In the previous edition of The Pilgrimage, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher covered three of Argyle’s matches from the first half of the season on Monday Night Football.
In this post, the writing style will be completely different again; think of this as the usual half-season recount of the 2024/25 season, but also as a bit of a ‘love letter’ to probably my favourite player on Football Manager since Vittorio Parigini on FM18.
So – January was a VERY good month! We went unbeaten following big wins such as the 3-2 comeback against Manchester City at Home Park; the 3-1 win against Chelsea at home in the 3rd round of the FA Cup spearheaded by an Alan Carlos and Connor Ronan masterclass; and a massive 5-0 win against West Ham in the 4th round of the FA Cup, with Rob Down, Marek Vagner and Iñigo Lekue finding the back of the net (as well as the customary brace from Alan Carlos). Argyle had really found their shooting boots, scoring a huge 17 goals and only conceding 3. As a result, the Pilgrims found themselves just 7 points off of first place Arsenal by the end of the month.
5th January 2025 – OUT – Jonathan – Shanghai SIPG – £19.75m (£25m)
There were a couple of transfers in this window that I wasn’t too sure about, and the sale of left wing-back Jonathan was one of them. Jonathan joined Argyle from Almeria for £850k in 2022 and despite having a rocky start, he really adapted to the left midfield role and was a creative force last season. Since August, a little ‘WNT’ by Shanghai SIPG status hung above the defender’s name and as soon as the window opened, they struck. I know it’s a bit of a cliche about how clubs in the Chinese Super League will literally throw money at any remotely successful player in Europe, but I really managed to get more than I should for Jonathan. The Brazilian defender had not hit the heights of his quality last season and was replaceable. One I’m sad to see go, but not one I regret.
5th January 2025 – IN – Angeliño – Burnley – £15.25m
We had planned for Jonathan’s departure as soon as we saw he was wanted, and as a result had been tracking Angeliño for the past six months. The ex-Manchester City left-back had spent a season and a half at Burnley, ending up relegated to the Championship at the end of last season. Unhappy about ending up in the English second tier, I was able to snap up the Spaniard for a measly £15.25m. Hopefully, he can adapt to the left wing-back/left wing role that Jonathan grew in to.
6th January 2025 – OUT – Dawid Kownacki – Shanghai SIPG – £30.5m (£36.5m)
I said I wasn’t sure about selling Jonathan to Shanghai SIPG, but this was one was just laughable. I wasn’t prepared to get rid of Dawid Kownacki unless they offered at least £30m, so rebuffed their original offer of £15m and decided that suddenly I could find a way out of not having Dawid in my squad. The Polish international, who only joined Argyle from Fortuna Düsseldorf for £11.5m at the start of last season now becomes our all-time record signing. With Alan Carlos, Juan Diego Franganillo, Rob Down, Hwang-Hee Chan and a (eventual) returning Jan Mlakar, we had plenty of depth to cover Kownacki’s departure.
10th January 2025 – OUT – Rodri – Birmingham City – £1m (£1.2m)
A young talent that we brought in on a free transfer from a Spanish non-league side in 2021, Rodri had always done very well in the youth teams, on loan at Football League sides and on the occasions where he would be a fringe player for cup matches. Unfortunately for him, he was getting older and did not seem to be making any more progress. Therefore, I decided to cut my losses and try and make a profit on the Spaniard before his contract expired. Birmingham City came in with an initial offer of £1m and I was happy to make such a profit on a youth investment that I brought in for free.
11th January 2025 – IN – Adrian Fein – Bayern Munich – Loan Fee £150k p/m
It’s not often I do this, but the signing of Bayern Munich midfielder Adrian Fein was actually a bit of forward planning on my part for next season. Fein was unhappy at Bayern and wanted a new club, and so I decided to bring him in on loan with the option of him joining permanently at the end of the season for £22m. Adrian joined Argyle to try and offer us a bit more depth and quality in midfield and could be a potential replacement for Didier Ndong when the Gabonese international’s contract expires at the end of the season.
