Football Manager 2020 ‘The Pilgrimage’ #28 – A Moment Like This

Previously in The Pilgrimage, the Plymouth Argyle side of 2006/07 started their race from relegation and Gordon Sparks came a step closer to finding out who sent RPW FM into the past.


“RPW! I think I’ve solved it! There’s apparently some sort of underground criminal in the locker room – you’re gonna have to be careful mate. Janice down Dewdney’s said her bhey’s mate Pete has a cousin who works down the Pannier Market – you know the one who sells the knockoff DVDs – and they said they went to school with a bloke who walked past Home Park one day and saw a load of shady lads in dark clothing looking suspicious!” The dulcet Plymouthian tones of Gordon Sparks – local radio DJ by day, private investigator by night – rang out across the Central Park car park as he yelled at me.

“Cheers Sparksy, but what does that mean for our investigation?”

Gordon grinned before adding to his previous point, “Well basically I reckon those shady blokes were there on behalf of one of your team mates in the locker room…you’ve got to find out who!”


Leeds United vs Plymouth Argyle

With three games left of the season, we were currently 3 points from guaranteeing our place in the Coca-Cola Championship next season. Our fate was in our own hands, however two of our final games were against play-off contenders Leeds United and recently-crowned champions West Brom. A trip to Elland Road was always difficult and we had to be strong for the final run-in. We would of course be without midfield maestro David Norris due to his straight red card in the last game and so it looked likely that captain Paul Wotton would fill Norris’ place further forward than usual and vice-captain Nalis would sit at the base of the midfield three. The rest of the team was unchanged, however.

Leeds were on the attack straight from kick-off and attacked down the right-wing before Djordjic took out their right-winger and gave away a free kick with less than 20 seconds played. It was clear that Leeds were here to attack and try and pummel us into submission. Luckily the free kick came to nothing and Scott Sinclair spearheaded an Argyle counter-attack before shooting just wide. Both sides looked shaky in possession before the opposition counter-attacked, but it was Leeds who struck first. Capaldi lost the ball deep inside his own half and a swift passing move between Leeds’ attacking players resulted in space opening up for Antonio López on the left flank. López hit a daisy-cutter towards McCormick’s near post where the ‘keeper made a mistake and let the ball rattle in. 1-0 to Leeds. Although the home side were in control, Argyle looked dangerous on the break but unfortunately couldn’t find the back of the net due to solid defending from Leeds and poor finishing from the Pilgrims. At half-time we went in 1-0 down.

We came out for the second half and were punished straight away for starting off slow out of the gates. Antonio López was the danger man again, getting past Barness on the left flank to pull a high cross across the box that found right-winger Kome who headed home past Luke McCormick. After 46 minutes, it was now 2-0 to Leeds. Holloway had seen enough at that point and made a triple-change in an attempt to force the game back into a competitive nature. A surprising lack of performance from Ákos Buzsáky and Scott Sinclair meant that they were brought off for Luke Summerfield and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake. Capaldi was also knackered, so Barness moved to left-back and I came on to fill in at right-back.

At this point, Leeds were constantly making surging runs into the box and a wrong-footed Barness (now at left-back) was struggling. Sebastien Carole made one of these runs before being scythed down by the natural right-back and Leeds were awarded a penalty. Things were going from bad to worse. Kevin Nicholls stepped up to take it and struck the ball straight down the middle. McCormick stood strong though and made the save to a rapturous cheer from the travelling Green Army. Could this spur on a comeback? Unfortunately not. Just five minutes later Kelly was finding even more joy on the right-wing and sent a pin-point cross high to the far post where left-back Lewis was waiting (after I failed to mark him correctly) and hit the ball on the volley past McCormick. 3-0 to Leeds. The game would end that way and we headed back on the long trip home from Yorkshire with nothing to show for our efforts.


