“The takeover will happen this Friday”.
“There’s a slight delay, it’ll happen next Friday”.
This vicious circle has been ongoing for months on end, however finally, it seems like the circle will be broken. October 14th has been earmarked as the day that businessman James Brent will finally complete his takeover of Plymouth Argyle football club.
The Argyle Trust have called for the Green Army to have ‘strong hearts, cool minds’ as negotiations continue. By mid October, providing there are no more hindrances, Brent should have control of the club.
Yet despite a growing feeling of optimism, there is still every reason to be cautious. It would be of no surprise to anyone should the next deadline be missed or if an ex-director or an owed creditor perked up from the blue and caused another delay. Ex-Directors have already tried to do so once after Phil Gill & Tony Wrathall tried to derail Brent’s bid by attempting to purchase the club themselves alongside Kevin Heaney. Ex-Chairman Paul Stapleton was also rumoured to be involved initially, but later clarified he was not part of the bid and gave his backing to James Brent.
Brent is now the only choice. To the fans, to the trust, to the acting chairman (Peter Ridsdale) and most importantly, to the administrator, Brendan Guilfoyle. As far as Ridsdale is concerned, nobody is sure where his future lies. Despite saying himself that he will leave Argyle once the takeover is completed, some rumours on Argyle fans forum PASOTI suggest that James Brent wants Ridsdale to have a role within the club, most probably as a director.
On the pitch their have been significant changes at Home Park. Following a 2-0 away defeat at Southend, Peter Reid was relieved of his duties as manager. Reid left graciously, with not a single Argyle fan applauding the decision. Initially, the decision split fans, but in a time where unity on the terraces is vital, the decision was one that had to be accepted. A few days after Reid’s removal, Captain Carl Fletcher was given the opportunity to become interim manager. He grabbed it with both hands and current club captain, Romain Larrieu – the squad’s veteran – was appointed as his assistant. It immediately proved beneficial.
Fletcher’s debut game in charge (for which he was suspended from playing) saw Argyle pick up their first three points of the season. A Warren Feeney header and a terrific free kick from Robbie Williams handed Argyle a 2-0 win over visitors Macclesfield. The result was not only a special one for Fletcher or for the fact it was the first win of the season, but it was also Fans Reunited day.
Fan’s reunited was an event set up by Brighton fans to make the footballing world aware of Plymouth’s plight. Fans turned out in their droves from across the country, wearing their own colours to support Argyle. The improved atmosphere off the pitch and the unity in the stands helped push Argyle to a much needed three points. The following week, 868 Argyle fans travelled to Crawley to witness a 2-0 defeat. Despite the defeat, there was a quiet optimism that things were going to improve.
The next game was a milestone for the club. The 125th anniversary of the club was marked by a home match against Accrington Stanley; also one of the football league’s oldest clubs. The game started well for Argyle as Accrington defender Sean Hessey was shown a straight red card after bringing Matt Lecointe down in the box. Captain Simon Walton stepped up to convert the penalty. Argyle’s lead was double shortly before half time when Ladji Soukouna turned and finished neatly in the box. At half time, things were looking good , but Argyle never do things the easy way. Stanley came out in the second half and searched for a route back into the game as Argyle failed to get back into the game. The ten men were on top and Argyle looked shaky. The inevitable happened as Kevin Long headed home for the visitors and offered them a route back into the game. An inexperienced Argyle side needed to dig deep and get back on top once again, but they couldn’t make the man advantage count. In the 67th minute the visitors equalised. Padraig Armond headed home from a corner to pull the away side level. Both sides had chances to win it after that, but the ten men were relatively untroubled and left Home Park with a point. A disappointing point for the greens, but a point nonetheless.
The inexperience of the squad is clear, but despite Carl Fletcher’s attempts to use the loan market to strengthen, the club was placed under another transfer embargo earlier this week. Until the players are paid this months wages, Argyle will be unable to sign any new players. Rumours had been circulating that had it not have been for the embargo, ex Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday defender Darren Purse would have signed in time for Saturday’s game.
Despite celebrating their 125th anniversary on Saturday, it won’t be an anniversary to remember. The club at one of the lowest points in its history, throwing away a two goal lead against ten men in front of 8,108 people. Despite being in League Two and in financial turmoil, the Green Army have stayed as faithful and loyal as ever. Fans have travelled around the country in their droves to support the football league’s bottom side. Argyle’s away following currently averages out at 616, which includes trips as far as Burton, Gillingham and Shrewsbury. Quite phenomenal support for a team in Argyle’s position.
However the fans can only do so much. The hard work of the fans trust is admirable, as is the charity of groups such as the Green Taverners, with over £125,000 being raised in the past year. Now the time has come for the people behind the scenes to kick things up a notch. James Brent has been working tirelessly to push this takeover through and with the same levels of commitment from all other parties involved, the deadline of the 14th will hopefully be met.
There is finally a light at the end at the tunnel. It may be dim and flickering, but it’s better than the darkness that has stared Argyle in the face for the best part of a year.
Ben James- @benjames_8