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.
Appearances: 25 (16 at Blackpool, 9 at Carlisle)
Goals: 4 (All Blackpool)
Assists: 1 (At Blackpool)
Hull City academy graduate Mark Cullen has been released by Blackpool. He had been a mainstay at Bloomfield Road since 2015 and signed a new contract last year with an option to extend it further. However, he fell out of favour this season following Gary Bowyer’s departure, and that option has not been exercised. In fact, at the end of 2018/19 season he had a spell on loan at Carlisle.
That spell at Carlisle was unsuccessful – Cullen didn’t register a single goal or assist. However, there are some mitigating factors. He only played the full 90 minutes once and, just as he was getting a run in the first team, an injury picked up against Swindon ruled him out for seven games between March and April. Despite this, he remains an undoubtedly talented player. Blackpool fans will remember him fondly for scoring the winning goal against Exeter in the 2016/17 League Two play-off final.
If Cullen can find his feet again, he’d make a superb League Two signing. Certainly one for Ryan Lowe to consider.
Club: Oxford United
Obika may only be 28 years of age, but he is very well travelled. During his time as a youth player at Tottenham, he had 11 different loan spells in total at seven different clubs. In 2014 he found a more permanent home at Swindon as he became one of a number of players to join the Robins from Spurs. Since then, he has had a two-year spell at Oxford, but has since been released.
The ex-England U20s international has played exclusively in League One since he signed for Swindon in 2014. However, it’s not out of the question that he would be willing to drop down to League Two this time around. He played fairly regularly for Oxford at the start of the season, but was cruelly ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a knee injury in October. Given the opportunity to rebuild his career in a lower tier as part of an ultra-attacking side, Obika may jump at the chance.
Obika hasn’t played since coming off the bench in a 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy defeat against Northampton in October. Thus, we cannot be absolutely sure he’d go into the campaign fully fit. However, if he can prove his fitness, he’d be a very shrewd addition.
Club: Charlton Athletic
Appearances: 27 (16 for Charlton, 11 for Mansfield)
Goals: 5 (3 Charlton, 2 Mansfield)
Assists: 10 (7 Charlton, 3 Mansfield)
Nicky Ajose has been released by Charlton following their promotion to the Championship. However, it’s very likely he’d have been let go even if the Addicks failed to beat Sunderland at Wembley last month. There are plenty of attacking options available to Lee Bowyer at The Valley, and as such, Ajose spent the end of last season on loan at League Two Mansfield.
That’s not to say that Ajose is not a talented player. Charlton did, after all, pay just shy of £1 million to secure his services from Swindon three years ago. Furthermore, during his loan spell at Mansfield, he showed his class. He was a regular starter and contributed much, and Mansfield were disappointed when his season appeared to be cut short in late March due to a requirement for knee surgery. He did, however, play for 15 minutes in the second leg of Mansfield’s play-off encounter with Newport.
A player who has had success in the past with a questionable injury record, Ajose is another player in this series who sounds like a classic Derek Adams signing. Whether Ryan Lowe will be forced to look at these left-field choices remains to be seen, but the new Argyle manager will be aware of Ajose’s talents – the player spent the 2017/18 season on loan at Bury.
Club: Rotherham United
Appearances: 45 (3 at Rotherham, 42 at Bradford)
Goals: 7 (All Bradford)
Assists: 4 (All Braford)
David Ball was ‘linked’ to Argyle a few years ago during an age of cryptic social media signing clues from the official club account. However, it turned out that it was a young child accessing the club account that sent Argyle fans into a frenzy, rather than a new signing. Surely the one of the most infamous Argyle social media moments of all time.
A link to Ball this time, however, could be more serious. The player has just been released by Rotherham following their relegation from the Championship. However, he spent the vast majority of last season on loan at Bradford, meaning he has the unfortunate record of suffering two relegations in a single season.
That being said, Ball is far from a bad player, and would still have plenty to offer to a League Two side. One may have expected Bradford to sign the player permanently, but their capture of Clayton Donaldson makes that appear unlikely. Meanwhile, Shrewsbury have been linked with the player, and the opportunity to stay in League One may appeal to the ex-Fleetwood man.
If Argyle could get Ball to sign, for real this time, it would be an excellent piece of business.
Club: Sheffield United
Appearances: 29 (on loan at Bury)
Argyle fans may have only seen Lavery start four times for the Greens, but he is still remembered fondly for his loan spell back in 2013/14. Vital opening goals led to victories against Bury, Oxford and Torquay during the Christmas period, and Argyle would have kept him for longer had parent club Sheffield Wednesday allowed it. He returned north in January, however, and ended up scoring twice for Wednesday against Leeds in a 6-0 win less than a fortnight after departing Home Park.
Since leaving Argyle, Lavery has had a fairly mixed career. He departed Hillsborough to join cross-city rivals Sheffield United in 2016, but has made the majority of his appearances recently during loan spells at Rotherham and Bury. This means he has experienced two promotions in as many years. Following Sheffield United’s promotion to the Premier League, Lavery was released, meaning he now has the chance to settle somewhere, and perhaps challenge for promotion again.
