TTU Go Predicting: a Club-by-Club League 2 Preview

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Image available under Creative Commons (c) Jack Tanner

We’re baaack! Kicking off this year’s look ahead to the new season, we focus today on the clubs who’ll be competing in League 2 this year and – because everyone likes a prediction – pass judgement on where they might finish. Then, tomorrow and Wednesday, we put the spotlight on League 1 and the Championship respectively before spending the rest of the time leading up to August 3 offering forth some predictions for the campaign which in some way mirror our annual end of season awards posts.

Accrington Stanley

James Beattie’s never really come across as management material and it doesn’t seem all that outrageous to suggest that his time as a gaffer might well be short-lived. Most particularly in this case that’s because the job he’s taken on seems like a herculean task, as evidenced by previous managers Paul Cook and Leam Richardson lasting all of eight and six months in the post respectively, with both opting to leave the Crown Ground in order to join League 2 rivals Chesterfield (the latter choosing a number two gig ahead of staying on as Stanley’s manager). Of course, you can’t blame Beattie for giving it a go –  at this stage of his career, any contract offer might well be his last – but this chalice seems like a poisoned one; Beattie having inherited a squad, now shorn of two of its best players in Lee Molyneux and Rommy Boco, which barely survived last year. A fiery baptism indeed.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

AFC Wimbledon

After two seasons of struggle back in the Football League, the Dons remain a work in progress but there’s room for quiet optimism down in south west London. Fresh from keeping the club in the 72, Wimbledon’s not-so-new manager Neal Ardley is in the midst of introducing a new kind of passing style – whatever that means – and as a consequence has spent most of the summer continuing the reshuffle of the squad he inherited from his predecessor Terry Brown. The fact remains, however, that with one eye on a ground move this is a particularly tightly-run ship and although the Dons may be well-placed geographically to bring in loan signings, a year of steady progress is probably all that can be hoped for.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Bristol Rovers

Like Coventry, Bristol Rovers are one of those spectacular underperformers whose sustained ability to drawn in decent support seems more remarkable every year. But that could all be about to change if the club’s planned move to a new stadium at the University of the West of England goes through (as it looks like it will). It can’t come soon enough. Like the Withdean in Brighton, The Memorial Stadium has always seemed like a staging post on the way to something more suitable and Rovers’ chances of getting back to their natural berthing place, somewhere between the nether regions of the Championship and top of League 1, seem dependent on a development of this kind. Until this happens, the club will have to endure limited resources, as exemplified by manager John Ward’s small – and youthful – playing squad. A run at promotion this year would have been more than conceivable such was the form of Ward’s side in the second half of last term, but a series of long-term injuries to key players over pre-season suggests that a year of middling form, combined with the commencement of the UWE move and the emergence of one or two youngsters (and the smart money’s probably on striker Ellis Harrison to make the biggest name for himself), will in all likelihood be the sum total of supporters’ hopes for 2013-14.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Burton Albion

Still led by this site’s current Manager of the Season, 2013-14 should prove to be another happy one for the Brewers. True, the top guns may have deserted Albion with Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma joining Aberdeen and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, but manager Gary Rowett and his assistant Kevin Summerfield – a former championship winner in this league with Plymouth – have recruited well, fending off a host of clubs to bring the likes of Rene Howe and Adam Reed, players who have proven more than capable of performing at this level already. One wonders whether traces of the brittleness that characterised last year’s 7-1 drubbing at Port Vale in April remain but in a league where just a few key men can make the difference Burton – now rightly regarded by Rowett as one of the league’s big boys – should be able to at least match last season’s top 7 finish.

Verdict: Automatic

Bury

Where to start? Of all 24 teams playing in League 2 this year, Bury might just be the darkest horses. Given the tumultuous background to the season, one would probably bet on a bottom half finish for the Shakers but, just as Micky Adams showed with Port Vale last year, all it takes is a bit of nous and a good contact book to make an impact in this division. Agricultural his approach may be, but Kevin Blackwell certainly has both. Whether the infrastructure will be in place off the pitch in order to help oil the wheels is harder to tell. Details on the specifics of the club’s new ownership are in short supply, but lead man Stewart Day has been anything but elusive since his chairmanship was announced at the end of May, communicating directly to fans on a number of issues including why key player David Worrall was sold to Rotherham, and how the club plans to put – cringe alert – a ‘worldwide scouting system’ in place. Stockport supporters in particular will attest to the fact that a big mouth shouldn’t be mistaken for any form of credibility, though, and although former chairman Brian Fenton has lent his support to the new owners a man who played a role in what was yet another sorry episode for the club may not exactly be the best of judges.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Cheltenham Town

Is this the year that Cheltenham’s steady and impressive progress over the past few seasons begins to fade? Manager Mark Yates has already proven himself several times over since his arrival in late 2009, leading the Robins to top 7 finishes in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, but as good a wheeler-and-dealer as Yates has been, he’ll have some job replacing pivotal players Marlon Pack and Kaid Mohamed, who are both set to feature a division above this season. True, quality has been replaced by quality; Jamie Cureton, Ashley Vincent and Matt Richards just a few of the players Yates has lined up to try to nudge Town on that extra mile. But none of the new signings quite possess the same elán as those who came before them and one wonders whether Yates might finally be undone by budgetary restrictions this year.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Chesterfield

Now here, on the surface of things, is a team that should do well. Having shown quality in patches last season, Chesterfield will be expected to build on 2012-13’s near play-off miss after enjoying a first pre-season under their popular manager Paul Cook, who’s now been reunited with his former number two Leam Richardson. It’s been a pretty solid one as they go, with the Spireites showing well in a win against Huddersfield and a draw against Forest, and in terms of personnel the squad looks reasonably strong. It’s an experienced set of players as well with the likes of Jimmy Ryan, Ritchie Humphreys and Gary Roberts supplementing what was already a good group. But confidence can be a fragile thing and, as a side which will be widely tipped to finish strongly, this is one of the few clubs in the division who will go into the campaign under pressure. Promotion should be a distinct possibility if they can cope with it.

