Plymouth's Post-Millennium Ultimate XI

In 2004, to mark Plymouth Argyle’s 100th year as a professional club, fans voted on their all time best XI, as well as a manager. Paul Sturrock, just two months on from leaving the club for Premier League side Southampton and three before he’d be fired from that very role, was the man in the figurative dugout, calling the shots over such club legends as Jim Furnell (GK), Gordon Nisbet (RB) and Tommy Tynan (CF) who scored 126 league goals for the club.

The line-up in full was: Furnell; Nisbet, Jack Chisholm, Graham Coughlan, Colin Sullivan; Kevin Hodges, Johnny Williams, Garry Nelson, Sammy Black; Tynan and Paul Mariner. Between them, they made 2950 league appearances for The Pilgrims, split across nine Englishmen, one Irishman, and a Scot.

Fifteen years on from the centenary team, The Terrace takes a look at who would make a post-2004 line-up. Our qualifying criteria was simple: must have played for Plymouth after the centenary XI was announced and must not have been in that selection.

GK: Romain Larrieu

Joining the club in 2000, the Frenchman was eligible for the team of the century and had already notched up 109 league appearances for the club. By the time he left Plymouth in 2012, he’d pulled the shirt on over 300 times.

His two trophies with the club came in 2002 and 2004, as Plymouth won the Football League Third and Second Division, but in the 2008/09 season, Larrieu was named as the club’s Player of the Year, as they narrowly avoided relegation by just five points. Despite finishing 21st, only two teams in the bottom half conceded fewer than their 57 – Doncaster in 14th (53) and Crystal Palace in 15th (55).

DEF: Onismor Bhasera

Bhasera’s route to The Pilgrims was not plain sailing but in March 2010, he finally made his debut 12 months after last kicking a ball competitively. In his first full season at the club, the Zimbabwean scored a wonderful solo effort, dribbling the ball 40 yards before slotting past the MK Dons ‘keeper.

He played a total of 114 games for Argyle, and at the end of the 2012/13 season, he was named as the Fans’ Player of the Year, being described on the official club site as a “constant menace to npower League 2 right-backs.” Oddly, he then seemingly disappeared. His contract was up at the club, but the 26-year old wasn’t even contactable for manager John Sheridan, who said, “the problem is getting hold of him and finding his whereabouts.” He reappeared in South Africa for Bidvest Wits, where he played until 2016, since playing for SuperSport United alongside former Doncaster and Oldham midfielder Dean Furman.

DEF: Marcel Seip

For three seasons, the Dutch defender was a mainstay at the back for Plymouth. He played 81% of Argyle’s league games between August 2006 and May 2009, but the odd disciplinary problem with manager Paul Sturrock led to him being transfer listed twice. The second time came in August 2009 and just a month later he was shipped out on loan to Blackpool and his old Plymouth manager Ian Holloway.

Seip’s inclusion may seem controversial in light of his falling out with Sturrock, compounded by the fact he then scored against Plymouth for Blackpool whilst out on loan, but he was ever-present in three of the club’s six seasons in the Championship in the 2000s and when he left the club on loan – and then permanently – Argyle suffered two straight relegations.  

DEF: Mathias Kouo-Doumbé

Another defender to leave Plymouth in 2009 was Kouo-Doumbé. After a youth career at PSG, the French defender spent three years at Hibernian, before joining Argyle and former Hibs manager Bobby Williamson.

He fell out of favour when Holloway left and Sturrock returned, but in May 2008 he became the club’s longest-serving outfield player. The 2005/06 season was his standout year, making 43 appearances as the club finished 14th, three places higher than the previous season. In his time at the club he scored four times.

MID: Paul Wotton

When at Southampton, “Paul Wotton, Football Genius,” was a regular chant from the St. Mary’s crowd. Sung in jest at his simple and no-nonsense approach to the game, it may be surprising to their fans that at Plymouth, Wotton twice finished as Plymouth’s top scorer (their first two seasons in the Championship) and managed a total of 64 goals in 491 appearances. He twice won Plymouth Argyle Player of the Season, in 2003 and 2005, and was included in the PFA Third Division Team of the Year in 2002, the same year in which they won the Third Division. Two years later, they won the Second Division.

