“Now we can concentrate on the league’; this is a well-worn phrase muttered by football fans nationwide when their side has been knocked out of the FA Cup, writes Ted Sherrell.
Some really feel this, but the majority who say such almost do so in defiance of the disappointment which shrouds them.
It is probable that very few members of the Green Army are saying anything at all at present regarding cup football as many will remain in shock; indeed some, including this scribe, after hearing or reading the scoreline in Argyle’s recent first-round tie needed counselling.
On the previous Monday evening – Hallowe’en – the Pilgrims ‘bewitched’ Exeter City at a rain-drenched Home Park, beating their arch-rivals by four goals to two thanks to a memorable display in a match that was a credit to both sides.
However, after ‘The Lord Mayor’s Show’, ‘the dustcart’ did indeed arrive.
For a number of the Green Army made the torturous journey to Lincolnshire to witness a horror show.
For Grimsby Town – mid-table in the league below – annihilated the Plymouth side by five goals to one; truly an abysmal display from the visitors.
What went wrong on that day is difficult to discern. Granted, Steven Schumacher’s side were missing no fewer than seven players due to injury; but he did not use this as an excuse for his team’s very poor showing; rather he criticised their overall performance and described it as a ‘reality check’.
By the good old law of averages the Pilgrims were due a defeat; by virtue of a magnificent unbeaten league run – 11 victories, two draws – the club had lifted themselves to pole position in League One, but not even the most starry-eyed supporter would believe a reverse would not come the team’s way at some point.
If it had to happen, a majority would reason that with all at Home Park, both within and outside the club, frantic to get back to the Championship come May, then defeat in the cup was infinitely more preferable than in the league; losing, though, is one thing – annihilation another; and this is what it was.
The upshot of the Ocean City side’s early exit from this, the most famous and long-established domestic knockout fiesta in all of world football, is that the Green Army will have little excuse in terms of the avoidance of early Christmas shopping this Saturday.
For this is the weekend given over to the playing of the second round of the FA Cup; no League One or League Two fixtures will be contested. It means that not only will Argyle be without a match, they will not have taken to their home turf for more than a month, including the entire expanse of November.
No matter; it is unlikely the Argyle gaffer will take time off to pursue his Yuletide purchases or allow his squad of players – modest in numbers – to do so either.
For being the painstaking man of detail he clearly is, he will be working with his coaches and pros in terms of drilling into them tactics and the correct mindset for, and approach to, upcoming matches.
The medics and physios in the Home Park treatment room will assuredly be working extremely hard to get at least some of the players back to match fitness – crucial, one feels, if the Pilgrims are to progress; and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so.
For they remain in an automatic promotion place and with almost half of their league fixtures fulfilled, such is a very healthy situation.
However, such a lofty position makes them vulnerable as the outfits they will be playing will more often than not raise their game, as opponents, no matter where they are in the league table, will know that they need to be at their best if they are to get any points reward against the Greens.
Thus, for we Pilgrim fans, nerve-jangling times lie ahead; so perhaps this upcoming weekend of tranquility will prove to be a bonus.