Plymouth Argyle vs Norwich City

Our final home game of the season was the ‘most winnable’ game of our relegation run-in as the Canaries were not doing too much better than we were, despite them being in the top half of the league table. Of course, Norris was still suspended for the remaining games of the season but I was the lucky recipient of the unfortunate occurrence of a minor injury to Antony Barness and so made the starting XI at right-back. Apart from that, the team was unchanged from the Leeds defeat. The difference was that we were motivated to win our league safety. Due to some teams playing later, the natural flow of the table meant that if we picked up all three points today we would be officially safe. We didn’t want to leave this until we played away at the Champions on the final day of the season. We had to take this opportunity.

It was a slow start from both sides but you could say that Argyle slightly edged the opening moments. Capaldi, Buzsáky and Sinclair all went close before 20 minutes and Mocquet was the most likely to open the scoring after hitting the base of the post shortly before 30 minutes had been played. Although The Pilgrims were dominating possession and camping out around the edge of the Norwich box, the Canaries were sharp on the break with Dion Dublin (playing in the heart of the Norwich defence) sending accurate clearances down the wings. Both of our wingers were showing their workrate and tracking back to support me and Capaldi but unfortunately both Djordjic and Mocquet picked up yellow cards just before half time for their defensive efforts. Both players would then pop up at the other end shortly before the ref blew his whistle. Mocquet received a long pass from Nalis in midfield before pinging an accurate cross to the head of Djordjic at the far-post. Bojan rose above his marker and headed powerfully past Gallacher. 1-0! At half time The Pilgrims were one step towards securing safety.

Norwich kicked off in the second half and attempted to pass the ball around the Argyle box in an attempt to find an opening. A cross came in and I headed it away, with Mocquet picking the ball up on the edge of the box. Mocquet tapped it to Sinclair in bags of space who ran from the halfway line all the way to the byline on the right wing. I was getting ready for the overlap but Scott decided to pass it back to me instead. I passed it infield to Wotton who took a touch before sending it to Mocquet on the edge of the D. The French youngster dribbled past Shackell before smashing it into the top-left corner of the goal. 2-0 to Argyle! Norwich made a couple of changes to try and get back in the game but it really did not seem like it was their day. Their right-back and captain Gary Docherty finished off their chances of taking any points home to Norfolk after slicing a very simple clearance straight into his own net after a period of sustained pressure. Plymouth Argyle beat Norwich City 3-0 and our safety in the Coca-Cola Championship was guaranteed. One more game, then surely I’ll get to go home…


West Bromwich Albion vs Plymouth Argyle

I never made it to the final game of the season: a bit of a dead rubber against recently-crowned Champions in the Baggies. After the Norwich game I spent a bit of time debriefing with the gaffer and analysing my performance with the performance analysis guys and when I had arrived back in the changing room to grab my stuff and head home, I spotted there had been an unfamiliar looking shirt left on the benches. Unwrapping the yellow and blue jersey, I noticed a note had been left with it.

‘RPW –

Mystery is solved. Get back home and put him away.

G.S.’


I put the note down and picked up the shirt. I noticed the badge of Chievo Verona before turning it around. Although the number on this older shirt was different to one that I knew from his position in this Argyle squad, I recognised his name:

“Ah…I really wish you hadn’t found that, RPW.” A thick French accent flittered behind me. I turned and saw my future assistant manager and friend Lilian stood there with three figures dressed head-to-toe in black behind him; these must have been the men that Sparksy had mentioned. In Nalis’ hand was one of the groundsman’s shovels – still fresh from sorting the pitch after the Norwich match. Before I could even utter a word of shock the veteran midfielder picked up the shovel and smashed it over my skull.


Next time: Will RPW FM wake up alive in the present or injured in the past? Will he wake up at all? Will his former friend ever be tried for his crimes?

