This past decade has seen players arrive at Home Park and demonstrate the potential to play top flight football – some of which have. Others have left a great impact on the club, as their actions have helped to positively change the club’s future. As 2019 draws to a close, we’ve reviewed the past ten years to pick out the top fifty Pilgrims to have donned our Green and White.
It’s important to note three things: first, this is not a competition of the best players; we have not judged players based purely on their skill, but also their impact. Jake Cole may not be the most able goalkeeper in Plymouth Argyle’s history, but he left a greater impact than most, as his performances were vital in avoiding relegation to the National League for two consecutive seasons. For that, he gets a ranking higher than that of Alex Palmer, who is a better keeper objectively speaking but has had a significantly smaller impact on the club.
Second, players have been judged according to their ability across all the time they were at the club, not just their peak. For example, Conor Hourihane in his first eighteen months wouldn’t get close to this list, but the Hourihane of the final five months before his departure would probably outrank all but a select few individuals in terms of ability. This has been factored into his ranking, instead of merely taking him at his peak.
Finally, this list is not perfect. It is notoriously difficult to rank players, let alone more than 200 of them across a ten year spell. To build this list, we spent hours debating, ranking and re-ranking lists of players until we arrived on a list that we were happy with. There will be players that you believe should be ranked higher, lower, or shouldn’t be on the list at all. You can’t please everyone. Please remember that while you’re complaining on social media having read this list. Otherwise, enjoy…
50: Joe Bryan
Currently: Fulham, Championship
It’s weird having an attachment to someone that was here so fleetingly, isn’t it? The dynamic left winger was only here for nine games yet he left his influence on the club in a most significant way. He was a big part of John Sheridan’s revival side in the second half of the 12/13 season and his solid defensive displays down the left wing saw Argyle shut out League Two defences.
We didn’t really get to see what he was capable of from an attacking viewpoint, mostly due to Sheridan’s defensive style that season: but on occasions where we caught glimpses of it, it was clear he had talent in his abundance and his future career came as a surprise to few Pilgrims.
49: Hiram Boateng
Currently: MK Dons, League One
Only one season with Argyle, but what a season it turned out to be. Providing drive from the base of midfield alongside Carl McHugh, Boateng exuded class when he first arrived, passing the ball around and breaking through lines with his skilful dribbling. As Argyle stormed to the summit of the League Two table, Boateng was a driving force, swiftly establishing himself as an important member of the team.
Sadly, his injury against Morecambe saw his initial loan spell end prematurely in October. At that point, Derek Adams’ men were sitting pretty, five points clear at the top with a seven-point cushion to third. What followed was a run of one win in five as the club transitioned to become play-off contenders rather than title challengers. Only a brief run of four consecutive wins halted the slide as Boateng returned to a club in March, in a three-way battle for the final automatic promotion place.
His second spell that season has often been understated as the club failed to seal promotion, but poorer team performances and constantly changing formations undermined the positive impact he did make after his return. This was most notable in the two play-off encounters against Portsmouth. And in the end, it was his turnover in midfield that paved the way for a counter-attack that eventually ended with Peter Hartley squeezing the ball over the line from five-yards out as Argyle broke Pompey’s resistance.
Overall, Argyle won 16 of 27 matches in which he started, losing only 7. Had it not been for his injury in October, promotion may well have been the final outcome in 2016; instead, the season will always be remembered as a missed opportunity.
48: Toumani Diagouraga
Currently: Swindon Town, League Two
How often is it that a player, particularly one who isn’t actually a loanee, leaves such an impression after such a short time at a football club? That’s exactly what Diagouraga managed at Plymouth Argyle. The Parisian was at Argyle for just three months, but his arrival coincided with the upturn in form that led from a season of seemingly certain relegation struggle into a play-off push.
Was that down to Diagouraga, or Derek Adams changing the system at the same time. Probably a bit of both, although it’s a surprise that he ends up where he is now given the outcry when he turned down his new deal at Argyle. It looked like he was a player destined for League One or above, but regardless, ‘Toums’ will always be remembered fondly.
47: Alex Palmer
Clean sheets: 8
Currently: Plymouth Argyle, League Two
West Bromwich Albion stopper Alex Palmer arrived at Home Park at the start of Ryan Lowe’s reign in Devon. Signed as direct competition for youth product Michael Cooper, Palmer quickly claimed the role between the sticks his own with a catalogue of bright performances, most notably at Crewe Alexandra on opening day.
Occasionally operating as a sweeper keeper, Palmer has been praised for his quick feet and accurate passing alongside his lighting reactions. It’s safe to say he’s popular with the Green Army, with the consensus around Home Park being “Alex Palmer we want you to stay.”