Verdict: Automatic

Dagenham & Redbridge

It’s been a seriously unremarkable summer at Daggers, with very little to report on in the way of new signings. Since an end of season nip and tuck – which saw Sam Williams, Kevin Maher and Dominic Green depart – a succession of trialists have attempted to earn a deal at the club  but to date only Afolabi Obafemi, who’s made all of nine appearances in the Football League, has convinced manager Wayne Burnett that he’s worth a pop. Otherwise, the rookie manager appears to have been either gazumped or used as a back-up plan if a deal doesn’t come off elsewhere, such is the skimpiness of Dagenham’s playing budget. A 20% cut of Dwight Gayle’s (surely excessive?) £6m transfer from Posh to Palace will offer a timely boost to the club’s coffers as Burnett looks to hoover up some of the better free agents that are still hawking for a deal, but the serious nosebleed that met John Still’s departure to Luton last season suggests that anything other than relegation would be a minor achievement for Burnett in his first full season as a manager.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Exeter City

Times are hard at City. Before May was out Paul Tisdale – now, incredibly, the second longest-serving manager behind Arsène Wenger in the professional game in England and Wales – had already played his part in cross-code rivals Exeter Chiefs’ 2013-14 season ticket drive by announcing that City were unlikely to sign more than one player over the summer. He’s remained true to his word and, if anything, has gone even further to emphasise his belief in sustainably-sourced football squads, withdrawing a contract offer that had tentatively been made to full-back Steve Tully earlier in the summer. Green shoots are emerging in the form of youngsters Jimmy Keohane, Jake Gosling and Jamie Reid but the Grecians appear to be markedly weaker than in previous seasons and, without the goals of Cheltenham-bound Jamie Cureton, can probably hope for nothing better than mid-table.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Fleetwood Town

After much huff and puff, Fleetwood’s debut Football League season was an underwhelming one in the end. Having spent big on names like Damien Johnson and Jon Parkin, more was expected of the Cod Army, and chairman Andy Pilley demonstrated as much mid-way through the season by dispensing of manager Micky Mellon as form dipped. Graham Alexander was drafted in from Preston’s Youth team and things only got worse; of his 26 games in charge, Fleetwood won just seven times and ended the season in the bottom half. Pilley’s stayed with Alexander for now, however, rubber stamping a host of new signings with household lower division players such as Steven Schumacher, Matty Blair, Mark Roberts and Jeff Hughes arriving on the Fylde coast. Whereas the onus a year ago seemed to be on bringing in players who’d performed further up the pyramid, there’s a sense this time around that these are the types who’ll fare better at this level. A morale  boosting 4-0 win against Preston on Saturday is a sign, perhaps, that the club’s upwards trajectory is set to continue for at least another season.

Verdict: Automatic

Hartlepool United

The big news at Hartlepool this summer has been the arrival of new manager Colin Cooper and his assistant Craig Hignett. The lack of activity otherwise will have disappointed fans, who will have had hopes of an overhaul in Cooper’s playing squad after having to put up with a complete and utter stinker of a season last time out. To date, however, only journeyman winger Jack Compton has turned up and it seems as though Cooper’s transfer policy will largely revolve around who former club Middlesbrough are willing to put out on loan at this level. Pools are probably better than their form last season suggested, but it’s hard to predict anything other than a year of building new foundations, really.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Mansfield Town

Having won the Conference title last time out – which, as Gary Andrews reported a few months ago, is no mean feat these days – it’s largely been a case of tinkering with what’s already proven to be a strong group at Mansfield. Or is there more to the lack of activity at Field Mill than meets the eye? Indeed, even though key man Matt Green – whose exit was widely expected – departed for Championship football at Birmingham some three weeks ago a replacement striker is yet to arrive. More worryingly still, two of the club’s former directors and founders of AFC Mansfield Steve Hymas and Andy Saunders are demanding that owner John Radford repay hefty outstanding loans. In the centre of the row is botoxed CEO and wife of Radford, Carolyn, who’s taken to Facebook to air her grievances against the duo. Against this messy backdrop, manager Paul Cox seems to be running a pretty tight ship and, if his success to date with the club is anything to go by, then the Stags should be reasonably comfortable at this level. But, sooner or later, one wonders whether the club’s unsavoury off-field history might catch up with them.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Morecambe

Times are hard at Morecambe. Although crowds at the Globe Arena have never been huge, the last few seasons have seen the club really struggle to entice locals and despite trying to give tickets away last year’s 1,954 average was down almost 1,000 heads on Morecambe’s mean attendance on their arrival in the Football League in 2007-08. As a result, Jim Bentley’s playing budget has suffered and having only been able to offer his out of contract players deals based on reduced terms, the Shrimps’ manager has seen first-teamers Gary McDonald, Lewis Alessandra, Jordan Burrow, Nick Fenton and Will Haining all exit in order to try their luck elsewhere. Replacements largely consist of either young players discarded from further up the divisions or those trying their luck after stints in the non-league, so it’s likely to be a difficult season for the club, who will have to rely even more than ever on striker Kevin Ellison, particularly since improving young forward Jack Redshaw has been ruled out until 2014 with injury.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Newport County

The Exiles, back in the Football League for the first time in 25 years, look like a good addition to the division. Led by the well-regarded Justin Edinburgh – who’s earned his stripes via stints as manager at various non-league sides – the Newport squad possesses a nice blend of youth and experience and most of the side have played in the League at some stage in the past. It’s also a good time to be a side at this level in South Wales; in years gone by, Newport were competing with Cardiff and Swansea for supporters and players, but following the huge strides made by both clubs in recent seasons the Exiles are well-positioned as a non-threatening alternative to the two, and if good relationships can be fostered might well be used as an outpost for up-and-coming youth team players.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Northampton Town

Until Saturday’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Posh, Cobblers had been banging them in, winning their opening two games 5-1 and 7-0. Unfortunately, opposition came in the form of United Counties League sides Northampton Sileby Rangers and Cogenhoe United, and half the players that Aidy Boothroyd had been fielding were trialists, making a prediction of where Northampton might finish tricky even at this late stage of the summer. But, as many variables as there are in this particular forecast, you know you’re going to get certain things with a Boothroyd side, whoever lines up, and Cobblers should once again be competitive. Any side, though, that is considering offering Kevin Amankwahh, Liam Dickinson and Darren Purse contracts can’t be taken too seriously, although there’s very little chance that Northampton will fall back to where they were when Boothroyd arrived in 2011. Another solid season looms, but Cobblers should once again be beatable when it comes down to it.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Oxford United

