Sunday, February 26, 2006

Any Requests?

Long standing readers will be aware that I fell into this blog thing somewhat by mistake. It isn't, and never has been, my intention to start a blow by blow account of a football season including things like match reports, done much better by PL2 3DQ on the P@soti "Matches" messageboard (just click the link on the right and explore a little) for a start. Nor has it been my intention to explore ground already covered by things like P@soti, GoS.

I've gone through my take on the big issues of our time and have explained, hopefully, how both my Argyleness and the club have come to be where we are today and frankly, bar a few little snippets, I have run short of topic ideas for further postings.

That doesn't mean I'll give up. I will add to these pages from time to time but there is likely to a slow down of output - since I have started I have tried to add something twice a week.

Anyway if there is something you would like to know my views on then reply here. I'm happy to spout forth about almost anything...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Plymouth Argyle Is Failing!!

Well, I contend it is failing in part. At least.
In what way? You may well ask. We are now comfortably safe in the CCC for the season. We have around £2m in the bank. No debt. (Accounts just out – check the Bag O’ Shite – sorry Official Website for details).
It all sounds good. And it is. To a point.
Put your thinking cap on. Name famous footballers from Plymouth or the South West who have gone on to perform at the highest level. Name ex-Argyle players who have done the same. Go on. Think about it while you read the rest of this. While you are at it try to think of any Geordies who have done the same and remember that Newcastle is smaller than Plymouth whilst you are at it.
Simply kids in the SW are not getting a fair crack at being pro-footballers and I think a large part of the blame needs to placed at the door of PAFC and given our current relatively elevated league status I just can’t see it getting much better because it’s getting harder and harder to give youngsters a chance.
My work takes me to many schools in the Plymouth area and I can assure you that football is as (ir)relevant a topic for conversation as it ever was. Boys in their droves kick a ball around at every opportunity and they often create opportunities to do so where they shouldn’t. This doesn’t make our boys special or odd. It makes them typical. I have little experience of schools elsewhere in the country but I suspect the picture is very similar in every school in the country.
There is no reason that our boys should be better or worse than the boys elsewhere but precious few of ours go on to make a career as a footballer and if they do they are unlikely to escape the SW enclave that envelopes them and get beyond us, Torquay or Exeter (perhaps I should leave out Exeter and add Yeovil – no matter the point is the same).
As a team we have done quite well lately to field Evans and Wotton, local lads both, and get a fee for Stevie Adams. Add to them geographical outsiders like Luke McCormick and Paul Connolly (recruited from afar) and we have shown that we can bring players through. The question is why are there so few? And why has there always been so few? Is the money invested in the youth scheme money well spent or money down the drain? Will tomorrow’s promising youngsters get a sniff of first XI action when we can field 4 Frenchmen, a Hungarian, a Serbian Swede and until recently a Nigerian, a Portugueser and an Icelandic?
The club’s scouting network has time and time again proved itself lacking in local football and missing the Superstars, few as they are, to come from this area. It is tantamount to either incompetence or negligence in my eyes. It brings the worth of the entire episode into question.
Back to the question at the start. Plymothian players at the very highest level? Only one in my lifetime: Trevor Francis. Sold on by the club? Only a couple: Paul Mariner (another "import") and Jock Morrison. Honourable mentions for David Phillips, Nigel Martyn, Gary Megson, Marc Edworthy, Nicky Marker, Martin Hodge, Milja Aleksic, Paul Barron, Alan Nicholls.
Not great is it?

Comments And Replies

Apologies to anyone who has commented on something.

There is a "review comments before they get published" option which I did not know about.

All comments now added.

Thanks to all who bothered (especially JBE who pointed it out).


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Next?

