With Ryan Lowe confirmed as the new boss, we cast our eye over the free agents available for Plymouth Argyle to pick up during this 2019 summer transfer window.
Status: Offered new contract
Cambridge had a disappointing season in League Two, finishing just six points and two positions above the relegation zone. However, one player who did have a significant breakthrough in central midfield was ex-Barnsley youngster George Maris. Maris had played on the left wing for much of his career, but played centrally more often than not across 2018/19.
Maris made 44 appearances in all for Cambridge last season, and it would almost certainly have been more had his season not been curtailed by injury in April. He has certainly made an impression, and has been offered a new contract with the club as a result. However, it would appear he is ready to take the next step in his career. Nothing has been announced yet, but manager Colin Calderwood has said Maris is “pretty close” to a deadline for his decision. That comment came at the start of the month.
One for Argyle to consider, then? Possibly. A player who could play on the left and in the centre would be very useful, and Ryan Lowe will certainly be aware of the player’s talents. His last goal came in a 3-0 win for Cambridge at the start of April. In Bury.
Club: Newport County
Status: Contract offered
Out of contract midfielder Newport midfielder Joss Labadie caught the eye of many during his exceptional performances during the play-off games of 2019. The box-to-box midfielder has a style similar to that of N’golo Kante – he is a tireless runner and operates with a very high work rate. This type of player is essential for Lowe’s system as a high intensity deep midfielder is key in avoiding frequent attacks on the back line.
However, this robust style of play has limited Labadie’s career somewhat as he endured a cruciate ligament injury nearing the end of the 2017/18 season. This carried over to the start of the most recent campaign. Only playing 13 times last season due to injury would suggest that he shouldn’t be touched but, at the price he would come at, it certainly wouldn’t break the bank.
Despite his poor injury record, Labadie could be useful in the middle of the park. Standing at 6ft 2 he is a powerhouse who is able to charge through midfield in a similar manner to Antoni Sarcevic.
A risk, certainly, but Labadie a cheap option who could be exploited effectively. Formerly of Torquay United, it’s unlikely the player would have many reservations about moving so far south.
Status: Contract offered
30-year-old central midfielder Jimmy Ryan will be a familiar name to fans of many clubs, particularly in the north west. The well-travelled Liverpudlian has had significant spells at Accrington, Scunthorpe, Chesterfield, Fleetwood and most recently Blackpool.
Standing at 5 ft 7, Ryan is hardly a tall, battling central midfielder. However, this shouldn’t put Argyle off. Technically, he has shown he is able to deliver throughout the years, and he bears a resemblance to Jordan Rossiter, who played an important role for Bury last season.
Ryan’s career seems to have come to a halt in the last year. Injury has limited him to just 45 minutes of football in 2018/19, having ended 2017/18 as captain at Blackpool. Ryan’s career clearly needs another springboard as he enters his thirties. Could that happen at Argyle? Perhaps, though it doesn’t look incredibly likely. Despite his knee troubles, he remains Blackpool’s club captain. He has been offered a new deal, manager Terry McPhillips is hopeful a deal can be done, and Ryan has previously stated he would “love to stay” at the club.
However, that clearly isn’t an absolute certainty. The fact Ryan hasn’t signed on the dotted line yet suggests he may have been offered reduced terms at the club due to his injury record. Offers from elsewhere may be tempting. Perhaps Ryan Lowe’s north west connection could come into play.
Club: Carlisle United
George Glendon may not be the most glamorous name on this list, but that’s not to say he wouldn’t be a decent addition to Ryan Lowe’s Argyle side. The player spent last season at Carlisle, attempting to rebuild a promising career following his release from Fleetwood in the summer of 2018. He made 19 appearances, but most came at the start of the season. He appeared to fall out of favour later on.
Being released from a side Argyle will be looking to better next season may put a few members of the Green Army off the player. However, recent history from Argyle should tell us not to see that as an obstacle, and recent history from the player suggests he has a fair degree of talent. He captained Manchester City’s elite development squad as a youngster, and has racked up over 50 appearances in League One for Fleetwood Town.
The vast majority of Glendon’s recent appearances have come in a defensive midfield position. Thus, we can probably expect he’d line up as the “1” in Ryan Lowe’s 3-1-4-2 style if he signs for the Greens.
Club: West Ham United
A familiar name for most of an Argyle persuasion; former Hammers midfielder Moses Makasi was a loanee for Derek Adams during the 2017/18 season. Joining in the January of 2018, Makasi slotted straight into the midfield in order to replace an injured Antoni Sarcevic. He scored his first and only goal for the club in a 1-1 draw with Fleetwood.
Despite this excitement, a knee injury ended the midfielder’s stay at Home Park. A loan spell at London club Stevenage saw Makasi fail to reach the heights of his last loan spell as some Boro fans labelled him the “worst player [they] have ever seen”.
As we know all too well, the flamboyant midfielder was technically sound but his attitude to his defensive responsibilities was often questionable. He was clearly more suited to an attacking role due to his superb dribbling and his finishing ability. It was easily observed that Makasi was a bit light weight for a defensive role as he was regularly muscled off the ball.
