The Road To Newport
It feels more like January in Siberia than May in Devon but the previous football season already seems like a distant bad dream that has finally released its icy grip.
With some twelve weeks before the new one starts, we now have wall to wall sunshine to look forward to (that's the theory anyway) and Argyle fans will no doubt be experiencing that rather naive optimism that comes with every close season, with all teams on 'nil points'.
But for next term we do at least have a good experienced manager at the helm of the Mayflower and hopefully a little more success to come. And, although the anxiety of the last day's permutations is not yet gone from our minds, we shouldn't forget that the Greens beat some good sides in the last weeks of 2012-13 and the club also won both the St Lukes and Disability Cups, both excellent achievements.
The last day at Rochdale felt more like a promotion party for the 1800 Argyle stalwarts who were there but a number of us then had to start worrying about getting through the Plymouth Half Marathon, due to start only 16 hours later. Out of the frying pan and into the fire!
To help you cope with the lack of football, I've located some facts about one of the clubs with which we'll be renewing acquaintances, after 28 years; Newport County.
After relegation from the Football League in 1988, they went out of business the following year, but were reformed shortly afterwards. They then had to put their pride to one side and play in a much lower league, but Newport County AFC has just returned to the League after a 25 year absence, having beaten Wrexham in the Blue Square Play - Off Final.
It seems that the last time we played Newport was in the 1985-86 season, in the old Div.3, when we lost at their place 1(Clayton)-3 but beat them 2-0 at home; Nelson and Burrows scored and the attendance was an incredibly dismal 3686!
With a crowd that size you might be forgiven for thinking that this was a bad season for Argyle - in fact we went on to win promotion to the old Div.2, finishing second behind Reading.
Our top scorer was Kevin 'I`ve played the most' Hodges with 16 and Tommy Tynan returned to Argyle on loan for the last nine games, scoring 9 goals!
In our final home game we beat Bristol City 4-0 in front of 24,888 extremely happy fans.
I'm sure that many of you will have great memories of that match but the one I remember most that season was away to Reading at their old Elm Park ground.
This was the classic game of two halves, with Argyle 3-0 up at half time and looking good for three points. But then, Gordon Nisbet, a key defender, was sent off and the Greens let the Royals back into the game, finally losing it 3-4! The travelling Green Army went from ecstasy to the ultimate nightmare on Elm Street (Park) in the space of 45 minutes.
It seems quite a while since we had a forward who could score 16 goals in a season or one who could knock in 9 in as many matches, but in all of our promotion years we have had at least two players capable of scoring over 15 goals, as we did with Mariner/Rafferty, Hodges/Tynan, Evans/Friio and other great pairings through the years, so there perhaps is a lesson for the club if they want success next season.
Admittedly, getting hold of such players is not easy but it's essential for advancement.
Argyle will also have to be fairly physical to get to the top of this league.
Thinking about that 24,888 crowd back in 1986 brings me on to the current talking point of the capacity of the new Home Park which is, I understand, projected to be 17800.
Some fans are saying it won't be big enough but history, as ever, tells us quite a bit - Argyle only once had a crowd higher than 17,800 in the 85-86 season, despite it being a promotion year.
In the 2001-2 promotion season, the highest crowd was 18,500 and again was the only attendance in excess of 17,800.
In the 2003-4 promotion year, there were three occasions when the crowd exceeded that figure, the highest being 19,888.
By my reckoning, with Cup matches and play offs, there have been only nine occasions in the last 28 years when Argyle's home crowd was greater than 17,800, in other words once every three years, which tends to support the assertion that the new ground will be large enough for 99% of the time.
To spend significantly extra for that 1% of occasions is not really justified.
My view may not be the popular one but I agree with James Brent on this point.
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