After three-and-a-half years at the club, Plymouth Argyle midfielder and fan favourite Antoni Sarcevic has left after turning down a contract extension.
Manager Ryan Lowe has said Sarcevic cited his decision as a family one, wanting to move closer to his native Manchester. Whilst this decision may come as a surprise to some, most will surelyunderstand the decision by a player who has given so much to the green shirt of Argyle.
Sarcevic ends his time in Devon with two promotions, a relegation and an enthralling playoff push on his CV, and with that in mind, it would be rude not to look back on a player who has epitomised what it means to represent the club, and one that has given us so many fond memories.
Sarcevic joined Argyle in January 2017 after a frustrating six months at Shrewsbury Town in League One, making just twelve appearances before being released in the December. That transfer window also saw Ryan Taylor join from Oxford United, two astute acquisitions which saw both make an immediate impact – Sarcevic scored the only goal in a 0-1 away win at Cambridge United with a well placed header on his first start for the club.
Whilst Taylor’s impact could not be ignored with his superb hold up play, Sarcevic was quietly effective as he featured fifteen more times as Argyle were promoted in second place to League One.
The next season was much more of a mixed bag for Sarcevic as Argyle started the season off slowly. Sarcevic, for his part, played in a 0-4 home defeat to Scunthorpe United was sent off for a headbutt on Paddy Madden. After a 3-1 loss to Bradford city in December 2017, he didn’t feature in any of the next four games as Argyle won three and drew one of those.
Things took an upturn for Sarcevic and Argyle though as after being re-introduced into the starting lineup for the win over Walsall on New Years Day, Sarcevic started the next nine games in a run which saw Argyle win seven games, only losing to eventual champions Wigan Athletic. He played an integral role in the 4-3-2-1 system that Derek Adams deployed so successfully in the second half of the seaso, and it’s such a shame that injury hit at just the wrong time for the Mancunian.
The 2018/19 season needs little explaining (it has been covered many times already, and frankly I think it’s better if I leave it out for the entertainment purposes of this piece). To cut a long story short, Argyle were relegated back to League Two, in a season which was a negative one for more or less everybody, other than perhaps the likes of Freddie Ladapo and Ruben Lamieras.
Sarcevic made 37 appearances in the league, contributing three goals and four assists.
Whilst the numbers in isolation may not be eye watering, his work ethic in wanting to put things right after relegation, and most importantly stay put when he could’ve so easily have left, really cemented his place in the hearts of the Green Army. That is perhaps a tribute to the character of the man himself.
Speaking of character, Sarcevic responded excellently to question marks over his level of involvement in the side after Ryan Lowe’s appointment as manager last summer.
Initially, he was considered perhaps not technically refined enough to be a second number 8 in Lowe’s ball playing 3-4-1-2 system, even though he has obvious qualities.
Conversely, although no less effective in my opinion, it is the more technically gifted Danny Mayor, who has played the role of facilitator, whilst Sarcevic has used his strong running and tenacity to clinch the top of the Argyle scoring charts with 11 goals and 6 assists in all competitions, his best since a breakthrough 15 goal season at Fleetwood in the same division six years ago.
Within those eleven goals, it is the stunner at Salford and the curler that won the game at Forest Green that spring to mind, but perhaps most fittingly his final Home Park goal, in front of the fans that he had built such a connection with, a penalty in the 2-1 win over Crewe, is the one that ultimately clinched promotion.
131 appearances 20 goals 15 assists, one Antoni Sarcevic.