Football Manager 2020 ‘The Pilgrimage’ #27 – Standing in the Way of Control

Last time in The Pilgrimage, Plymouth Argyle manager RPW FM woke up in 2007 and teamed up with popular local radio DJ Gordon Sparks to try and solve the mystery of how to get back home. If you fancy listening to a playlist defining the 2006/07 era while you read, you can find it here:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7fUd5t1xkyqwANyByKRNEb


The Task at Hand

The remaining fixtures for Argyle in the 2006/07 season in the Coca-Cola Championship

…was not an easy one, not by a long shot. Gordon [Sparks] and I had the hypothesis that if I helped Argyle survive relegation from the Championship, it may be the cathartic experience I needed to return back home to 2026. First of all, our position: the Pilgrims were in 20th; 6 points above the top of the relegation zone where Southend sat in 22nd. 6 games to play, 6 points clear. Not a bad position to start in, however, we had a very difficult task regarding our remaining fixtures. Of the remaining matches, 4 out of 6 were in the top 10: Preston (10th), Leeds (6th), Norwich (8th) and away to league leaders West Brom on the final day. Luckily, the two matches against teams outside of the top 10 were very winnable: Sheffield Wednesday were languishing second from bottom and Leicester were only a point above us in 19th.


After finishing the Wednesday training session at Harpers Park, I returned to the changing rooms with the lads to find a deerstalker-clad Gordon Sparks sat by my locker, notebook in hand.

“Sparksy, what are you doing here? You’re only meant to let me know if you’ve got a lead!” I sat down next to him and took my boots off.

“Yeah, well I’ve got an idea. If you focus on saving Argyle from relegation to League One, I’ll focus on working out who it was that attacked you in Barcelona. Now, in as much detail as you can, you need to tell me anyone who would have a gripe with you enough to potentially smack you over the head and attempt to murder you.” Sparksy clicked his ballpoint pen and stared intently.

“Right…um…well it could have been someone who was annoyed about Argyle winning the Champions League – any of the Bayern Munich staff and team? Or it could have been a member of the Camp Nou staff – we did leave the changing rooms in a bit of a state after our celebrations…it sounds stupid, but it could even be someone like Pilgrim Pete! I tripped over him early on, although I doubt that would be enough to irritate him so far as to commit attempted murder…”

“Hold on RPW – those are all fairly obvious. Even Pete. Think deeper – who could be secretly jealous under the surface? To a point where it eventually bubbles over into a fit of a rage?”

“Hmm…if I looked at people who were there on the night who wouldn’t have been the first suspects that come to mind…a couple of the Argyle legends were there and at the FA Cup final. Neil Warnock was there in particular – could he be jealous that I am now one of Argyle’s most successful managers, overtaking ‘Colin’? What about any of my staff: Lilian [Nalis], Rory [Fallon] or Romain [Larrieu]? Yes, of course they want Argyle to be successful, but do they want to go it alone and step out of the shadow that I’ve created?”

Sparksy sat there, mouth agape but accepting of my suggestions. “Right, I’ll get to my investigation while you tackle the matches. First stop, Ivor Dewdney’s on Cornwall Street. I can’t be investigating on an empty stomach!”


Plymouth Argyle vs Preston North End

Against 10th-placed Preston I was not expecting us to pick up any points. Holloway announced his lineup to the squad the night before the match and it looked like he was lining us up in a 4-1-2-2-1 formation (or simply a 4-3-3 with a defensive midfielder). The squad was a strong one, with Luke McCormick in between the sticks; a very much more-than-capable back four of Barness, Doumbe, Seip and Capaldi; a midfield masterclass of destroyer Paul Wotton, technician Ákos Buzsáky and non-stop runner David Norris; and a front three of on-loan duo William Mocquet, Scott Sinclair and tricky winger Bojan Djordjic. I made the bench, alongside my future assistant manager Lillian Nalis, Michael Duff, Luke Summerfield, Péter Halmosi and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake.

It’s safe to say we didn’t get off to the easiest of starts: Marcel Seip gave away a free kick on the edge of Argyle’s box with just 30 seconds gone. Chris Sedgwick stepped up and took the shot; the ball bounced off the underside of the crossbar and past a helpless Luke McCormick. With 50 seconds gone, we were already 1-0 down. The goal put the proverbial rocket up the backsides of The Pilgrims, where straight from the restart Djordjic forced Andy Lonergan into a superb save.