46: Joel Grant
Currently: Plymouth Argyle, League Two
Finally out of the limelight of Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras, Grant has begun to stand out for himself this season more than he ever has before. His run of five goals in five games earlier this season helped cement his place as a striker in the team as part of the second tactical evolution he’s had to undergo in two years.
Arriving out as a hard-working, defensively reliable winger, he had a traditional wide-man’s love for hugging the touchline and dribbling the ball at his opponent without ever really having the final ball in his locker. That started to change last season, as he successfully converted himself into an inside forward, capable of playing in the space inside – not outside – the full-backs, a la Carey and Lameiras.
He was rewarded with four goals in seven starts, only for injury to strike him down shortly after and end his season. However, he returned fully fit this summer and has adapted well to life as a striker in Ryan Lowe’s 3-1-4-2, grabbing five goals in fifteen starts before Christmas. He’s currently set to end the decade as the equal-ninth highest score, tied with Antoni Sarcevic.
45: Ryan Brunt
Currently: Bath City, National League South
When he was first signed in January 2015 under John Sheridan, the big striker didn’t do a lot in his first few months at the club to indicate he’d feature positively on any list of this nature. He didn’t pull up any trees to put it bluntly. However, he did endear himself a lot more to Argyle fans as the weeks and months went on. His “never say die” attitude and spirit was admirable; there was never a loose ball he wouldn’t chase down.
He was really most impressive when Derek Adams came in, in the 2015/16 season. He improved his technical ability enormously and once he started scoring, he couldn’t really stop. His Argyle career was sadly ended by cruciate ligament injury obtained on a Tuesday night at Barnet. It was something he would prove to never really recover from.
44: Jamille Matt
Currently: Newport County, League Two
Arriving in Derek Adams’ first year in charge, Jamille Matt made the lone striker role his own after a string of successful performances. Standing just shy of 6ft 1, the loanee operated as a target man in Adams’ familiar 4-2-3-1 system. Matt did, of course, play a vital role in Argyle’s trip to Wembley as he scored twice during the play-off first leg against Portsmouth with the first being an audacious bicycle kick.
Loved for his raucous attitude, Matt also claimed the headlines that day with a first half head-butt on Pompey captain Michael Doyle and secondly his shushing moment after his goal. Although his time at Home Park was short, he made a great contribution to the Green Army and it has been said that if Adams had offered the forward a contract quicker, he would’ve remained at the Theatre of Greens.
43: Luke Young
Currently: Wrexham, National League
Young ranks above the likes of Hiram Boateng and other midfielders not necessarily because of ability, but rather the fact the he made a greater impact on the club through a longer period of service, and some vital contributions as the club avoided relegation in 2012 and 2013.
When he left the club in 2014 – controversially released by John Sheridan – he was the second longest serving player of the decade, with the fifth highest number of appearances. Nevertheless, Young was also a composed midfielder, certainly one of the classiest in possession at that time. His passing was (and remains) his strongest asset, with an ability to play penetrating passes through midfields. As he blossomed into a tidy playmaker alongside Conor Hourihane, he also began to learn from his teammate how to add goals and assists to his game.
His three free-kick goals remain the joint-most scored by an individual through the decade, tied with Graham Carey and Robbie Williams.
42: Jamie Mackie
Currently: Oxford United, League One
As with Joe Bryan, Mackie was only with us this decade for a very short amount of time. However, his six month spell in the first half of 2010 was good enough to earn him a big money move to QPR off the back of it.
Having spent two years with the greens since joining in January 2008, Mackie really came into his own in his last half season. He’d developed into a brilliant all round striker. He fused searing pace with no mean dribbling ability on the ball and goalscoring/creating that gave us a sporting chance of survival. The headless chicken of his early days with us had developed into a rooster and he rightly earned his big money move.
41: Ryan Edwards
Clean sheets: 13
Currently: Blackpool, League One
Oh for another time and another place. Ryan Edwards won’t feature in many people’s list of the best 50 greens this decade but he unapologetically features on ours. Many critics claim he’s to blame for our relegation last season but, given his solid form since for Blackpool, that would back up the stance that he was victim of circumstance more than anything else.
He didn’t have the best of seasons but he was in a terribly managed side and was recovering from an intensive course of chemotherapy. I prefer to remember the Edwards of 17/18. He was one of the few shining lights in our early struggle and was starting to develop a fantastic partnership with Sonny Bradley before he was sadly forced to withdraw from the team to begin cancer treatment.