For a short time at the beginning of last season Chris Wilder was the next big thing. His Oxford side had started the season strongly, winning their first three games and overcoming Bournemouth in the League Cup, and Coventry were apparently interested in bringing Wilder to the Ricoh to replace Andy Thorn. In the end, the Sky Blues opted for Mark Robins, Oxford went on a horrible run, losing all six of their league games in September, and supporters got back to questioning whether Wilder was really the man to take the Yellows to the next level. As it was, Wilder ploughed on and Oxford managed a respectable finish in 9th place as a number of the clubs ahead of and around the Us crumbled away. Having since had a major clear-out, it seems that Wilder’s been briefed to cut his cloth although the marquee signing of Dave Kitson hints at some remaining trace of ambition on behalf of the board. However, with Kitson’s career having been on a downward spiral since he first departed Thames Valley rivals Reading in 2008, his capture may not prove to be all that significant and although Wilder’s other signings haven’t been too shabby it’s difficult to see how Oxford can really push on until they finally rid themselves of their association with Firoz Kassam once and for all.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Plymouth Argyle

For the first time in years, Argyle fans are looking forward to the new season. Manager John Sheridan, who’s barely put a step out of place since his arrival at the then 24th placed Pilgrims in January, has committed to a new three-year deal; a stronger squad is slowly being pieced together; the club’s backroom staff has been significantly bolstered, both at first and academy team level; and a CEO is in place for the first time in 4 years. But underlying all of this slow and delicate progress is a fissure in the fanbase, caused by the hotly-debated plans for the new Mayflower Stand within the wider ‘Higher Home Park Development’ which will result in a capacity of well under 18,000 after segregation. Many are happy to plough on ahead and Get It Built but some, quite rightly, are questioning owner James Brent’s real motives and wondering whether what seems like a pretty underwhelming stand on the face of things is worth the price of an Odeon cinema and a Nandos et al adjacent to the ground in Central Park. Will this detract from the strides being made on the pitch? Quite possibly.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Portsmouth

Pompey will of course be every bookie’s favourite for promotion ahead of the new season. They’re Pompey! They’ve sold 10,000 season tickets! They’re Pompey! But fans have never won a league by level of support alone and after all the suffering and angst of the last few years you wonder whether a year of mid-table football – allowing the club to get to grips with its new form of ownership – might be better for Portsmouth in the long run. Such a scenario might well be on the cards. Although manager Guy Whittingham, whose diligent and understated approach has been a welcome relief in Hampshire (and beyond), did his business early on in the window, getting his backroom staff sorted and bringing in a bundle of free agents, it has to be said – or perhaps whispered – that his side doesn’t necessarily look all that good. At least in respect to putting money down on them as champions-elect. Sure, he’s still adding to the squad and more funds might be made available through the season but it’s likely that teams will raise their game against Pompey and whether the likes of Joe Devera and Tom Craddock have it in them to respond in kind isn’t entirely clear.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Rochdale

Keith Hill’s return to Dale towards the end of last season raised a few eyebrows. Did it indicate a lack of ambition or self-belief on Hill’s part? Perhaps it suggested that his assistant David Flitcroft, who stayed on to take the reins at Barnsley, was really the brains behind the Hillcroft act? Or was it in fact more about loyalty and Hill being unafraid of what people might say or think about his decision to return to Rochdale? Either way, it’s worked out pretty well for all parties, with Barnsley managing to stay up and Rochdale once again looking like they might challenge towards the upper reaches of a familiar division. Although key men Phil Edwards and Bobby Grant have left, Hill’s managed to bring in a good crop of young, yet reasonably battle-hardened players and in returning winger Matty Done he has a potential matchwinner on his hands. Question marks will persist regarding the lightness of Hill’s striking options after Grant’s move to Blackpool, but he’ll no doubt have his new man in place before long and supporters will expect to be back on the up after a few seasons in recession.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Scunthorpe United

You’re only ever a Google search away from realising that things aren’t always quite as they seem at a particular club. Take Scunthorpe. On the face of things, it would appear that the Iron have just had a bad time of it of late, suffering two relegations in three seasons after the milk and honey of the Nigel Adkins years. But then you delve a little deeper and realise that there’s far more going on under the surface, in this case a messy boardroom power struggle between outgoing chairman Steve Wharton and his would-be replacement, boxing promoter Dennis Hobson, who in the event has ended up being overlooked in favour of an outsider, entrepreneur and former Gainsborough Trinity chair Peter Swann. Against this backdrop, there’s been plenty of comings and goings as Brian Laws attempts to craft a team capable of resurrecting his career. So far, he’s relied largely on old pros in the form of Andy Dawson, Chris Iwelumo and Matt Sparrow, with Deon Burton seemingly set to join, too, in the coming days. Whether that’s what Scunny really need is open to debate, but these wise old heads should at least ensure that another relegation fight is out of the question.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Southend United

Once again, Phil Brown has a look of desperation about him. Previously, he was so keen to get a job, any job, that he’d take to his local media centre whenever a managerial position became available. Oldham? They were in the Premier League once. Blackburn? Venky’s just needed someone who they could communicate with. Limerick? They’re the sleeping giants of the Irish league. In the end, Brown rolled up at Southend with a handful of games to spare last season. Where others might have dodged this particular ‘opportunity’, Brown clearly felt that he could work his thang on the sea but the six points gleaned from the 8 games he oversaw as manager last season suggests that the Shrimpers’ problems were a little more endemic than Brown might have initially estimated. Because it certainly wouldn’t have had anything to do with his ability as a coach… Pre-season has provided little succour for supporters with Brown trying – but failing – to use his media skills to supplement a thin-looking squad (no, Phil, Nicky Bailey isn’t even close to being in your league). Instead, he’s had to make do with the scraps he’s inherited, Colchester castoffs and untried youngsters. Grim times.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Torquay United

