Derek Adams is no longer the right man to manage Plymouth Argyle. There, I’ve said it. My colours are nailed to the mast. If we reach the end of the season and have debates about how we felt about the management situation throughout the year, let it be known that, at this point, I finally lost faith in the current incumbent’s abilities and completed my conversion into the ‘Adams out’ camp.
And as someone who has been a huge fan of the Scotsman for the vast majority of the time he’s been at Home Park, that is a very difficult thing to say. In all the time I’ve been able to regularly watch Argyle, the best times by far have come under the stewardship of Adams. At one stage, after so many ‘nearly’ moments, I wondered if I’d ever actually see Argyle win promotion before Adams comfortably achieved that feat in his second season. In addition to that, as far as individual moments are concerned, I do wonder if anything I see on a football pitch will ever beat the pure euphoria following Peter Hartley’s late winner in the play-offs against Portsmouth two years ago. Adams’ celebration was itself a sight to behold, and it epitomised the togetherness within the team as the club prepared for only its second ever appearance at Wembley. That evening as a whole was a truly joyous experience, made possible by Adams’ relatively successful first season.
I am, however, a fan of Plymouth Argyle above all else, and recognise that no man is bigger than the club. That is why my dwindling support for Adams has finally broken away from the thread it was hanging by. Put simply, I have lost all faith in Adams’ ability to turn around Argyle’s fortunes this season, and it feels as though the club needs to find a new man in the dugout in order to salvage any success at all from this campaign.
Whilst the promotion year was impressive, the foundations had already been set by Adams’ predecessor John Sheridan, and an improvement of two places in his first year, and three in his second are hardly anything to shout about in isolation. Perhaps the crowning glory of Adams’ reign, therefore, is the completely unexpected success of last season, and the fact he has shown he is able to recover from horrendous starts is perhaps the only feather he has in his cap at present. However, as this season unfolds, it is becoming more and more apparent that last season’s successes were as much down to luck as they were to managerial judgement. The 4-3-3 formation which was so successful in the second half of last season was clearly not Adams’ first choice of system, and with the benefit of hindsight it appears the necessity to change things led to the manager stumbling upon a system that worked. From there, whether you believe it to be a facet of his personality or not, Adams (quite rightly) allowed stubbornness to take over – with the team exhibiting promotion form, there was no need to change things, and the Greens reaped the rewards as a result.
This season, however, the successes of that system have been nowhere to be seen. This either means that Adams has decided not to utilise a system he knows works, which would demonstrate an astonishing level of incompetence, or, more likely, that he has tried to replicate this success without understanding why his system was so successful, which would back up the theory that he was fortunate to come across it in the first place. Either way, it’s very difficult to have any confidence that Adams will be able to turn things around to the extent he managed last year.
In addition, the stubbornness that contrived to serve Argyle so well last season has negatively impacted them this time around. Whenever Argyle have put in a performance we can regard as even slightly above diabolical this season, Adams has stuck with much the same system for the following game in the hope they can repeat it. This was demonstrated following the games against Bristol City, Millwall and AFC Wimbledon, where Adams named an unchanged side for the following league fixture on each occasion, leading to defeats away at Coventry, Portsmouth and Oxford respectively. That is indicative of a man unwilling, or unable, to trust himself to come up with something new, and suggests further that he has no desire to pick teams to counter specific threats of certain opposition.
That is why I simply cannot see, without a large degree of fortune, how Adams can turn things around this season. This puts the board at Home Park in a difficult situation. Again, speaking with the benefit of hindsight, handing Adams a five-year deal before the start of this season seems like a terrible piece of business, although few were complaining at the time, suggesting that a matter of months ago the fans and board had complete faith in the manager. However, should Simon Hallett share the view that Adams is unable to make a success of this season, he has a big decision to make before he even assumes the chairman role. Will he be ready to relieve Adams of his duties? It may ultimately depend on the depth of Hallett’s pockets.
Overall, this was the column I never particularly wanted to write. When times are good, having Adams as the manager of this football club truly is a joy. From day one he had understood that he manages a football club rather than a football team, and his ability to make a mockery of opposition managers in the press is particularly enjoyable when he can back it up with results on the pitch. However, with so much work put in to turn Argyle around over the last decade which finally saw the club clinch its first promotion in 13 years two seasons ago, it would be disastrous for that work to be undone with relegation back down to League Two. I would desperately like to see Derek Adams be the man to turn around Argyle’s fortunes this year, but with no signs that he is able to do that at present, it’s time to hand over the reigns to somebody who can.