It is probably safe to say that the out of contract midfielder is probably not quite suited to the defensive midfield role in Ryan Lowe’s system. However, he could possibly work as a backup for the attacking duo and would be a good cheap option to potentially explore.
Neil Danns turns 37 in November, but that shouldn’t put Argyle fans off. It certainly won’t be seen as a stumbling block for Ryan Lowe, who saw Danns as an important member of his squad last season. He made 39 appearances in all for Bury across 2018/19, and captained the side on six occasions.
Danns, who was born in Liverpool but has been capped eight times by Guyana, is a vastly experienced player. He has appearances under his belt in all four levels of the English professional game. Starting his career at Blackburn, he has played for 11 clubs in all, with his most notable spells coming at Crystal Palace and Bolton. He would surely be an excellent figure to have in the Argyle dressing room as they look to bounce back to League One at the first attempt.
Danns is clearly able to operate in Lowe’s system – he has the ability to play in midfield either in a deeper role or as one of the more attacking players. So, don’t be surprised if Argyle look to bring him to Home Park this summer. His contract is due to expire, and with Bury’s finances being as much of a mess as they are, an extension doesn’t seem like it’ll be announced anytime soon.
Big things were expected of Burundian Gael Bigirimana when he broke through the ranks at Newcastle United. However, it’s fair to say things haven’t worked out for the player. After a loan to Rangers failed to kick-start his career, Bigirimana was eventually allowed to rejoin boyhood club Coventry City. He left after just one season to join Motherwell, and he has been playing his football in Scotland ever since.
His career has stalled once more this season. He joined Hibernian on transfer deadline today in January, but a managerial change hindered him. When Neil Lennon departed for Celtic and was replaced by Paul Heckingbottom, Bigirimana didn’t make a single further appearance for the club. He has since been released, and now says he is looking for a club that “understands” him and his “importance to the team.”
A player who has lost his way with a Scottish connection. It sounds like a classic Derek Adams signing. Will he have the same appeal to Lowe? We’ll see. Don’t expect an announcement of his new destination soon though – he’s recently been named in the Burundi squad for the Africa Cup of Nations later this month.
Gloucester born midfielder Joe Edwards is currently looking for a new club after a rather ‘hot and cold’ season with recently relegated Walsall. Edwards was Walsall’s player of the season in 2017/18 despite missing two months due to injury. this suggests that the midfielder is more than capable of playing at League Two level.
Edwards stated that “box to box is perfect for my game” which is exactly what is required in the defensive midfield role of Ryan Lowe’s system. He went on to remark that he has “got plenty of energy to get up and down”. Energy is a key component in this system as Jordan Rossiter demonstrated for Bury last year, frequently popping up all over place whilst having an exceptional ability to read the game.
However, it’s not all running and running for Edwards as during 2017/18 he popped up with 7 goals from midfield which helped to ensure the safety of his side. Versatility is another key strength to his game as he is capable of playing in a fullback role as well as to either side of a midfield three.
It is expected that Edwards would be a cheap option but, with a rather unglamorous injury record, this small cost could come with its drawbacks. Is he worth it? The 28-year-old graduated from Bristol City’s academy and has had a spell at Yeovil, so we would suspect location would not be an issue.
Status: Contract offered
Manchester United youngster Ollie Rathbone joined Rochdale in 2016, and has been at the Spotland club ever since. Across the last three seasons, he has primarily been deployed as a central midfielder, though he has also been able to demonstrate his abilities on the left of midfield. As with George Maris, this sort of versatility would be very useful in Ryan Lowe’s system.
The best praise we can give Rathbone is that Rochdale clearly missed him last season when he was unavailable. He missed a spell between January and March through injury, and Rochdale’s midfield balance went out of the team with him. The side won just one of eight games in that time, against eventually relegated Walsall. This run of games also included Rochdale’s 5-1 humbling at Home Park, where even Derek Adams’ side were able to dominate Dale in the midfield areas.
Keith Hill’s sacking may have led to an upturn in fortunes, but this resurgence also coincided with Rathbone’s reintroduction to the side. His ability in attacking areas meant Rochdale were no longer forced to line up with three David Fox-style players in midfield, and he chipped in with a vital goal in a 1-0 win away at Accrington as his side battled successfully to avoid the drop.
Now a free agent, he has been offered a new contract to stay at Rochdale for another season. Argyle ought to be interested, and again Ryan Lowe’s north west connection may play a part. However, it would be a surprise if the player wasn’t in League One next season.
Club: Milton Keynes
After two years at Stadium:MK, Malian international Cissé has been released from the Milton Keynes side as they look to prepare for their return to League One. The defensive midfielder amassed 32 appearances last term in a promoted side, and he provided a grand defensive influence alongside great aerial presence.
Playing all over Europe including the top flights in Spain, France and Belgium, it is unlikely that the move down south would be a large problem for Cissé. Whilst accumulating over 100 appearances in France he demonstrated a great eye for a pass as well as a presence in defence. Standing at just shy of 6ft 5, it is very rare that the midfielder gets outmuscled or beaten in the air.
Could he fit into Ryan Lowe’s system? There must be reservations about his energy and ability to involve himself in a counter pressing game. That being said, there is evidence to show he can play either side of centre back, a very useful asset indeed and with his passing capabilities he could fit the calibre of a Lowe centre back.