After spending much of his career on the Home Park treatment table, Plymouth Argyle manager Ryan Lowe decided to not to offer forward Ryan Taylor a new deal along with five other Pilgrims ahead of their return to League One at the first attempt.
The ‘Ginger Zlatan’ as he was affectionately known by the Argyle faithful spent nearly three-and-a-half years in Devon, making 98 appearances in all competitions, scoring 13 times but spent much of his time at the club plagued by injuries. However, when fit and available, Taylor more than proved his worth and was an integral part of the side during Derek Adams’ tenure as manager.
The 32-year-old joined from Oxford United during the 2017 January transfer window and would go on to score four times in 18 appearances, most notably in a 3-0 win against Exeter, terrorising the Grecians defence all afternoon as the Pilgrims gained promotion to League One that season.
The following season was undoubtedly when the Green Army saw the best of the former Rotherham man. His return from a broken ankle, sustained in the opening day defeat to Peterborough, twinning with the emergence of winger Ruben Lameiras saw a massive upturn in form as Derek Adams’ side narrowly missed out on the play-offs.
The partnership with the aforementioned Lameiras and Graham Carey swiftly became one of the most feared attacking trios in League One. They registered 51 goals and assists between them that season with Taylor responsible for 10 of those (5G, 5A). Whilst hardly earth shattering, Adams hadn’t signed the 6ft 1in man with the intention of getting 20 goals a season out of him and never did, but rather for his hold-up play and passing abilities.
With the former Pompey player in the side, the Pilgrims lost just twice in 21 league games to Wigan and Charlton respectively whilst picking up very impressive wins against Blackburn, Rotherham and Peterborough in the process, all games in which he scored.
The latter part of Taylor’s career at Argyle is where his struggles began. Following his tremendous 2017/18 showing, he found himself down the pecking order when available as Adams favoured new signing Freddie Ladapo. During a season in which Ladapo would score 18 goals it was difficult to argue against his presence in the side. The former Crystal Palace man was a different sort of player, offering pace and standing on the last man rather the more traditional forward role that Taylor provided. This showed throughout the season with Ladapo proving to be that little bit more selfish in his play. In some ways, this benefited Argyle, but not necessarily the likes of Graham Carey who, unlike the previous season, wasn’t receiving as much of the ball in order to work his magic in the final third.
Taylor found himself reduced to an impact role which didn’t suit his playing style unless Argyle were looking to hold onto the lead as his physical attributes could often slow down play and frustrate opposition sides. Despite making a very respectable 33 League One appearances, 27 of those came from the bench as he failed to record a single goal or assist during a campaign in which Argyle failed to score in 16 of their 46 league games (34%).
With relegation to League Two confirmed that season and Ryan Lowe taking over the reins from Adams, Taylor was lauded with praise during pre-season with the Liverpudlian claiming he had a 20 goal forward on his hands. As we now know this estimation was some way off and was most likely a form of motivation for the player at the time. The Englishman started the season impressively, however. Taylor’s brace in a 3-0 win over Walsall in August was his first since October 2015 during Oxford’s 5-1 win over Stevenage. He added to his tally a few days later in the League Cup defeat to Reading. Sadly injury once again took over once more and when fully fit again, the impressive form of Luke Jephcott and Ryan Hardie limited him to cameo appearances from the bench.
In truth, Taylor is perhaps not what you would consider to be a ‘Ryan Lowe player’. The former Bury man prefers more of a Ladapo type of player in terms of pace, playing on the last man and positioning. This is particularly with creative and more technically gifted players like George Cooper and Danny Mayor in the side who can do all the hard work to get into the final third. This means unlike before, there isn’t such an impetus to play through the middle or hoof the ball up field. With such a poor injury record, coupled with promotion to League One, there’s very little surprise that Lowe didn’t want to take the risk. The space in the squad will allow a new signing to rival Dom Telford and Jephcott, should he sign a new deal to add some more competition for the upcoming campaign ahead.
All Argyle fans will wish him the best of luck for the future.