After a weekend off, Plymouth Argyle are back in action on Tuesday night as Swindon make the trip down to Home Park. Ahead of kick off, we once again caught up with Rich from the Loathed Stranger podcast for our Opposition View.
First of all, what have you made to your start to the season?
In a word? Draining.
In more than one word? We lost a few important players over the prolonged pre-season and then arguably our most creative and influential midfielder Michael Doughty to the sustainable footwear industry. No matter how often I describe Doughty’s departure it still doesn’t seem right! A huge loss for Swindon.
Obviously everybody mentions the departure of Eoin Doyle but no Town fans begrudged the departure and I’d have been stunned if he managed to maintain the form he enjoyed throughout his season at Swindon.
Although players like Lloyd Isgrove, Kaiyne Woolery, Keshi Anderson and even Luke McCormick weren’t exactly indispensable first eleven players by the end, they were still important squad players who would have had worth (if fit) in League One.
Town opened the campaign reasonably well with 2 wins and a loss but then went on self-destruct with some really concerning defensive displays which led to four league losses in a row.
We had games against our old pals Oxford and Accrington called off due to positive COVID tests before a pleasantly surprising 3 points against Hull which included some of the great play we’ve been used to throughout Wellens’ tenure.
The reality is that the postponements did come at a very good time for Swindon who have endured the aforementioned loss of form and injury problems (which fuelled the fury and conspiracy theories from Oxford United).
The last month has also been played out with the bookies listing Richie Wellens as the favourite for the Salford City job. I remain hopeful that the market has been flooded by Town fans trying to jinx it by putting money on his departure!
Are there any Swindon players in particular we should be looking out for?
Depends on how they’re feeling! It feels like a bit of a new class at Town with players like Jack Payne and Jonny Smith doing a decent job thus far. We’ve not enjoyed great success with our attackers and probably need Brett Pitman to step up sooner rather than later.
Arsenal loanee Matthew Smith has probably been our stand-out player but he’s not a flair player. Does his job effectively.
How did promotion last season feel in the circumstances? And were you able to properly celebrate winning League Two?
It certainly didn’t feel like proper title winning season but at the same time it didn’t really feel fraudulent either. I’d have been happy with automatic promotion regardless of the method.
As you can probably imagine, by the time of the trophy presentation came the celebrations and general mood felt a little flat which was not the fault of the club who really tried to give fans the opportunity to celebrate.
On the pitch, we saw Joel Grant swap Argyle for Swindon over the transfer window. How has he been getting on?
Joel Grant was one of those players who has impressed against us over the years especially last season where he was a nuisance for Plymouth at the County Ground (both times). He’s been on the fringes this season as he catches up with his fitness but he made his full debut last weekend and scored the winner so more of that please.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?
Town tend to set-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ryan Lowe will be fully clued up on what Swindon are all about.
And are there any real weak links on the side you’re worried about?
The new goalkeeper Matej Kovar hasn’t won many of the fans over just yet but the biggest issue has been the defensive line with Zeki Fryers injured. Sadly our more senior players have let us down at times. A young rookie Town got on a free from Reading, Akin Odimayo, is getting more confident with each game he plays.
What have you made of Argyle’s progress from afar since our meeting on New Year’s Day?
Not at all surprising. I am pretty certain Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth would have all gone up over 46 games, but I couldn’t tell you in what order!
The big difference between Plymouth and Swindon, in my opinion, is that Plymouth only lost one key player in Antoni Sarcevic while, Alex Palmer aside, the loanees complemented the squad. Swindon on the other hand have lost Eoin Doyle and Michael Doughty while many of the loanees (especially Jerry Yates and Steven Benda) were absolutely integral by the time the season suspension kicked in. I might be wrong but we’ve had way too much squad turnover for a team that got promoted.
What are your predictions for League One in general this year?
I think the way it’s shaping up at the top half of League One is about right. No massive surprises in the top 10.
I think my prediction picks for promotion at the start of the season were Peterborough, Portsmouth and, erm, Oxford. I had Plymouth in the pack of teams who could easily snatch a Play-Off place or otherwise end up in the comforting embrace of mid-table.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
I will be very happy with 1-1.