Across the last fortnight, Plymouth Argyle’s summer has sparked into life. We cast our eye over the free agents available to pick up during this transfer window.
“If I had the choice to get another one I would certainly do it. It has to be the right one.” Those were the words of Ryan Lowe when asked about Argyle’s pursuit of another striker. Granted, Argyle have Luke Jephcott, Ryan Hardie, Dom Telford and Frank Nouble on the books, as well as the versatile Byron Moore, who can all play up front. But Lowe has never shied away from his desire to add more firepower. Here are ten strikers available for free.
Club: Milton Keynes
Ah, Joe Mason. A name that to Argyle fans will trigger nostalgia and frustration in equal measure. He burst onto the scene at Home Park in 2010, showing great signs of promise in what was a pretty poor team eventually were relegated from the Championship. The next season he was even better still and as Argyle teetered on the edge of liquidation, Peter Ridsdale infamously paid his wages before any other Argyle player to ensure that the club would get a fee for him rather than lose ‘The Ace’ on a free.
From his move to Cardiff on, many fans were convinced we had a future Premier League/England star in the making and that he’d make the club more and more over the years via assorted add ons. Sadly, this wasn’t to be the case. He famously opened the scoring against Liverpool in the 2012 League Cup final, but from there he failed to fulfil the goalscoring promise that he inarguably had.
He jumped from club to club with spells at Bolton, Burton and Wolves proving, if not failures, then certainly not unqualified successes either. Derek Adams certainly tried to sign him at least once (with rumours of a previous loan move) but there are indications he may be more suited to Ryan Lowe’s system. Mason isn’t much bar a poacher, but an excellent one when he’s on form. Deadly runs into the six-yard box are exactly how Lowe wants his strikers to play. He could be a great addition.
Brett Pitman has been linked with Argyle before, and it’s time to do it all over again. The Jersey-born forward has scored goals wherever he has been, but it’s his time at Bournemouth which is the most memorable. During his time at Dean Court, Pitman amassed a total of 96 goals for the Cherries.
Pitman would offer a different dynamic to the Plymouth Argyle front line, as he generally operates a bit deeper than the current Argyle forwards. But that’s not to say he isn’t lethal in the area; with a combination of phenomenal positioning and lethal finishing Pitman is a real asset to any team. The forward is equally as potent with his head as well as from the outside of the area. He’s also a dab hand at set-pieces, and a lethal penalty taker.
Pitman would have been a superb option to have had during the days of poor finishing during the first half of last season. His services are not required as much now as they would have been during the time of Zak Rudden, but it’s clear that Pitman would add a lethal edge to Lowe’s squad.
Club: Mansfield Town
Status: Offered new contract
Nicky Maynard, eh? It is that time of year again where the inevitable speculation regarding ex-Bury players comes into full swing. The former Bristol City forward had his career revived by Ryan Lowe during his time at Bury, as he notched 21 goals in 37 appearances to fire the Shakers to promotion.
Maynard previously had a reputation as a goalscorer during his spells at both Crewe and Bristol City, but it was after this when he struggled to find form. Before his spell at Gigg Lane started in 2018, Maynard had only scored 16 goals in six years. He’s bagged 35 since.
Maynard would without a doubt slot perfectly into the Ryan Lowe system and provide an experienced edge to the Pilgrims’ strikeforce. He’s an excellent finisher within the box and is a handy individual when it comes to a link up play. It wouldn’t be the first time Lowe showed an interest in Maynard whilst in the Home Park hotseat – don’t be surprised to see him take that a step further this summer.
Club: Sheffield Wednesday
There’s no doubt about it. Sam Winnall is one of the most exciting players on this list and would be an invigorating acquisition for Argyle. He came through the youth at Wolves and despite one decent loan spell at Burton, never really looked anything special until his breakthrough season at Scunthorpe: 2013/14. He was the top scorer in League Two and absolutely pivotal in their promotion out of the league at the first attempt.
Promotion wasn’t enough to keep him at the club, however. He joined Conor Hourihane from Argyle and Josh Scowen from Wycombe at Barnsley, who seemed to be making a strategy of plucking the best players from League Two. It worked a treat for them – Winnall stepped up a level without so much as a backward glance. Once again, he bagged in excess of 20 goals as the Tykes went up to the Championship.
He made a solid start in the second tier, earning a big move to Sheffield Wednesday in January 2017, but ultimately it appeared to be a level too high for him to sustain his form. He wasn’t disastrous but never found himself getting much first team football at Hillsborough, and didn’t set the world alight on loan to Derby either. At League One level however, there’s no reason why he’d be anything other than a dream signing. He’d add to our embarrassment of riches in that area following the acquisition of Hardie.
Club: Cardiff City
Appearances: 17 (12 for Cardiff, 5 on loan at ADO Den Haag)
Goals: 2 (1 Cardiff, 1 ADO Den Haag)
Assists: 1 (for Cardiff)
To my untrained eye at least, League One would appear to be the perfect home for Omar Bogle. He’s too good for League Two, as he showed in a prolific spell with Grimsby, but he’s only scored eight Championship goals in 50 appearances for the likes of Wigan and Cardiff. Now released from the latter, he’s after a new home that can accommodate his undoubted talents.
