Plymouth Argyle have signed a player over the age of 30. I know, I could barely believe it either.

It’s Adam Forshaw who has the dubious honour of being Argyle’s oldest arrival for three-and-a-half years. You must go back to the summer of 2020, and Luke McCormick rejoining the Pilgrims, to find a player older at the time of signing. Forshaw has become the first thirty-something to sign for the Greens since Kieran Agard joined as a free agent in September 2021. It’s safe to say he’ll be hoping to have more of an impact than the ex-Doncaster striker.

Forshaw represents a rare opportunity for me in writing these pieces. Aside from those Argyle already had on loan, he’s the first player I can remember assessing who has already made an appearance for the Greens. The 84 minutes he played against Cardiff City were the culmination of a busy week for Forshaw. His permanent move from Norwich City was only confirmed the previous day. And after a slow start against the Bluebirds, he largely impressed.

What can we expect for the remainder of his stay?


Technical encouragement

Forshaw’s move to Norwich City just didn’t work out. And in a way, it’s surprising that he hasn’t had a better time of things. Having been released by Leeds United at the end of last season, you can’t imagine he’d have been short of offers. But he waited until the end of the summer to get back into the game, arriving at Carrow Road with just six days remaining in the transfer window. Of course, as a free agent he didn’t need to sign during the window at all. But it’s still surprising that, with a Championship offer on the table, it took him so long to find a club.

I suspect that lack of match fitness contributed to his struggles. It took around month after joining for Forshaw to make his league debut, and even that was a fleeting cameo off the bench against Leicester City. Overall, he saw just 185 minutes of league action at Norwich, or the equivalent of just over two games. 45 of those minutes came as a half-time substitute in the Canaries’ 6-2 humbling against Plymouth Argyle. Not a fantastic sign. Then again, it was 2-2 when Forshaw was on the pitch, so maybe we shouldn’t be too harsh.

What’s that? You want to see the highlights of that game again? Good. Me too.
Overall, Forshaw’s limited game time at Norwich makes drawing any conclusions somewhat futile. In statistical terms, 185 minutes is next to nothing. I would therefore encourage you to take some of the numbers you see with more than a pinch of salt. But I do think there are signs, just signs albeit, that he could add some strong technical talent to Argyle’s midfield.

In an admittedly narrow field, Forshaw’s passing stats stick out significantly. The headline figure is that he completed 88% of his passes during his stay at Carrow Road, which is genuinely excellent. And sure, the small sample size helps figures like that, but it’s not as if he was shying away from passing the ball. He completed 60.81 passes per 90 minutes at Norwich, more than any Argyle player has managed this year. Imagine that extrapolated across a whole season.

Player Passes Completed per 90
Adam Forshaw* 60.81
Macauley Gillesphey 53.75
Dan Scarr 46.58
Lewis Gibson 46.47
Julio Pleguezuelo 44.51
Lewis Warrington 42.55

He also posted impressive figures for his long pass success (70%) and his ground duel success (65%). These are even smaller in sample size than his general passing, so yes, you’d expect them to come down as the season progresses. But even if he keeps them relatively high, he’ll still be an asset to Argyle at both disciplines.

Is Forshaw an upgrade on Jordan Houghton? We just cannot say. He hasn’t played enough recently for us to be confident that his numbers will hold up over a longer period of time. On an initial glance though, he looks a similar player in style to Lewis Warrington, and I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Forshaw represents an upgrade on the departed Everton loanee.

Finding consistency will now be key. If Forshaw can stay fit and post similar numbers for the rest of the season, a picture will begin to emerge of an experienced holding midfielder who is vital to Argyle’s cause. David Fox, a deep-lying playmaker formerly of Norwich City, joined Argyle at the age of 32. I just thought I’d mention.

Focusing on the present-day player

In the previous section, I’ve focused a lot on Forshaw’s numbers in a very brief period at Norwich – they’ve certainly played more of a role in this piece than I’d have ideally liked. But isn’t that a bit silly? Forshaw has had a long career. Wouldn’t using the stats from previous spells to increase the sample size give us a better idea as to the sort of player he can be?

Perhaps. Trouble is, there isn’t a lot available that would give us much of an indication as to the player he is today. We could perhaps look at his numbers from last season, when he was playing in the Premier League with Leeds. But that still only equates to 475 minutes in the league. And around half of those were played under Sam Allardyce – it’d be a gross understatement to say Big Sam’s style isn’t an identical match to Ian Foster’s.

