Plymouth Argyle are regarded by most in English football as somewhat of a sleeping giant, but since relegation from the second tier Championship last season, the Pilgrims have and are continuing to face some very dark times.

The team currently sit just a few points outside the League One relegation zone at the time of writing and problems off the pitch have helped compound an alarming slump in form on it.

Players have been receiving wages late and a number of big names have had to be offloaded to help tackle the club’s cash flow problem.

The club have even taken on former Leeds United, Barnsley and Cardiff City chairman, Peter Ridsdale, as a football consultant. It is a move which most of the Plymouth Argyle faithful see as a sign that the threat of administration, or worse liquidation, is a very real one indeed.

Plymouth’s meteoric rise from the old Third Division to the old First Division in the early part of the new millennium has been the making and also the downfall of the club.


When Paul Sturrock was appointed manager in 2000 the Scotsman saved the Pilgrims from relegation out of the Football League and steered them to the Division Three and Division Two titles within the space of three years.

The team spent six years in the newly rebranded Championship and flirted with the playoffs on a number of occasions. Plymouth signed players befitting of their status as a second-tier English club, but then the unthinkable happened and, after three seasons of below par finishes, the Home Park outfit were relegated to League One.

Head coach Paul Mariner was replaced by former Sunderland manager Peter Reid during the build-up to the campaign and the newly appointed boss and Argyle got off to an excellent start, beating promotion favourites Southampton on the opening day of the season.

In fact, during the early exchanges of the campaign, Plymouth were in and around the top half and the playoff places and an immediate return to the Championship seemed likely, but then the off-the-pitch problems surfaced.

Poor attendances saw a drop in the club’s revenue and in November last year Plymouth were issued with a winding up order from the UK’s tax authority, the HMRC. The Pilgrims did earn an adjournment though in order to pay what they owed and that bill was recently settled.

In December, there was a reshuffle on the club’s board with Paul Stapleton taking over from executive director Keith Todd MBE and Sir Roy Gardner standing down as chairman.

Peter Ridsdale spelt out Plymouth’s position to fans before the game with Tranmere Rovers and indicated that without the funds of a new investor or buyer the club faced an uncertain future. Plymouth could be set to be another victim of famously trying to “Live the dream” as Ridsdale once said at his former club Leeds United.

For fans of this proud side the hope must be that financial stability is just around the corner, but they still stand as another stark warning of the pitfalls for clubs in today’s game.