The Adams family
HADEN TYE reflects on Plymouth Argyle’s revival – and the man at the heart of it…
Plymouth on the up
THERE’S something special about providing something beautiful for people who are much in need of it. They are, understandably, much more appreciative.
It’s a concept that the programme DIY SOS survives off. In every episode, the show is a steady build up to the pinnacle of the show at the end, when they show the owner their much-needed new home.
Plymouth Argyle’s promotion from League Two last term under Derek Adams followed a similar pattern, with a champagne ending for everyone at Home Park.
Whilst football is an ongoing narrative, and Adams and Argyle will be expecting to go higher in the future, it’s fair to say the club have come a long way from the days in which they nearly went out of the Football League. I’ve seen both sides of life for Argyle. Whilst I wasn’t at the club to experience the gloomy days in which Football League preservation was the goal, ironically, I watched my local side Stourbridge benefitting from Argyle’s incompetency as they beat them over two games in the FA Cup in 2011.
Since then, I have moved to the depths of Devon and worked for Argyle’s media department for over two years, which has meant I have formed quite the bond with the South West’s Green and Whites.
It’s been an insightful journey, one that started with the stern and proper John Sheridan and shifted to the charismatic and charming Derek Adams. The latter of the two has been a sensation.
That is not to disregard Sheridan’s work. Argyle had been on the brink of exiting the Football League and Sheridan turned things around. He left Argyle after they were knocked out of the play-offs semi-final when wellbeaten by Wycombe at the end of 2014-15.
Sheridan put in the foundations for the Pilgrims to be successful.When the wheels were falling off, Sheridan helped put them back on. Adams has got the wheels really turning, though.
The 42-year-old is a complex character; and one that I am yet to truly work out. He is highly regarded everywhere he has been, though, and it is easy to see why. Personally, I’m massively impressed. His
attention to detail is incredible, his man-management is phenomenal and he is a truly kind and humble man.
That doesn’t paint the full picture of Derek Adams, though. There’s normal Derek Adams, then there is match-day Derek Adams.
One side of him is the light-hearted warm man that has time for everyone and you could approach for anything. Derek’s other side is serious. All he can think about is winning.
I get the impression that the players don’t want to let him down on match day; not only because they hold him in high regard, but also I think facing a disappointed Derek in the dressing room on match day is something that would stay with you for a little while afterwards. He’s clever, too. If there’s ever anything that seems a bit unusual about the way that Argyle set up, it’s down to the former Ross County manager. That doesn’t just extend to his starting lineup, but also where they warm up, what time they come out, how long they are in the dressing room for and whether or not they collectively applaud the Devonport End at Home Park before a game to get the crowd extra-excited – it’s all decided by Adams, to get an edge. During the warm-up at Yeovil this season, I noticed that Argyle were training just their side of the halfway line and Yeovil’s goalkeeper was kicking from his penalty area to another of their keepers, who was getting in the way of Argyle’s drill. It seemed rather strange to me; an argument waiting to happen. I flagged it up with one of my colleagues, who knows Derek pretty well. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if Derek had set that up, to be awkward and get in Yeovil’s way whilst motivating his side to win. In his press confer-
ences, the Glasgow-born boss plays his cards very close to his chest and gives away as little information as he can. Coincidentally, also at Yeovil, in the pre-match interview he amplified this in hilarious fashion.
The former Motherwell midfielder had announced his team and the reporter from the BBC asked if Argyle were going to set up with five at the back. “Aye, maybe,” said Derek. “But then again maybe not,” he added. “But then again it might be,” he twisted once more. “But maybe not” he said, chuckling to himself.
There is an unwritten affinity now with the local reporters who interview him often, as they accept that when he laughs at what he says, it more than likely means he’s not going to tell you what you have asked.
For all the mind games and mystery, Adams now has a promotion behind him that says he is a brilliant manager at Argyle’s level - which is ever-rising because of him.
He has done a wonderful job at Home Park. He almost took Argyle to League One in his first season, but the Pilgrims lost in the playoff final to AFC Wimbledon in 2015-16.
Since then, Adams has rebuilt a promotion-winning side from just four players that remained with Argyle after the Wembley defeat. His new side mustered an FA Cup surprise by drawing 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in January and got the whole city believing that Argyle can rise up the Football League once more.
Whilst Derek’s biggest criticism is probably for his defensive tactics away from home, there’s no arguing that it’s actually one of Argyle’s biggest strengths.
The Pilgrims have been stupendous away from home, with the draw at Liverpool epitomising just how effective his tactics are.
Things are on the up for Argyle and it’s really nice to see. I say that not only as someone who has a bit of a soft spot for the club, but also as a football fan.
Plymouth as a city have watched their club nearly go out of existence, then nearly go out of the Football League and, finally, Argyle have turned a corner.
League One is the next challenge that awaits Derek and his men and it will be interesting to see just how they do. The manager is notorious for changing his squad massively from one season to the next, and again the Pilgrims have strengthened with several exciting summer signings, including Dutch keeper Robbert te Loeke, 28, winger Joel Grant, 29, from neighbours Exeter and midfielder Jamie Ness, 26, from Scunthorpe.
Another huge success for the Pilgrims is that the club convinced playmaker Graham Carey to sign again despite him being out of contract. The 28-year-old Irishman was a real stand-out player at Home Park last year and will no doubt be pivotal in the way Argyle approach League One.
The Green Army are singing “Up The Football League We Go”, the tannoy at Home Park plays “Bringing On Back The Good Times”, and Derek declares “Devon is Green and White”.
It may take one year. It may take two, or maybe three or four. But I’ve got a feeling that League One won’t be a glass ceiling for Devon’s Green and Whites.
At the end of season awards, Derek made a speech that blew the crowd away.
It ended something like this: “Across the country, there are Towns, there are Citys, there are Uniteds and there are Rovers. But there is only one Argyle.”
There’s only one Derek Adams, too.
Foundations: John Sheridan Party time: Argyle savour promotion
Taking the acclaim: Pilgrims boss Derek Adams salutes the supporters