17th January 2025 – OUT – Perry Ng – Burnley – £1.2m
A player who gave his all for the shirt. Our one and only Captain during our rise up the leagues following Gary Sawyer’s retirement, it was finally time to let Perry Ng go. Ng joined Argyle from captaining his boyhood club Crewe in 2020 and went on to have 4 and a half stellar seasons at Home Park, winning 2 promotions and always being a solid rock at the heart of central defence. Since the step up to Premier League football, Perry performed admirably and always gave it 110% but has started to look out of his depth as youngsters such as Delap, Vagner and Hermans have overtaken him in the pecking order. Ng’s contract was due to expire in the summer, and when promotion chasing Burnley came calling, I thought it was only fair for Ng to go and get the game time he deserves. As a result of this, one of our youth products – Josh Arnold – returns from his loan spell at Millwall to offer us more depth at centre-back.
18th January 2025 – OUT – Miguel Arias – Bristol City – £750k
Joining from Getafe for just £92k in 2020 to add more depth to our youth sides, young Spanish goalkeeper Miguel Arias spent a lot of his time out on loan in the Football League and found great success in two spells at Newport County. Very similar to his counterpart in Rodri, Arias just wasn’t progressing fast enough to ever make it in the Premier League with Argyle and with his contract expiring, I decided to cut all ties and sell him to Championship Bristol City for a nice profit of £750k.
31st January 2025 – OUT – Luke Amos – Watford – £4.2m
This was a sale I really wasn’t too sure about making. Like many players that were in their heyday in the Championship play-off winning side of 2021/22, Luke Amos’ contract was due to expire at the end of the season and so when relegation-fighting Watford came in with a desperate bid of just over £4m on the final day of the transfer window, I decided to let the ex-Spurs youth product go. In reality, I had a lot of players in the youth squad ready to take a more important role going forward as well as the loan signing of Adrian Fein to cover in Luke’s defensive midfield position. I hoped that this would not leave me too short-changed, but it was a risk I decided to take.
Although not necessarily the same non-stop winning streak that January was, February was another good month for my young Pilgrims side. We continued to go unbeaten in 2025, drawing 0-0 at Home Park against Manchester United due to possibly the best performance Mike Cooper has ever had in goal; a 3-1 win against Sheffield United (in which Alan Carlos grabbed another hattrick) and a difficult 2-1 win away to Wolves where Alan Carlos and captain Noah Delap bagged the goals. As a result of his incredible goalscoring form, Alan Carlos won both the Premier League Player and Young Player of the Month for February. Not only that, but the progress chart that was sent to my inbox at the end of the month really demonstrated the incredible player that the Brazilian striker had become: our first truly ‘World Class’ player.
By the end of March, we’d already smashed last seasons’s final points total of 58 and continued to hold on to 2nd place. It was also another month unbeaten. We started off with another Alan Carlos brace sealing a 2-0 win against our nearest rivals Bournemouth; sailed through the 5th round of the FA cup by beating Aston Villa with a goal from Rob Down and an Alan Carlos hattrick and drew against Villa after previously playing them in the cup. Angeliño bagged his first two goals in a green shirt in the 2-0 win at home to Huddersfield, however the biggest result came in a 3-3 thriller away to league leaders Arsenal, where Connor Ronan and Alan Carlos were our saviours and we were unlucky to concede late on. We went one better though in a 3-2 victory over the Gunners at Home Park. The league leaders and current FA Cup holders bowed out in the quarter final following goals from Iñigo Lekue and yet another brace from Alan Carlos.
Alan Carlos rightfully made it two wins in two months of the Premier League Player of the Month award, however it was the board that decided to reward me for the club’s form and the loyalty in reaching 300 league games by offering me a new contract through to the end of the 2028/29 season.
As it was March, we also had our usual youth intake. Compared to the last couple of years, this one was little bit disappointing. How is that when you have the worst facilities you have little gems come through, but when you start to upgrade the academy you rarely receive a prospect?
Tom Richardson-Brown, Phil Jackson and David Corcoran were the pick of the bunch, but I doubt many will make it to the first team like former candidates Noah Delap, Josh Arnold and Rob Down. (Please make me eat my words, Tom, Phil and David!)