Things were going so well. Martin Ling had carved out a winning side that were playing some good stuff. Bobby Olejnik was keeping them out of the net; Mark Ellis was an immovable object at centre half; and Eunan O’Kane, the envy of many a League 2 rival supporter, was pulling the strings in the middle. But then the inevitable happened and the club’s prized assets departed for shores new after the Gulls failed to win promotion from the play-offs for a second year in a row. Ling was left to revamp the squad with small scraps only and nothing was ever the same again. Key players Rene Howe and Brian Saah remained last term and Torquay continued to show glimpses of quality but it very nearly all ended in calamity after Ling departed, initially temporarily but in the end for good, due to a stress-related illness in February. Under the dour Alan Knill the Gulls managed to survive, just, but the misery of Knill’s Scunthorpe reign lingers on and with Howe and Saah both having now departed one suspects that it will be a long and hard season down in Torbay.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Wycombe Wanderers

There’s nothing wrong with this Wycombe team. Wanderers possess decent experience across the positions; they’ve got a likeable manager, even if he did always have a nasty streak as a player; and a couple of youngsters are coming through the ranks. But there’s little to get the neutral excited here and the Chairboys presently just have a bit of a run of the mill feel to them. Perhaps that’s one of the things with Trust ownership and the quest for sustainability. Whatever way you look at it, indifference seems to have cottoned on in Buckinghamshire with crowds way down from where they once were and Gareth Ainsworth’s hands have been tied to an extent in his attempt to bring in new players this summer. Paris Cowan-Hall has come in as a direct replacement for Joel Grant, one of Wycombe’s best players last season, but – as any Plymouth fan will probably tell you – Cowan-Hall is sadly by no means as good as his name might suggest. A difficult season looms.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

York City

A difficult side to call. York struggled as their first season back in the Football League wore on and Nigel Worthington has continued to redevelop the squad in order to suit his more traditional approach, bringing in the kinds of strikers and wingers who’ll be more at home in a direct 4-4-2. The quality of his signings has been pretty good; Ryan Jarvis, Wes Fletcher, Ryan Bowman and Sander Puri should all do well at Bootham and the recent return of Richard Cresswell, who did so well in a cameo loan stint at the end of last term, will have boosted confidence levels amongst Minstermen supporters going into the new season. But York’s hopes of moving to a new shared stadium with the city’s rugby league side still hang in the balance, with the project anything but signed and sealed, and the club’s more long-sighted fans might argue that the biggest battle is set to be played off the pitch this season.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

is co-editor of The Two Unfortunates. He’s 28, supports Plymouth Argyle and takes a particular interest in the fortunes of those Football League clubs west of Bristol.

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45 Comments on "TTU Go Predicting: a Club-by-Club League 2 Preview"

  1. iJN says:

    Good article, especially the comments about Argyle, the proposed stand is to small. Our first 11 looks okay, but we lack any depth, so could struggle if we get injuries, and suspensions.

  2. Jack Mayflower says:

    Good heavens Lloyd, that must have taken some research. All those clubs, all that football..
    I thought you were a tad optimistic in your forecast regarding Argyle. The new owner is no longer duty bound to ‘subsidise’ this season’s budget and he has gone on record saying the club must now stand on it’s own feet, and he means it. He didn’t want the club in the forst place, he admitted that, and is there for property matters.. Standing on one’s own feet is a tall order considering the huge debts the club has to clear due to the rather unfavourable deal struck during administration. This year’s playing acquisitions are disappointing to say the least and leave the club hardly better equipped than last year’s debacle. The odd couple of loans that saved the club last season do not wish to return. Those that ply their trade in football know more than the fans do.
    You’re also very perceptive to pick up on the divide in the fanbase, and in my opinion, also elements of the club. It really is a problem, and when the football season follows it’s inevitable course, the divide will become clear. Even the two main Argyle internet forums show quite clearly a rather disturbing divide that shows no sign of abating. Disease is a strange thing. And over it all there also lays the problem of a self admitted reluctant owner wanting to develop retailing activities and a whole lot more in what was a much loved municipal park since 1931. There is bound to be friction under such circumstance.
    Such is the state of the modern football industry in Plymouth. Very sad.

  3. Linhem says:

    Preparing a bit to do something similar myself and what strikes my is that the top of the table looks really weak.

    None of the relegated teams from L1 stands out and no team battling in/outside the playoffs like that much stronger. Which means there might be a opening for some real surprises or at least a really tight playoff race.

  4. Ian says:

    Can’t argue too much with ‘middle of the road’ for Argyle. Can’t argue at all with the genuine feeling of split in the fanbase either. I think it boils down to who people support more, James Brent or PAFC…

    • Ian Too says:

      I just wish the rest of the football world in this league knew how divided the internet fans of Argyle are. I just wish that someone – preferably the national press – would pick up the story behind it all. I just wish the aggressive manipulations from certain people jostling for position in their support for JB would be exposed.
      Good piece from Lloyd. I think he’s right about Argyle being mid-table. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get back to talking football?!

  5. Lanterne Rouge says:

    Superb summary Lloyd and I feel in some agreement with Peter Linhem’s comment above – I’m not a hundred precent convinced by any of the teams you suggest are contenders for automatic promotion but then again, I don’t have any real alternative suggestions. The Newport fan who thinks a play-off challenge could be launched via the facebook comments section could be right but I think I’ll do an impression of a kneejerk Wappingsite by aiming for Pompey – the squad ain’t amazing but Jed Wallace in particular impressed me when I saw him play against Preston at Deepdale in March and the feelgood factor might be what makes the difference in an even division.

  6. Mr. Chips says:

    Most York fans would bite your hand off now for a season ‘chasing the playoffs’. Most of us are a bit worried about our lack of depth in defence and a creative centre mid (a cheeky attempt to persuade Jonno Greening to come back home alongside Cressie didn’t work) but on the surface Nigel Worthington appears to have recruited well (height, pace, strikers). Realistically I’d say we’ll be the absolute definition of mid table solidity.

  7. Walter Dryden says:

    A very well written piece, As an Argyle fan of over 25 years i must say i am very pessimistic for the future, not through the efforts of Mr John Sheridan or the current squad, but through the lack of ambition by our Chairman and his plans for the long term future of our club…both extremely disappointing.
    There are also various “supporters” who shall we say are less then honourable (they know who they are) that Mr Brent has clearly tasked to silence opposition to his plans in return for positions of influence and lord knows what else.
    A massive split in the Argyle fan-base that is being fuelled by James Brent and a few hangers on…things cannot be good for the future i fear!!

