When Chris Errington asked Ian Foster about the lack of attacking football in Argyle’s 3-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night, Foster noted that many of the team’s successful home games prior to his arrival would have been against teams far worse than the one they just played.

In some sense, he is correct. Though, it would be wise if someone could point out to him that Argyle beat Norwich 6-2 at home this season and before the West Brom game, Norwich were just one point behind them.

The big issue, of course, is the lack of ambition. How does it sound to a player sitting in the changing room after that game to hear the manager telling anyone who is listening that we should just be grateful to be here?

It is totally at odds with the Plymouth Argyle of previous years. Everyone is aware of Steven Schumacher’s attacking success with the club, and one of the most endearing facts about the team this season is that they have been unafraid of everyone, regardless of opposition.

Okay, you won’t win every game like that. But this is the Championship. It seems a long time ago since that Norwich game, but the entertaining football of the recent past. No longer can we expect Plymouth Argyle to beat the best teams in the division, but rather we should all be grateful just to bask in the greatness of them. 

Truly, the team should bow down to such footballing greats as Jed Wallace and Alex Palmer. Good footballers, of course. No doubt about it. Unbeatable? Do me a favour.

The press conference, ultimately, is a sign of his immaturity. This job is so much bigger than anything he has ever done before. Remember, in the past ten years, Foster’s only coaching experience at clubs in England was at Coventry and Portsmouth. And that was a long time ago.

Coaching various groups of kids for England and sunning yourself with players out for a payday in Saudi Arabia does not set you up to compete in one of the strongest football leagues in Europe. It’s ruthless, and he does not look comfortable while the lights are shining brightly.

It would be wise to look at what’s happened at Millwall, with the fellow Championship strugglers sacking Joe Edwards, having appointed him only in November 2023. Some issues cited in the local media have been his poor performances in press conferences and his inability to get players on board with what he wants. Sound familiar?

It would be a lot easier to bear if not for a few key reasons. 

The first is that the board promised, explicitly, that we would appoint a manager with a similar ethos to the previous campaign. This is what Simon Hallett said in his New Year message on January 3rd: “We are looking for a replacement, but a new helmsman does not imply a new ship, a new crew or a change of course. We have in place a clear footballing philosophy, a clear set of values and a clear mission, all driven by clear structures and processes. Steven’s successor will be someone who embraces and values that clarity, not someone who wishes to impose his own values on the club to steer it in a different direction.”

Well, I can’t imagine Steven Schumacher ever coming out to the media and telling them we should be content because West Brom are half decent and in the past we’ve not beaten teams as good as them here. Maybe we hadn’t, but we’d at least have tried.

So is the process taking this long to implement? If there was no new ship, crew or change of course then why would there be such a drastic change in style? Argyle have never tried to play with such little intent in the last few years and the complete switch up in style has meant that clearly the footballing philosophy has changed.

So did the club lie to us, did Foster lie to the club, or did Neil Dewsnip get his own way and appoint one of his mates?

The other big issue, having watched every minute of Ian Foster’s Argyle career so far, is the inability or unwillingness to change when things are not going well. Concerningly, his one go to move is to switch the wing backs. And that’s it. 

If you watched him closely against West Brom, you’d have seen no inkling to change things before their second goal went in. No conversations with coaching staff (the one member of that staff), no speaking to the bench, no substitutions preparing. So did he think things were going well, then? Or did he not know what to do, or trust his squad.

Joe Edwards and Jordan Houghton, who came on eventually, were both playing regularly when Argyle were in similar form under Schumacher. Are they Championship level players? Maybe not. Should they be coming on while the team looks that bad? Absolutely. Edwards and Houghton have never played in a team performance as bad as that this season, so how can they do any worse?

The third key reason – linked to the above – is his over reliance on players he has coached before. Lino Sousa offers extremely little with apparently no idea where he is supposed to be on the pitch. Alfie Devine has struggled, Darko Gyabi looks too raw for regular football at this level and Ashley Phillips has had mistakes in him leading to goals every game for a little while now. All will probably be good players, but the insistence on playing them constantly now when we won’t even see the benefit long term and they aren’t even playing well is tough to watch.

There’s just so many factors that make the current times look like a struggle. Lose at Middlesbrough and at home to Ipswich and I worry what the state will look like for Ian Foster. I’m not calling for him to be sacked, but I am outright concerned.

When the team was thrashed 4-1 by Bristol City this season, the game that followed was the stunning 6-2 win over Norwich. And then a competitive 1-1 draw at Hull. The performances that followed brought back faith and support in the team and setup.

Ian Foster needs to do the same, and quick. But if Saturday goes badly, expect a lot of comments about the extra time Middlesbrough had to prepare for the game. Oh, and don’t expect to enjoy the football much. It looks like this is what we’ve signed ourselves up for, for now.