David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Carl Fletcher’

Shez staying – joke’s over

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

“This club should be nowhere near the position it’s in. It’s a joke really. Almost embarrassing.”

So said on-loan striker Reuben Reid after Argyle had avoided the drop into the Conference on the final day of the season. Watching sections of the Green Army stage a Spotland pitch invasion from my position higher up the Willbutts Lane Stand, my thoughts were the same at the final whistle. An estimated 2,000+ Pilgrims fans had travelled to pack Rochdale’s away end – they saw their 10-man side lose 1-0 but stay up by a single point, with a goal difference just three better than Barnet’s. Other than an over-riding feeling of relief, what was there to celebrate, really?

There was a greater reason to cheer on Tuesday morning, when the club announced that John Sheridan – whose arrival as manager in January triggered a turnaround in form – had agreed in principle to continue as boss. The straight-talking Mancunian, whose initial deal ran only until the end of the season, is not the type to tolerate the sort of football comedy that Reuben Reid speaks of. However, he has already told Argyle owner James Brent he is confident of challenging at the top of League Two next season. Having persuaded Sheridan to stay in the South-West, a long way from his family home in Yorkshire, Brent must now back him in the transfer market and transform a squad of mixed abilities into one of the division’s strongest.

Although Argyle ultimately accumulated six more points in 2012/13 than they had managed in the previous campaign, this still represented another season of decline on the pitch. Clambering out of administration had been the mitigating circumstance in 2011/12 – but once again, Argyle lost 20 of their 46 league fixtures. Despite all his hard work and effort, Carl Fletcher oversaw a period of over two months in which his side won only one of 13 league games, and he was dismissed on New Year’s Day. It was only five years ago that the Greens finished 10th in the Championship – but that seems a distant memory now.

Over the course of nine months, the rearguard tightened up, particularly when experienced centre-back Guy Branston followed Sheridan south in January; Argyle actually ended the season with the eighth best defence in League Two. Zimbabwe international left-back Onismor Bhasera’s consistency was rewarded with the Player of the Year award, while goalkeeper Jake Cole was runner-up.

However, only bottom-placed Aldershot scored less goals than the Pilgrims and it was left winger Jason Banton – on loan from Crystal Palace for 14 games – who finished up as top scorer with six. The assists table makes for even bleaker reading, with Bhasera on top with just three. Young Player of the Year Conor Hourihane chipped in with five league goals from midfield, but creativity was minimal all season and when chances did come, they were usually spurned by wasteful strikers.

Highlights of the league season were hard to find, but a few spring to mind. There was the 4-1 victory at Barnet in October, Argyle’s biggest win and one that proved crucial in the final reckoning; an unlikely comeback at Morecambe the month before, when the Greens recovered from two goals down to triumph 3-2; the 1-0 Devon derby success over Exeter in March, when the result was all that mattered; and the last win of the season, 2-1 at Chesterfield in mid-April, which saw the club hit Sheridan’s survival target of 52 points.

In the interests of balance, the lowest points were arguably: the miserable opening-day 2-0 home defeat by Aldershot which set the tone for another season of struggle; a largely shambolic 3-0 loss at Fleetwood in November; the 4-0 mauling at Port Vale, the only fixture between Fletcher’s sacking and Sheridan’s arrival which left the club in seemingly dire straits in the drop zone; and an utterly abject 2-0 reverse at relegation rivals York on Easter Monday.

The nadir of the campaign, however, could again be found in the FA Cup – a humiliating first-round exit at sixth-tier Dorchester Town, live on TV, less than a year after going out at Stourbridge at the same stage.

An average attendance at Home Park of 7,095 – the third highest in the division – was an improvement on last season, even it represents less than half the current stadium capacity. Nevertheless, three home games attracted a crowd of over 10,000, while the travelling support provided by the Green Army – an average of 729 fans at every League Two away game – was outstanding given the geographical and sporting circumstances.

So what does the future hold? With £299 club memberships (season tickets) on sale for another week (and priced only £59 for Under-18s), it’s hoped the people of Plymouth will turn out in greater numbers next season. There’s already a buzz of activity and planning in the Devon city, with news of Sheridan’s stay swiftly followed by the issue of the retained and released lists.

