An Ode to Argyle: Growing up Green in Glasgow

Growing up in the West of Scotland, an area dominated by two of the most famous football teams in the UK, many children dreamed of being the next Henrik Larsson or Brian Laudrup. My dream was somewhat different. Although I admired these world class footballers essentially playing in my back garden, I looked south to the “Theatre of Greens” to find my heroes. I know that the idea of a Scottish fan supporting Plymouth Argyle sounds fanciful to most people but trust me, I’ve been a supporter for years.

There is pride and honour in supporting a small club, and a personal touch that is sadly too often forgotten by the bigger clubs in British football.

My love affair with Argyle started at an early age. Having never been to Devon and having no family supporting Argyle, this new found love for The Pilgrims was initially dismissed as a phase that one goes through as a child. Nonetheless, my continued commitment to the Greens saw me receive my first Argyle shirt at the age of 11; the first of many now in my collection.

Old Firm football fans would look for the derby fixtures in advance and make sure that days off were put in the work diary ensuring that they could watch the game. Glasgow would come to a standstill as thousands flocked to the game or the pubs to watch. For me though, the key dates were when Argyle was playing in the North of England or being shown on TV.

Despite this love for Argyle keeping me out of the Old Firm throng (although I am a Celticfan too) it didn’t mean that it kept me out of trouble. One of my first letters home from a teacher was a note saying that I had submitted an unsatisfactory answer in class. Apparently answering “Paul Wotton” to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, isn’t an acceptable career choice in Primary 5.

My first Argyle top came as a gift for Christmas in 2002. My father called the club store in Plymouth and on placing the order was not asked for a size or even our home address, but why his young Glaswegian son was a Plymouth Argyle fan at all. My dad told the saleswoman it was a somewhat random choice, speculating that the green and white link may have been the common factor. The sales assistant informed him that not only would the shirt be dispatched in time for Christmas, but free signed programmes would also be included to encourage me to back the Greens.

We all have our rituals when it comes to football. As I left my family home I invested in Argyle Player, the club’s official highlight service. Each Saturday was spent celebrating or more often lamenting Argyle’s display. The monetary issues suffered by Argyle affected everyone at the club and all the fans throughout the world.

As a Scottish fan, and someone who has never made the trip to Home Park it was difficult to try and gauge just how crippling it was to those working at the club, but I tried to contribute, sending what I could when I could to aid the club. I tried to match those fans who coughed up every second Saturday.

It’s easy to be a fair weather fan, support the team when they’re at the top, and have a game-day away when down the bottom of the league. Through it all I was determined to put my money into something that over the last 15 years has given me endless joy. Whatever the outcome and no matter how many years pass until I make it to a home game, my commitment to the Greens goes beyond the comfort of my armchair.

Woody of rock band Bastille is a lifelong Plymouth fan

One thing I have particularly enjoyed about my time supporting the club is taking my father to the games. Having followed Argyle since my own obsession began he has joined me on trips and described it as a “trip back to real football.” You can’t help but have the feeling that this is football played in the true spirit of the game, with crunching tackles and swamp like pitches.

The sodden Accrington pitch pre-match

Visits to Rochdale, Carlisle, Morecambe and Accrington are hugely contrasting to Old Trafford, Hampden or Celtic Park in terms of scale of stadia and attendance, but the spirit is second to none. No matter where you are, from terraces to all-seated modern stadiums you are all there together to support your team. Indeed, on my last trip to Accrington one half of the pitch was reminiscent to a swimming pool yet the game still went ahead with over 400 away fans making the 248 mile trip. I was also staggered to see that I was not the only one travelling from afar to see Argyle. My father and I were joined by a fellow Pilgrim, Neil Manley, a former resident of Plymouth now living in Glasgow, who continues to travel to see Argyle.

Chris Webb, the club president, once went on a rant on BBC Radio Devon during Argyle’s 4-0 victory over Fleetwood about those who had decided to stay in and watch Manchester United away in the Champions League instead of coming out to support their local team. I soon tweeted him stating that I was in Glasgow on my own listening to Argyle whilst the rest of my mates were in the pub watching the Manchester United game, so what did that make me? His reply was “mad mate” but as I said at the time “there is always some love in madness.”

Follow Stephen on Twitter: @StephenBMci

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