Despite the counter-attacking nature of Holloway’s system, we were picking up a lot of possession and found a lot of joy from long shots from outside the box: Buzsáky hit the base of the post with a screamer of a strike after 15 minutes played. Argyle continued to pepper Lonergan with efforts but it seemed like Preston were going to hold on until half time, at least.

No changes were made at half time, and early efforts suggested it wasn’t to be out day. David Norris missed an absolute sitter from a late run into the box and Buzsáky hit the woodwork for a second time before the clock hit 60 minutes. Holloway made the change, opting to bring off Norris (who was having an unusually poor game) and bringing on academy graduate Luke Summerfield. Djordjic also made way, with Hungarian Péter Halmosi going out onto the left wing. Argyle came into the game even more; dominating possession and forcing Preston back further and further into their own half. They just could not find the breakthrough. Things were getting desperate, and at 80 minutes Sylvain Ebanks-Blake replaced a very isolated Scott Sinclair at the spearhead of the Argyle attack.

It was shortly after this that the Green Army had a glimmer of hope. Summerfield won back possession from Preston in the Argyle half and sent a pinpoint through ball to Ákos Buzsáky. The Hungarian midfielder made an incredible run through Preston’s midfield before being met with a cynical challenge on the edge of the Preston area from Paul McKenna (no, not that Paul McKenna). A yellow card was awarded to the Preston midfielder for his troubles, and Ákos would take the free kick in the 89th minute. Buzsáky whipped the free kick to the far post where Sunderland loanee William Mocquet headed it straight past Lonergan to find his first goal for Argyle and to level up the scores! 1-1! The final whistle blew shortly after. It was a hard-earned point in Argyle’s quest for safety.


Sheffield Wednesday vs Plymouth Argyle

Almost a week later was what should have been our easiest clash of the remaining fixtures against a second-from-bottom Sheffield Wednesday side. In true Argyle fashion though, we did not make it easy for ourselves.

Holloway opted to keep the same starting lineup for this match but switched around his subs bench a bit: Nalis and I would keep our places but Halmosi would be dropped for CM legend Cherno Samba (I still can’t believe he actually played at Argyle for a bit). Again, we didn’t get off to the best of starts. Within 30 seconds, Barness took out Chris Brunt in the Argyle box with a mistimed challenge. Penalty. Sh*t. Kenny Lunt made no mistake and made it 1-0 to Wednesday with less than 2 minutes played. Holloway had to find a way to stop us from starting so poorly.

Luckily, the early goal conceded seemed to light a fire in every Pilgrim’s belly: From the restart Buzsáky passed the ball to Capaldi making a surging run from left-back down the wing. Capaldi looked up and curled a cross from the byline to the far post, where for the second time in two games, William Mocquet headed past a poorly positioned keeper to level the scores. 1-1! Argyle seemed to keep more possession now and seemed to hem the Owls into their own half. Wednesday were making wild clearances in desperation to sort their lines out, and one stray hoof of the ball found the feet of Paul Wotton in the centre circle. The Argyle captain simply laid the ball off to Norris, who ran through the Owls defence and placed a shot past the outstretched arms of Brad Jones. It was 2-1 to Argyle!

It always hurts more when old friends score against you. Just 5 minutes later, Glenn Whelan switched play to former Argyle left-back Peter Gilbert who swung a cross towards the head of Mario Licka. Licka simply directed the ball to the far corner of the net and took advantage of Luke McCormick, who had his feet all wrong and flapped at the header. Sheffield Wednesday had levelled up the scores and it was already 2-2 after just 25 minutes played at Hillsborough. This seemed to fill Wednesday with confidence, as shortly after a simple Gilbert throw in found the feet of Kenny Lunt, who whipped a ball towards the near post where Tudgay headed past McCormick and a Pilgrims defence that had seemingly disappeared. 3-2. Argyle were starting to lose their heads now, and another rash tackle from Mathias Doumbe provided Lunt with another opportunity from a set-piece: a well-placed free kick from the Owls midfielder nestled superbly in the top-right corner of Argyle’s net. At half time, we went in 4-2 down against fellow relegation candidates. Things weren’t looking good.

