Home of the Pilgrims

Images by Andy Sinne & Rob Catchpole

If you ever have the privilege to go to Home Park, you will find the Pilgrims are very friendly indeed; a great atmosphere, and the smell of fresh pasties everywhere you go – “Lovely!” The Pilgrim fathers would be proud of the amount of supporters that turn out to see the Pilgrims in pursuit of the promised land, called ‘Promotion’. Founded in 1886 as Argyle Football Club, the first match took place on 16 October 1886 against Caxton, a team from Cornwall. The Pilgrims lost 2–0. Later that week Argyle won for the first time, beating Dunheved College (now Launceston College, where many of the club’s first members had been educated) in Launceston 2–1. They played several friendlies against Plymouth United, but poor performances on the pitch led to the club going out of existence in 1894, before being resurrected in 1897 as one part of a general sports club, the Argyle Athletic Club. In 1898, Argyle F.C. produced its first rulebook. The club’s ground was named as Marsh Mills, an area on the edge of the city of Plymouth, which still hosts sports.

The origin of the name Argyle: One explanation is that the team was named after the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, an army regiment with a strong football side of its own. Another theory concerned the respective geographical placements of nearby buildings, suggesting the name came either from the nearby public house, The Argyle Tavern, where the founder members may have met, or the local street named Argyle Terrace. An alternative suggestion was that their initial kit was decorated in the famous Argyle diamond pattern.

The club adopted its current name when it became fully professional in 1903, joining the Southern League under the management of Bob Jack. Argyle’s first professional game was on 1 September 1903[4] against West Ham United resulting in a 2–0 win for Argyle, with the first goal being scored by Jack Peddie. Their first home game as a fully professional club was on 5 September 1903 when they beat Northampton Town 2–0 in front of a crowd of 4,438. Argyle won the Southern League in 1913, then in 1920 entered the Football League Third Division as a founder member, where they finished 11th in their first season.

The Pilgrims

Plymouth to Buenos Aires

In the summer of 1924, a Plymouth Argyle team visited South America to play some exhibition football in Uruguay and Argentina. Argyle thrashed Uruguay 4–0 in their first game (Uruguay went on to win the first ever World Cup just six years later) before pulling off another shock by beating Argentina 1–0. They then held Argentinean giants Boca Juniors to a credible 1–1 draw. Moses Russell captained the side and played in all nine matches. Russell’s style of play caught the attention of the Argentine press; at the end of the tour ‘The Standard of Buenos Aires’ commented:”The visit of Plymouth Argyle will be best remembered by the outstanding personality and genius of Moses Russell. His effective style, precise judgement, accurate and timely clearances, powerful kicking and no less useful work with his head…one of the most wonderful backs and one of the brainiest players ever seen on the football field.”

In the match against Boca Juniors on 9 July 1924, the Boca Juniors supporters invaded the pitch after their team had scored the opening goal and carried all eleven home players shoulder high around the stadium. After a half hour delay, the referee restarted the match, but a further invasion was sparked when the referee awarded a penalty against the home side. When the match was again restarted, the Argyle players

had agreed that Patsy Corcoran would take the spot-kick and miss, to prevent another pitch invasion. However, the ultra-competitive Russell was not prepared to accept this, and just before Corcoran was about to take the penalty he was pushed aside by Russell who took it himself and scored. This prompted a further pitch invasion by the Boca fans and this time the match was abandoned.

Back in England, uniquely, between 1921–22 and 1926–27, Argyle finished second in the Third Division South six seasons in a row, thereby missing promotion. Argyle eventually won promotion to Football League Division Two in 1929–30, when they topped the Third Division South, with attendances that season regularly reaching 20,000. Manager Bob Jack resigned in 1937, having spent a grand total of 27 years in charge of the Pilgrims.

Eleven years earlier in 1928, David Jack, who began his career with Argyle in 1919 but left in 1920, joined Arsenal F.C. from Bolton Wanderers for a fee of £10,890 – which made him the most expensive player in the world at the time. He was also the first player to score at Wembley Stadium.

RIVALRY & WEST COUNTRY DERBYS

The club’s traditional rivals are fellow Devon sides Exeter City and Torquay United; other rivalries exist with Bristol City, Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth (the Plymouth–Portsmouth game is known as the Dockyard Derby).Although the rivalry with Exeter City has been blunted for a while due to a difference in divisions, Argyle’s relegation into League One, coupled with Exeter City’s survival, reignited the tensions. A distinct rivalry arose between Argyle and Luton Town after inflammatory comments made by Joe Kinnear who was manager of the Hatters during the 2001–02 promotion season, although this mutual antipathy has now somewhat abated. Similarly, after the departure of Ian Holloway to Leicester City in November 2007 a noticeable mutual dislike arose, culminating in Argyle’s 0–1 victory at the Walkers Stadium in early February 2008 although this mutual antipathy has now similarly subsided. In the 1990s, Argyle had a rivalry with Burnley as the Clarets beat them in a Division Two (now League One) play-off semi-final in 1994, and relegated them on the last day of the season four years later. However, the rivalry has subsided over the past few years, especially after Burnley’s promotion to the Premier League in 2009.

