Chris Errington: Worrying times for development of young Greens
I FEAR for the development of young professionals at Argyle because of a lack of matches for them to play in.
Some of the club's teenage prospects have been starved of action this season, and it is not doing them or the Pilgrims any good.
With Argyle no longer playing regular reserve team matches, there is a huge gap between the under-18s and the senior side.
That creates a void in which promising youngsters, who perhaps do not develop physically or technically as fast as others, can disappear into.
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The issue was highlighted when Argyle played Ivybridge Town at Home Park in the Devon St Luke's Cup last Wednesday.
It was a low-key match, but for first-year professionals Matt Lecointe and Jared Sims it was a rare run-out for them.
Sims played four times for Argyle's senior side last term, while still an apprentice, and showed some good promise.
This season, he has made a further two appearances for the first team, including a start in the Capital One Cup second round tie at Burnley in August.
However, as Sims is now too old to play at the under-18 age group, there is nowhere else for him to play regular football.
Argyle played one behind-closed-doors game against Exeter City at Home Park in October, which was effectively a reserve team clash.
And I can recall a young Pilgrims' squad travelling to Reading's training ground for an under-21 game earlier in the same month.
But there have not been many other opportunities for players such as Sims to get any time out on the pitch in match situations.
Lecointe, a year younger than Sims at 18, started this season in the first team, after making his debut at the age of 16 in 2011.
However, the last of his seven first team outings this term came in mid-September.
Since then, his progress has been hampered by injury, but there have not been many chances for him to get match practice.
Unlike Sims, at least Lecointe was still eligible to play in Argyle's two FA Youth Cup ties, against Exeter City and Oxford United.
And, remember, this is a striker who played as a substitute – and scored – for England under-18s in an international in March.
Lecointe and Sims were two of five young players who stepped up to the professional ranks with Argyle.
Two of the others, attackers Jed Harper-Penman and Isaac Vassell, have spent much of this season on loan to Southern League club Bideford.
Harper-Penman has already been told he will be released by Argyle when his contract ends on December 31.
The same fate has befallen midfielder Jordan Copp, who has probably only played a couple of times since pre-season.
Whether Harper-Penman or Copp had the ability to become first team regulars with the Pilgrims is open to argument.
Crucially, however, they have not had the chance to show what they are capable of and that seems a shame to me.
Argyle's busy schedule of first team fixtures does not allow much free time to arrange 'reserves' games.
And, realistically, there are only three non-league clubs in the Devon and Cornwall which Argyle can loan their young prospects to.
They are Conference South side Truro City, now their future seems to be secure after a financial crisis, plus Bideford and Tiverton Town, of the Southern League.
Truro and Tiverton are managed by former Pilgrims' players, Lee Hodges and Mark Saunders, respectively.
Perhaps those are partnerships Argyle should try to exploit more for the sake of their up-and-coming talent.