Plymouth Argyle are starting to piece their squad together for the 2021-22 season. It’s therefore time for us to start looking at the free agents who may be available to sign during this summer transfer window.
Compared to some other positions we’ve looked at, attacking midfield seems to be a fairly solid area in Argyle’s current squad. Danny Mayor and Conor Grant have signed new deals, whilst Panutche Camara is already under contract. All three impressed at various stages last season, and will surely do so again in the forthcoming campaign.
However, there’s still every chance Ryan Lowe will enter the market here this summer. Ben Reeves’ departure has left a space in the squad, and we know from Lowe’s Bury days that he always loves to add creativity. Here are some who may fit the bill.
Club: Preston North End
Though his moved to Preston three-and-a-half years ago has not gone the way he will have planned, Billy Bodin remains a quality player who will now be looking for the right transfer to kick-start his career. Perhaps a move back to the West Country will do the trick, having previously player for Torquay before making his breakthrough at Bristol Rovers, scoring 37 in 107 as he helped the Pirates return to League One in 2016.
Bodin has not played in central midfield before, though he could slot into that position under Ryan Lowe’s system with the right support. Bodin is blessed with speed, vision, intelligent attacking movement and good finishing. He may have to develop the mentality to play in central midfield, but his natural talent would help him adapt.
Given how Argyle often lacked a cutting edge in the opposition box, both in terms of the final pass and the finishing touch, Bodin could help lift the burden from Danny Mayor’s shoulders while offering a more consistent stream of goal, lifting the pressure on the strikers.
Bodin has had injury problems at Preston but has been injury free for six months now and is the sort of player that is a gamble, as many are at this time of year. Some of those pay off handsomely, and Bodin could fall into that category for the right team.
Status: Offered new contract
Keohane enjoyed the most prolific season of his career despite Rochdale suffering relegation to League Two, and the Irishman could prove to be the perfect Ryan Lowe signing due to his versatility. Having spent the vast majority of the season as a full-back, half of his goals came in the final dozen games of the season as manager Brian Barry-Murphy opted to play him in a more advanced role for Dale.
Pilgrims fans might well remember his calamitous goal during the 4-0 defeat earlier in the season as his header from a Stephen Dooley cross appeared to briefly pause time as the Argyle defence watched the ball trickle into the opposite corner of the goal. On later viewing, the ‘highlights’ from that game are just as painful to watch.
Keohane can play on either side of the defence or midfield, and whilst his statistics suggest a level of selfishness in front of goal, the 5ft 11in man is known for his passing ability with an impressive 79% accuracy in a side in a side that spent much of the season predominantly playing long balls. His poor long ball accuracy (38%) in comparison shows he might be more suited to a side like Argyle who look to play the ball on the floor.
Club: Charlton Athletic
Appearances: 31 (5 for Charlton, 26 on loan at Bristol Rovers)
Goals: 2 (1 Charlton, 1 Rovers)
Assists: 2 (both Rovers)
Erhun Oztumer was, for a not insignificant period of time, a real hot property in League One. Walsall fans loved to call him the Turkish Messi, and you can see why – his record for them was immense after joining from Peterborough United back in 2016. Peterborough had, predictably, nabbed him from non-league after a superb spell at Dulwich Hamlet, and his career was very much on the up.
However, a series of bad career move have seen his progress very much stunted in recent years. He moved up to the Championship after leaving Walsall, which seemed like a natural step forward, but he did so with Bolton Wanderers as their financial crisis worsened. After that, he went to Charlton Athletic who would soon find themselves in a similar situation. A loan move to Bristol Rovers followed. They were relegated.
Amazingly for a player of Oztumer’s ability, he hasn’t actually scored a league goal since he left Walsall in 2018. A series of moves to clubs in crisis has contributed, and Argyle could be an appealing option to provide a much more stable platform for his talents.
Club: Bristol City
There is one factor that makes Liam Walsh more likely to sign for Argyle. Born in the Liverpool suburb of Huyton, he would be another member of the ‘Scouse Mafia’ so ubiquitous at the club for the last two years.
The midfielder, just released by Bristol City after three years at the club following an injury-hit campaign, stands just 5’6” tall. What he lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity – often surging with the ball from deep where he can either play in a team-mate or go for goal himself.
It was with one of these runs that he won Coventry’s goal of the season award in 2020. He picked up the ball in the midfield and jinked past three players before firing it in with his left foot. 2019-20 was a very successful season for Walsh in League One – winning the player and young player of the season award with the Sky Blues.
Walsh could be sent to Coventry again and their fans would be happy to see him. If he opts against a return, or Mark Robins feels like he’s moved on, he’d fit perfectly next to Conor Grant and Panutche Camara in the Argyle midfield.
Club: Milton Keynes
Status: Offered new contract
Ben Gladwin hasn’t had everything handed to him on a plate. Bouncing around non-league teams near his home in Reading before finally getting a chance in League football with Swindon, he fits the definition of a journeyman.
It is with Swindon that he has enjoyed most success. His first spell at the club attracted the attention of QPR, who later loaned him back after he failed to make the grade at Loftus Road.