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE HOME PARK

The original ground of the pilgrims at Home Park was destroyed by German bombers during the Blitz on Plymouth in World War II. Having been rebuilt after the war, Home Park was largely demolished as part of an extensive process of renovation, and the first phase of a new stadium built by Barrs plc was completed in May 2002. The new Devonport End was opened for the 2001 Boxing Day fixture with Torquay United. The other end, the Barn Park End, opened on the same day. The Lyndhurst stand reopened on 26 January 2002 for the game against Oxford United. Plans are currently under discussion regarding the completion of the refurbishment of the ground with the replacement of the Mayflower stand. The ground is situated in Central Park, very near to the residential area of Peverell. Towards the end of the 2005–06 Championship season, the club decided to buy the stadium for £2.7 million from Plymouth City Council, releasing the ground from a 125-year lease. This purchase was concluded in December 2006.

In the summer of 2007, the club, having failed to persuade the UK authorities of the case for retaining a standing terrace, decided to add 3,500 temporary seats to the Mayflower enclosure, dropping the capacity to just under 20,000 from 20,922 (an exact figure is not yet available). In December 2009 it was announced that the stadium was to be one of 12 chosen to host matches during the World Cup 2018, should England’s bid be successful.The then Argyle chairman Paul Stapleton stated that work on a new South Stand at Home Park would start in 2010. However, England failed to be chosen for the 2018 tournament, and Plymouth Argyle entered administration in March 2011. After selling the stadium back to the council on 14 October 2011 for £1.6 million, this project was in serious doubt.

The club was then taken over by local business owner James Brent, who submitted fresh plans to build a new Mayflower Grandstand with a 5,000 seating capacity, and an associated leisure complex. The plans include an Ice Rink with 1,500 spectator seats, 10 screen cinema complex with an iMax screen, 120 bedroom hotel, 4,200m sq retail units (A1 and A3). Planning permission for the project was granted on August 15, 2013. The development is due to commence in September 2013, with demolition of the old stand planned for late October 2013,and as you can see from,the photos,that this has been undertaken and,still has one more phase Togo,before total completion.

 

After the Second World War Argyle’s 20-year stay in Division Two came to an end in 1950–despite the efforts of inspirational captain Jack Chisholm. However, they were back in Division Two before long, after winning the Third Division South in 1952. The closest they ever came to playing in the Football League First Division (top tier) was in 1952–53, when they reached fourth place in the Football League Second Division, their highest finish to date. In the 1954–1955 season floodlights arrived at Home Park, but in 1956 Argyle went down again. The Pilgrim’s reputation as a ‘yo-yo club’ continued after they won Division Three–by now a national league–in 1959.

The 1960s started with one of the most bizarre events in Argyle’s history. It came in the spring of 1963, when they went on a mini-tour of Poland—the Pilgrims were invited to play a game as a warm-up to an international cycle race. Amazingly, 100,000 saw Argyle that day—the biggest crowd ever to attend a Plymouth match.
In 1965 Argyle reached the Football League Cup semi-final, as a 2nd division team, for the first time in their history, but lost to Leicester City.

But the decade ended disappointingly as Argyle returned to Division Three after relegation in 1968 The 1970s–Pelé comes to Plymouth What amazing year,back In March 1973 the most memorable moment in Argyle’s history was witnessed by 37,639 people at Home Park. Argyle played a friendly match against Brazilian giants Santos FC, who at the time were one of the best teams in the world. That day Santos also had arguably the best footballer of all time in their starting line-up –Pelé. However, Argyle, then a Third Division side, shocked the world with a 3–2 win. The Greens were actually 3–0 up at one stage (thanks to goals from Mike Dowling, Derek Rickard and Jimmy Hinch) but a penalty scored at the Barn Park End by Pelé helped a Santos fightback, but they were still defeated. There was a huge pitch invasion at the final whistle after a win for The Pilgrims.

In 1974 – with future England striker and Argyle manager Paul Mariner now playing for them – Argyle again reached the League Cup semi-final, this time as a Third Division side. Argyle drew the first leg against Manchester City 1–1, but lost the Maine Road encounter 2–0.