  8. I agree 100% with the previous post by Walter.

    The relationship between Argyle’s self admitted ‘reluctant owner’ and his chosen superfans with AAA passes,silly hats and titles, would appear to be of mutual benefit.. They control Argyle’s oldest and biggest internet forum and in return for the owner’s favours, promote his every whim through a tangled web of deceit and self interest.
    Guess who will end up running the boxed in , big city club in the lower leagues if the clusterfuck of a development gets the go ahead ?

  9. Troy says:

    Great to see things looking up on the pitch at Argyle, looks to be a good squad with some talented youth to boot.
    Just a shame what’s happening off the pitch, the split in the fan base is real, I have never known the likes of such a sycophantic circle of people influencing the goings on in the club, it saddens me a fan of 50 years who cannot stand the thought of taking his seat in the business Lounge again, grandstand for me this season. And nowhere near the directors box!

  10. Great article Lloyd,
    very well researched and written piece, thank you,
    I wholeheartedly agree with the above posts regarding the split in the Argyle fanbase, Sheridan is the only good thing to happen to Argyle in the last ten years, the devious work by Brent’s supporters is having a devastating effect in the fanbase. The largest fans site is now like a club mouthpiece and Brent carries on his plans with none of the transparency that was being promised on his takeover. The method of Brent’s takeover has left us several millions in debt and a lot of fans don’t think this is sustainable. The plan was that the retail units would give the club cash to grow, the retail units are now being sold, we are promised that the club will generate £1 to £2 million in corporate income a year but with reduced capacity and a dentists and school being built in the ground I don’t see this is believable. The owner of our club is also owner of the company developing the ground and the green space of the park around it, this is a conflict of interest, all is not rosy at Home Park.
    We should be higher part of the table this season but playoffs will be a bit of a stretch as we suffer from lack of depth.

  11. Great piece Lloyd. Argyle are in the doldrums and can only move forward when Brent and his bully boys are shown the door. The club is more tinpot now than it has ever been. Corruption and bullying appear deep set now. Just hope HMRC don’t look too closely otherwise the club is doomed. Lets hope the moneylender of First International Lending doesn’t get his hands on it, unless of course the deal has already been done

  12. Another Silent Majority says:

    Sums up Argyle perfectly really.

    The sad thing is Argyle no longer feels like the club I supported since I was a young boy.

    The club has been taken over by a super fan clique and sadly unless you completely believe in Brent and live forever grateful to him for asset stripping us then you’re not wanted at Argyle.

    Threats have been made behind anonymous accounts on more than once occasion and supporters have been told they are no longer welcome because they don’t tow the party line.

    Yet we’re led to believe everything is perfectly rosy at home park with more murals and a rich supporter dishing out freebie’s like he’s a rich kid trying to buy friends.

    All the while distracting from the real issue that Brent has asset stripped the club and saddled it with a debt (loans from his company) which will become unsustainable again in the future and with nothing left to sell on to make up the deficit.

  13. Domestic God says:

    Great summary on Argyle and the comments here really do sum up what is going on in our Club . Sheridan could do an amazing job and change the fortunes of this club if the Chairman would give him the budget and support that he needs. It’s shameful the stuff that’s going on at PAFC – a veritable nest of vipers – and alarming that a footballing chairman would surround himself with the kind of people that he does. They bully, intimidate and generally make life unpleasant for the people who dare to speak up or make their views known on the truly average grandstand that he is ‘giving’ us.

    Brent’s only in it for the property – he cares not what happens to our club. The plan if it goes ahead will put paid to our ambitions at Home Park which is historically our home. It’s rubbish.

  14. It is a shame about the off-field troubles that still plague Argyle. After the last 5 years of struggle, relegations and administration the fans really just want to see the club being successful again.

    Unfortunately given the level of investment into the playing side again it will be a long time before on field success is seen at Home Park. Over the years we have lost player after player at silly prices and not been given anything like the amount brought in to buy replacements. You could build a pretty good squad of much higher level players that have exited Home Park and yet we can still only manage 21st place in Division 4.

    The manager is doing whatever he can with his hands tied behind his back really. With the gates Argyle get they should be assembling a squad capable of winning the league not being content to avoid relegation on the final game of the season again.

    This as much as the proposed development which will incorporate a grandstand much less grand than the rest of the development, is what should be dealt with by the Argyle Fans Trust which helped save the club and helped Mr Brent take control during the administration period, but now Mr Brent won’t speak to the AFT as they are no longer required. Like many of the details in his original development plans, his promise of transparency has changed direction.

    Many regular Argyle fans aren’t bothered or more likely aren’t aware of the off-field divisions, but they will start voting with their feet if this coming season if Argyle aren’t challenging at least for a play-off place, and why shouldn’t they? Port Vale and other clubs that Argyle would previously have been a league or two above have come out of administration and bounced back straight away to gain success, but for some strange reason Argyle fans are told to be grateful for what we get under Mr Brent, which is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    When Torquay players are snubbing Argyle’s advances to oin bigger clubs with more prospects like Burton Albion, sorry Burton fans, then you know that something else is the big priority for the Argyle owner i.e. a development containing a hotel, cinema, ice-rink, dental practices, fast-food establishments and bizarrely a school which is being tagged onto the football stadium. None of which will bring any income into the club as they are money making vehicles for Mr Brents Akkeron company who he has been quoted as saying is his primary focus over the football club.

    Lets hope that the new Argyle squad, who’s high-profile summer signing was the controversial former goalkeeper Luke McCormick, with 6 or 7 teenagers forced to step up instead of being eased into the rough and tumble of League 2 football can cope with it and defy the bookies odds and somehow take the league by storm. Obviously this will lead to them being sold off for an “Argyle price” again but if they can shine at such a young age it will at least reverse the trend of propping up the league whilst clubs struggling to get 2,000 fans through the turnstiles look down on us.

    Don’t panic though eh Mr President, don’t panic. Obviously a bad habit you just can’t give up. Do like the sentiment though Chris, Don’t panic lol.

