Plymouth Preview - Away, Sept 15th
The fixture computer may well do a good job of sorting out the fixtures for 92 clubs over the course of the season, but it is incapable it seems of comprehending the geographical implications of sending Watford to Plymouth Argyle on a Tuesday night. So, for those of you that can't make the game at Home Park, sit back, read this, then listen to the game on Tuesday, and [hopefully] it will be almost as good as being there, but without the five hour trip and the two hours kip on the train/coach/passengers seat before setting off for work!
The Pilgrims did the double over the Hornets last season but after dispatching with Barnsley on Saturday Watford will be looking for back-to-back victories against two sides struggling near the bottom of the league. Third bottom with just two points and four defeats, Paul Sturrock's side are looking relegation fodder once again.
Summer signings were few and the experience between them is lacking somewhat. Carl Fletcher aside the Pilgrims were only able to capture players of few years experience and those aside few with any experience of the rigours of the Championship. Defender Reda Johnson was signed from French signed Amiens, whilst Kari Arnason was taken from his native Iceland. New backup 'keeper Kyle Letheran never broke through at struggling Barnsley during his Academy years there whilst Cilian Sheridan, Alan Judge and Darcy Blake have just 48 career appearances between them to date. Signed on-loan from Celtic, Blackburn and Cardiff respectively all three have been thrown in at the deep end in the absence of more experienced names.
Further bad news came in the shape of Marcel Seip who breached a club rule and has been transfer-listed and fined two weeks wages for his actions. Misfits Simon Walton, Craig Noone and Jason Puncheon have already been offloaded, all be it on loan, with Crewe, Exeter and Mk Dons the clubs taking on the trio. Walton has proved an uneconomic purchase costing 500k from Queens Park Rangers last season and only making 12 appearances for the Argyle before joining Blackpool on loan. Nine clubs at just 22 suggest the former Leeds youngster was always going to have trouble settling in. Jason Puncheon was unable to make his mark either having joined from Barnet for 250k, but made just 6 starts. Wing-back Jim Paterson and striker Steven MacLean were wanted by Motherwell over the Summer but with a paper thin squad already, Sturrock was unable to let them move on. The former Sheffield Wednesday and now two-time Argyle manager will be hoping for more success from this Summer's signings.
The key to Championship survival is as much experience as it is out-and-out quality. Knowing how to eak any sort of advantage against a teenage wonder kid counts for a lot at this level, and with the Summer addition of Carl Fletcher on a free transfer, the Pilgrims have gained just that. The former Watford loanee was Sturrock's first Summer signing, snared on a free after his release from Crystal Palace. An experienced former Wales International, the holding midfielder spent two months on-loan with Aidy Boothroyd's Hornets in 2005. Fletcher was on-loan at Home Park last season making thirteen appearances and grabbing one goal. Strong in the tackle, the former Bournemouth and West Ham midfielder will look to lead Sturrock's troops.
Another signing with Championship experience comes in the shape of Bradley Wright-Phillips, step-son of the legendary Arsenal striker Ian Wright, Wright-Phillips never quite took off at either of his former clubs, Manchester City or Southampton, for the record. A pacey forward, Wright-Phillips joined the Green Army on a free also following Southampton's relegation and impending financial collapse. Yet to appear for the Pilgrims, Wright-Phillips actually has a decent goalscoring record with 24 from 59 starts, but a further 84 substitute appearances suggest a man carrying more threat from the bench than the start.
Former Rangers midfielder-cum-striker, Alan Gow made his Championship debut just last season on-loan at both Blackpool and Norwich after failing to breakthrough at Ibrox. His start to life in Devon has been perfect with two goals from his first two games, and Paul Sturrock will expect more as his side struggled for goals last season. Rory Fallon lead the line with just five goals taking his Pilgrims total up to just 13 in two years at the club. Fallon's all-round contribution, much like Emile Heskey's, is what coaches look to, and the powerful Kiwi is an important part of the Argyle lineup. At 6'2', the striker wins the bulk of his headers, bullies defenders and holds up the ball well for those around him. And, it's that sort of contribution that will be critical to getting the best out of players like Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Former Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff City forward Steven MacLean is equally unprolific too with 5 goals in 42 games for the Pilgrims, that's a goal every eight point something games. Important is is then that players around Argyle's hapless strikers chip in, and doing just that is forward-cum-midfielder, Jamie Mackie. Signed from rivals Exeter, the Argyle number eight has got as many goals in his year at Home Park and opened his account for the season at West Brom on Saturday in the Baggies 3-1 victory.
Ex-Hornets: Carl Fletcher [Loan] 3 apps
Likely Watford XI
Hodson Mariappa (c) Bennett Doyley
Cowie Jenkins Eustace Lansbury
Likely Plymouth XI
Duguid (c) Johnson Sawyer Paterson
Summerfield Fletcher Arnason Mackie
Prediction: Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Watford
Come on you 'Ornsss!