The out-of-contract Cole, Bhasera, Branston and Hourihane have all been offered new deals, along with club legend Paul Wotton, Argentinian winger Andres Gurrieri and young striker Isaac Vassell. Among those moving on are injured striker Warren Feeney (although he has been offered a pre-season trial), while two contracted players – goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin and striker Nick Chadwick, for whom Argyle’s survival triggered an extension clause – have both been transfer-listed. Chief scout Joe Taylor has also left the club after a year in the job.

Many will hope Bristol City allow classy midfielder Joe Bryan to return on loan next season, although that may be wishful thinking. In any case, Argyle desperately need attacking players of proven quality as the squad as it stands is top-heavy with defensive experience, with a smattering of young blood in wide areas and up front. Torquay striker Rene Howe – joint-fifth top scorer in League Two with 16 goals – is already being linked with a free transfer down the A385 and A38. His ‘robust’ physique would make him an ideal replacement for Reid, although his alarmingly poor disciplinary record – 93 fouls and 15 bookings in 2012/13 – would be a worry even for the strict Sheridan.

As for the coaching staff, Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley have both left their positions at Chesterfield, paving the way for them to potentially join Sheridan. Meanwhile, the possibility remains of some sort of involvement for former boss Neil Warnock – the 64-year-old is searching for a club role akin to ”a niche between manager and directors”. Whether such an opening arises at Argyle remains to be seen; the appointment of a dedicated chief executive is a more pressing concern for James Brent.

Off the pitch, Brent’s leisure company Akkeron has put forward plans for a £50million redevelopment of the Higher Home Park area, including a new stadium grandstand, ice rink, multi-screen cinema and 120-bed hotel. Plymouth City Council’s planning committee are studying these at the time of writing, but Pilgrims supporters are far from united in their support for the proposals. A perceived lack of ambition is the major sticking point; the proposed new stand does not look particularly ‘grand’ at all and with seating for approximately 5,000, it may in fact be smaller in terms of capacity than the opposite Lyndhurst Stand (redeveloped along with the adjacent Devonport and Barn Park Ends a decade ago). Brent had hoped work could begin on the project in September, but the wrangling is likely to go on for several more weeks at least.

There’s one thing all Argyle fans can agree to look forward to in 2013/14, however – the return of the Dockyard Derby. Argyle have met Portsmouth twice in cup competitions in recent seasons, but we haven’t had a league double-header against Pompey in over 20 years. Two proud naval cities, their clubs sailing towards calmer waters… and with Sheridan at the helm, the good ship Pilgrim should be well equipped for the long voyage in the coming 12 months.

Written by Jon Holmes of TEAMtalk.com, We Are Going Up’s Plymouth Argyle blogger.

Jon tweets at @jonboy79

Thanks to Steve and Malcolm from Greens on Screen - the essential Argyle resource – for the picture.

Too many bad days at the office for Fletch

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Carl Fletcher is trying to entertain Plymouth Argyle fans but recent results have been cringeworthy. It’s a management style that Pilgrims blogger Jon Holmes finds familiar…

“Is it getting better… or do you feel the same?” Over 20 years have passed since Bono posed this question, but it’s one Argyle fans keep asking themselves at the moment.

One year on from the club’s life-saving operation and the transplanting of Carl Fletcher for Peter Reid at its heart, there are occasional good days and mostly bad days for the Pilgrims as they traipse along the long road to recovery. New blood has been injected and small steps are being taken in the quest to be at least a half-decent football team again, but you can’t blame the supporters too much if their bedside manner is a little impatient. Argyle keep breaking down – and are likely to go on in the same vein for the foreseeable future.

Even Dr Julius Hibbert would be struggling to maintain a smile amid the current run of one point from six games, especially when you factor in the grim 1-0 FA Cup exit at lowly Dorchester as well. The club’s owner James Brent admits the predicament is painful, but he’s keeping the faith for now and doesn’t want a new course of treatment – even though only two points separate Argyle from the League Two drop zone after 19 games played.

“Carl is doing a great job in terms of improving the quality of the football spectacle,” said Brent earlier this month, in a quote that sounds like something his namesake David from The Office might come out with. However, it’s not the owner but the manager who is at risk of becoming a real-life version of the Ricky Gervais character – and it all boils down to their shared philosophy. What kind of atmosphere is Fletcher trying to create at Home Park? As Slough’s most famous son memorably phrases it: “(One) where I’m a friend first, boss second… probably an entertainer third.”

