With Ryan Lowe confirmed as the new boss, we cast our eye over the free agents available for Plymouth Argyle to pick up during this 2019 summer transfer window.
Club: Crewe Alexandra
Status: released (rejected contract)
Clean sheets: 10
Garratt was released by Crewe after he took too long to accept his contract offer before the season had ended. Thus ended his decade long association with the club, who he signed for as a youth player, after just shy of 250 appearances for the club following four seasons as undisputed first choice wearing the #1 jersey.
Garratt is a classic example of a player who has achieved all he can and needs a positive move to progress his career. At the age of 25, he can still be considered young for a goalkeeper and should have more than a decade of football in him. He has been unfortunate to find himself with Crewe after the crest of their wave broke and they slipped back to mid-table in League Two, but he has still kept 54 clean sheets, better than one every five games.
He made a very early breakthrough but has he peaked already as some have suggested? Perhaps he was overrated as a youngster because of his shot-stopping abilities in a team that was defensively fragile to say the least – he wouldn’t be the first. Now that he finds himself behind a defence that exposes him less, maybe he has fewer opportunities to stand out and there is a greater focus on the rest of his attributes, which still need improving in order to progress his career.
The worry for me is that he resembles Matt Macey too much. A better shot-stopper, but still not vocal enough and is certainly lacking in terms of distribution. This would be far from a bad signing, but he would need improve as a player to become a top keeper in this division, let alone the one above.
Club: Bristol Rovers
Clean sheets: 0
Sam Slocombe has been around a while and is a very accomplished goalkeeper. At 31, he is in what is usually defined as a goalkeeper’s peak years, though it certainly didn’t look like it this year. Caught behind Adam Smith initially and then Jack Bonham, Slocombe was loaned out after losing his place for the third game of the season.
Before August was over, he was loaned out to Lincoln until January but couldn’t force his way in front of two quite average goalkeepers in the league. A season to forget then. But if you were to look past 2018/19, you’d find a more than capable ‘keeper.
From 2013/14 to 2016/17 he was part of three promotion winning squads in four years. First, he started every game as Scunthorpe finished second in League Two 2014, before he finished second one more with Oxford in the same division having been first choice for the majority of the season. Finally, he won the play-offs with Blackpool the next season, helping his side to a 3-1 victory over Exeter that never looked in doubt.
Despite this, Slocombe has never been first choice in League One. He couldn’t hold down the spot competing against Adam Smith last season, Oxford agreed to let him depart for Blackpool after they won promotion, Blackpool likewise. He also lost his place after Scunthorpe were promoted.
Given his past, he could be a ‘keeper to be relied upon as Argyle plot a return to League One, but also could open the door to Mike Cooper progressing further at the same time. Slocombe is certainly an option worth exploring.
Club: Bristol Rovers
Clean sheets: 0
Also released from Bristol Rovers, Adam Smith should be a firm target for Argyle. Putting aside his disgusting role in the Leicester sex-scandal of a few years back, he is more than capable of winning the #1 jersey and leading Argyle back to League One.
Imagine Kyle Letheren on steroids. Boy, can this guy make a save. He first caught the eye (for the right reasons) when he won promotion with Northampton, making some outstanding saves along the way. Having won the player of the year award the previous season, he kept 15 clean sheets and conceded only 46 goals in all 46 league games as his side went on a mammoth unbeaten run on the way to the league title.
Though his spell with Bristol Rovers didn’t work out – particularly because ex-manager Clarke couldn’t make his mind up over which ‘keeper was first choice – he has already been linked with promoted Barnsley and League Two Forest Green. With his excellent qualities as a shot-stopper, cross-claimer and proactive decision maker, he would be one of the best in the league.
Clean sheets: 7
In his first three seasons after signing for Millwall, he appeared in the League One play-off final twice, making an excellent save from Billy Clarke in the second to help them win promotion, before playing a significant role in their near miss with the Championship play-off places. Overall he made over 150 appearances, earning the player of the year award in 2016.
Last season he ranked in the top five for most clean sheets in the Championship, yet he also committed a huge number of errors that eventually cost his side a spot in the play-offs. Last season, he lost his place early on and was eventually released at the end of the year.
For the most part he has been an excellent shot stopper for the past four years. However, he has certainly been helped by Millwall’s defensive approach, which masks some of his other flaws, including his command of his area. Likewise, his kicking has appeared better than it actually is because his team routinely play with two strikers.
It would be quite a drop for Archer, but sometimes moves like these can pay off, especially with a low number of ‘keepers on the move in the EFL this season. It wouldn’t be out of the question for him to back a horse like this one to help him build back towards a place in the Championship within a few years.
Club: Swindon Town
Clean sheets: 7
Of all the ‘keepers on this list, Vigouroux is probably the one who would best fit Lowe’s system. Super shot-stopper: tick. Great distributor: tick. Sweeper-keeper: tick. One of the failure’s of Lowe’s side last season was the his defensive trio and ‘keeper were not good enough at passing out from the back. No such problems here. You’ll struggle to find a ‘keeper who’s better with the ball at his feet in League Two.
While his command of his area is questionable, and his leadership skills are not the greatest, we are looking at a talented individual who could thrive under Lowe if he can encourage him to emerge as a leader at the back.