MID: David Norris

After scoring on his debut, Norris went on to spent over five years at the club, scoring 28 goals in 243 games and won the Player of the Year Award in 2006, having won the Second Division with Argyle in 2004. He cost them just £25,000.

His work rate and stamina earned him the nickname “Duracell Bunny,” as well as “Nosher” as Plymouth won the Second Division, and his partnership with Paul Wotton in the heart of midfield was a productive one, with the former regularly winning set pieces for the latter to dispatch.

MID: Lilian Nalis

Now the assistant manager at AC Le Havre, Nalis arrived at the Pilgrims 14 years into his 18-year career. Having already clocked up just shy of 300 league appearances across the top tiers of France, Italy, and England, with Leicester City.

In 2008, the Frenchman won the club’s Player of the Year award as voted for by the fans, after being signed by Tony Pulis in 2006 and remaining in favour when Ian Holloway then replaced the future Stoke manager, who had earned the club the reputation of ‘boring Argyle.’ He flourished under Holloway, scoring four goals in the 06/07 season as the club finished eleventh.

MID: Graham Carey

Having only just left the club for CSKA Sofia, the Irish attacking midfielder’s exploits are fresh in the memory of Argyle fans. Joining from Ross County in 2015, the former Celtic youth player won the PFA Fan’s Player of the Year for League Two in his first season at the club, and won promotion in his second, as the club went up as runners-up, also earning a spot in the PFA Team of the Year.

The twice Plymouth Player of the Year (2016 & ’18), was deployed as a #10 as well as on the wings in his time at the club and regularly delivered expertly executed set-pieces, as well as outrageous pieces of skill, like this. In the 16/17 and the 17/18 season, Carey was the team’s top goalscorer, scoring 15 as they won promotion from League Two and then 16 in his first season in League One.

MID: Ruben Lameiras

The perfect foil for Graham Carey, the two of them played as inside forwards often behind Ryan Taylor in the 2017/18 season. It was a wonderful partnership and the two of them were directly involved in 26 of 35 goals in a 19-game stretch that season, also creating more than half of the team’s goalscoring chances in that same spell.

In the season just gone, he was voted Plymouth’s Player of the Season as they were relegated from League One. He scored 11 times and assisted nine, meaning he was directly involved in just over a third of all their goals.

CF: Reuben Reid

“He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own, Reuben Reid, he’s one of our own,” Plymouth fans may or may not have sung about their youth product. Signing his first professional contract in February 2006, aged 17, Reid only made seven goalless league appearances in his first spell at the club, spending much of it out on loan. When he then returned to Plymouth as a loanee in 2013, he’d spent five years away from the club with just 32 goals in that time – half of which came in the first 12 months.

Spending half of the 2012/13 and the whole of the next season on loan back at Home Park, he rejoined the club permanently in 2014. He scored 50 goals in 153 games; a respectable return of roughly 1 in 3 games. His goalscoring form earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year for League Two in the 2014/15 season, as he finished the club’s top goalscorer in successive seasons.

CF: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake

After starting out at Manchester United, Ebanks-Blake kickstarted his career at Plymouth under Ian Holloway, in a successful strike partnership with Barry Hale.

His 23 goals in 74 appearances at Argyle earned him a move to fellow Championship side Wolves, who he fired into the Premier League. He couldn’t replicate the form in the top tier and he never recaptured it, slipping down to the ninth tier in the English footballing pyramid. Aged 33, he is now a free agent, last playing for Barwell in the Southern League Premier Central.  At Plymouth, though, he was a real talent with a promising future, finishing the Championship top scorer in the 2007/08 season.  

Manager: Derek Adams

Despite being sacked in April 2019, Adams has the highest win percent ratio of any Plymouth manager since the turn of the century, other than Paul Sturrock himself, in his first stint in charge between 31 October 2000 and 4 March 2004. Adams’ win return of 46.63% was just 1.1% lower than Sturrock’s and at a comparable level. This season’s relegation was obviously a sad ending for Adams, but last season, he had the side finish 7th in their first season back in League One since 2010/11. Had they finished a place higher they would’ve been in the play offs for a chance at back-to-back promotions.

 

So, that’s The Terrace’s Post 2004 Plymouth Ultimate XI, but what’s yours? Who have we missed? Who do you agree with and who do you not? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.