His knack for grabbing goals from midfield is what most rocked the Robins fans. Nicknamed the Rocketman for his powerful shot, Gladwin loves to collect the ball in deeper areas and bulldoze forward. His ability to strike the ball with either foot keeps defenders guessing.
Injuries have limited him in his career. He’s not fully fit this summer – surgery on his knee means he’d need an extended pre-season to be fit for the new season. Clubs may be looking towards a ‘pay-as-you-play’ deal if they were to sign Gladwin.
On the pitch, Gladwin would be a safe signing for any League One club. It’s his injury record that makes him a risk.
Club: Colchester United
Though Jevani Brown’s move from Cambridge to Colchester two seasons back did not go as well as he would have hoped, he enjoyed a far stronger season this time around that in his first. In fact, started the season in lightning form, scoring all his goals before December, but dropped off in 2021.
Colchester actually pushed Brown further forward into a striker’s role for much of the season, but given his powerful dribbling and awareness of space – both his and his teammates’ – he is still best from an attacking midfield position.
More similar to Antoni Sarcevic than Danny Mayor, he might introduce a greater balance to Argyle’s midfield in games that they see less of the ball, providing bursting runs from deep and more goals from outside the box. Like many names on this list, Brown did not have his best season last year – why else would he have been released – but he is still yet to reach his full potential, has time on his side, and the drive to bounce back with a new challenge.
Status: Offered new contract
It might seem a little odd for Argyle to target someone relegated from the league last season but Matty Lund was certainly one of the better performances as Rochdale narrowly dropped into League Two.
Dale were a side who typically scored and conceded a lot of goals, much like Argyle for most of the season in fact. Whilst Ryan Lowe knows we need to strengthen at the back, a player of Lund’s creative ability may be handy. Rochdale offered him a contract to stay however so Argyle should be mindful of how much they spend on the Mancunian in terms of wages, especially if he’s more of a squad option.
Historically, Lund has always been a handy lower league player with a successful previous spell at Rochdale as well as impressing at Scunthorpe and (earlier) Bristol Rovers. Indeed, he actually scored one of the goals for the Pirates on that infamous New Year’s Day loss that saw Carl Fletcher lose his job in 2013.
Since then, he’s added a few international caps at Northern Ireland to his resume as well as success at club level. If he does sign for us, let’s hope he’s helping an Argyle manager to keep their job this time rather than lose it.
Appearances: 21 (on loan at Sheffield Wednesday)
Here’s an option if Argyle are looking to be seriously ambitious this summer. Izzy Brown comes with great pedigree as a loanee in the division above, perhaps peaking with an influential role at Huddersfield Town during their promotion season in 2016-17.
Then, injury struck, and badly. A cruciate ligament injury struck in January 2018, keeping him out for the rest of the season and indeed most of the 2018-19 campaign. He’s had a couple of loan spells since at Luton Town and Sheffield Wednesday, but he’s never been able to hit his pre-injury heights. Indeed, Brown’s Wednesday were relegated from the Championship on the final day of last season.
But he’s still a player of immense talent. And now he’s been released from Chelsea you’d expect there to be a clamour for his permanent signature. Argyle ought to be in the hunt, and may have a chance with his recent record. However, with Championship clubs such as Preston rumoured to be interested, completing a deal will be tough. But it’s definitely worth a try.
Appearances: 15 (on loan at Crawley Town)
Southampton have always had one of the most prestigious academies in England, developing numerous players who have gone on to become regulars for the Hampshire club. Indeed, many have been sold on and had careers at bigger, top six clubs. A really good academy though will also produce players who make it in football even when they don’t quite have enough to make it at St Mary’s.
Whoever signs Jake Hesketh will definitely be getting somebody of that ilk. He made his debut for the Saints as early as 2014 when he was just 18 years old. After a few years of being coached through the under-21 side, Hesketh became a perennial lower league loanee.
His spells at Burton, Milton Keynes, Lincoln and most recently Crawley have seen him establish himself as a good League Two option and at least a solid squad option for League One.
He may not offer many goals but he likes to dictate the tempo of the game and draw fouls. Argyle will want to rotate and Hesketh could be the perfect Reeves replacement.
Club: Charlton Athletic
Appearances: 31 (29 for Charlton, 2 for Luton Town)
Goals: 3 (all Charlton)
Assists: 6 (all Charlton)
Despite making his loan move from Luton to Charlton permanent in February, Shinnie finds himself without a club following the resignation of Lee Bowyer who moved to Birmingham just a few weeks later. His successor, Nigel Adkins afforded the Scot just one start in the final five games as the Addicks missed out on the League One play-offs on goal difference.
Whilst it was an up and down season, the 31-year-old scored or assisted a goal every 189 minutes for Charlton, chipping in with three goals and six assists, despite only making 18 starts and a further 11 substitute appearances.
Whilst able to play anywhere across the midfield, Shinnie excels on the left or in an advanced role just behind the forwards. His impressive ability on the ball and range of passing would give Lowe another option from set pieces. In an otherwise still young midfield, the former Rangers man would provide the sort of experience that Argyle have been crying out for in the middle of the pitch.