(Photo by Pro Sport Images)
By Sam Elliott
HE’S not one for an unwanted nostalgia trip, Plymouth Argyle’s Derek Adams. He’s hardly a fan of gallows humour, either. Perhaps it’s not too surprising.
Not only had the manager just tasted a rare defeat, albeit in the Checkatrade Trophy, but I was attempting to take him back to a place he would much rather forget.
Yet he didn’t want to be lured on a trip down memory lane.
Adams won’t admit it, of course. He’s so focused on the here and now that it’s almost as if the day never existed, but thoughts of Wembley last May must still be quite cutting.
If I’m wrong and the Scot isn’t wearing his best poker face, then they really should be.
It was the day his Argyle let down more than 35,000 people who had made a ten-hour round trip to see them seal a promotion they should have already wrapped up months before.
So bad was the performance against AFC Wimbledon in the League Two play-off final on May 30, it was described as possibly the most spineless showing of any side at a promotion final since Wembley was re-opened.
Not all of the down-hearted fans still queuing to get out of the national stadium three hours after their team froze so spectacularly were predicting Adams would still be there in August to begin picking up the pieces.
On Tuesday, Plymouth returned to the capital to meet the team that broke their hearts. There were just over 900 there this time, a far cry from nearly 60,000 that witnessed a day most will want to forget.
There was a tiny hint of a smile when it was pointed out that Lyle Taylor opened the Dons scoring in the second half, just as he did at Wembley.
Taylor’s big striker partner netted the second, not Adebayo Akinfenwa, as it was in north west London, but his replacement, Tyrone Barnett, this time, to seal it.
“Does it still rankle, Wembley last year? No not really,” Adams stressed. “There’s nothing we can do about what happened on that day now. It’s in the past. You can’t look back too much at these things, you can’t drag it up. It’s a different team now.
“What do I put it (the poor performance) down to? You get those days. It happens. Some days you just don’t play well and we didn’t. You have got to accept sometime things don’t work out as you want them to.”
Certainly, there’s no hangover so far after a wonderful record-breaking start took them to the top of the table, but Plymouth fans have been here before.
Spending most of the first half of last season at the summit ultimately mattered little. They ended in fifth place and, despite getting the better of Portsmouth over two legs, they were easily undone by the Dons. Too easily.
“We’ve changed 16 players over the summer. It’s a different squad. It was just about moving on and trying to do better,” added Adams, the 41-year-old Glaswegian who has been in charge at Home Park since June 2015.
“We’re not the biggest team in this league, but we’ve got to try to do as well as we can. All our energy is going into trying to get ourselves in a position to get out of this league.
“There are about ten teams that are capable of winning promotion and we would like to think we’re one of them.
“I think we put quite a good marker down last year, and we’re carrying that on. We’ve made the best start any Plymouth side has made in 90 years. I think that’s an achievement.
“Nobody deserves to be playing in League One. You have to earn the right. We’ve started well. They are a confident group but also level-headed.”
*This article originally featured in The FLP on 9 October 2016.