  15. JimouthArgyle says:

    The Argyle ‘fans’ comments on here are an embarrassment, and are not a fair representation of the overall feeling among the supporters of the club, more a minority with a vendetta agianst certain members of the board and fans.

    The ‘high Profile’ signing was Luke McCormick was it? How about Blizzard, who started 20 games for a team now playing in the Championship? How about exciting new winger Romauld Boco? Sheridan will only play the kids if he thinks they’re ready, hence has sparing use of Tyler Harvey last season.

    Remember, the club will be getting a new grandstand. The club nearly ceased to exist not much more than 18 months ago, The club now has the best manager we have had for a number of years. The club is now beating ‘bigger clubs’ to signing players. For the first season in 5 the (majority of) fans aren’t worried about a relegation battle. How about mention that? How about painiting the whole picture, rather than the negative spin that you seem so determined to put accross?

  16. @ Jimouth, there are 18 comments on this page, yours is the only one that seems 100% positive about Argyle, on the whole everybody here has supported Sheridan, but everybody now realises what Brent is about, this isn’t a website that has been bought, the silent majority hasn’t been banned from here so this is actually representative of the Argyle fanbase, don’t believe anything you read on the pork farm mate, Argyle Talk Democratic is where you will find the truth.
    Don’t Panic, wheel out the multis, put twitter into overdrive, you can twist the truth if you act quick, LOL.

  17. Greengod says:

    “Jimouth” i can assure you that those of us against what Mr Brent is trying to achieve are not in the minority as you arrogantly claim, have you even bothered to read what people are saying other then on the censored official mouthpiece of the club Pasoti?
    Lots of people are not happy about the finer details of HHP,the Icerink, the Cinema, the seven…yes SEVEN storey hotel dwarfing the stadium and ruining the park skyline,the fast food outlets,the dentist, the school, the access road, the feeding of downright LIES to the fan-base about how the stadium can be increased, is Mr Brent taking us for fools?!! There are alot of brilliant arguments against this development and yet the only response from the pro-Brent brigade seems to be along the lines of “were getting a new stand and to shut up and be grateful” !!!!!! ….how very laughable and depressingly naive.
    Then there is the corruption and in house fighting at fan-level, i have never known the fan-base to be so divided in the 45 years i have being attending Argyle matches, are we making this up? No, Is the fan-base divided? most certainly yes.

  18. JimouthArgyle says:

    @greengod I spoke to a large number of Argyle fans just last week and from the demographic that I spoke to I can assure you that you are in the minority by a long long way. And yes I read a number of sites and publications and have spoken to a number of people, as well as travelled to games, and from this I have been able to form my own opinion on matters on and off the pitch. I don’t need anti or pro-Brent propoganda to help me form my opinions, thanks all the same. i was merely highlighting that beyond all the stadium furore there are a lot of aspects that the fans of PAFC can look forward to this season, for the first time in 5 or 6 years, something which the majorty of comments above have failed to highlight, Instead choosing this League 2 blog to air their anti Brent bias

    You’ve had your say, I’ve had mine, Seems fair enough to me. Not sure that equates to arrogance

  19. Peter Jones says:

    Of course any Argyle fan who doesn’t like whats going on at Home Park should just shove off and support Manchester United

    http://img854.imageshack.us/img854/7648/ikt5.jpg

    • Ian Too says:

      It should be pointed out that this is not from Peter Jones the Director. It is an example of the game-playing going on from both sides. It is an indication of the genuinely bitter split between the opposing factions.

  20. Their anti-Brent bias?

    Now where have we heard that phrase used forcefully hmmm?

    James Brent made out he was a reluctant bidder for Argyle whilst the club was in administration, he would happily stand aside if another bid was made. Now that sounded oh so noble back then but what the majority of fans didn’t know at the time was that Mr Brent had already been meeting with Plymouth City Council and the club so this “reluctant bidder” label is wearing a bit thin now. He had the ear of the club and the Council so he knew exactly what he was going to do, i.e. asset strip the club and the ground surrounding it for his own profit.

    These previous meetings paved the way for Mr Brent to have the Council backing for his bid and the ground to be sold back to PCC, and of course the other nice contracts that Mr Brent has now picked up around the city.

    At the time the Argyle Fans Trust were his allies and helped him enormously by bringing pressure on the administrators with some extremely dodgy practices I might add like bombarding the administrators offices with calls, and e-mails which led to some threats being made to the people in Brendan Guilfoyles office. This was all supported by PASOTI the largest Argyle fans forum.

    As soon as

  21. Lanterne Rouge says:

    It’s perhaps an illustration on the state of messge boardery and comments sections how out of hand this has got – really, hasn’t Lloyd the right to call into question the new stadium plans while still being very optimistic about Argyle’s chances this season and 100% behind John Sheridan? From here, it looks like capacity is less of an issue than the likely soullessness that will accompany it – Franky and Benny’s and all and it”s up to all of us – which ever club we support – to engage in critical thinking when it comes to the decisions the owners of our clubs make.

  22. Their anti-Brent bias?

    Now where have we heard that phrase used forcefully hmmm?

    James Brent made out he was a reluctant bidder for Argyle whilst the club was in administration, he would happily stand aside if another bid was made. Now that sounded oh so noble back then but what the majority of fans didn’t know at the time was that Mr Brent had already been meeting with Plymouth City Council and the club so this “reluctant bidder” label is wearing a bit thin now. He had the ear of the club and the Council so he knew exactly what he was going to do, i.e. asset strip the club and the ground surrounding it for his own profit.

    These previous meetings paved the way for Mr Brent to have the Council backing for his bid and the ground to be sold back to PCC, and of course the other nice contracts that Mr Brent has now picked up around the city.

    At the time the Argyle Fans Trust were his allies and helped him enormously by bringing pressure on the administrators with some extremely dodgy practices I might add like bombarding the administrators offices with calls, and e-mails which led to some threats being made to the people in Brendan Guilfoyles office. This was all supported by PASOTI the largest Argyle fans forum.

    As soon as Mr Brent acquired the club on the back of fans support he was quick to tell everyone how he would be transparent and work with the fans to achieve success again and that Argyle deserved to be a Championship club again.

