Plymouth Argyle v Swansea City
Home Park / Friendly / 27th July 2014
So after a very enjoyable day at Plymouth Parkway the day before and a night out in the Hoe, it was now the morning of the headline act of our weekend in Plymouth: Plymouth Argyle v Swansea City. It seemed that our hostel was being run by Argyle supporters, who were also going to the game, so we were subjected to some slight ‘banter’, before we decided to make our exit and begin a day of drinking around Plymouth before kick-off.
Today was also the debut for my new Swans away shirt, which I have to say is joyous. I do genuinely believe that with our mix of stylish and sometimes bizarre away shirts since we’ve arrived in the Premier League a few years ago, we have become the Premier League kings of the away shirt. With that in mind, I had brought along my purple/yellow Swans shirt from last season for adopted Jack Bastard for the day Sheridan to wear.
It seemed that many pubs and bars in Plymouth were not open before midday, but my mood was lifted when I spotted the Wetherspoons-lookalike Brass Monkey and knew that that would have probably be opened since early morning. I was spot on and my heart skipped a beat when I spotted Estrella Damm on tap (although once I had the pint, I debated with myself whether the Barcelona lager tastes nicer in bottles).
By the time I had finished my Estrella it was past midday and so we headed down to a pub that had been recommended to me by Dutch groundhopper Ron Coppens and was our hostel’s ‘Pub of the Month’ – a prestigious award indeed. Ron had sold the pub to me by saying it that it was the home of ‘The Slippery Nipple’. Yes, my first question too was what on Earth was a ‘Slippery Nipple’? So on entering the Irish bar hidden away off the main road of Royal Parade, I asked the barmaid that very question. The answer I got turned my stomach slightly, “It’s a mix of Baileys and Sambuca.” Not too appealing, but the ‘when in Rome…’ philosophy was creeping into my mind. Curiousity was inevitably going to get the better of me, but I thought maybe later – it was still only just past midday and still definitely too early for a concoction containing Sambuca and Baileys.
The rest of our time in the pub was spent playing a game of football with a dog and a tennis ball. The dog had one hell of a good pass on him, but lacked any work ethic if the ball went past him. For that reason alone, I can’t see the dog winning any awards in the dog football at Crufts (if there’s no such award or event, why not?).
Once we were joined by Swans fan Tom Hepworth, famed for going to every single game home and away last year, we headed down the road to the beautifully named ‘The Swan’. “It might bring luck,” I immediately shot back this idea as last time this phrase was uttered before walking into a ‘The Swan’ pub on an away day, we almost got killed; I’ll save that story for when I finally do a blog about Burnley though.
We enjoyed a couple of pints in the Swan and Sheridan and Tom had a compelling game of pool, before we set off to the Pub on the Hoe, where another load of our fellow Jacks had arrived. We found Egi, Steve and Huw tucking into a very nice looking Sunday dinner and we waited for another load of Jacks to arrive, whilst I questioned Huw about his few weeks out in Brazil watching the World Cup (which I was very jealous of).
When other Steve and Chester Mike arrived, we found another group of Jacks in the pub and after a few drinks in the very pleasant Pub on the Hoe we decided to grab a couple of taxis and head over to Home Park, singing a few Swans chants in our taxi on the way to get us in the mood.
Home Park is not located too far away from the city centre itself, but due to probably a lack of time until kick-off and a desire to have a few more pints, we opted to avoid the walk and taxi it instead. The ground itself looks nothing special from the outside, although I did like the old-school entrance that curved around to the main stand.
Having chatted to some members of the Green Army, a fanbase I’ve always admired for their sheer endurance to travel the vast distances from Plymouth to the various Football League grounds across the UK, we headed through the turnstiles around the far side of the ground in the Barn Park End. The concourse within the ground was fairly standard with nothing really to write home about, but it was great to see so many Jacks make the long journey down to Home Park for this preseason friendly.
Some beers were enjoyed on the concourse with the Edinbrugh Jacks, before we decided we better head up into the stand ready for today’s game.