Holloway gave us a bit of a bollocking at half time. Told us to sort our acts out. Play for the shirt. A reality check that was very necessary for some members of the squad. The majority of the squad went back out after half time with two exceptions: Holloway had seen enough of right-back Anthony Barness and centre-back Marcel Seip. Both had very poor games so far and were arguably at fault for the majority of the goals conceded. I was called on at right-back in Barness’ place and Michael Duff filled the spot that Seip left behind in the heart of defence.

Argyle regained possession shortly after the Owls restarted and David Norris threaded a pass to Mocquet on the right-wing, the main source of our goal threats. Mocquet dribbled all the way into the box and took a shot from a very tight angle at Brad Jones. The Wednesday ‘keeper made the save, but the ball rebounded out to the penalty spot, where Scott Sinclair slid in and knocked the ball into the net. 4-3! Sinclair was getting more into the game, and shortly after he decided to reciprocate Mocquet’s favour. A very good dribbler, Sinclair ran into the channel on the left-wing and sent an accurate cross to Mocquet running in at the far post. The young French winger simply had to pass it into the net. 4-4. Could we come back to win this match?

The Argyle manager decided to make on last change in the 70th minute, bringing on Cherno Samba for Bojan Djordjic on the left- wing. Samba was immediately involved; the CM legend won back possession for the Greens before finding Scott Sinclair. Sinclair dribbled through the Wednesday midfield and passed it to Mocquet on the right-wing (who narrowly avoided the offside trap). There was some poetic justice that Gilbert was the one who then went to clatter the Sunderland loanee in the box, awarding a penalty to Argyle! While Wotton would normally take all of the penalties, Mocquet was on a hattrick and the Argyle captain afforded the youngster his chance. William Mocquet made no mistake, firing into the bottom-right corner of Brad Jones’ goal. It was 5-4 to the Pilgrims! Were we done? No.

With 5 minutes left on the clock, Capaldi took a throw in deep in the Sheffield Wednesday half and threw the ball to Scott Sinclair. Sinclair laid it off back to Capaldi who brought the ball infield for Ákos Buzsáky. The Hungarian magician then did simply what he famous for; turning on the spot, Buzsáky lashed the ball into the top-left corner of the Owls goal. I couldn’t believe it. It was 6-4 to Argyle now! The Pilgrims were not done yet, however. In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Capaldi took a corner which I leapt for and caused the Wednesday ‘keeper to make a save which he parried straight towards Mathias Doumbe. Doumbe made no mistake and headed the deflection past the Owls defence. 7-4! The party atmosphere on the coach home was palpable and we couldn’t wait to take the momentum back to Plymouth.


Plymouth Argyle vs Leicester City

For the third match straight, the gaffer decided to keep the same starting line-up; although I could see that players like Bojan (Djordjic) and Anthony (Barness) seemed to be on their last chances – another poor performance and they could be benched. Leicester were in a similar position to us in the league but had far more pressure from their supporters to stay in the Championship and eventually get back to the Premier League again. Of course this would be the team that Holloway would eventually leave us for – despite saying he wouldn’t – and I had a desire to beat the Foxes due to future events.

The match was very much a stalemate and a bore for the majority of the Green Army and so I will not go into too much detail. Argyle did have the majority of the chances, although Leicester hit the woodwork on five occasions before the end of the game. After 54 minutes, Norris let the occasion get to him and foolishly two-footed Iain Hume and rightfully earned his marching orders from the ref. Our task was made even trickier. Summerfield and Samba were the first to come on and try and make a difference, with both wingers Djordjic and Mocquet coming off. Samba went to the left-wing and Ákos moved to the right-wing with Summerfield acting as Wotton’s pivot in midfield. Leicester didn’t trouble us much despite being down to 10 men, although we couldn’t find a way through ourselves.

