Saturday, February 18, 2012

Carl Fletcher (manager) ~ half-term report

I have to own up to a slight discrepancy before I go any further: Argyle's season will consist of 46 league games; Carl Fletcher has been manager for 22 of them. So this is being written one game prematurely. However I will be out for the evening next week so here goes regardless...

Following the heady excitement of Argyle's best away league win since the spectacularly talented, but motivationally-challenged footballer/surfie/wannabe-rockstar, Paul McGregor nonchalantly completed a hat-trick by slotting the ball through the goalie's legs (accompanied by the time-honoured "nuts!" of course) at Torquay way back in March 2000 I have actually begun to consider the hitherto somewhat unlikely notion that Argyle might not be relegated for the third successive season in May. Admittedly winning, even if it is 4-0, at Accrington might not be the most solid evidence on which to base such heady optimism. With that in mind I looked back at the league table showing the position Argyle occupied when Fletcher took over as manager:

So there we were at rock bottom after managing only 1 point in our first 9 games. Even that point had been scavenged in injury time away at Shrewsbury in the season's first game. The situation was truly desperate.

And yet after today's heroic display Up North the league looks a little different:

Now as far as Argyle is concerned it may not look like much has changed but football fans will immediately recognise that we have not only closed what was becoming an ominous gap and climbed off the bottom of the table but we have escaped the two dreaded relegation spots and have an encouraging goal difference ("worth an extra point" as the cliché would have it) to boot. At a stretch we could even be looking at an eventual lower mid-table finish and avoid the heartache that a dramatic season finale, when we play title-chasing Cheltenham, would surely deliver.

So it would appear that if safety in the future is not exactly secured as yet the prospects are promising.

Having dug out those two league tables I wondered just how we would be faring in the division if the first  9 games had never been played. So a little fiddling with a spreadsheet produced this "league table" for the games played under Fletcher only:

So there you have it. Half a season (ish) is quite a few games to assess somebody on. It's fair to say that mid-table form isn't really good enough for a team like Argyle in this division but given the free-fall, how else can you describe 8 defeats in a row?, we were in when he started it seems like pretty fair progress to me.

Of course it doesn't mean much, if it means anything at all, as yet. In fact it might still come down to Argyle relying on there being two worse teams than us rather than us being up to much but as I sit here right now I am optimistic. Our next home game sees Dagenham & Redbridge, who lost 5-0 today and had their goalie sent off meaning that he will be suspended next week, arrive at Home Park. Only a couple of weeks ago this looked like it would be a season-defining game. Well... It still might be ~ but in an entirely different way.

So what phrases might a teacher use to describe Fletcher's tenure so far? How about: "Carl has shown promise by over-coming some initial difficulties. He has made encouraging progress but he cannot afford to relax. Things are currently going well but complacency could result in a calamitous end to the season that has serious repercussions for him in his chosen career." Or maybe the old "good but should do better" says it far more succinctly?