Plymouth Argyle are otherwise known as The Pilgrims, Argyle or The Green Army. Founded in 1886, the team currently plays in The Championship and their home ground is located at Home Park, Plymouth and has a capacity of 20,922. Their current Manager is Ian Holloway and their Chairman Paul Stapleton.
What’s in a name
The story of the club started in the 1880’s, when 2 former pupils of Dunheved College in Launceston, decided to pursue their passion for football, following a series of well attended exhibition matches that had taken place around the country. Already members of the Argyle Athletic club, football was to be an offshoot. The two former pupils were F Howard Grose (who became the club’s first captain) and W Pethybridge. Deciding that it would be rather sporting to create a team of young men from the local public schools, they set about arranging a meeting in a tavern on Bedford Street in Plymouth to gauge interest. Well attended, the meeting led to discussions on the name of the club and two theories have emerged as to the genesis of the name, both related to the 1880’s when the Argyle Highlanders had been stationed at Plymouth. The first theory is that Grose and Pethybridge, while working at the harbour town, had resided in Argyll Street. The second is that they simply admired the way the highlanders had played football (they had been army champions in 1885) and the naming was a mark of respect to the Scotsmen’s footballing pedigree.
The club is equally famed for their lurid green strip, currently sponsored, slightly ironically some might say, by Ginster’s. Again the history of the strip’s colour can be traced back to the Scots and a look at the Argyle tartan shows a green and black pattern that is echoed in the strip’s current colours.
In 1903, the team turned professional and, the nickname ‘The Pilgrims’, soon followed. The nickname is, unlike many top-flight clubs, not a mere simple addition but deeply steeped in history. The Pilgrims were English Separatists, who, believing the work of the Reformation incomplete, voyaged to America. Originally setting off from Plymouth, they went via Amsterdam and settled at Plymouth harbour in the New World. This story is fundamental to the club’s heritage and their Crest is actually the Separatist’s ship, the Mayflower. On a lighter side, the club’s mascot is “Pilgrim Pete”, who can be seen at their matches, looking much like a leprechaun with his green get up and excessively large ginger moustache.
As an amateur team, the club’s first game was on 16th October 1886, when they lost 2-0 against Caxton, another local side from Cornwall. Playing at Mount Gould in Plymouth, the early years were largely uneventful, save for two changes of location. The team first re-located in 1989 to Marsh Mills, before finally settling at their current ground, Home Park in 1901. Home Park is still the team’s ground to this day but has undergone substantial renovation over the course of the century. The original ground was destroyed by German bombers in the Blitz, necessitating the need for a new stadium, which was the main ground until 2001. The current stadium was funded by the drinks company Barr’s Plc and following an extensive building project, the club’s new ground was opened in 2002.
Argyle entered the Southern League in 1903, under the management of Frank Bettell and with the financial backing and guidance of local businessman, Clarence Spooner. However, Plymouth at this stage was still a Rugby town with two teams. Plymouth Albion R.F.C was still the big sports draw and initial attendances were subsequently poor. Their first game was scheduled against West Ham United, as an away fixture and Jack Peddle was the team’s first professional goal scorer, leading the team to a 1-0 victory. The good omens continued and the team’s first home game at Home Park was a 2-0 victory against Northampton in front of a crowd of 4,438.
The following years saw Plymouth win the Southern League in 1913 and finish runner up a remarkable six times between 1922 and 1927, under the management of Robert Jack, who remains the club’s longest standing manager. Fans of the modern game might wonder why, with such a track record Plymouth remained firmly in the same division. It was indeed much to the dismay of their fans, but in the game before the modern era, it was only first place that was promoted. In 1929 the Pilgrims finally broke through and were promoted to the Second division, where they remained for the next 20 years. In terms of players, the 1920’s were very much the heyday for Plymouth Argyle’s squad. First it saw the arrival of Sammy Black at the club, who is still the club’s record striker with a grand total of 180 goals. It was also during this period that Jack Cock was a regular team player and his record of 32 goals in a single season is still the club record. Perhaps more remarkable still, was Jack Leslie, who despite the prejudice dominant in 1920’s England, was the first black player to be selected to play for England. Unfortunately for Jack, the colour of his skin turned out to be a problem and when several of the selectors, previously unaware of his race, realised his colour, the place was taken from him.
Having been promoted up to the second division, Argyle succeeded in a top 4 placing in 1932. For fans of the club, however, this was arguably the sole highpoint of the next 20 years with relegation being the next event of note in 1950.
Since 1950, the club has had a sporadic collection of managers and an equally sporadic track record in achieving success. Ellis Stuttard was handed the reins from 1962 to 1963 and led the greens to their next near miss, achieving a 5th Place season end and near promotion to the first division. From 1963 to 1968 four different managers attempted to repeat this success but to no avail and the club went from bad to worse. Andy Beattie stayed for a single season, to be replaced by Malcolm Allison in the next year. The change showed little improvement in the club’s placing, with Beattie leading them to a 20th place finish and Allison 15th. Derek Ufton lasted three whole years but in 1968 Argyle were finally relegated and remained in the third division, until Tony Waiters led them to second place in the 1974 season and subsequent promotion.
In 1980 Bobby Saxton was appointed to manage the Greens and achieved a seventh position finish. With Saxton leaving to manage Blackburn Rovers, the next appointment was Bobby Moncur and a rather uneventful two years of mid table finishes. The 1984 season was the next highlight in the club’s history. While languishing mid-table in the league, Argyle, under the leadership of the newly appointed Johnny Hore, enjoyed their finest ever run in the FA Cup. Becoming giant-killers, in their defeats of Derby County and West Bromwich, they became national favourites as they steered their way through some tricky games and met Watford in the semi-final. As real minnows, and with an otherwise lacklustre league season, the club was edified by their stellar cup run. Unfortunately the North Londoners would prove too much for Hore’s men and defeated them 1-0 in a tight game.