I don’t mean to mock the Argyle boss when I write that. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement that Fletcher is striving to satisfy several expectations – those of his owner, his players and the fanbase – and his flaws are being magnified as a result.

Being only 32 years of age and recently retired from playing, Fletcher is naturally closer to his charges than most managers. There’s undoubtedly a strong bond between the squad and the coaching set-up, with Fletcher supported by assistant boss Romain Larrieu (36), and first-team coach Kevin Nancekivell (41). A shortage of experience is compensated by fresh ideas and vitality on the training ground, the camaraderie having been bolstered under the collective hardship caused by last year’s administration process. Reports from the training ground suggest spirits are buoyant despite the poor run of form, and there’s been little evidence of dissent in the ranks.

Having such a tight-knit group is beneficial, but it’s also fair to ask whether Fletcher might be reluctant to get angry with the players when they fall short of his standards. You’d hope not, but his relatively calm exterior and considered approach suggests his dressing-room rant wouldn’t get close to a Fergie hairdryer. After Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Fleetwood, the squad were staying in the north for a few days ahead of the game at Bradford on Tuesday night. When asked if having everyone together for an extended period of time would make it easier to recover for the clash at Valley Parade, Fletcher responded with a wry smile: “We’ll have to wait and see… if I don’t rip their heads off before that.” He clearly knew some strong words were needed, but he didn’t exactly inspire confidence that he could deliver them effectively.

After losing 1-0 at Bradford, in a game where Argyle played well in the second half but failed to score, Fletcher again indicated that a lack of fortune was largely responsible for the month-long misery. There’s undoubtedly some truth in that, but blaming bad luck for a lengthy series of disappointments while also claiming a ‘deserved’ win is just around the corner sounds more than a little desperate.

As for that “football spectacle”… its quality may be improving, but Fletcher can’t afford to worry too much about entertainment values when Argyle are slipping ever closer to the bottom two. They impressed in the 3-1 home win over Rochdale – the last time they claimed three points – and the recent 2-2 draw with leaders Gillingham. Yet the focus on trying to play a more technically accomplished game – “passing with a purpose”, as Fletcher calls it – is undermined by a tendency to ship goals weakly due to lapses in concentration, mostly on long throws and set pieces. Argyle stayed up last season due to a defence that became ever more miserly as the months went by. Generosity has been far too great in the current campaign.

In addition, there is no cutting edge or even a consistent presence up front. Three strikers have three goals each – Warren Feeney’s have come from 16 appearances, although two were penalties; on-loan Guy Madjo’s have come from 13 appearances although, again, two were penalties; while Rhys Griffiths, with two from open play and one spot-kick, has been hampered all season by injuries. Nick Chadwick is yet to register in the league.

Argyle’s midfield contingent and wingers have understandably benefitted from Fletcher’s focus on getting the ball on the deck. Alex MacDonald, back on loan from Burnley, and Argentinian Andres Gurrieri produced energetic displays against Bradford and tested the hosts repeatedly. Local lad Luke Young – still only 19, but with over 50 first-team outings to his name – continues to make strides, while 17-year-old Tyler Harvey is also now getting a taste of first-team action. Youth is being given its chance, but perhaps too much is being asked of them. League Two may only be the fourth tier, but experienced ex-internationals like Fleetwood’s Barry Ferguson and Rotherham’s Kari Arnason remain tough opponents for teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Off the pitch, the appointment of former Bristol City chairman Colin Sexstone as a non-executive director bodes well, with James Brent having admitted he needs more football experts around him to give advice and guidance. Hope remains that work on a new and long-overdue Home Park grandstand will begin next summer – but there have also been staff redundancies too, and the club’s average attendance of around 6,200 is below the break-even figure of 8,000.

Brent is likely to stick with Fletcher for the time being, although continued poor form as the busy Christmas period approaches would significantly increase the pressure on both men. Until then, this perseverance package remains hard to accept for Pilgrims fans, who fear their club is becoming a laughing stock. The other Brent – David – would say: “You just have to accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.” It’s been four-and-a-half weeks of statue for Argyle – time for pigeon power, and fast.

Written by Jon Holmes of TEAMtalk.com, We Are Going Up’s Plymouth Argyle blogger.

Jon tweets at @jonboy79

Can Fletch find new goalscoring Greens?