As mentioned, Grimsby is where Bogle made a name for himself. He has 19 goals in total across 27 appearances at League Two level. That’s a better record than, for example, Nicky Maynard managed last season. Ok, yes, Bogle spent the end of last season in a Brits Abroad series with Alan Pardew at ADO Den Haag, but he’d still be a prize in this transfer window. Neil Warnock once saw fit to spend £700,000 on the bloke.
Argyle may have a chance here. Grimsby themselves were hoping for a dream return for Bogle this summer, but manager Ian Holloway ruled that out for financial reasons. One suspects League One Argyle would have more of a budget than their Cleethorpes counterparts, and appeal to the player a little more.
Club: Doncaster Rovers
Appearances: 30 (9 for Doncaster, 21 on loan at Motherwell)
Goals: 4 (all Motherwell)
Assists: 1 (for Motherwell)
You may not recognise Devante Cole, but you’ll know his dad. Only two men have more Premier League goals than Andy Cole – has he passed on those goalscoring genes to his son?
While Andy is mostly associated with Manchester United, it was with their cross-town neighbours in sky blue that Devante started his career. A quick striker, Devante has never quite recaptured the form he showed at Fleetwood, before an ill-fated move to Wigan in January 2018.
Cole would offer further competition for the centre-forward position, but he is a similar type of player to Ryan Hardie. Both like to run off the shoulder and utilise their blistering pace to get on the scoresheet. Would Ryan Lowe want another similar striker on the books?
He ought to at least be interested. The 25-year-old, born in the wealthy Cheshire town of Alderley Edge where many Premier League footballers live, will not be short of offers in League One.
Club: Bradford City
After coming through the ranks at Burnley, Shay McCartan really made a name for himself at Accrington Stanley. Across four glorious years in the north west, in which he made over 120 appearances, he became hot property. By the end of his spell, Accrington had already experienced an unexpected promotion push, and McCartan was quickly becoming one of the most sought-after players in League Two. Then, things went wrong.
See, McCartan is one of many players we have seen over recent years who has made the career-destroying move to Bradford. After that success at Accringon, many would have considered his switch to Valley Parade to be a sensible step up. But Bradford have managed a very talented group of players incredibly badly over recent years. McCartan hasn’t been able to shine, and has eventually been released.
That’s best for both parties. It’s clear to see that McCartan needs a new start, and Argyle may well be the place to do it. The player himself may be tempted by League One football, and Lowe will be impressed by his technical ability and set-piece prowess.
Once considered an England hopeful with 13 caps at U21 level, Watmore’s career has been thoroughly ruined by injuries up to this point. He emerged at Sunderland around the same time as one of England’s world cup stand-outs Jordan Pickford, and not too far behind Jordan Henderson.
Watmore made 40 Premier League appearances, scoring three goals, but injury after injury limited him to just 45 appearances (23 starts) from 2017 to the present day. Finally, Sunderland have given up on a player who could have been the one to lead them back to the Championship, maybe even the Premier League, if only he could find fitness.
There’s no doubting his ability at this level: when fit, he averaged a goal or assist every 150 minutes for Sunderland last season. He’s a fast, skilful dribbler with a habit for driving into the box and shooting at goal.
With the versatility to operate from the wing, he’d be a great addition to the team – a higher quality Byron Moore potentially (sorry Byron…). Distance shouldn’t even be an issue for him, given he’s admitted he is open to playing abroad.
Last season was Armand Gnanduillet’s finest of his career. In the 30 games he played for Blackpool before the season’s curtailment in March, he scored 15 goals – only Peterborough’s Ivan Toney scored more in the division.
The striker was born in Angers, in north-western France, but left his home country in 2013 to join Chesterfield. Only registering a double figure goal tally in the last two of his nine seasons in English football, Gnanduillet’s goals are a new addition to his game.
At 6ft4in, the former Ivory Coast youth international has always been an aerial threat, but his power also helps him to carve out an extra pocket of space in the box. He is deceptively fast too, especially running off the shoulder of the last defender.
However, barring a sensational offer from the Greens, Gnanduillet is unlikely to make the move down to Home Park. Blackpool wanted to keep him, and he left to move up the pyramid to the Championship or an established League One powerhouse – Sunderland are said to be interested. Frank Nouble will occupy a similar role for the Pilgrims as Gnanduillet will for his club.
Club: Coventry City
Argyle may a neat array of strikers on their books, but Jordy Hiwula would be a statement of intent if Lowe were to secure his signature.
Hiwula is now just a few goals away from 50 at League One level by the age of 25, which is no mean feat. He looks like the sort of player that needs just one more good season to convince a Championship side to take him on.
He’s maintained a predatory instinct throughout his career, finding space in the box to finish when the chance comes. But that’s not his main attribute; his acceleration allows him to play off the shoulder of the last defender, much like Ryan Hardie. That’s ultimately where he poses the biggest threat.
Coventry used Hiwula from a wide position, and though he was their top goal scorer in 2019, he didn’t manage to repeat the feat this time around. Yet it’s not always easy to score goals from wide positions – just think about Graham Carey in 2019. That convinced Coventry they could do without him as they prepare for their return to the Championship, but that decision could prove to be short-sighted when we look back over the season in nine months’ time.