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.
Defensive midfield could be key. Argyle have used a few players in the “1” role in Ryan Lowe’s “3-4-1-2” across the last two years, but none have really claimed the position as their own. Conor Grant and Joe Edwards have been utilised, but they both excel far more in separate positions. And after Tyrese Fornah flattered to deceive there last season, the need to sign a quality player to protect the back three is paramount. Here are ten Argyle could snap up for free.
Club: Ipswich Town
Emyr Huws hasn’t been the luckiest man in the world. Destined for big things when he joined Manchester City aged 16, injuries and bad luck have meant he’s never lived up to his talent.
Since making his debut for Northampton nine years ago, Huws has played for six different clubs, but he’s only racked up 30 appearances in a season once. The managers who brought him to both Wigan and Cardiff, Uwe Rösler and Paul Trollope respectively, were sacked shortly afterwards, and he failed to click with their successors.
At his most recent club, Ipswich Town, injuries have meant he’s only been able to make 31 appearances over the course of his four-year contract. At his best, Huws is a strapping box-to-box midfielder with an eye for the spectacular – winning Birmingham’s Goal of the Season Award in 2014 for a thundering 30-yard strike.
There is a reason Huws has 11 caps for the senior Welsh national team – he’s a very talented player. However, could he do it over a full season?
Club: Northampton Town
Status: Contract rejected
It was a pretty dismal season for Northampton Town as they feebly went back down to League Two in their first campaign back up. One man was a clear bright spot for the Cobblers though and that man was Ryan Watson. Watson managed the impressive feat of being top scorer from defensive midfield with nine goals as well as winning the player of the season by a landslide.
Two of those came against Argyle, with a long range shot and a toe-poke finish consigning us to defeat on a pretty dreadful Tuesday evening in March. He has been offered a deal to stay at the club but he’s pretty clearly better than League Two level and it’s only really a question of which League One side will take him.
Is there a chance we get outbid? It’s certainly possible but so far, Ryan Lowe has shown he’s prepared to spend big this summer in order to plug the weaknesses in the side. Centre back was one but defensive midfield is certainly another. Watson can control games from deep, pass the ball and have a pop from range. Surely, one of the outstanding candidates in this list.
Club: Milton Keynes
Some say never go back but Argyle have proved that saying to be nonsense in recent years. Gary Sawyer for one has had a second spell just as successful as his first, to say nothing of Wotton and McCormick. Jordan Houghton however, an obscure loanee from the back end of the 15/16 season, seems a less obvious candidate for a return. But that’s not to say he couldn’t be a useful addition to the squad.
He has played consistently in the role we’d be looking for, a regular for Milton Keynes for nearly two years under Paul Tisdale and Russell Martin. A playmaker first and foremost, Houghton would look to control the game from deep but he can defend too, a far cry from the somewhat lightweight player who we briefly saw at Home Park.
There is perhaps a slight concern around his release from MK and the fact that despite his big part in their promotion from League Two, he was often restricted to substitute action during their good run in 2021. Nevertheless, manager Martin has big plans for the season to come and has signed a lot of big names. It doesn’t mean Houghton isn’t a handy player for a side looking to push on into mid table.
Club: Peterborough United
Despite never being a regular at Sheffield United and most recently Peterborough, Louis Reed has still managed to rack up over 100 appearances at League One level. The 23-year-old made just 12 starts for Posh last season, which included an impressive brace on the final day of the season in a 4-1 win over Doncaster.
Reed appears to be the perfect fit on paper for a Ryan Lowe side. Technically good with the ball, the former Chesterfield loanee boasted a 91% pass success rate in his own half (83% overall) as he looks to pick up the ball in his own final third and progress the play. The Englishman is very similar to Tyrese Fornah in his style of play and would likely be an upgrade on the Nottingham Forest loanee.
Club: Doncaster Rovers
To say that Madger Gomes’ season was derailed by injury would be an understatement. After starting each of Doncaster’s opening 10 games in all competitions, the Spaniard was then sidelined for the next 14 matches due to hamstring troubles. The former Liverpool academy product made an explosive start to the season, scoring in each of Rovers’ four opening games. Following his return from injury against Lincoln at the end of January, the 24-year-old was restricted to just four starts and a handful of appearances from the bench.
A combative midfielder, Gomes can not only play in defensive midfield but as an advanced midfielder too and against Crewe, even played as a forward. His pace and power make him a difficult proposition for opponents in the middle of the park, often making bursting runs forward, carrying the ball to link midfield and attack. Certainly one of the more attacking options on this list, he would prove to be an interesting and versatile option should he sign.