After spending six years in Division Three, Argyle finally returned to Division Two in 1974–75, under the management of Tony Waiters. This was mainly thanks to strike partners Paul Mariner and Billy Rafferty, who scored a very impressive 46 goals between them.

However, they were back down again in 1977. Although the decade did end on a high note–in 1978–79 Kevin Hodges made his Argyle debut, and he went on to play 620 games for the club–more than anyone else. 1984 Cup run

In 1984 Plymouth reached the FA Cup semi-final despite being in the Third Division. After a successful cup run in which they beat West Bromwich Albion, a top division team at the time (1–0 courtesy of a Tommy Tynan goal after 58 minutes), and Derby County (the first game ended 0–0, but Argyle won the replay 0–1 at the Baseball Ground), they lost 1–0 to Watford in the semi-final at Villa Park courtesy of a George Riley goal. However, manager John Hore was sacked the following campaign and was replaced by Dave Smith.

In 2007, Argyle got to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, but lost 1–0 to Watford at Home Park. In the build up to this game, many pundits and fans relived the semi-final the two teams played 23 years ago.

Success under Smith, in 1985–86, Smith’s first full season in charge, Argyle finished as runners-up in Division Three, resulting in promotion. The following season, despite being a newly promoted team, Argyle finished a respectable 7th place in Division Two, thereby only just missing the division’s new play-off zone and the chance to move to the First Division (now the Premier League). In 1988 Smith surprisingly left to take charge of Dundee, making way for Ken Brown to become manager.

 

The Cup run of 1984

In 1984 Plymouth reached the FA Cup semi-final despite being in the Third Division. After a successful cup run in which they beat West Bromwich Albion, a top division team at the time (1–0 courtesy of a Tommy Tynan goal after 58 minutes), and Derby County (the first game ended 0–0, but Argyle won the replay 0–1 at the Baseball Ground), they lost 1–0 to Watford in the semi-final at Villa Park courtesy of a George Riley goal. However, manager John Hore was sacked the following campaign and was replaced by Dave Smith.

In 2007, Argyle got to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, but lost 1–0 to Watford at Home Park. In the build up to this game, many pundits and fans relived the semi-final the two teams played 23 years ago.

Success under Smith In 1985–86, Smith’s first full season in charge, Argyle finished as runners-up in Division Three, resulting in promotion. The following season, despite being a newly promoted team, Argyle finished a respectable 7th place in Division Two, thereby only just missing the division’s new play-off zone and the chance to move to the First Division (now the Premier League). In 1988 Smith surprisingly left to take charge of Dundee, making way for Ken Brown to become manager.

Shilton and Warnock

In the 1990s a new face took over the club: Businessman Dan McCauley became chairman, and his first major decision was to sack Dave Kemp and appoint England’s record cap holder Peter Shilton as player-manager in the 1991–92 season. But Shilton was unable to prevent relegation as Argyle finished 22nd in Division Two.

Ahead of the 1992–93 season, English football had a revamp. The First Division (top tier) became the Premiership, Division Two (second tier) became Division One, Division Three (third tier) was now Division Two and so on. As a result Argyle were still in Division Two, but it was now the third tier instead of the second.

In 1992–93 Argyle finished in mid-table in the third tier, but Peter Shilton’s side finished third the following campaign (as a result of playing some excellent football), thereby qualifying for the play-offs. But Argyle were defeated in the semi-final by Burnley, which saw the start of a fierce rivalry between the two clubs. The Pilgrims suffered even more disappointment in 1994–95 as Shilton parted company with the club, and they were eventually relegated to Division Three (fourth tier) for the first time in their history. Player Steve McCall became the club’s manager on a short-term deal after Shilton’s departure, but at the end of the season his contract was not renewed and Neil Warnock stepped in as his successor.

At the end of the 1995–96 season, Warnock took Plymouth to Division Three play-off glory in his first campaign as manager, with the semi-final being a memorable affair. Argyle played Colchester United and were 1–0 down from the 1st leg, but won 3–1 at Home Park in the 2nd, meaning the Pilgrims were going to Wembley for the first time in their history. A header from Ronnie Mauge on 65 minutes gave Argyle a 1–0 win over Darlington at the national team’s stadium.

 

Paul Mariner takes the Helm,of Good Ship Pilgrim

Paul Sturrock’s second stint in charge came to an end on 10 December 2009, when a press conference confirmed he was relieved of his managerial duties due to two years of poor results and fan unrest and had taken up a ‘business-support’ role, working alongside Director and Chief Executive, Keith Todd. Head Coach Paul Mariner was placed in charge of team affairs. Sturrock’s last game in charge was a 1–0 defeat at Swansea City on 8 December.

