Argyle’s 100% start to 2019 came to an abrupt, yet somewhat predictable end at Adams Park where Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe took the spoils against Plymouth Argyle. Ainsworth seems to get under the skin of Argyle, whether it’s what he says or how he plays. He certainly played ugly on Saturday, ensuring the in-form visitors could not garner any momentum and suffocated the game. His plan was made a lot easier by Argyle though as we were poor throughout and only mustered 1 shot on target, while Kyle Letheren was forced into 6 saves over the 90mins and once again did himself no harm in what was far from the brightest of Argyle displays in recent memory.
Although we still sit in 17th position, all but 1 of the teams below us have games in hand, some of which will be played on Tuesday the 29th. It will be a welcome gap in the schedule where we can all keep an eye on the scores elsewhere without keeping the other eye on the live scores app for that Argyle goal. It’s never nice having to look out for other results and relying on teams to do us a favour when in a relegation battle, but that’s where we are right now. We have been in a relegation scrap in 5 of the last 10 seasons, going back to 2008/2009 at the start of our demise from the Championship, so this generation of fans are no strangers to what we are going through this season.
Every week I tell myself ‘we shouldn’t be down there’. ‘How are we losing to them’ or ‘why haven’t we signed him’. I’m sure these are questions a lot of fans ask when speaking about the team they love. But are Plymouth Argyle actually underachieving? Should we (as many fans claim) really be challenging at the top of League One, at the very least? It’s a well-known fact that Plymouth is one of the largest UK towns/cities to have never played in the top tier of football, with a population of approx. 264,000 people, second only to Wakefield (depending on how loosely you define the perimeters of a city) who are non-league and are really much more of a rugby city. We took 35,000 people to Wembley in 2016 for a League 2 playoff final – that’s incredible, and shows a glimpse of the potential we have down here.
The catchment area of Devon & Cornwall is something that has had its surface only scratched over the years; I mentioned the same point in my piece last week in regards to youth recruitment but it most certainly applies with the fan base. A large portion of supporters make the journey up from Cornwall, as well as the outer reaches of Devon and this would definitely be an even bigger percentage should we reach the Championship again. There’s no doubting Home Park would be close to full on a weekly basis and holding their own in the division’s average attendance rankings. The current redevelopment of The Grandstand will bring Home Park up to date and the adjacent Life Centre has excellent facilities which are of huge benefit to the team. We have the foundations of a Championship club, so why are we lingering in the lower echelons of the EFL?
It has certainly been a ‘rebuilding process’ since the events of 2011 resulting in the club going into administration, which was an absolute sucker punch for the progression of Plymouth Argyle. In footballing terms, 8 years isn’t such a long time and the damage caused by Japanese ‘businessman’ Yasuaki Kagami and his pals was nearly fatal to Argyle. I use the term businessman loosely. Cowboy would be more fitting. We have done incredibly well to bounce back, becoming a stable club once again and to say this was a setback would be an understatement – we’ll all do well to remember how close we were to not having a team to support at all.
Since then, we’ve had 2 playoff runs including a trip to Wembley, quite aside from a 0-0 FA cup draw at Anfield as well as an exciting title-race resulting in promotion. That’s not bad and I will be the first to remind myself of this from time to time. Although progress is steady at best, we have a club with a safe long term future. This is far more than what can be said for many of other EFL clubs and for that we should be thankful. Bolton Wanderers are the latest team to be going through financial turmoil. Whatever the reasons are, it’s not good for them and everyone at PAFC can empathise.
Whenever I go to away games and talk to opposing fans about Argyle, I often refer to us as ‘sleeping giants.’ OK, no doubt it’s most commonly said after a few ciders and through green tinted glasses… but I genuinely believe that we are. Every fan wants their team to be the best it can be, but it’s easy to overlook the finer details. We have a club we can be proud of, with a good history, a fantastic fan base and an identity. Personally, I do feel we are somewhat underachieving but I would much rather reach the Championship and dare I say it, the Premier League doing it the right way. If that means ‘underachieving’ for a while, so be it. Perhaps we should be using the word ‘consolidating.’
The words ‘could’ and ‘should’ are often mentioned when we talk about Argyle. I looked up the word ‘underachieving’ and according to the Cambridge English Dictionary the definition is as follows:
“To do less well than you could or should.”
However, the definition for ‘consolidate’ in the same dictionary is:
“To become, or cause something to become, stronger, and more certain”
Enough said, I think,
Peterborough away next, which presents a huge challenge. They’re chasing promotion with a strong squad and players will have a point to prove to newly appointed manager Darren Ferguson, in what has been a bizarre week for the Posh. This is the first game in a run of fixtures that are crucial, including a trip to relegation rivals Bradford.