    His next move was to identify which of the fans had been the most powerful and likely to cause him trouble in future if he tried to pull a fast one or make decisions that weren’t to the fans liking, and he gave these fans rewards like making Chris Webb, who was the AFT leader, club president. Some say this was a case of it being better having him inside the tent pissing out as it were.

    Then came Ian Newell who had control of the largest fans forum PASOTI, who suddenly becomes the unofficial club spokesman, Mr Brent’s chauffeur and now permanent fixture in the directors box. Indeed staff at the club now complain that Mr Newell seems to think he runs Argyle as he swans around the ground with his friends in tow.

    So by getting these two well known fans onside he has been able to make decisions like redundancies and instead of Chris Webb being outraged like he would have been previously, he is a trade union rep in his daytime job, he actually welcomes the redundancies and indeed starts making decisions like relieving voluntary staff of their article in the matchday programme.

    Anything Brent does, like cutting all ties with the AFT now that he is in control of the club, is now welcomed by his sidekicks and a campaign against the AFT has been waged on PASOTI, some of it anonymously by these two former staunch supporters of the fans trust.

    This has all meant that Mr Brent has been able to completely backtrack on being open and transparent, and important things like his initial statements that retail units in the new grandstand development would earn income for the club. The deal now is that only the club shop will generate money for the club with the other units being sold off to fast-food chains and dental practices!

    The grandstand should be the centre-piece of the development but it will tacked on at the end of the rest of the scheme. Hidden by a 7 storey hotel, obscured by a huge cinema and an ice-rink. The capacity of the ground once the grandstand is completed is actually going to be less than the ground could hold now. How is this planning for the future? Once segregation is taken into account there will be a maximum of 17,500 able to get into the ground, 15,500 Argyle fans and only last season we had a crowd of over 13,000 for a game against Torquay in League 2. Any hint of success and fans will flock back to Argyle and if we do ever get back to the Championship there will be many occasions where fans will be locked out.

    Mr Brent makes the occasional forray to the well attended fansfests that are hosted by the Green Taverners who give the money made at these events towards paying off the non-playing staff debt that Mr Brent wouldn’t pay off in one go when he bought the club for very little. These events are hosted by and frequented by the people that he has entrusted to help him so when he puts in an appearance he is amongst friends and not likely to face any difficult questions.

    He has admittedly taken part in a recent Q and A session via PASOTI, and it took him around 10 weeks to answer these significantly more challenging questions and even then it was noticably lacking in sunbstance or detail.

    The punchline here is that under Mr Brents new plans there is no provision for these fansfests and that the Green Taverners will have to purchase their own property somewhere to continue to host events that benefit Mr Brent? It isn’t very gracious of him really is it? Oh and who used to be a Green Taverner before he had more important things to do like drive Mr Brent around the country? That’s right Mr Ian Newell. Who has also orchestrated the campaign against the AFT he supported not so long ago. The man who boasts he stormed the boardroom when things were going tits up 2 years ago no longer believes in fan involvement? I wonder why?

    So we have the former AFT leader and the former AFT stalwart now not wanting the AFT to have any say in the football club. Funny what a title and prawn sandwich can do to your principals.

    The only reason that people are anti-Brent as you say is that he has not delivered on his promise of transparency and we are currently 25-1 to win the league this year, and the bookies aren’t often wrong, after 2 years of surviving the drop to non league by the skin of our teeth.

    You mention the signings we have made this pre-season but the bookies don’t agree that they are standout players who will have us challenging for the league, so TTU’s prediction of mid-table obscurity is almost certainly the best we can hope for.

    The development Mr Brent is proposing is not well received by the Plymouth public and no wonder. The current grandstand is in need of replacement but any development should have the granstand as the crowning jewel and not be the poor relation to this monstrosity which will turn Central Park into a retail development while the rest of the city has ample space for the cinema, hotel etc and is crying out for development.

    Mr Brent is also loaning the club money despite the fact that owning the club has unlocked some big money developments, and eventually these loans will need to be paid back. That could be at any time and with the stadium due to be hemmed in forever by these other businesses that don’t benefit the club, then 17500 will now be the biggest crowd that will ever be seen inside Home Park again.

    Everybody is grateful for Mr Brent taking the club on when we were in adminstration but back then the majority of fans were welcoming the Chris Webb’s and the Ian Newell’s challenging the previous owners and asking awkward questions and now when the same fans have questions to ask or concerns they want raised they are told that they are trouble-makers and to trust Mr Brent because they have looked him in the eye!

  23. Jack Mayflower says:

    Good comment Lantern. All Lloyd was saying was the off field nonsense will be likely to sour any enjoyment to be had for many Argyle fans, with or without success on the pitch. That’s certainly true for a great many fans including myself. The irritation regarding Lloyds thoughts on Argyle’s season come mainly from one man who owns and/or controls a fans’ forum, no more than that, and it illustrates only too well what is being attempted down in Plymouth where the club is trying to dominate the online football message. It has no right to do so where free comment has always been the fans’ way… in the street, in the pubs, and for many years, online. A whole new independent Argyle forum has flourished in the last 2 years due to the original forum having been nobbled.

    I remember very well, Lantern, your excellent article a couple of years ago regarding the disturbing trend many football forums are following where they try and intimidate fans and give it the old “my way or the highway routine”. Perhaps the days of innocent fairly moderated fans’ forums have come and gone and the clubs are trying to force their own view through the moderation process of said forums.
    Don’t let the odd goon get under your skin Lloyd… the irritation is aimed at trying to ensure you don’t comment further on Argyle during the season unless it is 100% favourable. The oldest trick in the book. Your balanced view is always well written. Lantern, good luck to Reading this season.

  24. woolwell green says:

    Please will you all shut up and either back Argyle and is future it seems to be takin, or just don’t bother at all. No one will know if there would be an argyle at all if it was not for Brent, do I have to say Truro City to make my point. We have a club still playing football in the 4th tier of professional football, with our with out your negitive backing the plans will go ahead.

    You then now have a choice shut up stop moaning and back what in your tunnel vision view is a development with out worth but is happening anyway. Or walk away and never look back on the club.

    The club is what It is now we don’t own it none of us do, we may help to pay wages but we don’t own it. All of your moaners choice stay or go but plans will not stop either way. That’s a fact we have to except and as long as the grass still witnesses football, under the banner of Plymouth Argyle then that’s what I care about.

