Green Barmy: Tough going for Argyle after Shrimpers put down Roots
ARGYLE'S postponed trip to Essex this afternoon would have brought together opponents who have been familiar with each other over the years.
But for a frozen Roots Hall pitch today's would have been the 64th league meeting with Southend United – 32 of which have been staged at Home Park.
But as far as the away games are concerned, a variety of locations have been home to the Shrimpers.
The opening encounter was in the first Football League season for both and Argyle's trip in December 1920 would have been quite a journey.
Argyle, managed by the legendary Robert Jack, went into their 17th match of the campaign having won half of their matches.
Jack was visiting familiar territory, having been tempted away from Plymouth after managing Argyle for the 1905-06 season, which was the first in the Southern League for Southend.
But four years later, he returned to Home Park to successfully lift the Argyle out of the Southern League.
The winter trek to Essex just over 92 years ago saw the Greens play at Southend United's second stadium.
The first, Roots Hall, was a grand house dating back to the 18th century, and in its vast grounds, a football pitch was laid out in 1900.
That was home to Southend Athletic until Southend United took over on their formation six years later, maintaining their promise of putting in place a new stand that would hold 200 spectators.
But in 1916, football took second place to the war effort.
The field at Roots Hall was turned into allotments while the wooden stand was dismantled and sold to a local timber merchant.
It was somewhat ironic that in an era of conflict with Germany, Southend United, after three years without a base, moved to a new home with a German name.
Kursaal is a word from the German language meaning 'public rooms at a health resort'.
Situated very close to the waterfront, the Kursaal was originally an amusement park.
But a football pitch was laid in readiness for its new occupants, and it was here Argyle first played in the town with both teams founder members of Division Three (South).
Former Manchester United centre-forward William Toms scored just three league goals in his only season with Argyle.
But his effort at Southend was in vain as the Pilgrims fell to a 2-1 defeat.
An estimated attendance of 4,000 saw that match, the first of 10 meetings in successive seasons between United and Argyle.
The 1923-24 campaign saw a first Argyle win at the Kursaal.
In the third of six consecutive seasons in which Jack's side finished as runners up in Division Three (South), left-winger Billy Baker set the visitors on their way.
Percy Cherrett, by far the season's top scorer with an impressive 27 goals from 40 appearances, completed the win against the struggling Southend side which finished the season just three points above bottom club Queens Park Rangers. The following year, in the final game of the season, Argyle not only repeated their success but did so in some style.
Freddie Forbes who had, with another formidable scorer who also netted in the game, Jack Cock, joined Argyle from Everton scored the first in a rout.
Scottish winger Patsy Cocoran helped himself to two goals, with the 6-0 win rounded off by two greats in the Argyle side: Sammy Black and Jack Leslie.
The third and final win came in March 1927, but was not without a little good fortune.
Alf Matthews, an ever-present that season, put the Pilgrims in front.
But Southend's Jack Andrews put through his own net to give Argyle a 2-1 win.
The final appearance at the Kursaal came in November 1929, and it would be 21 years before the two clubs met again in league action.
Where that stadium once stood is now housing for the residents of Prospect Close.
Owners of a greyhound stadium gave the football club an invitation to move their base in 1933, which led to United transferring to the Southend Stadium.
The switch, however, did not meet with approval from the majority of supporters.
Unlike the Kursaal, where every vantage point was very close to the action, the greyhound track that surrounded the pitch meant fans were some distance away.
In September 1950, with Argyle fresh from relegation from Division Two, the first of two matches played there resulted in a single-goal defeat.
But during the following season, again in Division Three (South), Jimmy Rae was masterminding his charges' ascent to the summit of the table.
With Southend in the top third of the division, it would prove a tough challenge.
Top scorer Maurice Tadman earned a point in the 1-1 draw during a campaign that saw Argyle equal the club record of 107 goals in a season.
With the lease on the ground expiring, United left the Southend Stadium in 1955, although the reserves continued to play there until 1970.
It was a case of going back to the future as the club moved to Roots Hall, but the venue had changed considerably.
The land had been purchased by a gas company, but the discovery of rich deposits of sand that could aid local building meant it had been completely excavated.
Some 36 feet lower than the original playing surface, the pitch was laid after local businessmen and wealthy supporters purchased the land.
They also provided the materials needed to build a stadium and even the players and management helped in the building work.
Opened in 1955, it wasn't until the following year Argyle were back on Southend turf.
Now in Division Three (South) after another relegation, an Olympian scored the only goal of the game to give Argyle victory.
Winger Charlie Twissell, who won five caps as an England amateur, had a few months previously bought his discharge from the Royal Navy in order to play for his country in the 1956 Olympics in Australia.
He even had the distinction of scoring twice for Britain the 9-0 win over Thailand.
Argyle then endured a dreadful run of results at Roots Hall, losing 12 and drawing three of the next 15 matches in Essex.
That run finally came to an end in November 2002. And in one of the strange twists of football, Argyle were managed by the current Southend boss, Paul Sturrock.
Pilgrims midfielder Steve Adams scored the goal which saw an unbeaten run stretch to 16 games as the men in green raced towards the Division Three championship.
In two matches since at Roots Hall, a draw and a defeat has continued a trend of Roots Hall not being the happiest of hunting grounds for Argyle.
With Southend seemingly scheduled to move to another new home, at Fossetts Farm, in time for the start of the 2015-16 season perhaps now is the moment for Argyle to start redeeming their Roots Hall record.