A move back to Argyle may appear to make complete sense. After all, he spent last season on loan at Bury playing under Ryan Lowe. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be Lowe’s first choice for the position. He only made nine starts for the Shakers last term and, with the sale of Freddie Ladapo seemingly impending, Lowe may have other, more expensive options he wishes to pursue.
Club: Wycombe Wanderers
Cowan-Hall is, of course, another player who has had a spell at Home Park in the past. However, Argyle fans remember the 29-year-old slightly differently to the way they reminisce about Lavery. A string of indifferent performances, plus rumours about his attitude, led to Cowan-Hall leaving after just one season to join Wycombe.
It must be said, however, that Cowan-Hall delivered on his potential after leaving Argyle. An excellent spell at Adams Park led to him getting a move to Millwall at the start of 2015 on a two-and-a-half-year deal. That move didn’t work out perfectly, but he was able to return to Wycombe on loan, and then permanently after his Millwall contract was mutually terminated. He’s been a bit-part player this season, however, making many of his 38 appearances from the bench. He has since been released.
Could Cowan-Hall do a job for Ryan Lowe at Argyle? Perhaps. His versatility certainly helps his cause, though one must doubt whether he has the defensive discipline to play as a winger in a 3-1-4-2. As a striker, however, he could be an excellent addition.
Club: Ayr United
Status: Contract Offered
The Scottish Championship may not seem like the most glamourous market when shopping for new players, but don’t let that put you off. Make no mistake: Lawrence Shankland would be a superb addition for Plymouth Argyle. He tore his division to shreds with 34 goals in 41 games last season, and his 29 goal involvements in the league (24G, 5A) made up 58% of his team’s entire regular season total.
Shankland can hardly be considered a one season wonder – he posted similar goalscoring figures in 2017/18 as Ayr won automatic promotion from the Scottish League One. As such, it seems pretty clear that he is ready to take the next step in his career. His talents have indeed been spotted south of the border. Sunderland are believed to have offered the player a contract, but there is reported interest too from Championship sides Nottingham Forest, Hull and Swansea.
Shankland would be a superb addition for Argyle, and is exactly the sort of striker who would thrive in Ryan Lowe’s system. However, it would take some convincing, and an incredible offer, to persuade the player to join Argyle in League Two.
Nicky Maynard joined Bury in September, and it’s fair to say he’s been a revelation. Initially joining on a short-term contract, it didn’t take long for Ryan Lowe to extend his deal until the end of last season. He scored 21 goals in all competitions this season, including 20 in League Two. He slotted into the system perfectly, playing a vital role as Bury secured promotion.
A move to Home Park would make perfect sense. He would, of course, know before signing exactly what the manager expected of him. Furthermore, with his future unclear, a contract at Home Park could provide him with sufficient security as he begins to approach the twilight of his career.
So, could there be any stumbling blocks to this deal? We certainly wouldn’t expect location to be a problem – Maynard has played for a variety of clubs across his career from Bristol City to Aberdeen. Other clubs from higher levels may be interested, of course, but some may be unwilling to gamble on a 32-year-old trying to deliver at a higher level. Keep an eye on the Bury situation though – there’s no guarantee he’ll be available for free.
Club: West Ham United
Appearances: 31 (18 for Rayo Majadahonda, 13 for Lugo)
Goals: 3 (2 Rayo Majadahonda, 1 Lugo)
This would be a surprising addition, but certainly not an impossible one. Toni Martinez started his career in Spain before joining West Ham in 2016. Having failed to make a single league appearance, however, he has since been released by the London club.
Martinez is best known to fans of clubs further down the English football pyramid due to his loan at Oxford United in 2017. Since then, he has had a number of loan spells in his native Spain. Last season he lined up for both Rayo Majadahonda and Lugo, both of whom battled relegation from the Spanish second division.
A creative striker, he could pair well with a more direct partner in Lowe’s 3-1-4-2. While he is a total wildcard option, Argyle did once try to sign him on loan – unsuccessfully – in January 2018 so there is a link. One might anticipate that he’ll return to Spain permanently now his West Ham contract is up, but remaining in England cannot ruled out.
Club: Charlton Athletic
Appearances: 37 (24 at Gillingham, 13 at Charlton)
Goals: 4 (All Gillingham)
Assists: 2 (1 Gillingham, 1 Charlton)
Many of the players listed in our free agents pieces all week could be described as well travelled, but Parker may be more deserving of that title than anybody else. The 28-year-old is now looking for his 14th club after his short-term contract at Charlton was not extended. His list of previous clubs includes Domzale of Slovenia and Red Star Belgrade of Serbia.
Parker, capped 26 times by Antigua and Barbuda, joined Charlton from Gillingham on transfer deadline day in January. He started all three of his side’s play-off games, including playing 90 minutes against Sunderland at Wembley. The player himself said he hoped to stay at the club but, perhaps surprisingly, he was released following the club’s promotion.
So, where could he end up next? Could Argyle be an option? Ryan Lowe ought to be interested, but a deal would appear to be unlikely. Instead, it’s probable that a League One club will swoop for the player, given his successes in the division last season.