With 5 minutes of ‘normal time’ left, Holloway decided to bring me on for Barness who was tiring at right-back. Leicester were seeing a lot more of the ball and seemed to want to earn a smash-and-grab three points from us. A period of sustained pressure around our box resulted in Josh Low taking a pot shot which was blocked by Seip before the rebound was smashed into the back of the net by Gary Martin past McCormick. The Foxes were 1-0 up and we had dropped down to 20th. With the final whistle beckoning, Holloway was screaming at us to get forward more. Buzsáky made one of his incredible runs from deep into the Leicester box before reaching a dead-end when Hughes cleared the ball from Ákos’ feet. The ball found its way to my feet, and in a flash of adrenaline, I cut inside, played a one-two with Summerfield on the edge of the box and then ran straight into the Leicester penalty area with the ball before using the outside of my foot to spin it around Rab Douglas. 1-1! It was a fair result, and it meant that we were very close to safety with three games left to play.


We were so close to safety now with three fixtures left. It was a shame that those three fixtures were against Leeds in 7th, Norwich in 12th and already-promoted West Brom on the final day.


Next time: Sparksy finds a hot new lead in his quest to find out who attacked RPWFM; Argyle battle to avoid relegation and RPWFM continues his battle to return back home…

Football Manager 2020 ‘The Pilgrimage’ #26 – Last Request

Last time in The Pilgrimage, Plymouth Argyle lost another FA Cup final; won in an incredible Champions League final; and manager RPW FM was the subject of a vicious attack.


As I came to, I tentatively touched the throbbing pulse surrounding my mind and with my other arm lifted my body back to a sitting position, my limbs weeping at what should have been a menial task. The last thing I remembered – very faintly though I must say – in the back of my mind was Barcelona. The euphoric high. The trophy lift. That last look at the Camp Nou. However now, my surroundings were very different.

Different, yes; but unfamiliar? No. Through my bleary eyes I took in the sight before me. I was sat prone in the tarmac-laden car park of Central Park. This was not the Catalan capital – this was Britain’s Ocean City. I was back in Plymouth. A plethora of thoughts ran through my head: Yes, I know I went out with the lads to celebrate our title triumph, but surely I didn’t party that hard? Never in my 29 years had I drank so much that I woke up alone in a different country. A moment of clarity came over me. A walk through the park normally cleared my head when my thoughts became tangled. I stepped slowly to my feet and rubbed my temple again. Yes, this was the car park outside The Theatre of Greens – Home Park. Something was different though.

The car park just outside of Home Park

In the car park was just one car, a blue 2007 Ford Fiesta – my car. I ambled over to the vehicle, noticing that the driver’s side window had been rolled down. This was not like me – I’m a bit of a security nut – but I clearly wasn’t in my usual mindset. Not only had I left my window open, but the stereo was on and the tinny speakers crackled with the sound of music: Paolo Nutini’s ‘Last Request’. I remember when it came out – it was on the one ‘Now! That’s What I Call Music’ CD that I owned – Now! 66. Upon opening the door, I was met with a cry of ‘ARPEE!’ from behind me. Striding across the car park with the grace of a gazelle, gym bag in hand, was the familiar face of Lillian Nalis.

Lillian – what happened? The last thing I remember was Barcelona and then...” I was interrupted mid-sentence by the Frenchman.

What are you on about? We’re due in training, come on mate otherwise Ollie will give us a bollocking.” Lillian replied, dragging my arm back in the direction of Harpers Park. I was dumbfounded.

Ollie? As in Ian Holloway?

“Who else? Have you been sleeping under a rock pal?

