2019 has started well for Plymouth Argyle, with three straight wins on the bounce and a much more positive feeling around the club. Aside the results, has definitely been helped with the return of Oscar Threlkeld to the squad following his loan move from Waasland Beveren. The spike in form for Ruben Lameiras has definitely been a huge help; the Portuguese netting 6 goals in his last 4 games. Also, the inclusion of Kyle Letheren between the posts has certainly boosted the defence and a brilliant shot-stopping performance against Coventry will have solidified his position for the time being.
However, there is still a long way to go this season in what is becoming a very tight league, especially at the bottom. With not long left to go in the transfer window, the Green Army are waiting with bated breath to see what wonders Derek Adams can conjure this time around. The recent results have seemingly hushed the discontent around Home Park, but the team needs strengthening, and fast if we are to stay in League 1.
It is no secret to anyone involved with Argyle, that money is tight. We cannot compete with the likes of Sunderland, Charlton, Peterborough – the list can go on – especially in terms of wages, which leaves us fighting at the lower end of the transfer and loan market for players. Unfortunately, without major financial backing this is the reality of the majority of Football League clubs.
On top of that, being the southernmost club in the EFL, with no airport or motorway connections does not help Argyle’s cause. Plymouth’s location does have one big advantage though, which I feel has massive potential. This of course is our catchment area. Being the largest city and football club this side of Bristol, the opportunity to find and develop youth prospects is one Argyle can take full advantage of. Take the recent list of players to have come through the academy for example:
Jack Stephens – now at Southampton
Sean Morrison – Cardiff City captain
Dan Gosling – formerly Everton, Bournemouth
Sam Gallacher – Southampton
Joe Mason – formerly Cardiff, Wolves
Ryan Leonard – Southend, Sheff Utd and Millwall
Christian Walton – Brighton (On loan at Wigan)
Curtis Nelson – Oxford (although we signed him from Stoke at the age of 16)
Isaac Vassell – Birmingham
Ben Purrington – Charlton
Scott Laird- Forest Green ( on loan at Walsall)
Lloyd Jones- Luton
You could arguably put together a starting 11 that could compete in The Championship out of these players (although perhaps it is a little heavy on defenders). Currently, it is the likes of Alex Fletcher, Mike Cooper, Luke Jephcott and Cameron Sangster who making up the understudies, either at Home Park or out on loan. These starlets will no doubt have bright futures in the game should they reach their potential.
Although developing players in this way is a slow process, the financial rewards can be lucrative; Take Exeter City for example, who have recently shipped out 2 of their youth players in Ethan Ampadu who was snapped up by Chelsea (although the compensation fee was undisclosed) and Ollie Watkins, who moved to Brentford for £1.8m in 2017, not to mention any sell on clauses and bonuses involved in the deals.
Seeing the list of players who have left Argyle, along with the fees involved is frustrating. which does make me wonder where it might be going wrong. I’ll use Isaac Vassell as an example; he was sent on loan to Weymouth and Truro before being released in 2014 without making a league start for the Argyle first team. After signing for Truro, he then moved to Luton before Harry Redknapp paid upwards of £1m for him. One of the best managers of his generation paid a substantive fee for a player not deemed good enough for Plymouth Argyle.
Perhaps the high turnover of players over the last 10 seasons or so is having a detrimental impact on the youth players on the cusp of first team football. With new players coming in, there is no doubt more pressure to play them, over one of the youngsters, whom it can be easy to overlook, even more so when we are in the midst of a relegation battle.
We can only hope the current crop of players coming through the first team are given more of a chance to fulfil their potential at Home Park instead of elsewhere. It’d be a shame to see the likes Mike Cooper go the same way as Christian Walton, who at the age of 23 is an established Championship goalkeeper. The Green Army are a proud bunch and we love nothing more than one of our own wearing the shirt.
With purse strings as tight as they are, this could be a realistic long term plan for Argyle as the academy continues to produce promising talent. There is no doubt quality within the ranks and we should be benefitting more from a productive youth system.
Right now, we’ll turn our attention to another must win game, when Walsall come to visit on Tuesday night. They sit 6 places above The Pilgrims and we’ll aim to continue our rich vein of form. Home Park is always special under the floodlights and let’s hope this is no exception. Ruben Lameiras will no doubt be looking to pick up where he left off and when he’s on form, our chances of a result increase.