In April, we started to reach the tail end of our season and still clung to 2nd place in the league table. It began with a 2-1 win at Home Park to Luke Amos’ new club Watford, followed by an Alan Carlos brace sealing the 3 points away at Southampton. We also confirmed our place in our first ever FA Cup final following a 4-1 drubbing of Championship side Burnley through a goal from Jordan Teze and another Alan Carlos hattrick. Unfortunately, Manchester City would be the ones meeting us there, and they had far more history in the competition than Argyle did. April ended with a 4-1 win over Leicester, and the Green Army really started to dream of continental football with just four league games left to play.
I wish I could get tired of all of the awards Alan Carlos has picked up in this season, but my god – that boy can play. The Brazilian striker picked up another Young Player of the Month award in April. It was also nice to see that our transfer nous was confirmed when we were shown to be the club that spent the 3rd lowest amount during the 2024/25 season. Sustainable?
May was make or break in terms of a very unlikely title charge and after a difficult away trip to Anfield – where an 81st minute Liverpool goal consigned us to defeat – it looked more and more likely that the trophy was heading to the Emirates. We did however turn it around back at Home Park, where Alan Carlos and Jordan Teze found the net to beat Spurs 2-1; it was after this match that Arsenal were crowned Premier League champions, but we still maintained our fight to claim continental football.
Our last match at Home Park for the season was a 4-1 drubbing of Leeds United, with both Juan Diego Franganillo and Teze grabbing braces against the Yorkshire outfit. More importantly, the win against Leeds meant that we had secured 2nd place, and therefore Plymouth Argyle would be playing in the Champions League next season. As we had nothing to play for in our final match, I decided to rotate it a bit and play some of our youngsters away at Chelsea. Big mistake. In one of our heaviest losses in months, Chelsea beat us 4-1, with Diogo Jota, Joe Gomez and Callum Hudson-Odoi leading us to defeat.
Of course, with the Premier League season over, it was awards time. Unsurprisingly, it was Alan Carlos who would take most of the acclaim: the 20-year-old Brazilian striker found the net 25 times in 37 appearances, as well as setting up 13 goals for his teammates, taking the Golden Boot back to Home Park. Rightfully, Alan Carlos also won the Premier League Young Player of the Month after his stellar performances this season. It was also nice to receive some personal recognition as Premier League Manager of the Year, my first MotY award since winning League One back in 2021.
The FA Cup Final: Plymouth Argyle v Manchester City, Wembley Stadium, 3pm, Saturday 24th May 2025
Although the season was over, the big one was still ahead of us: The FA Cup final. As is customary, I donned my finest grey tweed and Plymouth Argyle club tie and prepared for what was going to be a very tough fixture against Eddie Howe’s Manchester City, current holders of the Champions League trophy.
I went into the final with all of the hope in the world (as we didn’t have much else) and my worst fears happened after just 13 minutes: Kylian Mbappé made an excellent off-the-ball run after a simple free kick within the Manchester City half to get off the shoulder of Marek Vagner and fire past Josep Martinez into the back of the net. 1-0 to City.
I decided to watch the whole game on ‘full match’ rather than my usual ‘comprehensive highlights’ and my lord, it just made the experience so much more stressful. Manchester City kept sending wave after wave of attacks at my young Pilgrims defence and our star players such as Connor Ronan and Alan Carlos were left completely isolated. We managed to hold on for another 15 minutes, before Kevin De Bruyne just did Kevin De Bruyne things and scored a goal completely typical of his talents from distance. It was 2-0 to Man City after less than half an hour.
Ten minutes later, Kylian Mbappé bagged his second of the match after we were exposed again on the wings. This time, it was Jordan Teze who failed to cut out the pass, allowing a ball to get into the box where Mbappé’s exceptional movement allowed him to neatly pop the ball in at the near post. We were 3-0 down, and I was starting to be reminded of the 2016 League Two playoff final where we absolutely bottled it on our big day out.