Yet, he was released mostly because of his falling out with boss Richie Wellens, and Lowe will certainly not tolerate that kind of behaviour, especially after his experience with Bury in 2018. Could be a gem, or a mistake. Hard to tell.
Club: Lincoln City
Status: contract offered
Clean sheets: 6
Had Ian Holloway been appointed as the new manager of Plymouth Argyle, then Gilks arriving would have surely been quite likely. After all, the best years of his career came under the Bristolian, with two Championship play-off final appearances and a season in the Premier League.
At the start of last season, he was still recovering from injury that ended his season in the League One play-offs. Once he recovered, he moved permanently to Lincoln City on a short-term deal and helped them win promotion, conceding just six goals in twelve starts and never more than one-per game.
A super shot stopper, good distributor, solid from crosses and, most importantly, a leader. Argyle lacked that last season. Neither Macey nor Letheren could be described as leaders from the back. How many points could have been saved had the team been led better on the pitch? How many fewer goals would have gone in with a commanding, reassuring voice that kept everybody focused.
Gilks may be 37, but he is still a better ‘keeper than virtually every other in League Two. Free agent goalkeepers don’t come much better than this man.
Club: Newport County
Status: contract offered
Clean sheets: 21
Joe Day is your traditional agile ‘keeper who specialises in reflex saves. Close range or long range, you’d back him to keep it out if he has a chance. He has also developed into a more vocal leader, though there is still work to be done in that regard it seems.
He ended the season with 21 clean sheets and only 61 conceded from 52 matches, an excellent record indeed and his best season to date. Playing behind a more assured defence, he was able to show off more than his shot-stopping abilities this season and instead appeared improved at dealing with crosses.
Yet, Newport’s direct style and the strength in the air of the attacking duo masked his wayward kicking. That would be more of an issue at Home Park when Lowe needs a higher quality of distribution from his players.
Not quite as good as some of the hype would suggest, but he would still be a very good goalkeeper for Plymouth Argyle in League Two.
Club: Coventry City
Clean sheets: 7
Burge may not be the headline candidate for Argyle, but make no mistake that he would be not only a good signing, but a definite improvement upon both Kyle Letheren and Matt Macey. Having progressed through Coventry City’s academy, he finally stepped up to take over as first choice ‘keeper during Coventry’s relegation from League One back in 2016/17,
He then donned the gloves for the next two seasons as his side bounced back at the first time of asking via a play-off final victory over Exeter City and fought valiantly for a play-off place that was just out of reach. Yet, there was certainly a feeling around the club that his position was a potential area for improvement this summer.
Though a good shot-stopper, his leadership and communication have been called into question – the contrast between himself an emergency loanee David Stockdale highlighted the disparity between the two. Similarly, there was a feeling that they could procure a ‘keeper who was better at attacking crosses.
Finally, his distribution is his biggest drawback. He does not appear to be quite on the same level as Macey and Letheren, but Coventry are looking for a player who can help them play out from the back, and Burge does not fit that description. Given Lowe would like this too, it could be a sticking point if Argyle looked into the possibility of this transfer.
Club: AFC Fylde
Status: contract offered
Clean sheets: 20
While all of these goalkeepers are both available and desirable options, Lynch is – on paper – one of the best of the lot. Constantly improving as he has climbed through the non-leagues, and still yet to reach his peak, he certainly has the ability to play in League Two and improve for the next few years.
Though he was not named in the National League team of the season, he was awarded Reusch Goalkeeper of the Year prize for the best non-league goalkeeper in the country. It is hard to argue with that: only two teams conceded fewer goals last season, and only two ‘keepers kept more clean sheets.
Lynch combines athleticism with excellent positioning to make him difficult to beat in goal scoring situations. He also leads his back line well, attacking crosses to ease the pressure on his defence and communicating effectively to maintain concentration levels and reduce errors. His distribution appears to be average, but his qualities in other areas of his game more than make up for it, and we’re not talking about Macey or Letheren levels of kicking anyway.
Unlike the other names on the list, Lynch has already been linked with the club by a reliable source – see our Plymouth Argyle Transfer Centre for more – and Fylde’s failure to win promotion means he is likely to move on now his contract is up. He appears to be an excellent option.
Clean sheets: 14
Joe Murphy may be tied with Gilks as the oldest players on this list, but that shouldn’t put you off this evergreen ‘keeper. Though he may be in the final years of his career, he still has plenty to offer, particularly as Plymouth Argyle chase an immediate return to League One.
In fact, he may be the best candidate for the job. Firstly, having played under Lowe this season and last, he knows and understands his style, so he can help lead the team as they attempt to replicated Bury in 2019/20. Second, his advanced years could help Mike Cooper emerge as first choice in the coming years.
Murphy had a very successful season, having made the League Two team of the year. This says a lot about his performance levels, given only one other top ten side conceded more goals than his Bury defence. With only kept 13 clean sheets in the league, he was nowhere near the top of the list statistically, but that was much down to Bury’s gung-ho approach.
Like others mentioned here, Murphy is a strong shot stopper, a vocal leader of the team and has the intelligence to pick the right moments to come and attack crosses. He may be the best bet for Argyle’s next #1 and given the situation at Bury and his links with Lowe, he might be the most likely candidate too.