Friday, May 25th, 2012

The early odds released for League Two next season show that the bookies expect Plymouth Argyle to be firmly mid-table in 2012/13.The Greens are priced up at 20/1 for the title with Victor Chandler, alongside the likes of rivals Exeter and newly-promoted York. Rotherham are the strong favourites for success, followed by Fleetwood Town.

However, it’ll be worth seeing what price the Pilgrims are when the promotion odds appear – because they might just be worth a gamble, depending on the summer comings and goings at Home Park.

Last season, Argyle were seriously goal-shy – only Macclesfield scored less. After losing 1-0 at Rotherham in mid-March, they were back in the relegation zone with 10 games to go. Fortunately, their settled and solid defence became even more miserly over the next eight fixtures, conceding just four goals to secure survival. The abysmal form shown by the Silkmen (seven draws and no wins to show for their efforts since New Year’s Eve) and the fact Hereford, as it proved, left it too late to mount an escape, were also key factors in Argyle staying up by just two points.

Argyle’s effective rearguard actions in the final few months bode well for next season. The arrivals in November of centre-back duo Darren Purse (now 35, but still a tough and fit competitor) and Maxime Blanchard – who ended up being named Player of the Year – lifted the whole camp; young right-back Durrell Berry improved considerably, and with midfield warrior Paul Wotton and hard-working striker Nick Chadwick returning to the club too, a team that had been callow and spineless changed into one loaded with experience and resilience.

Champions Swindon conceded just 32 goals in 2011/12 – by some distance the least in the division. They were not top scorers however; Gillingham, who failed to even make the play-offs, hit 79 goals over the course of 46 games, while Shrewsbury and Crawley both scored more than Paolo Di Canio’s Robins. But Argyle fans know full well how the stingiest defence usually comes out on top in the fourth tier – when Paul Sturrock’s Greens racked up 102 points in 2001/2, they shipped just 28 goals. Second-placed Luton scored many more times than Argyle that season, but they didn’t get their hands on the trophy.

Carl Fletcher clearly needs to add goals to his side, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of his defence – as we’ve seen, it’s more important to be hard to break down in League Two than blistering up front. One of last season’s joint top scorers, Barnet’s Izale McLeod, is already being linked with Argyle (as well as many other clubs higher up the food chain) – but he might be exactly the sort of player Argyle DON’T need. Of the 14 league games in which he scored for the Bees, they only won five of them. McLeod is fast and exciting, but can also be massively frustrating. In contrast, that resolute title-winning Sturrock side of a decade ago had eight players who netted five or more league goals over the course of the campaign – and the top scorer was centre-back Graham Coughlan.

What’s more important than finding a McLeod or similar striker is injecting more creativity in forward positions and inviting runners from deep; building on the firm foundations of the Purse-Blanchard partnership and freeing up the likes of the energetic Luke Young – scorer of a fine goal at Morecambe in the penultimate game of the season – to shoot from in and around the area. There has been far too little of that in Argyle’s attacking play, entirely understandable as the pressure mounted in the battle against the drop and every point became the proverbial prisoner. But with those shackles lifted and a clean slate presenting itself come August, the onus will be on Fletcher to find a blend that can facilitate a promotion push.

Having only turned 32 last month, Fletcher is the second youngest manager in the entire Football League, and his achievement in uniting the Argyle squad and masterminding their great escape should not be underestimated. He had earned his UEFA B licence coaching badge last summer, but taking on the responsibility of one of the south-west’s biggest professional clubs – and at such a perilous point in their history – was a huge undertaking for someone with no previous experience. The assistance of goalkeeper Romain Larrieu, a true Pilgrims hero with over 300 appearances for the club, and the senior players brought in midway through the campaign was crucial in creating a ‘never say die’ spirit. Both Fletcher and Larrieu have earned a crack at a season without fear of financial turmoil.

Long-term, owner James Brent has talked about how he sees Argyle as a Championship club. It seems a tall order to get back to those heights any time soon for a club that’s just finished 21st in League Two. However, if Fletcher can identify three or even four new players with genuine attacking talent that are prepared to match the current squad’s work ethic – and if Brent is prepared to pay the fees and wages they will demand – there might be a great opportunity to beat the bookies, and see a more entertaining Argyle team heading up the Football League ladder once again.

Written by Jon Holmes of TEAMtalk.com, We Are Going Up’s Plymouth Argyle blogger.

Jon tweets at @jonboy79

Plummeting Pilgrims can’t abandon hope

Thursday, November 24th, 2011


A near-death experience, bottom of the Football League and now FA Cup humiliation – Plymouth Argyle have that sinking feeling yet again.

