2 December ~ Resurgam – meaning “I will rise again” – is carved into the heart of Plymouth. The inscription was fashioned in granite above the main entrance of the city’s St Andrew’s Church to symbolise the rebirth necessary after the destruction of the Second World War. Today, as St Andrew’s stands opposite the newer, very 21st-century cathedral of a chain pub, it is the city’s football club that is most in need of a phoenix-like revival. Argyle have never been one of football’s sleeping giants: indeed, to paraphrase Harry Pearson, neither do they fit into the category of “a fairly big bloke having a nap”.
Yet a succession of managers over the last two decades, from Peter Shilton to Neil Warnock to Paul Sturrock and now Peter Reid, have talked about the catchment area of the club and the opportunities to make the club more than just, as was oft quoted as teams emerged onto the pitch at Home Park, “the best in the West”. That potential was never fully realised despite seven years of unprecedented success under Sturrock in his first reign at the club; his second was the catalyst for what looks likely to be a similarly swift return to the basement, or worse.
Argyle aren’t new in having big financial worries but as our travails are somewhat old hat, so is the proposed solution. When Peter Ridsdale was spotted in the directors’ box at a recent home game, we were told that he was on holiday in the area and fancied taking in a game. When he was seen again at our next game, away at Oldham, the fans were told that it was just a coincidence. Not so now. We know that Ridsdale has been engaged in “talks” with the newest incarnation of the Argyle board, the ones who took over with much fanfare (and, let it be said, with much support from the fans) with the refrain “Sir Roy [Gardner, the former Manchester United chairman] doesn’t do failure”. Well, that has changed.
The stark choice of Peter Ridsdale or your team going under is not a pleasant one to contemplate. Whatever happens to Argyle, whether it’s administration, a limping survival until we know the outcome of whether Plymouth is to be a host city for World Cup 2018 (for that bonanza, some say, is the sole reason the present board invested in the first place), or utter oblivion, it’s of some comfort to think of two things. Firstly, Michael Foot isn’t around to see what’s happened to our club; and secondly, that if Ridsdale comes on to the board and we go into administration or worse, it would be his second “insolvency episode”, and he would under the Football League regulations fail the Fit and Proper Persons test. I can’t think of a better Christmas present that Argyle could give football, but I’d rather we didn’t have to. Gareth Nicholson