However, Mariner lost his first two games–his first fixture resulted in a 2–0 loss at Preston North End and then Argyle were defeated 1–0 at home to Coventry, leaving the Pilgrims bottom of the table and six points adrift of safety. On Boxing day, Argyle were away at local rivals Cardiff City], and it was the first meeting between the sides at the new Cardiff City Stadium. Cardiff were fourth in the table at the time while Argyle were bottom, but full-back Gary Sawyer scored an 84th minute winner to give the visitors a shock 0–1 victory. Two days later, Argyle thrashed relegation rivals Reading 4–1 at Home Park to go two points adrift of safety. The Pilgim’s first game of 2010 was at home to Championship league leaders Newcastle United in the third round of the FA Cup. The game ended 0–0, but Newcastle won 3–0 in the replay. Victor Moses found the back of the net as Crystal Palace won 0–1 at Home Park.

Striker Jamie Mackie scored an 82nd minute winner to give Argyle a 1–0 victory at home to fellow strugglers Derby in mid-week. Days later, Argyle went 0–1 up away at Sheffield Wednesday, another side in relegation danger, but went on to lose 2–1. They then lost 0–1 against second place West Bromwich Albion, however new loan signing David Stockdale did save a late penalty to restore some pride for Argyle. But Stockdale, on loan from Fulham, was unable to save Shane Long’s last-gasp spot kick at the Madejski Stadium, as the Pilgrims lost 2–1 at relegation rivals Reading. That result meant Argyle were eight points off safety.

However, The Pilgrims travelled to face Barnsley in their next game, which proved to be a memorable one for the Green Army. Hugo Colace gave Barnsley the lead just before half-time, but Argyle responded well in the second period, and on 64 minutes team captain Carl Fletcher equalised with a strike from just inside the box. Ten minutes later, Jamie Mackie fired the visitors in front, and with 83 minutes on the clock, Rory Fallon scored with a lob from 35 yards (32 m) out to give Argyle a 1–3 win at Oakwell. It was the first time Argyle came from behind to win a game since Boxing day 2007, when the Greens beat QPR 2–1 at Home Park. It was also the first time they won by two goals or more away from home since 19 February 2008, when Argyle won 0–2 at Southampton. Yala Bolasie–making his Argyle debut after a season on loan at Barnet, was given the man of the match award.

January signing Damien Johnson scored his first Argyle goal just days later in a 1–1 draw at home to Swansea, however it proved to be controversial. With the hosts trailing through Darren Pratley’s sublime 46th minute goal, they were awarded a penalty five minutes from time. Jamie Mackie took it, but it was well saved by Dorus de Vries. The Devon linesman ordered the spot kick to be re-taken. Johnson took it this time, but yet again de Vries was equal to it, but Johnson converted the rebound. In their next game, Craig Noone’s 39th minute header cancelled out Kari Arnason’s own goal seven minutes earlier as the Greens came from behind to get a result for the third game in a row after drawing 1–1 with Leicester City.

But the Greens’ good run failed to continue after an unlucky 4–3 defeat at Sheffield United (Argyle were 3–0 down before coming back to 3–2, but then went 4–2 down before the game finished 4–3), a 1–1 draw at home to Preston North End and a 2–0 loss at fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers.

But on 17 March, Argyle picked up a crucial three points with a thrilling 3–2 win over local rivals Bristol City. The Greens were 2–0 up at half-time through Chris Clark (with his first ever league goal for the club) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (with his first ever goal for the club), but two Nicky Maynard strikes made it 2–2. When it looked like Argyle were heading for another draw (or even a defeat), team captain Carl Fletcher struck in the first minute of injury time to give Argyle a sweet 3–2 win.

Yet again, Argyle’s run was halted after a 2–1 defeat at fellow strugglers Scunthorpe United, but they then impressively won 0–2 away at Ipswich thanks to goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Joe Mason to move within three points of safety. However, despite a 1–2 win at high-flying Doncaster Rovers, defeats to Middlesbrough (0–2), Watford (1–0) and Newcastle United (0–2) sealed their relegation fate (whilst simultaneously allowing Newcastle to claim the Championship title) with two games to go. Argyle then went on to lose their remaining two games; away to Nottingham Forest and Peterborough United. Argyle ended the season as the second lowest scoring team in the division, with only Swansea City scoring fewer, as well as winning the least amount of games at home. The club’s six-year stay in the second tier of the Football League was over.

 

 

 

Keep it Green