Carl Fletcher is 31 years old. He is the recently-appointed permanent manager of Plymouth Argyle, one of the club’s senior professional players, and he is also the father to three young children. That’s already a lot of roles for one man to fulfil – but if he’s got any spare time in his busy schedule, it might be time to consider a crash course in psychotherapy.

For after one of the longest periods in administration in English football history – seven months of financial misery and uncertainty during which, at one point, the club had “between a 10-20% chance of surviving”, according to eventual buyer James Brent – the Pilgrims now appear to be experiencing the sporting equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder.

From 18 games played in League Two, Argyle have accummulated just nine points; they have a goal difference of -23 and have only scored six times at home. After first-round exits in the Carling Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy earlier this season, they were embarrassed in the FA Cup on national television on Tuesday night in a 2-0 defeat at seventh-tier Stourbridge. The shell-shocked Greens look fearful, inhibited and a sense of helplessness is pervading the fanbase. The players are even beginning to lash out at those around them, if loanee Paul Bignot’s crazy red card (the club’s 20th since August 2010) against the Glassboys is anything to go by.

As well as the anxieties caused to everyday life by administration, the spectres of back-to-back relegations are still haunting Argyle and unless a significant recovery can be staged in the next five months, they will be going the way of Luton Town – a third successive drop, and life outside of the Football League. Bristol City and Wolves famously hit three snakes in a row too on the football board-game of the 1980s, but at least neither went lower than level four.

They say you find out who your true friends are in times of desperate need, and an average of around 6,000 fans are rallying round the club for home games at the moment. For away fixtures, the Green Army continue to turn out in force – there would have been more than 1,050 at the 3-1 Devon derby defeat at Torquay if the allocation had been greater, while 1,272 visiting supporters attended the 2-1 reverse at Cheltenham. Even the midweek 5-1 hammering at Oxford attracted over 700 Plymouth fans, respectable figures considering a Kassam massacre was expected (and ensued).

With times so tough, how should we react as supporters when players at the clubs we love seem to be in such a fragile mental state? Angry words and gestures probably aren’t going to help (especially at Argyle, where almost half the squad are under the age of 21) while only the most fervent fans can maintain vocal levels of encouragement and enthusiasm for the full 90 minutes as the goals rain in past their floundering keeper. It’s all relative, of course – if you’re paying £50 a ticket to watch Premier League multi-millionaires, your patience is going to be thinner than that of a long-suffering lower-league supporter. But no fan can tolerate a lack of effort and fight – and the alarming Opta statistic on tackles won by Argyle players compared to Stourbridge in Tuesday’s game suggests they were shirking from the challenge.

That’s a big worry, especially as the club’s next three fixtures are all against relegation rivals – home to Northampton (20th), away to Bradford (22nd) and home to Hereford (19th). The will to win is likely to be more important than tactics and style.

Argyle fans have to try and transmit some positivity, perhaps by drawing on the qualities they have shown since the club started sliding down this horrible helter-skelter, on which rock bottom still appears some way off (the club may be propping up the Football League, but there is still room for further decline). Former Argyle boss Ian Holloway always used to loathe the word “expectations” being used around Home Park; he was usually optimistic, but refused to pander to those outsiders who wanted to set targets for him and his players. So with a nod to Ollie, here’s an acronym that Pilgrims and all supporters can relate to:

Humility - Those members of the Argyle faithful (and there were many) who chortled throughout rivals Exeter’s dalliance with spoon-bending director Uri Geller and his ilk, their subsequent administration and their Conference wilderness years aren’t smiling any more. Moreover, the generosity of spirit shown by fans of Brighton and other clubs who visited Home Park for two ‘Fans Reunited’ days, or who wished Argyle well via messageboards or social media, demonstrated that – on the terraces at least – the existence of a genuine ‘football family’ populated by selfless supporters conscious of crises greater than their own is no myth.

One - The unity engendered by the fight for survival has undoubtedly strengthened the Green Army. The Argyle Trust worked tirelessly with James Brent to continue to push through his takeover when all seemed lost (former Trust chairman Chris Webb is now the club’s honorary president), while fundraising efforts by the Green Taverners group and web forum PASOTI raised over £100,000 for unpaid staff. The story of 22-year-old club chef Nathan Tonna is a case in point – his world gradually fell apart as Argyle’s cash crisis deepened. He believes administrators “lied” to staff (many of whom, like him, were fans) in order to persuade them to stay in their jobs and ensure the club remained a going concern. But donations raised by the fans helped employees like Nathan through the hardship, and fostering that sense of togetherness on and off the pitch is going to be vital.

