If a week is a long time in football, then the things that can go on in a year must have the potential to be devastating. And who, right now, could understand that feeling better than fans of Plymouth Argyle football club?
A year ago this weekend, Argyle had beaten Rotherham United 2-1 to put the club 7th in the League One table, outside the play-offs on goal difference. We were going into an away game against 5th placed Scunthorpe with two games remaining to get into the top 6. Two defeats in the last two games meant it was not quite to be for Argyle that season. Bottling it in the big games? A good job we are all used to it.
Fast forward a year on, and ‘omnishambles’ seems like the only word fit enough to describe what’s going on. Whatever happened to the Argyle that played a half decent football. that suited two of the most technically gifted midfielders in the league in Carey and Lameiras. What happened to the Argyle that could dominate a midfield? What happened to the Argyle who had a defence comprised of players who didn’t look like they’d won a prize to be a professional footballer for a day.
As it turns out, Argyle’s 5-1 defeat away at Accrington Stanley – a woeful summation of the times – featured 6 of the 11 players who started the 2-1 victory over Rotherham a year previous. That’s even without considering Ruben Lameiras who, for reasons I doubt I’ll ever understand, was dropped to the bench in a relegation crunch match. So what exactly has gone wrong for Argyle over the last year?
Well, you would be inclined to point towards the fact that the club refused to pay Sonny Bradley what he wanted. I didn’t think he was irreplaceable, but the fact he is now captaining the side who are top of the league says everything you need to know. Without knowing all the details it would be foolish to talk about the matter as an absolute fact, but it does seem that Sonny was keen to stay and it would not have meant breaking the bank in order to re-sign him.
To me, it’s not a case of who has left but rather who has been brought in. Which of the Summer signings can be deemed a success? Niall Canavan has had a lot of game time, Ashley Smith-Brown has looked good in parts and Freddie Ladapo (who has since undermined his manager on Twitter in the last week) has scored enough goals to make his season more than respectable but Calum Dyson, Conor Grant, Peter Grant, Tafari Moore, Joe Riley and Scott Wootton must all be deemed failures at this point in time. A worrying combination of seemingly indefinite injuries and dreadful performances does not bode well for those on two year deals.
The problem obviously runs deeper than just signings, it’s hardly groundbreaking that a team can be worth more as a unit than the sum of their parts. After all, a large number of those in a successful side last season are still at the club. A season of baffling tactics has ensued, including barely starting last season’s front three together all year. The same has been the case with our midfield trio from a year ago and the constant reshuffling of a questionable back 4 also comes down to managerial decision-making. Persisting with Matt Macey, a goalkeeper obviously bereft of any confidence at all for a number of months is another in an increasingly long list of failures.
It’s all a complete mess off the pitch as well as on it. An uninspiring season at the very best saw the club announce an increase in season ticket prices. Adult fans are now expected to fork out £400 to watch the club every other week. Obviously the updated grandstand is expensive and obviously the team needs investment but I mean, really? Come on. This is basic PR and reflects on the club in a very bad way.
Then, to add to all this nonsense, just a few weeks ago Derek Adams decided to ban The Plymouth Herald from interviewing him before matches. Since doing so, Argyle have lost 5 of the 6 games that they have played, conceding 17 and scoring only 4. This includes throwing away a two goal lead at Blackpool to draw 2-2, too. When you are in the midst of a relegation battle, doing your best impression of Sir Alex Ferguson is not a viable survival solution. I mean, at least in terms of his attitude to the media. An ounce of his football nous and we wouldn’t be in this position.
Make no mistake whatsoever, there is a reason for the club being in the position it is in right now. The failure of 2018/19 sits with Derek Adams and nobody else. When Argyle teams who struggled just to stay in the football league are far and away more likeable than the side you have created, you know something has gone badly wrong. The best we can hope for? An interim for one game to give the players any possible boost that might be enough to see them over the line. Hope that we can do enough on the final day and that results might go elsewhere. Even this I fear may be too little and too late.
You never know what might happen though, I suppose. After all, a week is a long time in football.