Plymouth Argyle relegation fight is important to the whole of Plymouth
As the Herald calls on the Green Army to flock to Home Park to help Argyle win a crucial relegation battle Martin Freeman looks at why this matters so much to the city as a whole.
FOOTBALL: a game of two halves – and of the haves and the have-nots.
Half the time Plymouth Argyle fans spend delighting in what might be. The other half is spent dreading what might not be.
The dream is that they would join the haves that lift the trophies. The fear is that they become even poorer as a have-not and might-not-be in the Football League at all.
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Two games last weekend summed up life for Argyle fans. On Saturday the Green Army watched the Pilgrims lose at Northampton and slip to the bottom of League Two. On Sunday on television they saw Premiership side Swansea City win the first major trophy in the Welsh Club's history beating another League Two side, Bradford City, in the Capital One Cup at Wembley.
Ten years ago, Swansea avoided relegation to the Football Conference on the last day of the season, at the expense of Exeter City.
One Argyle fan who has watched Swansea's progress since with admiration is Vivien Pengelly, leader of the Conservative group on Plymouth City Council.
"Swansea shows what can be done," said Mrs Pengelly, a season ticket holder for 32 years.
"I am sure that with the right attitude that can be done at Argyle."
With the club cutting ticket prices and pushing for a big gate in the relegation battle against Barnet tomorrow, fans have a chance to play their part. Adults who bring a copy of The Herald can take a child in free.
"The fans drive this," said Mrs Pengelly. "They have been very loyal and they do make a big difference. Where Argyle are at the moment is extremely sad.
"Plymouth Argyle is really important to the city."
Just how important is a point picked up by Tim Jones, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council.
Football League status was a "must have for Plymouth Argyle and for Plymouth city in the business context.
"The club is worth millions of pounds a year to the local economy," he said. "Successful football clubs bring in visitors and generate income and they develop supply chains and local services. Plymouth is also recognised nationally in the media because of its football club. People know where the city is."
The future economy of the city was also linked to the football club, he said. Successful sporting football clubs were great showcases, for sponsorship and for doing business. "They are attractive to inward investors," said Mr Jones. "Business is done watching quality sporting fixtures."
As an ex-player and now a Home Park regular as a fan, former striker Sean McCarthy is convinced a large and vociferous crowd can make for a winning team.
"The fans have a massive part to play," said Sean, who spent eight years at Argyle in two spells. "That is desperately needed at the moment. As a player it does pick you up, and it gets the vocal players in the team going.
"Argyle have amazing support. A few fresh faces in there could be very important. Confidence makes a massive difference."
The club's head of communications, Rick Cowdery, believes a packed Home Park creates a "positive, passionate atmosphere" – and the fans deserve their cut-price reward.
"Plymouth Argyle is the best supported team in the lower leagues," he said. "The many service people who are stationed here and move on, and those who come to schools and colleges and leave, take the Green gospel with them. Plymouth Argyle has a special place in the football world and there is residual good feeling for the club. It's to do with the funny name and playing in green."
Tomorrow: city leader's rallying cry