Perspective - Argyle are lucky to be alive. Were it not for Brent and his persistence, the club would have been liquidated last month. Blue Square Premier football would be heart-breaking, but it is not a fate worse than death. Doncaster Rovers, Carlisle United, Oxford United and, yes, even Exeter, have been there and come back. Looking at the Conference North and South table suggests trips to places like Hyde and Woking await. Plymouth are a well-supported club, but size and history won’t count for much in the coming weeks. Thank heaven we’re still here – carpe diem and all that.

Emotion - “It’s all about character,” Fletcher told the club website when asked if his players could bounce back from losing to Stourbridge. These are dark days indeed, but one beacon of light is the arrival on loan of no-nonsense centre-back Darren Purse, who went to watch the FA Cup tie and whose passionate words had Chris Webb and PASOTI’s Ian Newell purring afterwards. Former Bournemouth and Doncaster manager Sean O’Driscoll was in attendance too, on Fletcher’s invitation – he wanted to hear the opinions of his old Cherries boss.

Argyle’s only home win this season – a 2-0 victory over Macclesfield – came on the occasion of the first ‘Fans Reunited’ day at Home Park in late September. A crowd of 6,005 was far from capacity, but it was the quality of the support more than the quantity that helped make the difference. The players put in the effort, and were rewarded with the emotion – a carnival atmosphere grew in the ground as the game progressed. A fortnight later, and over 8,000 turned out for the club’s 125th anniversary fixture against Accrington which finished 2-2. It’s a two-way street  - desire on the pitch, die-hard support from the stands.

For everything that the Argyle faithful have been put through in the last five years – the chronic mismanagement, the poor performances, the relegations, the shameful mistreatment of staff and players during the administration process – they keep turning out to support their team, praying for a change in fortunes, like any true fan would. The performance at Stourbridge was shameful and put the bond between fans and players at risk. Yet to quote Elvis Costello: ‘The vow that we made, you broke it in two, But that don’t stop me from loving you’.

And where there’s love, there has to be hope.

Written by Jon Holmes of TEAMtalk.com, We Are Going Up’s Plymouth Argyle blogger.

Jon tweets at @jonboy79

Thanks to Steve and Trev from Greens on Screen - the essential Argyle resource – for the picture.

Reid’s firing is a Ridsdale mercy killing

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Peter Ridsdale’s decision to change Plymouth Argyle’s manager now is kinder on Peter Reid than it might first appear.

Carl Fletcher will have more than just the Green Army cheering on his charges when his caretaker stint begins in earnest. The former Wales international has been handed the Pilgrims’ managerial reins on a temporary basis after the dismissal of Peter Reid, and his first test as boss is against Macclesfield at Home Park this Saturday.

The League Two fixture will see ‘Fans Reunited‘, as faithful followers of Brighton and other clubs descend on the crisis-hit Devon outfit to lend their voices and show solidarity for Argyle’s plight.

It’s a reciprocal gesture after a 14-year-old Argyle supporter inspired the original ‘Fans United’ day over 14 years ago, when the Goldstone Ground attendance was swelled to nearly 8,500 thanks to the presence of a mix of match-goers from up and down the country appalled at the asset-stripping, slow death inflicted on Albion by the notorious David Bellotti and Bill Archer. Brighton were subsequently forced into a long nomadic existence fraught with financial peril and only recently ended by their move to their impressive new Amex Stadium home.

Plymouth’s current plight has been well documented and although more optimistic noises are now being made about the club’s future, following the decision of the administrators to turn their attentions away from property developer Kevin Heaney’s BIL consortium to the more palatable proposal offered by local businessman James Brent and backed by The Argyle Trust, the Pilgrims are by no means out of the woods yet. The latest wage deferral agreed by the Argyle squad and staff lasts until next Monday, and their patience is now wafer thin.

But while Brent continues to negotiate with stakeholders, attention has turned in recent days to matters on the pitch – and the sacking of Reid by acting chairman Peter Ridsdale on Sunday. Looking back on the comments of then-chairman Sir Roy Gardner on the occasion of Reid’s appointment in June 2010, it’s clear with hindsight that the likeable Scouse was accepting a chalice laced with more poison than anything the England job ever carried. Even Dr Crippen would have baulked at proffering it.