    • Either back Brent or shut up?

      That’s about the size of it. Woolwell Green has just hit the nail on the head, if you don’t like anything at the club tough shit!

      It maybe your modus operandi to roll over and let the club get f***ed over once again, but see where that got Argyle last time? If people don’t question what is going on and don’t challenge Mr Brent to be true to his promise of transparency then what will have changed from the previous owners who left the club in a perilous state?

      “MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS”

  25. I paid a vist to the parody forum that the majority of these commenters have their little get togethers. From what I gather they have all used this blog to try and paint a picture that they are the true voice of the fans. It’s quite embarrassing really that fans of the 23 other clubs come on to see this anti Brent propoganda.

    Cheers for the ‘fucktard’ comment btw… you lot are actually clueless, assuming I am someone else hiding behind a name… ha ha I’m just a fan. No agenda, no ties to anyone within the club. Just a fan who is happy he has a club to support at all

    Here’s to next season, and the first time in a long time where we hopefully won’t be battling relegation.

  26. areyoufreathyindisguise says:

    As with the sentiments raised by the majority of Argyle supporters on this thread and the author of our clubs review the only positive to glean from the upcoming season is John Sheridan. Make no bones about it the antics and en mass bullying tactics by James Brent’s henchman (Superfans) is making my club feel like a dictatorship where if you don’t tow the party line you’re no longer made to feel welcome. I feel totally detached from my club now where a Kid banging a drum receives a free season ticket (All requests for freebies are vetted by said henchman) and where self publicity and mobilising the brain washed entitles you to a seat in the Directors Box. The in house politics stinks and the sooner this cancer is extinguished the better for all. The nation needs to know that Plymouth Argyle Football Club was far from saved when James Brent was handed the custody of it. We are going to hell in a dustcart!

  27. And that’s the problem Jimouth, too many people are eternally grateful to Mr Brent for “saving” the club and delivering back to back 21st place finishes in League 2 whilst having one of the biggest incomes in the league.

    At some point you have to stop being grateful for relegation battles in this league and start wondering why there is no investment in the team? Brent will make millions out of owning the club because Plymouth City Council are awarding him all the contracts in the city, not a bad gig is it?

    So all a lot of us want is for some of the proposed development to be located elsewhere in Plymouth where there are numerous ideal sites for cinemas, schools and dentists for God’s sake.

    And some investment in the team instead of having to sign Nick Chadwicks and Welsh non-league firemen. Is it ok for some of us to want that or should we be grateful for wherever we finish?

  28. If the club goes tits up again it will be the fault of the avivas not the moaners. Accepting poor management and poor performance.

  29. LiT says:

    Firstly – its grim to read the stuff on Plymouth. It looks like the club is being used to lever a large development for which the club gets a small return on in terms of facilities. This is something that needs to be taken up with local councillors and Plymouth’s planning department to lever a better deal for the club.

    Secondly, as a Pompey fan, I wanted to comment on the preview statement: it has to be said – or perhaps whispered – that his [Whittingham] side doesn’t necessarily look all that good.

    Its somewhat ironic that good budgetary management isn’t being recognised here. The playing budget the club is operating under is upper-midrange for the division in terms of cash average and in terms of the League’s Salary Costs Management Protocol is likely the lowest percentage in the league being in the low 30s. The squad reflects this fact. Buying the league we’re not. There are a number of teams with better budgets in League Two.

    It was ridiculous in terms of how much of an empty shell of a business there was at Fratton Park when the Trust-led vehicle took the club over in April. The turnaround required has been manic and I have concerns about certain people’s health in the process of that. The response has been exceptional and the club has a possibility of breaking even in year one which would be extraordinary. The projection was for profitability in year three.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t issues to be resolved behind the scenes but a positive season on the field (chasing promotion but not not necessarily achieving promotion) would be very helpful in terms of ensuring that they are dealt with light rather than heat. The new relationships haven’t quite been worked out or codified and the concern is out there that it could all go Animal Farm (the animals looked from pig to man and from man to pig but couldn’t tell the difference). The natural tension between community and business is something to keep in mind.

    As defined above, I’m hoping for a positive season and to have fun at Fratton. After the last few years of crooked ownership, a bit of fun will be most welcomed.

  30. Steve Wilson says:

    Hi

    A Newport fan here.

    A good summary of our position although I feel we can do better than midtable and enjoy the second promotion bounce that usually happens with clubs coming up from the Conference. The momentum is there and I and many others feel the play offs are within our reach.
    We have strengthened well and sold a decent amount of season tickets, capitalising on the good mood around Newport at the moment.

    The comments section here is dominated by Plymouth fans, I had a look at the Argyle Talk Democratic website mentioned on several comments and blimey you are a miserable bunch, you are so happy to kick your club, try supporting your club, you just might enjoy it.
    That said, I hope Plymouth have a good season, see you in the play offs!

  31. @Steve Wilson, firstly good luck and look forward to seeing you at HP this season, however you are wrong about ATD, it is a fans website, you don’t have to be an Argyle fan to post there but we are all football fans. If you read the comments on team and players we are almost to a man behind John Sheridan, we would like more money to be spent on the team but who wouldnt? When your club is getting fecked by the money men and their hangers on what would you do? The flip side of the coin is Pasoti the reason that the comments there are pro Brent is because the site is so heavily moderated by a lot of people with vested interest in the club. We will have to pay off £3m in a couple of years time (the deferred football creditors debt from when JB took ownership of the club) and if we don’t we will have huge penalties, probably another administration and with no assets left to lever funds against even if we wanted to we are in the shit, no amount of pro Brent spin will change that.
    We are the only club in the land that I know that is rebuilding the ground to make it smaller, our owner is not interested in football, just building plots attached to the ground, if this was happening at Pompey there would be riots.

  32. Treacle says:

    @The Silent Majority you sound just like Greenjock, a sad individual who spends all day every day on ATD abusing or insulting someone, get a life!

    • areyoufreathyindisguise says:

      And you Sir sound just like IJN the ultimate internet trolling bully. Your card was marked long ago sunshine. Never trust a “do gooder” with an agenda!

  33. Matthew Eldred says:

    Who are the two unfortunates this season ?

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