Plymouth Argyle: Too much too soon?
It is hard to believe that in December, Plymouth Argyle were sitting bottom in the League One table while contemplating a trip to Macclesfield next season...
I have nothing against Macclesfield Town but memories of standing on the exposed tundra which houses the away fans at the Moss Rose remind me of the bad old days.
I remember a 4-1 defeat to Macclesfield back in 2000. It was an uninspiring and miserable afternoon, two words that could also be used to describe Argyle at that time as we toiled under the guidance of club legend Kevin Hodges, whose class as a player was not being transferred to his managerial career.
Fast-forward twelve years, we were back at the Moss Rose, in the intervening period we had sampled life in the Championship, rubbed shoulders and even beaten some of footballs bigger names, but there we were, our glory days behind us, limping to a 1-1 draw at the Moss Rose on a Tuesday night in February.
It was a stark reminder of how far we had fallen; we had gone from a capable Championship outfit to League Two relegation fodder in a few short seasons.
Macclesfield were relegated that season, Argyle survived but only by two points. They were sobering times indeed.
Since then the Cheshire club has remained in the National League but this season they look as if they might finally make it back into the Football League, laughing in the face of the financial constraints which have kept their ambitions shackled for so long.
Last term, Argyle were promoted to League One after years of financial turmoil and false dawns but, after a dreadful start to this season in almost every regard, it looked as if we would be heading straight back down, destined to meet Macclesfield Town for yet another tragic rendezvous between two hapless lovers.
However, James Brent’s refusal to listen to the baying green mob of supporters calling for manager Derek Adams to be sacked has been rewarded. We’re now in the play-off places with six games to go and my concerns about wind-beaten midweek trips to plucky Cheshire clubs have been replaced by other worries.
Is it too much too soon?
Argyle’s rise through the leagues, which eventually ended in administration-induced tears and back-to-back relegations, started in 2002 with promotion to League One (the former Division Two) where we spent a year acclimatising before winning the league in our second season.
With the belief that is visible in the squad at present and the momentum we have going into our final six games (Argyle have lost only twice in their last 20 games) it is a very real and very disquieting possibility that we could earn promotion through the play-offs.
Just a couple of hours before I sat down to write this we had beaten play-off rivals Peterborough 2-1 with a stoppage-time penalty courtesy of Graham Carey (of course); the kind of result which is indicative of the aforementioned belief and the side’s unnerving ability to grind out an all-important victory.
Obviously I am delighted as a fan that the narrative is now about the possibility of promotion rather than the looming spectre of relegation but there - amid the roar of the Green Army on match day -there can also be heard a nervous shuffling of feet at the prospect of a second promotion in as many seasons.
In our last surge through the divisions, we spent a season in League One in order to catch our breath, this time it looks as if we are just charging straight through, full steam ahead. Could it be that this train doesn’t stop here?
What will happen if we do make it to the Championship? Will the Green Express just continue to charge and take us straight to the Promised Land or will we smash into the buffers of the Championship and start to roll backwards?
For many fans, the promotion prospect is as exciting as it is terrifying but even the most pessimistic of supporters would surely prefer the uncertainty of the Championship to the long trip up to Macclesfield, a place where Argyle have never won and probably never will.