proud of their side, and the way he makes time to applaud the fans at the end of games does not go unnoticed. Of course, none of this immediately improves a player’s general abilities, but for some fans, it’s enough.
We must, however, be cautious as a result of this. Many supporters may watch Threlkeld on the field and immediately be swept away, viewing his performance through supremely green-tinted spectacles, and whilst some will remain grounded and judge players objectively, Threlkeld can do no wrong in the eyes of others. Argyle’s results over the past fortnight have been less than satisfactory, but I have come across many who have defended Threlkeld to the hilt, assuring me that his performances haven’t been hit by the slight slump. In some cases they are absolutely right, with the Luton game a fine example, but in others that is an absurd claim – how on earth some can believe he was blameless in Argyle’s collapse against Leyton Orient is beyond me.
However, I must say I too am remarkably close to jumping on the Threlkeld bandwagon. Many fan favourites in the past have been so due to their work rate alone, with little technical ability particularly required. Perhaps this is just another symptom of the administration and relegation period, where quality players of note were few and far between. However, it would be a gross injustice to tar Threlkeld with the same brush. Threlkeld’s ability as well as his work rate has been and will be a key factor in Argyle’s promotion push this season, with his versatility and performances proving almost beyond doubt that his talents will see his natural level rest well clear of the EFL’s basement division.
The last two seasons will surely have taught Argyle fans to remain grounded as hysteria begins to kick in. Hopefully, some are able to recognise that Threlkeld isn’t perfect every week. However, it’s hard to deny that his presence on and off the pitch is having a hugely positive impact on the football club. On this weekend, of all weekends, it’s right that we show a little respect for the Oscars.