Top Marks for Patterson and Saunders at Greens and Gills
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE face Gillingham at Home Park this afternoon, with the Kent club sharing numerous links with the Pilgrims.
So it is appropriate to look back on the playing careers of two players who were team-mates at Home Park and went on to represent the Gills, one of whom has been on a scouting mission ahead of this afternoon's game.
Mark Patterson is at the helm of Gillingham's development team after a four-year spell as youth manager at the Priestfield.
His playing career, which saw him surpass 400 appearances, began with Carlisle United as a trainee.
Breaking into the first team for Harry Gregg's side after signing professional terms as an 18-year-old in 1986, Patterson made just 22 appearances before being snapped up by Derby County manager Arthur Cox.
The agreed transfer fee of £85,000 led to him making 51 league appearances in which he scored three goals before his next move, which also had an added Derby connection.
Peter Shilton was the Argyle manager and spent the summer of 1993 rebuilding his squad.
Departing Home Park were Andy 'Jock' Morrison, Gary Poole, Steve Morgan and Warren Joyce, to be replaced by Andy Comyn, Dominic Naylor, Wayne Burnett, Alan Nicholls, Matthew Smith (also from Derby) and Patterson.
With a £60,000 price tag, Patterson was a right-full-back who could also have been used as a midfielder if required.
In his first appearance for Argyle, Comyn and Michael Evans were both on target as the Pilgrims fell to a 3-2 opening game defeat at home to Stockport County.
A very popular member of the playing staff, Patterson carried an instantly recognisable Geordie accent, but was actually born in Leeds.
He grew up in Prudhoe, just outside Newcastle, and his early days as a footballer showed promise, even as a striker at times as he progressed to West Tyne schoolboys and the Cumbria County representative sides.
Shilton knew Patterson well, as the future manager joined Derby four months before the defender arrived at the Baseball Ground.
Mel Sage was County's regular right-back, which meant Patterson had to make do with Central League experience before he went on to make 51 Football League appearances. But he can also look back on various cup outings, including the Anglo-Italian Cup.
One of his most memorable games for Derby was not notable all for the right reasons.
A third round FA Cup reply against Bristol Rovers saw him score, but that goal was not added to his list of five career Derby goals. The match was abandoned due to thick fog, but by that moment, Patterson had left the game after suffering torn knee ligaments.
On New Year's Day 1994, another injury produced a remarkable story.
Playing for Argyle at Bournemouth, a scan following an ankle injury discovered a floating bone which needed to be removed.
New keyhole surgery was performed and amazingly, Patterson was back in action just two weeks after fears he would be sidelined for considerably longer.
Scoring three times, Patterson made 134 league appearances for Argyle before his transfer to Gillingham, the nature of which caused certain upset among Home Park officials.
With the two clubs unable to agree a fee, the transfer was taken to a tribunal in October 1997, with Argyle valuing him at £300,000.
Imagine then, the disappointment when their Second Division rivals were made to pay an initial fee of £15,000, rising to £45,000.
In his five years as a player with Gillingham, he made 124 league appearances, but will be remembered by Argyle fans as an integral part of the squad that reached the play-offs during the 1993-94 season and eventually won promotion two years later.
And it was Patterson who delivered the cross for Ronnie Mauge's Wembley goal in the 1996 play-off final.
Someone who knows Patterson well, not only from their time at Home Park but also at the Priestfield, is Mark Saunders.
After starring for Tiverton Town in non-League football, he joined Neil Warnock's Argyle squad in November 1995.
His first season at Home Park was quiet as far as first team opportunities were concerned.
But he made his debut in a 2-1 first round second leg home defeat against Birmingham City in the second leg of the League Cup, coming on as a substitute for Gary Clayton.
But with Argyle having a very competitive edge at reserve team level in the Avon Insurance Combination League, Patterson was able to find his feet as a full-time professional level.
Moving with his family to Devon from Reading at the age of three, Saunders captained the Devon representative side in addition to playing for Exeter St Thomas in the Devon and Exeter League.
Former Argyle player and manager John Hore signed Saunders, by now 15, for his first of two spells with Torrington.
Within two years, he joined Tiverton Town, managed by John Owen, but his eagerness for regular football saw him return to north Devon for another season with Torrington.
It proved fruitful, as he scored 40 goals which grabbed the attention of new Tiverton boss Martyn Rogers.
In five seasons, Saunders scored 22, 29, 32, 35 and 36 goals as Tiverton's stock rose as champions of the Great Mills League.
He also played in the first round of the FA Cup (against Leyton Orient) and the final of the FA Vase when Tiverton were beaten by Bridlington by a single goal.
Saunders also held down full-time employment as a driver for a courier company, and more latterly as a shopfitter.
All that was left behind when he came a full-time professional footballer, and in his three-year spell in Argyle's midfield, scored 11 goals in 72 league appearances.
Saunders spent eight years with Gillingham after joining the Kent club on a free transfer, making 179 appearances which realised 15 goals.
Finishing his playing days with non-League sides Folkestone Invicta and Maidstone United, he returned to Tiverton Town in 2008.
Still with his scoring touch, he was appointed assistant manager to Chris Vinnicombe in 2010 and was soon elevated to the manager's position in November of that year – a position he still holds today.
In the two Marks, Patterson and Saunders, it is good to know two genial characters from Argyle's past are still enjoying themselves in the game.