So the Championship season is now over for Argyle, and we get approximately 90 odd days before the 2007/08 campaign kicks off, with a few friendlies to tied us over and an Austrian tour.
There is no disputing the facts that since reaching the Championship three years ago, Argyle have succeeded their previous year's placings-ending 17th, 14th and 11th respectively-and this is a great achievement in itself. But what have Argyle really achieved?
At the beginning of this season Argyle were managerless with Pulis returning to Stoke. Pulis ensured Championship survival after the baffling Williamson era-"I had a job to do and I did it"-and he did. Pulis' brand of football (hoofball?) was widely critictised at the time, and it makes you wonder what would have happened if he'd stayed, for Stoke, until their last game, had been around the playoff zone. People will site that Stoke have the players, the location and the money, and that is something that Argyle have never been able to compete with. The shackles of being a "small club" with no ambition, stuck miles from anywhere are ones that the Greens will have to wear for a long time yet.
Then came Ian Holloway. Like a hurricane he came in and shook everything up, there was wide spread optimism, we were winning game-not drawing 1-1, 0-0 or losing-Ollie talked of Premiership football, and then the Argyle curse stuck. Key players in our wafer thin squad were getting tired quickly and injuries mounted up. Then discipline took its toll as the yellows and match band started racking up. The old cracks that appeared since the Sturrock era reappeared. Play on the pitch started to resemble the 'old Argyle'-corners were no longer threatening, possession went awry, gaping holes in the defence let in too many opposition goals. It is very hard, to the armchair manager, to reconcile why these shortcomings have never been addressed as they crop up time and time again. The air of optimism was swept away, when the transfer window opened, there were no takers.
But then came a welcome distraction, Argyle finally had a decent FA Cup run, getting to the quarter finals and missing out, unfairly as many critic saw, on a place in the semis. But what toll did that take. It has been said that Cup games interfere with the league, and the added games and rescheduling of league matches finally took its toll in the "week of hell" of April when Argyle lost three matches in a row (Ipswich, Burnley and Leeds), including the now infamous 4-0 defeat at Burnley that has left a long lasting bitter taste in many an Argyle fan's mouth. If any Pilgrims' supporter is expecting a repeat next year, forget it. The amount of moaning Holloway has done since the Cup games had buried any future ambition in that direction.
And that's what it's all down to - ambition. 10 years ago, Argyle were in exactly the same position (not league position, as we weren't even in this league) as they are today: a declining fan base, small budget, Home Park's development stalled, midtable obscurity. Argyle managed 5 wins in a row to end this year's campaign and proved that it can be achieved, and no doubt our progress on the field has come on leaps and bounds in such a short time, but it's what is happening off the pitch that is hindering our further progression. As it stands, Plymouth, along with Hull, are going to have to wait some time before they stop being the two largest cities in England never to have top flight football teams.
|3rd round||Peterborough||1||1||Plymouth Argyle|
|3rd round replay||Plymouth Argyle||2||1||Peterborough|
|4th round||Barnet||0||2||Plymouth Argyle|
|5th round||Plymouth Argyle||2||0||Derby County|
|Quarter Finals||Plymouth Argyle||0||1||Watford|
|Carling League Cup|
|1st round||Plymouth Argyle||0||1||Walsall|