I followed Nalis to the training ground and while walking past Home Park noticed that the Mayflower stand development didn’t look like it had even started yet…strange. After the short walk to Harpers Park, I realised that something was very wrong. In the training ground were faces I recognised, but they were faces from the past…Paul Wotton, Ákos Buzsáky, Rory Fallon, Luke McCormick, David Norris. It was the team that I knew from my youth.

Come on RPW, get your kit on – you’re late!” The familiar voice of Ian Holloway boomed across Harpers Park. Things were strange, and it seemed like I was somehow in an entirely different era of Plymouth Argyle’s history.


A return to 2007…

The new system that Holloway has adapted for the final run-in of the season

To put it simply, we were back in 2007. Something happened that meant I was living through my own childhood, yet somehow achieving my childhood dream to be an Argyle player.

Unlike the reality of the 2006/07 season – where Argyle ended up finishing a solid 11th place – the Pilgrims seemed to be struggling with fighting against relegation and had a month to change their fortunes.

Holloway had foolishly sold first-choice goalkeeper and right-back Romain Larrieu and Paul Connolly in the January transfer window and as a result the squad was looking a bit thin in terms of depth. We did have some good players, however, and some stars of the future…

Player Overview

Mathias Doumbe – CB/RB

Arguably our star player in the heart of our defence is Mathias Doumbe. Equally proficient covering at right-back, the central defender will be the main man keeping the goals out at the back. Coming through the academies of A.A.S. Sarcelles and PSG, The Frenchman has a lot of pedigree coming with him to Plymouth.

Ákos Buzsáky – AM/CM

He’s the man that I’d hope you are all familiar with by now…my favourite ever Argyle player (and the protagonist in my own version of DoctorBenjy’s ‘Glory Hunter‘) is the Hungarian international midfielder, Ákos Buzsáky. The playmaker is equally proficient working in between the lines of the forwards and the midfield and the centre of the pitch, and can often be relied upon to come up with a moment of magic or a wonder goal to change a game.

Marcel Seip – CB

While Seip was never a player that really stood out to me during my time watching Argyle in the past (instead, it was Buzsáky’s fellow countryman Krisztián Tímár who shone at centre-back), the Dutch U21 international is rated highly on FM. Having joined from Heerenveen in the Summer 2006 transfer window, Seip is the most naturally suited defender to a simple centre-back role: defend and get rid of the ball.

David Norris – CM/RM

‘Doris’, as my Dad used to call him from the stands of the Lyndhurst end, was a brilliantly versatile midfielder who could do a job in the middle of the pitch or on the wings. Having joined Argyle from Bolton Wanderers in 2002, Norris started off mainly playing as a pacy right-winger but has since transitioned into a bit of a tireless workhorse in the box-to-box role in the centre of midfield.

Scott Sinclair – ST

Having joined on loan from Chelsea, an 18-year-old Scott Sinclair first impressed me during Argyle’s 06/07 FA Cup run. The pacy youngster was a constant threat dribbling at slower defences and managed to score a couple of good goals too. With plenty of room to improve, Sinclair is probably our first choice up front, although we have other good options in Barry Hayles and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake.

Tony Capaldi – LM/LB

Very much like the utility man Lee Hodges that was sold in the January window to Millwall, Northern Irish international Tony Capaldi can play anywhere down the left-side of the pitch, as well as do a job in the centre of midfield. More commonly known nowadays as being the other guy in the photo of Jack Grealish breaching lockdown rules, Capaldi is naturally a left-winger but is currently the only option to fill in at left-back (Youngster and future captain Gary Sawyer is just not quite ready yet).

Paul Wotton – CM/DM/CB

Finally, we arrive at our Captain and club legend Paul Wotton. Having been born in Plymouth, Wotton knows how important the club is to our fair city and had been in the first-team at the club for almost 13 years at this point. Originally impressing as a centre-back alongside Graham Coughlan, Wotton nowadays plays in the centre of midfield as a bit of an enforcer, recycling play to more technical players to bomb forward on the counter attack. He also takes a cracking free-kick (and a brutally powerful penalty).