The year before is a little more encouraging. He made 22 Premier League appearances in 2021/22, totalling 1,529 minutes of action. Sadly, I’m not sure that can be of any relevance either. I mean no disrespect to anybody when I say this, but if Forshaw was still a Premier League standard holding midfielder, Plymouth Argyle wouldn’t have been able to sign him for free from a Norwich side just seven places above them in the league.

Try to go back further and you’ll have even less luck. After playing 45 minutes against Charlton Athletic on 28th September 2019, Forshaw suffered a potentially career-ending hip injury. His next competitive appearance came against Crewe Alexandra in the EFL Cup on 24th August 2021, nearly two years later. He then went on to feature in the top flight that season. That Forshaw was able to come back and play in the Premier League after such a long absence is nothing short of a miracle.

You can probably split Forshaw’s career into pre-injury and post-injury chunks. A lot of the football he’s played on both sides has been encouraging. The fact remains though that, in the last five seasons, he’s made a total of 38 appearances in league competition. None of that is his fault, but there really isn’t enough evidence of the sort of player he’s been since his elongated absence from the game.

So yes, when reading about Forshaw, I’ve been encouraged by him winning League One Player of the year in 2014. I love the fact he’s made more top flight appearances than the rest of Argyle’s squad put together. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching goals he’s scored in the last decade, such as the one below.
But ultimately, they all point to the sort of player Forshaw was, not the one he is today. It’s the latter that will ultimately matter for Argyle’s prospects this season and beyond. I’ve got no doubts about Forshaw’s character – someone who has come back from a traumatic injury must be made of stern stuff. He’ll have to dig deep again to prove he hasn’t lost his touch.

The experience factor

Forshaw is on the older side. Yes, I laboured the point earlier. On this occasion though, it’s far from a bad thing. In fact, this has been talked up as the main benefit to Argyle signing Forshaw in many quarters.

Let’s run a quick calculation to examine why Forshaw’s experience could be so useful. By looking at the number of minutes played by players of each age, we can calculate the average age of minutes played for every team in the league. This works better than simply looking at the average age of each squad, because it acts as a weighted average of those who actually play, and stops the numbers being skewed by clubs who stockpile young players with no real intention of getting them on the field.

The table below is a snapshot from before the past weekend’s Championship fixtures (i.e. from before Forshaw’s arrival at Home Park). It demonstrates how Argyle have been the fourth youngest team in the league across the campaign.

Team Average Age of Minutes Played (years)
West Bromwich Albion 27.74
Sheffield Wednesday 27.38
Millwall 27.09
Norwich City 27.07
Preston North End 26.98
Queens Park Rangers 26.84
Cardiff City 26.70
Ipswich Town 26.66
Huddersfield Town 26.55
Rotherham United 26.42
Birmingham City 26.11
Coventry City 25.84
Stoke City 25.65
Bristol City 25.64
Leicester City 26.64
Hull City 25.58
Watford 25.54
Middlesbrough 25.27
Swansea City 24.90
Southampton 24.62
Plymouth Argyle 24.40
Leeds United 23.88
Blackburn Rovers 23.85
Sunderland 22.73


Now, there’s no reason to sign older players for the sake of experience alone. Having a young squad can be highly beneficial in its own right. Indeed, two of the three teams younger than Argyle this season are above them in the league, and the other only find themselves below the Greens on goal difference. Argyle have their own system of signing young players who are undervalued in the market and turning them into vital assets. It’s worked for them for years.

Nonetheless, it’s been blindingly obvious at times this season that Argyle have been crying out for some cooler heads. Had someone with the experience of Forshaw been on the field, perhaps Argyle wouldn’t have conceded within 30 seconds of having their own goal disallowed against Southampton. Perhaps they wouldn’t have conceded an injury time winner in the reverse fixture and against Birmingham City. Perhaps they wouldn’t have turned a lead into a deficit within five minutes against Middlesbrough. I haven’t even mentioned the three goals in 15 minutes in Leicester.

There will be times this season where Forshaw’s influence is impossible to quantify. We’ll hardly be able to watch him play and think “yep, we’d have definitely conceded then if he hadn’t slowed the game down.” He may therefore not get an awful lot of credit, but if Forshaw can bring some calm to the chaos in the middle of the park, he’ll go a long way to being a successful addition.