Following this successful season, Dave Smith replaced Hore and another year saw another mid-table finish. However, Smith would be the man who would guide the Pilgrims back to form and in 1985, they were once again promoted to second division football, after a second place finish. Smith remained in charge at the club until 1988 and established Argyle as stalwarts of the second division, narrowly missing out on a play-off position in the 1986-87 season. This season is again one of the highlights of the club’s history with a 5th round cup run, seeing defeat only by Arsenal.
Ken Brown was the next man set the mandate of leading the Pilgrims, and his reign was largely uneventful, before David Kemp was installed in 1990. For The Pilgrim’s, Kemp’s reign was unfortunately full of calamity as they were again relegated in 1992. After some brief caretaker management, The Pilgrims were happy to welcome Peter Shilton as player-manager; then regarded as a national treasure after his prolific capping as England Keeper. Shilton’s time was fairly uneventful for the club, but he managed to steer them clear of relegation during his spell in charge, before Neil Warnock took over.
Warnock, appointed in the summer of the 19th season, arguably led the worst year for Argyle when they were demoted down to the third division, then the equivalent of the fourth tier of English football. The next year saw the club emerge from these depths, but as has been so customary in the club’s history, their success did not last long and they ended the 1998 season at the foot of the table and once more relegated.
The 2002 season, under the management of Paul Sturrock is arguably the finest league season the club have played. Crowned champions, they suffered only 6 defeats and tallied up an impressive 102 points in winning the league. Happily for the Green Army of fans, the Pilgrims continued to play enthusiastic and solid football, almost winning a chance of play-off promotion with their 8th position finish. The subsequent year was even better for the club, as they achieved promotion back to second tier football. After a brief spell as caretaker manager in 2005, Jocky Scott was replaced by Tony Pulis as manager and the team again finished mid-table. The current manager, Ian Holloway was appointed in June 2006 to manage the club and they are, so far in the 2007 season, holding a mid position in the league.
- 1905 – Western League Division One Champions
- 1907 – Western League Division One B – Runners Up
- 1908 – Southern League – Runners Up
- 1912 – Southern League – Runners Up
- 1913 – Southern League – Champions
- 1922 – 1927 – Third Division South – Runners Up
- 1930 – Third Division South – Champions
- 1940 – South West Regional League – Champions
- 1952 – Third Division South – Champions
- 1959 – Third Division – Champions
- 1975 – Third Division – Runners Up
- 1986 – Third Division – Runners Up
- 2002 – Division Three – Champions
- 2004 – Division Two – Champions
- Highest attendance: 43,596 v Aston Villa, Division Two, 10 October 1936
- Record league victory:
- 8-1 v Millwall, Division Two, 16 January 1932
- 8-1 v Hartlepool United, Division Two, 7 May 1994
- Record league defeat: 0-9 v Stoke City, Division Two, 17 December 1960
- Record cup victory: 6-0 v Corby Town. FA Cup 3rd round. 22nd January 1966
- Record cup defeat: 1-7 v Tottenham FA Cup 1st round replay 19 January 1910
- Best Cup Run – 1984, Victories against Derby County and West Bromwich Albion before a semi final defeat of 1-0 against Watford
- Most league points (3 for a win): 102 Division Three 2001-2002
- Most league goals: 107 Division 3 South 1925-1926, 107 Division 3 South 1951-1952
- Highest scorer in one season: 32 Jack Cock Division 3 South 1926-1927
- Highest overall goal scorer Sammy Black – 180 goals.
- Fastest Goal – Nick Chadwick 11 seconds against Crystal Palace, 17th December 2005
- Most League Appeareance – 530 Kevin Hodges
- Record Transfer Fee Paid – £400,000 to Debreceni VSC for Péter Halmosi, May 2007
- 01/08/1903 – Frank Brettell
- 01/08/1906 – Bill Fullerton
- 01/08/1910 – Bob Jack
- 01/04/1938 – Jack Tresadern
- 01/09/1948 – Jimmy Rae
- 01/02/1955 – Jack Rowley
- 01/03/1961 – Neil Dougall
- 01/11/1961 – Ellis Stubbard
- 01/10/1963 – Andy Beattie
- 01/05/1964 – Malcolm Allison
- 01/05/1965 – Derek Ufton
- 01/02/1968 – Billy Bingham
- 01/03/1970 – Ellis Stuttard
- 11/10/1972 – Tony Waiters
- 01/05/1977 – Mike Kelly
- 14/02/1978 – Lennie Lawrence (Caretaker)
- 16/03/1978 – Malcolm Allison
- 05/01/1979 – Bobby Saxton
- 01/06/1981 – Bobby Moncur
- 01/10/1983 – Johnny Hore
- 01/11/1984 – Dave Smith
- 06/07/1988 – Ken Brown
- 06/02/1990 – John Gregory (Caretaker)
- 01/03/1990 – David Kemp
- 02/03/1992 – Peter Shilton (Player-Manager)
- 02/01/1995 – Steve McCall (Caretaker)
- 22/06/1995 – Neil Warnock
- 03/02/1997 – Mick Jones
- 21/06/1998 – Kevin Hodges
- 04/10/2000 – Kevin Summerfield (Caretaker)
- 31/10/2000 – Paul Sturrock
- 04/03/2007 – Kevin Summerfield (Caretaker)
- 20/04/2004 – Booby Williamson
- 06/09/2005 – Jocky Scott (Caretaker)
- 23/09/2005 – Tony Pulis
- 28/06/2006 – Ian Holloway