It’s an old cliché to say that a week is a long time in football. But, as any long-term readers of this column will be all too aware, an old cliché is absolutely not something I’m going to shy away from. Although, my goodness, you’d do very well to find a seven-day period that forces the point home quite as much as the last week has at Plymouth Argyle. Since we last met, Argyle have managed to go from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again in a period that will doubtlessly carry long-term repercussions for the football club.
It all kicked off last Thursday when majority owner and chairman James Brent was able to announce that a contract had been signed for the development of the grandstand to commence. Argyle have, of course, had plenty of false dawns on the grandstand during, and even predating Brent’s tenure, so there is still very much an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude amongst much of the Green Army. But nonetheless, if we are to see what we’re all after at Home Park, this was a step that had to be taken. It’s therefore hard to see this step in particular as bad news.
Drama off the pitch though was matched on the field by some topsy-turvy Argyle performances. First came the visit of Southend United to Home Park, where Argyle escaped with a 1-1 draw having been thoroughly outplayed by their opponents for much of the 90 minutes. During this encounter, Derek Adams, to the surprise of absolutely nobody at all, became the first-ever EFL manager to receive a red card since the new system of managerial discipline was introduced. Hardly ideal, particularly with a Carabao Cup first round trip to Bristol City on the horizon. Argyle did, of course, lose 5-0 to the same opponents at the same stage a year ago.
But this is Argyle, and it would appear that this week is no time for the world surrounding the club to make sense. With the early season form looking indifferent at best, Argyle put it all to one side and claimed a superb 1-0 victory at Ashton Gate, with a Yann Songo’o headed goal followed up by an excellent backs-to-the-wall defensive effort which saw Argyle reach the second round of the competition for what seems to be the first time since the 13th century. Bristol City made the semi-finals last season, defeating Manchester United in the process, but this week, a 1-0 home defeat to Argyle just seemed to be obvious.
We’re not stopping there – perhaps the most ground-breaking news was again off the field. Remember “majority owner and chairman” James Brent? Well, no more. Argyle announced this week that Brent was to step down as chairman at the end of October, bringing his seven-year stay at the top of the Argyle boardroom to an end. Whilst Brent is still to own a sizeable portion of shares, the changes at the top are more than just symbolic, with Simon Hallett the new majority owner of the club, and David Felwick announced as the new chairman upon the conclusion of Brent’s reign. Hallett’s takeover-of-sorts involves an investment of over £3m into the club, as well as the purchase of surrounding land in the Higher Home Park region.
So yes, it’s fair to say it’s been quite the manic week to be an Argyle supporter, even relative to the fast-paced world our sport appears to exist in. At this rate, next week we’ll be able to discuss a fully completed grandstand, as well as Argyle’s 10-0 victory away at Coventry, with Lionel Messi scoring half the goals after Adams convinced him to ditch his contract at Barcelona. But, with the risk of no world class Argentinians do arrive on our shores existing, it’s probably worth dedicating the main and final word of this column to James Brent himself.
See, rather than just reporting what has happened, it’s always encouraged to offer some insight into what exactly these events mean. The hardest event for any football fan to understand fully, though, is an ownership change. And whilst that does remain the case here, we can at least be encouraged by the fact that Argyle haven’t just been sold to the first potential investor to flash cash in Brent’s face. Instead, majority ownership is being taken up by Hallett, a man with whom Brent has worked with on the Argyle board for over two years, and he has clearly given off the impression that he will be able to competently take on the reigns at the highest level. Stability was clearly paramount for Brent during his tenure, and this may well be perhaps the best way any sort of stability can be guaranteed during a board takeover.
Many Argyle fans have contrasting views on Brent, we all know that. But from where I’m sitting, we have a lot to be thankful to him for. Not only did he save the club from potential oblivion when nobody else could, or would, in 2011, he also appears to have recognised, as many of us have, that he has taken the club as far as he can after consistent progress over the last seven years. Furthermore, we should all be appreciative of the fact that he appears to have left the club in the best possible hands, and allowed us all to be optimistic for the future of the club.
Now, with how quickly things appear to be moving, let’s hope that level of optimism lasts for at least a little more than a week.