6 May ~ Plymouth Argyle's bank holiday relegation to League Two, inevitable as it was after a ten-point deduction earlier in the season, isn't the biggest issue for the club this week. As votes are counted for the referendum on the electoral system, Argyle's creditors will also be polled on a company voluntary arrangement that could see new owners installed at Home Park by June, thus avoiding further penalties. The list of creditors goes from the mundane to the ridiculous.
This is a club that, through the actions of the "Malignant Seven" (the directors who until administration ran the club), owes over £8,000 to St John Ambulance, £50,000 to Southport FC, 4p to Swindon Town and almost £1 million, paid out of the club's own coffers, to stadium design companies and sundry consultants for a World Cup host city bid that was doomed before it began. The Administrator's report on the conduct of the directors should give food for thought to those responsible for investigating and prosecuting bad businessmen.
Nobody knows what next season will look like – it's almost certain that the higher earners at the club will move on through will or force – and manager Peter Reid (if he stays) will need to look to youth and the commitment of veterans such as Carl Fletcher and Romain Larrieu to steer the club back to calmer waters. Similarly, nobody knows who will be in charge next year off the pitch. Local businessman James Brent appears to be in pole position but has said he's only there as a last resort and would stand aside if a better bid came about.
The other two rumoured bidders are a mysterious Dublin-based moneyman and Paul Buttivant, a Conservative councillor from Middlesex who was linked to a bid for Wrexham not long ago. Still waiting in the wings is Peter Ridsdale, who many expect to have a role as chairman or chief executive under new ownership: what his price is, in monetary and other terms, is open to question.
The grim irony this season has been that Argyle have had the best press the club has ever had. Reid’s reputation has been bolstered by him solemn determination to get the best out of a demoralised and ever-diminishing squad, and the players' actions in refusing to accept months' worth of wages in favour of the money being spread equally across all the staff at the club has got national media coverage.
This season especially has severely tested but has ultimately made us proud of the bonds we share as fans. The goodwill from away teams at Home Park has been genuinely touching, but it's the response from the real heart and soul of the club – the fans, the players, the backroom staff and the manager – that has made us all extremely proud and grateful. You don't expect fans of a club that's been relegated to give their players a standing ovation, but that's what Home Park witnessed on Monday. There's much more at stake than mere relegation, and the quiet dignity with which the club has conducted itself since Christmas has been impressive.
Just as laudable are the efforts of fans to raise money and support the club when it needs it most. Argyle's Supporters Trust, fan and business group the Green Taverners, and individual fans collecting loose change in buckets have gone the distance in helping their club, reassuring local suppliers and raising money to help the unpaid staff out while trying to repay the money owed to the St John Ambulance. It sounds perverse, but I feel more a part of a community now than I did in our "race to mediocrity" seasons in the Championship. Gareth Nicholson