Plymouth Argyle are starting to piece their squad together for the 2021-22 season. It’s therefore time for us to start looking at the free agents who may be available to sign during this summer transfer window.
Ryan Lowe loves signing strikers, that much is clear. Even last season when reinforcements at the back seemed paramount, Lowe went and nabbed Niall Ennis from Wolves in the winter. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lowe, as we know, is an attack-minded coach, and Ennis has made what many would consider to be a positive start at Home Park.
So, whilst Argyle already have three strikers on their books, you’d expect more to be added before the transfer window draws to a close. Here are ten who will be available for free.
Club: Cambridge United
Status: Offered new contract
When Argyle fans logged onto Twitter the Sunday morning after the season ended, we were truly shocked to see reputed journalist Alan Nixon linking the Greens with a move for…wait for it, Paul Mullin. Nixon is no two-bit gossiper; his information is usually rock solid and he rarely makes a firm prediction that doesn’t turn out to be correct. This made it all the more staggering that Argyle’s interest was legit.
For one thing, many fans were wanting to prioritise a defender. Now we’ve signed three of them, adding a fourth top quality striker seems a much more exciting prospect. Mullin would certainly be that. He’s coming off not just the best seasons in his history but surely one of the best individual seasons in League Two history. He scored 32 league goals, the most any striker has ever netted since the competition rebranded in 2004.
Surely able to step up to the next level, he was held in such high regard by Cambridge than they even named one of their stands after him (albeit only until the end of the season). In truth, had Nixon not tweeted what he had, Mullin would probably fall into the ‘too good to be true’ category. As it is, Argyle have a sniff.
Club: Mansfield Town
Appearances: 43 (21 for Mansfield, 22 on loan at Newport County
Goals: 7 (4 Mansfield, 3 Newport)
Assists: 2 (both Newport)
Another player with ties to Ryan Lowe at Bury, the 34-year-old managed 35 goals for Bury and Mansfield over two seasons prior to last season. The former Cardiff man struggled during the 2020/21 campaign with the Stags, scoring just three goals in 17 appearances as he was sent out on-loan to fellow League Two side Newport.
His form at the Exiles wasn’t too impressive either, netting two and assisting a further two in 19 appearances. The veteran did however score the decisive goal to take County to the Play-Off final; a 119th minute winner against Forest Green in the semi-final of the format.
An experienced forward, or even a young inexperienced forward with potential feels more likely for Argyle this summer due to wage restrictions and minutes expectations. As such, Maynard may fit the bill. Whilst by no means a brute or prolific in the air, Maynard is good with the ball at his feet, possessing pace and a poachers finish in his skillset. In a side like Argyle’s that create a lot of chances every game, it could take someone like him to make the difference off the bench next season.
Club: Oldham Athletic
Status: Offered new contract
Following largely uneventful spells with the likes Fleetwood and Kilmarnock, McAleny took like a duck to water to League Two last season, firing 19 goals in all competitions for Oldham. The former Everton man made a name for himself in the Football League following a loan spell at Oxford from the Toffees during the 2016/17 season, netting a blistering 10 goals in 14 starts, which included hat-tricks against Chesterfield and Bury.
The 28-year-old can play anywhere across the front line, primarily being suited to a role as a central forward or a second striker. His versatility could prove to be of real interest for Ryan Lowe who could use him in a variety of positions depending on opponents or match situation. Averaging just 10 passes per game, it’s likely that McAleny is more of a poacher sort of forward like Luke Jephcott rather than a target man who builds up play by holding the ball and playing it out wide.
With Oldham finishing a disappointing 18th in League Two last season, McAleny is likely to want another crack of the whip in League One and a club like Argyle would do well to gamble on a versatile player such as him showing such form on a consistent basis.
If Argyle are looking to spend a reasonable amount of money on a striker this summer, they could do a lot worse than look at 32-year-old Sam Baldock. He’s been a stalwart of the English Football League for over a decade now, with a brief 5 games (with no goals) for Brighton being his only taste of Premier League experience.
In truth, his spells at both Brighton and Reading haven’t gone quite as well as he’d hoped since moving to the Championship in 2014. His best season by far was the Seagulls’ promotion season of 2016/17 when he got 11 goals from 31 games. Otherwise, and especially for Reading, he has failed to get many goals or really establish his place in the side.
League One level however is where he has historically been electric. The last time he was in this league he won the golden boot for title winners Bristol City as well as having had previously handy spells for Milton Keynes. There are questions to be asked about whether he can reach that same level 7 years later, but he’d certainly be at the very least a handy player to have on the books.
Club: Rotherham United
Appearances: 40 (14 for Rotherham, 26 on loan at Fleetwood Town)
Goals: 4 (all Fleetwood)
Assists: 3 (1 Rotherham, 2 Fleetwood)
Proven League One operator Kyle Vassell would add an extra dimension to Argyle’s attack. While both Frank Nouble and Ryan Taylor were unsuccessful in Ryan Lowe’s system, Vassell can continue to provide a goal threat while offering greater creativity and passing during build-up phases.