Other top-class players featuring in the squad that I haven’t already mentioned include (my present-day assistant manager and 06/07 vice-captain) Lillian Nalis; the Swede Bojan Djordjic on the wing; youth product Luke McCormick in goal; and even CM/FM legend Cherno Samba is on the books. Future Premier League players Dan Gosling and Ashley Barnes are also in the academy, ready for a bright future.


Gordon Sparks, P.I.

Now then, I was sure that BBC Radio Devon DJ and life-long Argyle fanatic Gordon Sparks (otherwise known as Sparksy) was just that: a DJ and follower of the Pilgrims. However, after heading back home after our training session and having a gander through the Yellow Pages, I found that Sparksy had trained to be a private investigator.

You may be sat there thinking, “RPW, why on earth would you need to hire a P.I.?” My answer to that question was simple: I was not meant to be here; and I was relying on Sparky’s sleuthing prowess to get me back ready for the 2026/27 season, not the 2006/07 season. It was a strange request to put forward to the Argyle legend…

You what mate? Had a bonk on the head and now you’re back in 2007? And you think I can help? Tell you what me ‘ansome: I’ll do my best, but you’ll have to tell me all you know, so that I have something to work from.” The Janner tones of Sparksy muffled down the phone.

Well we were in Barcelona and we’d just won the Champions League against Bayern Munich…” I began in earnest, before a string of expletives interrupted my explanation.

You’ve got to be sh*tting me bhuy! You must have had a pretty thick ear if you’re telling me nonsense about Argyle winning the bleddy Champions League!

If I could have audibly slapped the manic DJ down the phone to stop him from being hysterical, I would have. “SPARKSY! It’s true! Honestly! Look, I’ve had a think about this myself and can only narrow it down to being someone who was in the stadium that night after the supporters left; whether that be someone from UEFA, Bayern, Argyle or staff at the Camp Nou. Sparksy? Hello? Gordon? Can you hear me?

The line went quiet as it seemed like our connection was failing, before the familiar tones resumed from the Argyle fanatic, “Hold on for one second mate. Have you ever seen ‘Life on Mars’? The TV show? On BBC at the moment, couple episodes left of Series 2. Nope? Well, I hope you don’t mind spoilers mate because I’ve got an idea. In ‘Life on Mars’, the main character Sam – played by the incredible John Simm, may I add – is a copper that gets hit by a car and then is sent back in time to his childhood to solve crimes with a maverick sidekick called DCI Gene Hunt. Turns out Sam’s in some kind of coma and has to find the purpose of his ‘time travel’ so that he can wake up in the present day. Sound familiar?

I’m not gonna lie, Gordon, I’ve never heard any of that – but why are you telling me this?” I began to question the sanity and acumen of the budding private investigator.

Sparksy took a deep breath before continuing, “Well I was thinking, what if you’re actually in a coma from the bonk on the head and you’ve been sent back here for a reason? And the only way you can get back is to fulfil that purpose? I could be the Gene Hunt to your Sam Tyler!

I racked my brain for a moment, thinking of why I would need to be here. “Sparksy,” I began, “Maybe my purpose is something to do with Argyle? They clearly need saving from relegation, so perhaps I’m needed to help with that?


Thank you again for reading The Pilgrimage; especially when I decide to go off on a tangent with silly gimmicks, the likes of which you have just read above. I really fancied spicing the series up a bit – and as I really wanted to use tHeMAdSCienTiSt Fm’s awesome 2006/07 throwback database – the two converged to make this short interlude away from the main story.

I would also like to thank FM Grasshopper for his amazing post that I read years ago that inspired me to do something similar, as well the fantastic ‘Life on Mars’ that I may have taken a lot of creative licensing from (if you’re in the UK, both seasons are on BBC iPlayer and on Netflix at the time of writing).

Next time, we follow RPWFM and Sparksy as they try and solve the mystery of who orchestrated the attack at the Camp Nou and try to save The Pilgrims from relegation in an attempt to get back home.