Tomorrow the sun will rise over Home Park. It happens every day, so nothing particularly mind-blowing. But underneath, it’ll experience a buzz seldom seen in Plymouth Argyle’s 137-year history.
Yes, Argyle are back in the Championship after a gruelling 13 years. But it’s been even longer since we were blessed with the ‘first day back’ feeling. When Argyle were last promoted to the Championship in 2004, they were ‘rewarded’ on opening day with a 0-0 draw, and had to put up with the visit of Millwall. To shamelessly steal the words from Alanis Morissette’s mouth, it’s like rain on your wedding day.
We’ll cling onto the hope that tomorrow will provide a greater degree of excitement. And we may all have a part to play. Use your favourite turnstile, eat your most trusted meal or wear your lucky pants, because this is important. Remember, a decade ago you’d be forgiven for thinking this significant day would never arrive.
The Green Army had to fight, more than anyone else had ever done at the time, to save their club. To force out the terrifying trio of Brendan Guilfoyle, Kevin Heaney and Peter Ridsdale. And to allow James Brent to swoop in and save the day (with concessions of course – that’s a can of worms I don’t fancy opening). Slowly but surely, the base that allowed Simon Hallett to take the club to new heights was formed.
We’ve had moments in the meantime that will go down in folklore for dubious reasons. The ‘banter era’ if you prefer. It was the time of keep calm and pass to Banton. Of Three Little Birds becoming famous in spite of a deflating defeat. Of Kelvin Mellor and oh! Why did he try to head that?!
There’s a certain gallows humour to it, but I’m relieved to see the back of the era. And when you make your way into Home Park tomorrow, keep that under consideration. Take a moment to breathe, drink it all in, and appreciate the triumphs and tragedies that have come before.
And spare a thought too for the people involved in your Argyle life. The kid who was in primary school 13 years ago and now works full time. The people we’d never met 13 years ago who are now friends we cannot live without. The companions we shared precious seconds with 13 years ago who are devastatingly no longer with us to experience something so special. Think of Paul Mariner, Gordon Sparks and countless others who’d have given an arm and a leg to be at the Theatre of Greens one more time. Especially tomorrow.
From the agony of constant relegation battles, to the downright emptiness of a season spent behind closed doors, via the mesmerising wizardry of Graham Carey, we’ve been through it all. And at least some of those times have been enjoyable – Peter Hartley bundling the ball in at the back post against Portsmouth is a moment that may never be beaten for many. But they’ve all happened with a backdrop of Argyle being ‘on our way’ back. We’re back now.
The talking must now stop. The pints will flow, the Devonport End will be bouncing and the pasties will be delicious as always. But tomorrow, they’ll taste that little bit better.
A journey 4843 days in the making has reached its conclusion. Tomorrow, a new road begins.