Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why Plymouth Argyle?

Apart from the obvious fact that it was the only way to watch regular live football when I grew up there is the very real excitement and anticipation of matchday and it's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I first started going with my brother and we had season tickets in the Grandstand - you didn't really want to be on the terraces with a small child in those days - when we used to wear the Green Arsenal/Hibs kit. Dave Provan, Jim Furnell, Steve Davey, Jimmy Hinch, Bobby Saxton spring to mind. Circa 1973 I'd guess. Wednesday afternoon off school to see us play Manchester City in a League Cup semi-final during the 3-day week period of Ted Heath's government is one of the earliest real memories that I have.

I used to play football in Central Park with my mates and we'd all desperately hope to score a goal as the team did and so hear the roar of celebration from Home Park across the muddy fields of the park as we celebrated having slotted one between the jumpers. We also couldn't wait until we were old enough to be allowed to go to Argyle on our own.

My brother moved away when I was a small child but luckily my Mum ran a corner shop in Quarry Park Road (long since closed and converted to housing), we lived more or less opposite, and home games were always eagerly anticipated. The shop would stay open late for evening games; there were extra pasty deliveries for Saturday afternoons - the smell was delicious. Parking was a nightmare although I was too young to care.

Argyle's marketing department in those days used to send out a poster detailing all home games (reserves too in the Combination League back then but more of that on another day) and inside the poster was a pair of complimentary tickets. Dad was never much into football; Mum worked in the shop; my brothers had moved away; so one of our neighbours got a free ticket and took me along once a month.

What memories there were. I was 10 when Mariner and Rafferty led us to Promotion under Tony Waiters's managership in 1975. We beat Colchester 1-0 to go up. I was there when Jim Furnell saved a last minute penalty from Terry Venables in a Cup match v. Palace... Big crowds and electric atmospheres.

I guess the bug had bitten.

Attendance whilst I was at school was semi-frequent. My Mum sold the shop so the free tickets dried up, money restricted when I could go but I went whenever I could. After school I moved away and went to college in Gloucestershire and it was in my first year there that I really became hooked and there was no going back.

Living away from Plymouth the only contact I had with old friends was when we arranged to meet at matches. Christmas and Easter games became must-sees. Away games were chosen with a view to a studenty stop-over whenever possible and then came arguably Argyle's finest hour the run to the FA Cup semi-final in 1984. The impact of all ofthis on me as a young man was immense and my strongest and fondest footballing memories stem from this period.

By the time we won promotion under Dave Smith in 1986 I was a lost cause.

Still the good times didn't last long. A series of disastrous managerial decisions led to Argyle sinking to their lowest ever position before there was improvement and then came the glory of the last few years.

Why Argyle? Who else could it possibly be?


At 3:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A must-read for all Argyle fans, and a few others I would guess...


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