Club: Milton Keynes
Status: Offered new contract
Josh McEachran was given his Premier League debut by Carlo Ancelotti as a 17-year-old – how can little old Plymouth Argyle be linked with such an illustrious talent?
Unfortunately, McEachran never became the player Ancelotti and Chelsea fans thought he would. The 28-year-old has enjoyed a nomadic career, including the compulsory Chelsea youngster loan spell with Vitesse in the Eredivisie.
Most recently playing half a season for MK Dons in League One, McEachran is a diminutive left-footed midfielder whose strengths lie in his passing and ability to carry the ball. A team that emphasises possession would love to have someone who moves the ball around as intelligently as McEachran.
The problem with McEachran is his injury record. The worst injury was his most recent, rupturing his cruciate ligament while playing for Birmingham last year. He is yet to prove his fitness over a full league campaign.
At Brentford, McEachran often played in the same midfield as Lewis MacLeod. If Argyle were to sign him, he might have a similar crutch – good when he plays, but let down by his fitness.
When Josh Scowen gave his first interview after joining Sunderland, he indicated that his decision to drop down a division was only meant to be a temporary hiatus from the Championship. Things haven’t panned out that way.
To the surprise of some, but delight of others, Scowen was allowed to leave the club over the summer, continuing the recent decline of his career that started so promisingly when he broke into Wycombe’s first team aged 17. He was a regular starter in central midfield alongside Conor Hourihane as Barnsley won promotion in 2016, complimenting his style well, before joining QPR in 2017 after turning down a new deal.
Though he was an ever-present in his first season, the next he was a squad player and Sunderland eventually snapped him up. He wasn’t universally appreciated on Wearside for his passivity in possession – his goalscoring record isn’t outstanding. However, his consistent passing accuracy and pressing of opposition players (among the best for League One midfielders last season for passing accuracy and tackles per-90) enables other, more creative players to shine.
He’s not a player that would likely do well in a sitting midfield role, and starting him alongside Mayor would not solve the creativity imbalance between the left and right wings, but he would add greater stability and leadership in midfield. It was sorely lacking in an inexperienced squad last season.
Appearances: 22 (on loan at Wycombe Wanderers)
Adeniran seems to be the sort of player who has suffered from the Premier League’s ability to stockpile players in academy teams. He started his career at Fulham and impressed, making his Championship debut at the age of 17 as a substitute. He also represented England at U17, U18 and U19 level. Then, on transfer deadline day in 2017, he moved to Everton and his career seemed to stall.
In the season just gone, he’s spent some time on loan at Wycombe in the Championship, which has at least given him the taste of senior level football again. He was a bit-part player under Gareth Ainsworth, but made a reasonable number of appearances. And the Chairboys’ strong run at the end of the season seemed to coincide with Adeniran having a sustained spell in the side.
He’s still only 22, and like many on these lists, Ryan Lowe may be tempted by the obvious Merseyside connection.
Club: Colchester United
Status: Contract rejected
Stevenson is a player who will be hoping to make a better choice now he has once again outgrown his surroundings. He started his career at Coventry, and was impressive whilst they spent time in the bottom two tiers of the EFL. He did enough to earn himself a move to Wolves in 2018, but things didn’t work out for him at Molineux.
In fact, he was shipped out immediately on loan, first to Colchester and later to Wolves’ Spanish affiliate club (and now extinct) Jumilla. Later, just around a year after his move to Wolves, he rejoined Colchester on a permanent deal. And he’s impressed. Across his two spells he’s made a total of 97 appearances, and has now rejected a contract extension as he looks to move up through the pyramid again.
He’s been linked with Doncaster but Argyle, hoping to be an upwardly-mobile League One club, could be the ideal destination.
Club: Swindon Town
After one senior appearance at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea Anthony Grant has been at his fair share of clubs, but it has been his latter clubs who have profited from him the most. A stalwart defensive midfielder, Grant has collected player of the season accolades on two occasions at Port Vale and most recently at Swindon Town.
The question that must be raised in terms of Grant has to be his age; at 34 one has to wonder how many seasons he has left in him. But, in spite of his age, Grant accumulated a total of 33 League One appearances which puts his tally to 393 League One games. It is hard to deny the level of experience that the former Swindon Town man would bring to the Pilgrims.
Successful recent spells at both Swindon and Shrewsbury would indicate that the London-born midfielder is yet to start his decline, making him an interest prospect for Ryan Lowe and his team. And as we know, an oldie can always become a goldy. David Fox, anyone?
Grant demonstrates an interesting, presumably cheap, option who would offer Ryan Lowe a lot of experience.