Talk of “aspirations and ambitions”, a return to the Championship and the need to “move on” from the disappointment of relegation provided scant hint of the financial abyss growing wider by the day under the Argyle directors’ feet, and into which the whole club and all associated with it would plummet a few months later.

The frantic scramble for survival in early 2011 resulted in Reid losing his best players, such as Bradley Wright-Phillips and Craig Noone, while a transfer embargo imposed on the club prevented him from even attempting to replace them. With no-one getting paid and the club’s coffers empty, he put his hand in his own pocket to pay the Home Park heating bill and later donated his own FA Cup runners-up medal to auction off for staff funds. Lest we forget, he would have kept Argyle in League One, were it not for the 10-point deduction imposed by the Football League for going into administration – and that should count as an achievement. The circumstances were horrendous and once relegation was confirmed, they got even worse.

It seems remarkable that any player would have agreed to join Argyle in the summer, with no guarantees of being paid until a takeover was completed. However, there were a few optimistic enough to put pen to paper and sign on – but not enough to give Reid a decent stab at fielding a competitive team again, even by League Two standards. Fletcher, long-serving goalkeeper Romain Larrieu (now caretaker first-team coach) and new arrival Warren Feeney are the only thirty-somethings at Home Park. Half the first-team squad are teenagers.

Reid’s stoicism and indefatigability cannot be questioned but increasingly, his task looked Sisyphean – a repetitive slog of drudgery, always ending in defeat (and referencing another mythic Greek figure seems appropriate for a club previously compared to Icarus on these pages). After an opening-day 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury (a result salvaged by a late Fletcher strike), eight straight defeats mean Argyle are already five points from safety a fifth of the way through the campaign, with a goal difference of -16. If football management is essentially one long game of ‘winner stays on’, then the frustrations of Fletcher and Larrieu at the losing sequence were always going to lead to cries of “let us have a go” until Ridsdale relented. That’s not to say there was any sort of dressing-room revolt against Reid; just that there were two senior professionals who were keen as mustard to step up.

That’s what makes Ridsdale’s decision a little easier to stomach. To outsiders looking in, it appears cruel and heartless; but you could argue the opposite too. However you dress it up, there is an element of putting a man out of his misery, and that can only be done out of sympathy. Reid had proven already that he would carry on whatever the circumstances, and as no income is currently available, it’s not like he’s missing out on anything. As a football creditor, he will get his two-year contract paid up in full when a takeover is completed. If Ridsdale had left Reid in his post, there is little to suggest the poor form would have abated – and if you’re still dubious, hear Reid’s own words. In his only comments to the media thus far, he told the Western Morning News:

“I’m disappointed I couldn’t see the job through. The results haven’t been good enough, whatever the extenuating circumstances. But I’m really proud to have been the manager of Plymouth Argyle.

“I know what the club means to the area and the priority, as I have said all along, is for it to keep going.

“I was embarrassed we kept getting beaten, because losing is just not in my nature, but the supporters have kept getting behind us.

“I have been privileged to play for and manage some so-called big clubs, but none have had fans as loyal and passionate, and who travel so far to away games, as those at Argyle.

“It’s just amazing, and that’s why this football club has got to keep going. I wish everyone well.”

An admission of failure, yes. But not bitterness; only goodwill and affection. Prolonging Reid’s tortured tenure, perhaps into the early days of a new regime, may have changed everyone’s sentiments when the time came for a parting of ways. Fletcher and Larrieu feel they can do a better job – they now have a chance to prove it. There is too much talk of legends in football, but Reid’s hard work and dignity in departure certainly means his name has been written into the mythology and folklore of Plymouth Argyle.

Argyle are still drawing an average crowd of 5,500 at Home Park, which is not bad for a stadium that’s only seen 21 home wins in the last 73 league games. On Saturday, the Green Army have to hope that the ‘Fans Reunited’ impact is similar to that engendered by ‘Fans United’ in Brighton in 1997 – a 5-0 home win over Hartlepool, which helped Albion avoid the drop out of the Football League.

Written by Jon Holmes of TEAMtalk.com, We Are Going Up’s Plymouth Argyle blogger.

Jon tweets at @jonboy79