The Pilgrim’s Story

Posted on November 17, 2010 by



Today we are looking at Plymouth Argyle Football Club ; The green army, Argyle, The Pilgrims, that team that play in that lovely shade of dark green! The traditional nickname, the Pilgrims, comes from the religious group that left England for the New World from Plymouth. Similarly the Clubs crest appropriately displays The Mayflower, the ship that took them there.

A club that call League One home (for now), residing in a little southern corner of England, called Plymouth, surprisingly. They play at Home Park, in Plymouth’s Central Park, which boasts a capacity of 19,500.  The club has been around since 1886,  although back then it was called Argyle FC and made the step up to professional status in 1903 and eventually joined the Football League in 1920.

As far as the addition of  ‘Argyle’ to the club’s name, in 1903, is concerned. There seems to be a fair bit of mystery surrounding it.  Some reckon the name came from the army regiment Argyll & Sutherland highlanders, which  had an infamously talented football team within its ranks. Others consider it a little more straight forward than that, and was simply named after the Argyle Tavern, a public house, and a street named Argyle Terrace that are both located just outside the stadium.

The club have a rich history and can lay claim to a stong handful of interesting facts, in 1924 the Pilgrims went on a tour of South America, captained by the Welsh great Moses Russel beating Argentina 1-0, drawing 1-1 with Boca Juniors but most impressively, thoroughly thrashed a Uruguay side 4-0, that would go on to win the first ever World Cup a mere 6 months later.

Similarly in 1973,  Santos were invited to play a friendly match in Plymouth against the Pilgrims.  In front of  37,000 people, Plymouth Argyle shocked the world with a 3-2 victory over a Santos side that dominated world football with none other than a young player called Pele.

BBC Archive of Plymouth Vs Santos

Despite all this, many Plymouth fans would argue that their finest achievement came in 1984 when a small south coast club from the third division managed to beat West Bromwich Albion and  Derby County, to get to the semi finals of the FA cup. Unfortunately they went on to lose to Watford 1-0 at Villa Park, but a great achievement none-the-less.

As English football went through its Sky revolution, i.e debating wether or not to sell its soul,  in the 90’s,  Argyle found themselves frustratingly yo-yo’ing up and down the football leagues.  In 1992 they where mid table league 1, in 1994 they where in league 2, and stayed there until the 1995-96 season where they made it all the way to Wembley for the first time in their history, via the play-offs to beat Darlington 1-0 and promotion to League 1.  A year later they where again relegated, and spent the next 3 years there.

Things at this point in the clubs history was perhaps heralded as the darkest hours for the majority of fans. After being relegated in 1997, the club where in free fall. Instead of making a quick assault to get back into League 1, the club became dormant and in 2000, where on the verge of falling out the football league all together.

By November of the 00-01 season, the Pilgrims found themselves one spot above relegation and decided a change was necessary. The turning point in this dark chapter, came with the appointment of a noble Scot named Paul Sturrock. In came Sturrock and the transformation was almost instant, by the end of the season, the club from the south coast finished in a comfortable 12th spot.

The next season proved to be just as fruitful as Sturrock took the club to the top of the league and finished champions of league 2 in only his second season.  The club went on a 19 match unbeaten run to finish top of League 2 with a club record of 102 points.

Season 02/03 proved arguably as progressive for the club in league 1 as they narrowly missed out on a play off spot finishing 8th with a memorable 6-1 thrashing of Peterborough.

The next year, Plymouth found their 2nd promotion in 3 years with thrilling and performance football with  a multitude of  impressive performances to add; 6-0 against Tranmere rovers, 4-0 against Bristol Rovers, 5-1 against Port Vale, 7-0 against Chesterfield, and more, as the club glided to the top of the table.  Although one damper on the season was Sturrock returning to Southampton in March, surprisingly many, leaving care taker manager Kevin Summerfield to keep the train on the tracks who was eventually replaced by Bobby Williamson at the end of the season.

Season 2004-05 brought Plymouth back to reality (perhaps due to an absence of a certain noble Scot) as they finished there first ever Championship season 3 points above the drop zone, the year after they finished 14th and then 11th in 2007 as the Pilgrims established themselves as a comfortable Championship side who demanded respect.

In 2007, Sturrock returned to the club, and his timing couldn’t have been better. The club where in the process of accepting that there young talents where moving on to higher expectations (most notably Sylvan Ebanks Blake and Dan Gosling who departed for Wolves and Everton respectively) and many fans were concerned that this marked the end of Plymouth Argyle’s impressive stint in English football. Although, in typical Sturrock fashion, he guided his beloved club to an ever impressive 10th position in the league, after almost making the play off spots if they hadn’t fallen short with only 1 win in their final 7 matches.

However, the next season proved a major scare for fans as the club struggled with consistency. Perhaps a little over-confident from the previous season, the club finished an abysmal 21st, only 3 points off the relegation spot – the first time in 8  years, that they finished in a lower position than the year before.

Unfortunately, things only got worse and the following season (09/10) the club saw Sturrock relieved of his managerial duties(and surprisingly offered a job as head of ‘team affairs’) as head coach Paul Mariner took over. Unfortunately this did little for the clubs form and still struggled to shake off last seasons blues. They finished 22nd on 41 points with a mere 11 wins out of 41 games and 8 points adrift of safety.  The pilgrims stay in the Championship was over.

The clubs are now in League 1 after Peter Reid taking over as full-time manager in the summer.  They find themselves at the time of writing, in an upsetting 19th spot with 5 wins, 4 draws and 7 losses under their belt so far this season with a home match against Brentford on Saturday the 20th of November.

Plymouth Argle Football Cub, a club that define’s the term ‘yo yo team’.

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