2016/17 – A season in review
Welcome back sports fans! It’s great to return to the pages of PS Magazine with good news regarding our own Plymouth Argyle FC.
With an exciting 2016/17 season now behind us, here’s my review of the movers and shakers in the English Premier League and Argyles’ step up to League Division One.
Regardless of your allegiance its been quite an interesting season if you’re a football fan. Chelsea built up unrivalled momentum in the Premier League, winning by a seven point margin, with Antonio Conte making light work of the EPL in his first season. Tottenham failed to build on last years new found success, but show clear signs that surely a trophy must be within reach in the coming season. Manchester City’s’ new manager Pep Guardiola found it difficult to make the transition into English football. While his team still finished third, it’s likely he deemed this a disaster, considering his past successes in Europe’s biggest leagues. He refused to compromise his style of play, could this be his downfall? Liverpool, who had a very up and down season, eventually managed to secure a Champions League playoff position on the last day of the season, ending in a do-or-die battle for forth with Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s men, who had their own troubles for the most part of the season, had left it too late. Chancing their arm, and being reliant on the already relegated Middlesbrough to give them a chance of making the Champions League for an unprecedented twenty one straight seasons. His time was running out, but, has against all odds (and some fans), kept his job as manager. The Europa League beckons for the Gunners next season, a trophy which was won this year by the once unrivalled Manchester United. They beat a young Ajax team 2-0, reserving their place in next seasons Champions League, as it proved to difficult for them to do the business in the domestic league, finishing sixth, and six points adrift of Arsenal.
As for the other end of the table, Sunderland had ridden their luck too long, a club which had failed to learn from previous mistakes finally take the step down to the Championship. It’s important to make a point of saying that it’s no easy feat for previous Premier League mainstays to make the jump back up to the top flight as Aston Villa have also found this past year, some say the Championship is the hardest league in the world to get promoted from. Others feeling the relegation burn were Middlesbrough and Hull City. Middlesbrough had a decent defensive record, but failed to score enough goals, proving that you have to be scoring to give you any chance of staying in this league, let alone competing. Hull managed to get some good results against some of the bigger clubs, but this was all to be in-vain. Their season started with the resignation of manager Steve Bruce, before a ball had even been kicked. Caretaker manager Mike Phelan got the top job, but only held on for three months. The clubs’ owners showed an obvious lack of direction from the get go, and far too often made their moves too late. These mistakes gave the newly appointed Marco Silva (who has since resigned and joined Watford) little chance of getting out of the drop zone. Had he been appointed earlier, Hull could’ve held on, his team showed a clear change of pace after his arrival but alas they will play Championship football next season.
Plymouth Argyle Promoted to League Division One
If you follow the Greens even in the most casual capacity you’ll know that last season was a particularly special one. The team delivered a promotion winning season finishing runners-up overall, just being narrowly pipped to the the league title by our “Dockyard Derby” rivals Portsmouth FC on goal difference! Doncaster Rovers eventually finished third after sharing the top spot with Argyle for the most part of the season. It just goes to show how things can change in the final stages of any league, and also how competitive the English Football League now is. Mathematically, all three clubs still had a chance of being champions just weeks before the final fixtures were played.
Just one season after the heartbreaking result, and poor performance Argyle showed in their 2-0 play-off final defeat to AFC Wimbledon at Wembley, Derek Adams’ team showed great character to push on and get a coveted automatic promotion place. Argyle’s promotion comes six years after they were relegated to the fourth division of English football while in administration. A lot has changed in this time frame, the appointment of Adams from North of the boarder Ross County has been a smart move by the club. His ambition to gain promotion, bring in new players and instil a winning mentality in the team is finally reaping the rewards, the proof lies in the numbers. In the 2015/16 season PAFC had the tenth highest transfer budget in the league, and still managed to get to the play-off final, 2016/17’s transfers solidified Adams’ appetite for success.
The club made 14 new singing’s in the pre-season transfer window clearly laying out plans for a major rebuild of the squad and spelling out what his main objective was, promotion. Seven of those new recruits started in the seasons opening game against Luton Town, Argyle were comprehensively beaten 3-0 that afternoon. The following fixture (and the longest round journey for any two teams in English football, 632 miles there and back) against Carlisle ended in a 1-0 defeat for the Greens, that’s a long way to leave with nothing. Not a great start to the season.
As the season built in pace, Argyle started to find their feet, garnering a fourteen game unbeaten run, twelve of which were wins, beating the likes of Notts County, Blackpool and our fiercest rivals Exeter City. The Greens looked good going into November, but as always, fortunes can change. The team lost the next three games at a pivotal point in the clubs season. Christmas is always an important time for all clubs at either end of the table, more games, less rest and building pressure. Plymouth went the next sixteen games losing five, drawing three and winning eight, managing to hold their own in the promotion stakes but still needing to be more consistent in the final stages of the season.
The final eleven fixtures of the 2016/17 saw Argyle lose only one game, that being against early season contenders Accrington Stanley. The team had obviously started to believe they had what it took to get automatic promotion, and weren’t willing to go through the ordeal some of them had the previous season, falling at the last hurdle and not rising to the occasion at Wembly. Plymouth Argyle sealed promotion at Home Park against Newport County on 17th April with a commanding 6-1 win. With three games left, and the potential to still will the league Argyle sadly let their foot off the gas, sharing points with Colchester and on the final day drawing with Grimsby Town, meaning the league title went to Portsmouth on goal difference, a real nail biting end to a dramatic season!
I think it’s important to mention that Argyle’s season really started to lift off following their 0-0 draw against Liverpool in the FA Cup third round. Plymouth hosted the re-play at Home Park to a capacity crowd and narrowly missed out on qualifying after a 0-1 win to the visitors. The Greens showed great spirit and character in both of these cup ties and arguably this is the turning point that unified the team to go on and gain promotion.
Congratulations to the team, management and our fans, I look forward to next season and all the ups and downs that entails. GREEN ARMY!
For more information on Plymouth Argyle FC , fixtures, tickets and all things Green Army go to www.pafc.co.uk
and for more information on the English Premier League go to www.premierleague.com and whatever you do don’t buy The Sun #JFT96