We regrouped at half time, offered words of encouragement and made one change: Nathaniel Chalobah went off for a more attacking midfielder in Pedro Diaz, to hopefully offer us more during standard play as well as being the best set-piece taker in the squad. I was optimistic as soon as the second half began, as we immediately began playing far better, keeping possession more and offering more of a threat in attack. It was massively unfortunate that this spark of hope was almost instantly snuffed out not long after an hour when Man City won the ball back on the wing before playing a simple long ball over the entirety of our team. Alfredo Morelos ran onto it, rounded Josep Martinez and smashed it into our goal. 4-f*cking-nil. Bottlers, the lot of ’em.
We made another change straight away, bringing on Tom Trybull for Jordan Teze at the right-hand side of midfield in the hope that he could stop any more City goals. Luckily, it was one of our substitutes who would decided to step up and at least get us a consolation goal. Pedro Diaz ironically got on the end of an excellent corner by Alan Carlos to head in at the far post. 4-1. A glimmer of hope?
Oh yes, we had hope. Hope, otherwise known as the left foot of Alan Carlos. The goal spurred Argyle on, where just 5 minutes later the wonderkid ran onto a one-touch pass by Adam Lewis on the left wing to run through the City defence and shoot past Ederson. 4-2, with 20 minutes left to play! Come on!
Adam Lewis, who picked up a knock early in the game, came off for youngster Phil Jezeph, who was always capable of bagging a few goals off of the left wing. Minutes later, it was the Brazilian maestro who popped up again: Alan Carlos made another fantastic well-timed run through the heart of the Manchester City defence to go one-on-one with his countryman and shooting past the Brazilian stopper. It was 4-flipping-3, with 10 minutes left to go. Christ. My poor heart.
As much as we probed and continued to put the pressure on a now slightly nervous-looking Citizens squad, we just could not find that final goal to level things up and send the match to extra time, and the match unfortunately ended 4-3 to the Champions of Europe. Despite the fact that we had just lost in our first FA Cup final ever, I could be very proud. Despite having a shocking first 60 minutes, our ‘never-say-die’ attitude brought us so close to achieving the best comeback since the 2005 Champions League final. After the whistle blew, and the travelling City fans celebrated the lifting of the trophy, there was still an almighty sound bellowing out from the onlooking Green Army:
‘ALAN CARLOS, BABY, ALAN CARLOS WOAH-OH-OH-OH!’The Green Army’s chant for Alan Carlos, loosely to the tune of The Human League’s 1981 hit single ‘Don’t You Want Me’
End of Season Awards
After returning to Home Park as FA Cup runners up, it was time for the Plymouth Argyle end of season awards. You guessed it: Alan Carlos had the clean sweep of Fan’s Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Signing of the Season. The young Brazilian had also broken real life records at Plymouth Argyle, breaking the record for the most goals scored during one season, a record that had been around since 1926. Alan Carlos, Joey Hermans and Jordan Teze were all lucky enough to also break into the Players’ Premier League Team of the Season, which was dominated by Arsenal players apart from the three Pilgrims.
At the end of each season, I like to set objectives for the next season, and I think my target setting is very easy to work out:
- Keep Alan Carlos at all costs. No explanation needed.
2. Don’t make absolute fools of ourselves in Europe. I don’t even mind coming third in our group and falling into the Europa League, I just don’t fancy being drubbed 5-0 in every match by much bigger teams than lowly Plymouth Argyle.
3. Keep the core of the squad and only make improvements where necessary. I have made a lot of transfers in my first six seasons at Home Park, and considering I have quite a few young first team players and prospects almost ready to make the step up to Premier League football, I need to have more faith in what I already have at the club, rather than spending millions every 6 months. Simon Hallett offered me a transfer budget of about £60m and a wage budget of just under £1m p/w for next season, and I would like to be savvy with that, considering that it isn’t a huge difference from last year’s budgets – even though we will be competing in Europe next year.
I really hope you have enjoyed reading the story so far, and in particular the great successes of the 2024/25 campaign with Plymouth Argyle. As the COVID-19 situation continues to roll on, all I want to do is continue sharing my escapism with anyone who decides to read this and take a little break from reality every now and then.
Over on my Twitter (@rpwfm) I am also currently taking on DoctorBenjy’s ‘Glory Hunter challenge, so if you fancy something a bit different from me, you can go and find that there.