Though not an out-and-out finisher, he would bring with him a keener finishing touch than previous strikers intended to aid Argyle’s build-up play. His strength and powerful dribbling would offer a different option to all the other strikers at the club.
Though another striker is not the primary target this summer, spending a bit extra on a player like Vassell could well pay off and help Argyle avoid another prolonged period of wasted chances during the upcoming season.
Club: Coventry City
Biamou has been a fan-favourite for Coventry across the last four years. That’s probably down to his presence in the side coinciding with two promotions from League Two to the Championship – surely enough to put anybody in the supporters’ good books.
The admiration wasn’t necessarily down to his goalscoring, however. Across 116 appearances at Coventry since his move from Sutton United back in 2017, he’s scored 26 times. It’s not a woeful return, but it’s hardly prolific. Indeed, speak to Coventry fans and they’ll tell you he offers a good physical presence, perhaps suggesting he’d be a similar presence to the aforementioned Nouble should he sign on at Home Park.
That’s not to write him off – indeed, it was Lowe himself who signed Nouble, and an improved version in the form of Biamou may appeal. But it’s worth waiting on this one for now; you’d expect some of the more accomplished finishers on this list to be closer to the top of Argyle’s priorities.
Appearances: 29 (2 for Watford, 27 on loan at CSKA Sofia)
Goals: 3 (all Sofia)
Never has a player made his Liverpool debut at a younger age than Jerome Sinclair. Aged 16 years and six days when he came on against West Brom in a September 2012 League Cup tie, unfortunately he has never lived up to the hype surrounding him at a young age.
£4m was paid by Watford when they signed him from Liverpool four years later, but he only made nine appearances for the Hertfordshire outfit. Five loan spells rendered just six goals in total, with the last coming as a team-mate of Graham Carey at CSKA Sofia.
The Birmingham-born forward is a quick and powerful player who idolised Thierry Henry growing up. What he hasn’t added to his game to rival the great Frenchman is goals, scoring just once in 41 games over the last two seasons.
Sinclair could be an interesting addition to Argyle’s strong line-up of strikers. He would be unlikely to start, but if he rediscovers his early potential he could turn into a devastating player at League One level.
A year back, Hiwula would have seemed a statement signing for a newly promoted League One club. Yet, with new wage limits put in place, he struggled to find a club until after the season had started, signing for Portsmouth.
That summer, we also listed Hiwula in our list of free agent strikers, describing him as a player who needed “just one more good season to convince a Championship side to take him on” after scoring 46 goals at League One level at a rate of one every four appearances. Yet, Portsmouth only granted Hiwula a single league start as they struggled to fit him into the starting eleven behind their other favoured options.
As a result of what must be one of the worst seasons of his career, Hiwula’s stock is considerably lower than last summer. But players often go through these phases in their career only to bounce back after being written off. In the right system – one which Hiwula had thrived in with Fleetwood – he could be just the latest player to prove the old adage: form is temporary, class is permanent.
Club: Coventry City
Not the first player on this list, or indeed in all of these lists, to impress for Coventry at League One level before not quite being able to cut it in the Championship. Sierra Leonean striker Bakayoko started his career at Walsall, but it was indeed with the Sky Blues that he really made his name, making 54 League One appearances in all as his side were promoted at the end of the truncated 2019-20 season.
This season has been much more of a challenge for the 25-year-old, mainly due to his inability to command a starting place. He made just 17 appearances in all competitions, 14 of which came from the bench. Additionally, he was subbed off in the other three, meaning he didn’t complete 90 minutes once across the entirety of the campaign.
Bakayoko hasn’t exactly been a prolific goalscorer across his career. However, you’d expect him to drop back down to League One next season, and being back in familiar surroundings could seriously benefit the player. There are worse options out there for Lowe.
Club: Queens Park Rangers
Appearances: 39 (4 for QPR, 14 on loan at Charlton Athletic, 21 on loan at Accrington Stanley)
Goals: 4 (1 Charlton, 3 Accrington)
Assists: 3 (2 Charlton, 1 Accrington)
Paul Smyth, not to be confused with Paul Tisdale’s favourite menswear brand, is a Northern Irish international striker, just released by QPR. While he never broke through at Loftus Road, he is returning from a successful loan spell at Accrington, who are said to be interested in bringing him back.
Smyth is not a typical lower-league striker. He’s not very quick, nor a physical presence, nor a natural goalscorer. A ‘second striker’ in the mould of Dennis Bergkamp, Smyth likes to drop off the front line and find spaces between the lines. From there, he can use his powerful shot to score himself, or play it to teammates in advanced positions.
That could be a good fit alongside our other strikers. Jephcott, Hardie and Ennis prefer to run off the shoulder and stretch the defence – that would leave space for a player like Smyth to do his thing. He could prove an interesting addition to the Argyle side.