Plymouth Argyle Season Review: Going Above and Beyond

Plymouth Argyle

Prior to the season commencing, the expectations for Plymouth Argyle were down in the dumps. Internally, there was a lot of promise, and while many onlookers tipped Argyle to be in and around the relegation battle, this was far from the truth. Another playoff push in 2023 could even be on the cards.

Plymouth Argyle 2021/22- A Season Review


As is often the case in the EFL, there was a lot of overhaul in the summer of 2021. Two stalwarts of Plymouth Argyle folklore, Luke McCormick and Gary Sawyer, parted ways with the club. The former remained local and joined Truro City whilst the latter retired at 35.

Beyond this duo, Ben Reeves, Will Aimson, Frank Nouble and Scott Wootton were amongst those to depart Home Park. On the flip-side, there of course had to be several incomings to account for this. At least five of the signings made by Ryan Lowe would go on to become regular starters for Plymouth Argyle this season.

Jordan Houghton played for Argyle previously, on loan from Chelsea, but he is now a permanent member of the squad. In defence, Dan Scarr, James Wilson and Macauley Gillesphey joined from Walsall, Ipswich and Brisbane Roar respectively. This trio all started in front of Mike Cooper on a regular basis. Other arrivals included Ryan Broom, Jordan Garrick and former Everton man Brendan Galloway.

Flying out of the Blocks

Plymouth Argyle kicked off the 2021/22 season with a 2-0 defeat at Rotherham. A familiar face in Freddie Ladapo was on the score sheet then and he had rubbed the Green Army up the wrong way enough already.

The next loss for Ryan Lowe’s men in League One came over three months later. They went on a run of 16 unbeaten games but it was Charlton Athletic who broke the streak at the Valley. Another former player, this time fullback Ben Purrington, found the back of the net.

Along that run of wins and draws, there were some large scalps taken. Directly after the Rotherham loss, a late Luke Jephcott strike was the difference between Plymouth Argyle and Gillingham. In mid-September, goals from Joe Edwards, Dan Scarr and youngster Ryan Law in front of a voracious Home Park crowd saw eventual playoff side Sheffield Wednesday fall by the wayside. In October, Argyle overcame Oxford United, Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town, scoring eight goals across these three games whilst conceding just two.

A Customary Plymouth Argyle FA Cup Run

Over the last decade or so, Plymouth Argyle fans have learnt all too well how impactful an FA Cup run can be on a lower league club. In 2017,  Lucas Leiva scored his only ever goal in the red of Liverpool at Home Park of all places. Derek Adams was in charge at the time and the game at Anfield ended goalless. It was then just the one goal that made the difference in the replay from the aforementioned Brazilian. Names such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho were on display in this huge moment for the Pilgrims.

Fast forward five years to the present day and there was another Premier League powerhouse on the agenda. The first round saw fellow League One side Sheffield Wednesday in their path. Having drawn at Hillsborough, a Jordan Garrick brace made the difference in a comfortable 3-0 win back home. Next up was Gillingham and both Jephcott and Garrick were on target once again. That game ended 2-1 on the road, in what proved to be Ryan Lowe’s final game in charge.

Whilst Birmingham City aren’t a top-tier team, a trip to a Championship stadium is just as challenging as a fixture against a Premier League side. Ryan Law popped up with a goal in extra-time against the ten-men of Birmingham to help Plymouth Argyle advance.

Argyle’s next obstacle was Chelsea. The opportunity to play at Stamford Bridge is rare for a lot of players. This was a homecoming for Jordan Houghton and he played particularly well on that day. Gillesphey gave Argyle an early lead from a set-piece so they had already outdone their 2017 trip to Anfield, but two Spaniards turned the game on its head, Cesar Azpilicueta levelling it before Marcos Alonso fired home in extra-time. Scotsman Ryan Hardie had a golden opportunity to send it to penalties from twelve yards out at the death but he made it particularly easy for Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea net.

All in all though, regardless of the outcome, it was yet another memorable cup run for fans of Plymouth Argyle.

Ryan Lowe’s Shock Departure

As previously mentioned, the headline of the season was Ryan Lowe’s departure. There was so much positivity under the former Bury man and so whilst Preston North End were rumoured to be interested, it seemed very likely that Lowe would see out the season at the very least. That wasn’t the case though, an announcement was made just a day before a visit to Stadium MK. This certainly left a bitter taste in the mouth of Plymouth Argyle fans.

Positives came out of Lowe jumping ship though as the fans and players rallied around his number two. Steven Schumacher and the rest of the coaching staff stayed behind in Devon. It remained unclear for a month or so about whether he was a stopgap or a permanent resolution.

Now with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear to see that Schumacher is the manager and head coach as opposed to an interim. There is a bond between him and the players, and also between him and the fans. Everyone has to start somewhere and so he will have the chance to prove himself in his first full season at the helm of Plymouth Argyle.

Taking it Down to the Final Day

In the early stages of the campaign and also at the halfway point, Argyle were in the playoff positions. They remained in and around this position for a long time including in the run-in. A run of below-par results, winning just one in six leading into the final day, saw their grasp weaken. As matchday 46 came around, Plymouth Argyle still had their fate in their own hands, but the fixtures weren’t in their favour.

This run of dropped points saw them cross paths with champions Wigan and fellow promotion hopefuls Sunderland, and Wycombe Wanderers. Argyle then hosted MK Dons on the last day, whilst Wycombe faced a trip to Burton Albion. The Chairboys eventually won after going behind. It wasn’t to be for the Greens though, Scott Twine’s magic wrapping the game up by half-time.

Plymouth Argyle’s Season in a Nutshell

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Before a ball was kicked this campaign, doubt was being cast over Home Park. Neutrals weren’t sold on the Ryan Lowe project and whilst he is no longer in charge, there is the continuity in place that some clubs could only dream of.

Steven Schumacher has bridged the gap exceptionally well to the point that it seems more than likely that he will be in charge come the start of next season. Keeping hold of the likes of Houghton, Hardie, Cooper and Danny Mayor is crucial this summer as well as adding a few pieces to bulk up the squad. Guinea-Bissau international Panutche Camara is going to be leaving and so the hope is that a sizeable fee can be fetched for his services.

It was a case of oh so close for Argyle this year but the club are moving in the right direction. Another playoff push could be just around the corner.