It’s funny how things rattle around in your mind. Following recent postings on Pasoti from the likes of Tyhee Slim bemoaning the apparent lack of ambition shown by Argyle recently and drawing parallels with the lack of success and ultimate failure of the club following the promotions achieved by Tony Waiters, Dave Smith and Neil Warnock’s teams. I started to ponder our oft mentioned potential. There have also been lots of postings from a host of contributors complaining about the loss of the “feel good factor” since the two euphoric promotions. There has been an air of resignation and despair at witnessing a “here we go again” scenario. The team has struggled, the manager has been changed and the board has conspicuously avoided any serious and obvious investment. Having said all that things are currently on the up again and the aim of consolidation in this division looks like it will be achieved for the second successive year.

What can be done to reinvent/reinforce the feel good factor? Obviously results are first and foremost. The management of the club can play their part by the introduction of new personnel and this has been at least partially achieved with the recruitment of Lilian Nalis and Vincent Pericard. They are both only on short term contracts or loans though. Recruiting a good player on a long contract is expensive and we are limited by the money available.

Signing players of the standard needed to excel in this division and compete in the next will not be cheap and to a certain extent relies upon our ability to attract more revenue either through increasing existing revenue streams or creating new ones. There are two ways of doing this. The easiest would be to up prices across the board and exploit the loyal fan-base. The second is to find new external investment.

The club is hamstrung by it’s tenant status. We are unable to borrow money using the ground as collateral because it is only rented from the council. The only assets we have we could borrow against are the market values of the contracted playing staff, furniture, fixtures and fittings and whatever cash we have in the bank. We are not bank-rolled in the manner made popular by Jack Walker at Blackburn, Al Fayed at Fulham, Roman Abramovich or lots of others. Besides we tried that under McCauley and it all ended in tears. I’m not sure an individually wealthy benefactor/investor is the answer and I’m even less sure that one exists.

The “tenant” status means we could probably not negotiate particularly friendly terms on a bank loan; a mortgage is out of the question and it is stated club policy to build “organically” rather than to incur debt.

What we do have in our favour is massive local uncontested support in a moderately large city and a vast hinterland of football fans with nowhere else to go.

This is the cash cow that must be milked by the club and the only way to do it is to either charge existing punters more, and we pay quite enough already, or get more of them into the ground.

That means we need Phase 2 to be completed as fast as possible and ground capacity increased – ideally, in my mind, to around 22000 (any bigger and the new stand would dwarf the existing P1 stands, any smaller and why bother at all? Plus smaller is less expensive) even though a part of me would be sad to see the existing Leitch-designed structure go (not to mention the end of standing on the terraces) with the new grandstand being multi-purpose, to some extent, so that not only can more people attend matches, whilst paying a higher fee than they do now, for the privilege but income can be generated during non-matchdays by non-football related activities – wedding receptions, parties etc. This is reliant on investment both from the club and from the council.

To this end any negotiations currently under way re P2 have been shrouded in secrecy. I can see no good reason for this if all parties concerned are genuinely working in tandem towards the same end. All we ever hear is “talks are ongoing” from anybody who can be actually bothered to make a statement on the record about the issue.

We must assume that the current board are unanimously in favour of P2 – why would they be against it? We know that the current council is all for it following Tudor Evans’ explicit promise from the balcony of the Civic Centre during the Division One title celebrations and various meetings and half statements on press releases since.

That last sentence is the contestable point. We should ram Evans’ words down his throat until he either does something or admits to spouting lies. The latter will not happen. Is the council really behind the club? If they are where is the hard evidence of this support?

That is at the heart of the issue and is a cause of massive frustration to me. We don’t know when P2 will happen. We don’t know how big it will be. We don’t know what facilities it will include. We don’t know if the finance is in place. We don’t know how much it will cost. We don’t know how long it will take to build.

What we do know is that for Argyle to move forward from here it will need some sound planning and visionary thinking to raise the money needed to up investment levels to get us up the greasy pole towards the summit of the CCC and thence the Premier League.

Will it ever happen? It’s a 100+ years so far and we are still counting…