Football Manager 2020 ‘The Pilgrimage’ #8 – The Captain’s Log

The second half of the 2020/21 season is here and I thought we’d try something a bit different in the form of the diary of our captain, Gary Sawyer. If you’ve missed the last part of the story, you can catch it here.

Saturday 7th November 2020

Well, it’s not very often that I pop up to score! In today’s FA Cup match against Macclesfield, we didn’t have [Conor] Granty or Adam [Randell] playing so I thought I’d step up and show the rest of the lads there’s still life in these old legs yet… We had a free kick on the edge of the D, and I pinged it first time into the top bins! I’m hoping the gaffer has seen what I can do still; I want to make the most of this season, despite the talented young lads playing like Luka [Racic] and Scotty [Wharton].

Tuesday 24th November 2020

The boys were of a different class today. We all knew how tough Barnsley away would be – especially on a Tuesday night – but they played them off the park! Dom [Telford] was ‘standard’ Dom, but Joe [Edwards] had probably his best performance in an Argyle shirt. It’s always nice seeing the lads who have been here a few years now still pulling out big performances. Apparently, Stoke came in for the gaffer the other day. I can’t see him going, no matter what Jeff Stelling has been saying – RPW bleeds green.

Saturday 26th December 2020

It’s been a very Merry Christmas! Although RPW hasn’t been playing me quite as often as I want to, I understand why: the lads have been fantastic; they’ve racked up half a dozen more wins and the boys at the back have been solid. It was a shame to see Neco [Williams] go, but with the board putting in for the youth academy to be developed, it might give some more of the local lads a chance. (After all, that’s how I started.) Fletch [Alex Fletcher] and [Kelsey] Mooney have been smashing it out on loan. I reckon that if we weren’t topping the table like we are right now, the boss would probably give them a chance.

Monday 1st February 2021

Our form’s fallen off of a cliff. We had a rough January, losing to the Gas, MK Dons and Donny in poor fashion. Some of the younger lads in the dressing room were fuming after the Bristol Rovers match; saying that ‘We’ve blown it‘ and ‘we might as well give up on promotion now, we’ve f**ked it.‘ I’d played the last four matches and I have to admit, conceding that Bradford equaliser felt like a kick in the teeth.

I had to have a word with the boys in the dressing room; many of them hadn’t been here for the lows of relegation two years ago. I told them all about putting things into perspective: we weren’t supposed to be in the position we find ourselves in right now. Back at the start of August, we were expected to be scrapping it out at the basement end of League One. We’d already defied expectations of what every media journo had said we were capable of – why should we give up and throw our toys out of the pram at the first sign of things not going our way?

Anyway, I still trust the gaffer and the fact that he brought in another talented right back in Liam [Shephard] and some more gifted youngsters in Adam [Lewis] and Miguel [Arias]. Ryan [Taylor] said he saw two more youngsters arriving late last night too, avoiding the trials and tribulations of the standard Deadline Day newscast.

Saturday 27th February 2021

I told the boys to keep the faith, and we’ve proven ourselves! Apart from the Gas again at the start of the month, we’ve notched up five straight league wins and are back up into the automatic promotion places. Fleetwood and Bolton were tricky ones, but we really had the mettle to dig in and grind out some fantastic wins. The only downside is that I’ve been out of the team due to Perry [Ng], Scotty [Wharton] and Luka [Racic] being absolutely solid at the back. I know I’m coming to the end of my time here at Argyle, but it is still difficult not being able to be out there every week playing my heart out. On the bright side, if it means that we’re smashing it in the league then I’ll sacrifice my own playing time for the good of the team.

Monday 22nd March 2021

We’re still in the hunt: three points separate us from MK Dons in first place and four from Barnsley in third. The gaffer and Paul [Sturrock, Director of Football] have been talking with me lately more and more about where I see myself next year. Since twisting my ankle a couple of weeks ago, I’ve only really been able to support the lads from the backseat. I’ve been considering calling it a day at the end of the season and seeing as I already have my UEFA B License, I’ve been looking into potential coaching jobs next year. The new crop of youth candidates came in for trials the other day and the boss and Mickey [Evans, Head of Youth Development] took me down to Harper’s for the match. I was really impressed, and Nick [Chadwick, U18 Manager] told me about his experiences this year. He said that Bristol City had given Ian [Durrant, U18 Assistant Manager] a ring the other day and offered him a job at their academy. Watch this space: hopefully, I’ll have something in the pipeline by the end of this season.

Friday 2nd April 2021

All of us can see that we could actually do it: earlier we smashed Ipswich 4-1 and that’s probably the hardest match of our run-in. If we can keep this up for the final four games, we’ll be going up. We’re unbeaten in ten, morale is high and there’s a real buzz around Home Park recently. I also now know what’s happening to me on a personal level next year: it’s time for me to hang up my boots. No matter what happens this season, it’s been one to remember, and my three years in charge of my hometown club have been full of ups and downs. The relegation to League Two was heartbreaking; the promotion as champions to League One last year was incredible, and this year we could make more memories. I’ve been very proud to wear the green and white and I won’t be leaving permanently: the gaffer offered me the role of assistant manager to Nick Chadwick in the under-18s. What better place to start the next chapter of my career.

Sunday 2nd May 2021

I’m not gonna lie, I’m gutted. We’ve fallen at the final hurdle.

It could have been the perfect ending, but I have known Plymouth Argyle as a football club for too long to know that we never do things the easy way. We bottled it against Wigan, the Posh and Donny. Barnsley leapfrogged us, and the rest was history. The Tykes went up in our place, behind MK Dons (the eventual champions). The play-offs awaited us: Sunderland, over two legs. Last time we were in the play-offs we had the memorable nights against Pompey but didn’t show up to Wembley in the final against Wimbledon. The boys have just got to believe: believe we can do it. We have shown it all season; a blip at the worst time should not define the amazing achievements we have managed this year. The hard work starts tomorrow: we recover, analyse where we’ve gone wrong in the past couple of weeks and reward the best fanbase in League One with a day to remember at Wembley.

Next time, we take on Sunderland in the play-offs to try and make our long-awaited return to the Sky Bet Championship.

If you enjoyed the different writing style of this post, let me know! It was inspired by the creative excellence of FM Stag and Seattle Red over at From the Cheap Seats– please do check out these excellent blogs for some great content!

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