Now within the ground itself, I felt it I could make a better judgement on Argyle’s home. Firstly, three sides of the ground are fairly non-descript with 3 generic single-tiered stands that you would find at any ground in the country; the creation of these stands and the general modernisation of Home Park began in 2001. However, there is one thing of pure, unadulterated beauty that remains within Home Park: the Mayflower Grandstand. Oh my days, it is magnificent and I won’t even try to put into words – just look at the photos. I was actually quite surprised to find it was only built in 1952, as it has the appearance and grandeur of a structure far older. Sadly, it seems that plans are now in place to renovate the grand old Grandstand. Shame.
Home Park has hosted football since the ground’s leaseholder in 1901, Clarence Spooner, wanted to get football played at the ground with the ground having hosted various sports beforehand. The ground was opened in 1893 and has been Plymouth Argyle’s home since 1901, although the ground has seen significant changes over it’s 100+ years with the club. The most significant changes were made post World War II after the city endured heavy bombing, which inevitably obliterated a large portion of Home Park. The club were creative with their facilities in the first few years post war by using unused buses and trams as offices and railway sleepers as terracing. 7 years after the war had ended the ground’s Mayflower Grandstand was built and the ground began to take shape again.
Plymouth have spent most of their existence going up and down the Football League and the Plymouth that Swansea would be taking on today found themselves in League Two. This obviously meant that there was going to be a gulf in class between the two teams and it certainly showed.
It was fair to say that Swansea’s bench was stronger than their starting XI for the first half, but that’s not to say that the team that began the game for Swansea were half bad. It was great to see Ki Sung-Yeung back in a Swans shirt and for me he was the star of the first half as he displayed his range of passing throughout the 45 minutes. It did make me question once again why the hell we had loaned him out to Sunderland last season.
Swansea played their trademark passing football and completely dominated possession with Plymouth chasing shadows at times. A goal looked inevitable and eventually it would come in the 9th minute in bizarre circumstances. An innocuous ball rolled through to Argyle keeper Luke McCormick, who appeared to have gathered the ball, yet when I glanced up Rory Donnelly was slotting home into an empty net. Having seen the goal back on the highlights I think the ref got it right and McCormick did spill the ball and it was not kicked out of his arms like many of us thought at the time.
There were a couple of half chances for Argyle with Marvin Morgan going close and Carl McHugh forcing new Swans goalie Lukasz Fabianski to save his headed effort. Apart from that the half acted as passing session for Swansea, who were more than deserving of their half-time lead.
Half-time: Plymouth Argyle 0 -4 Swansea City.
Having topped up on beer and recorded stuff for our Swansea podcast, The JackCast, (I did a live recording of our day in Plymouth for the podcast, which can be found here) we headed back to our seats for the second half to see that Swansea had made a few changes, including bringing on our new signing, Ecuadorean international Jefferson Montero, who has to be one of the fastest players I’ve seen live having seen him play against Swansea for Betis in a preseason friendly a few seasons ago.
Plymouth started the second half well, but as always with these preseason friendlies, the flow of the game was disrupted by the succession of substitutions throughout the second half. Swansea introduced a few more of their young players and new signing Bafetimbi Gomis, scorer of the fastest hatrick in Champions League history, but my heart skipped a beat as one player in particular entered the fray.
I love Gylfi Sigurdsson. Put bluntly. I would put him up there as one of my all-time favourite Swans players – possibly even second only to the legend that is Ferrie Bodde – so I was obviously ecstatic to see him return to the club after two years at Spurs. I think it is fair to say that ‘SIGURDSSON’ may be gracing the back of my new away shirt when I’m at the Liberty Stadium in a couple of weeks.
In the 69th minute, Swansea eventually made it 2-0, as Jordi Amat fired home from close range after the ball landed to him via a deflection in the box.
2 minutes later, it was 3-0 to the Swans and it was our boy Gylfi getting himself on the scoresheet, as he run onto a low cross from youngster Alex Bray and slotted home comfortably. Cue chanting of the great Icelandic man’s name.
Speaking of chants, by now our young Scottish midfielder Adam King, who we signed from Hearts last season, was on the pitch. We had made the error of sitting in front of Edinburgh-based Jack Scottish Brian, who decided to bellow loudly from directly behind us ‘ADAM KANG, KANG KANG! ADAM KANG, KANG, KANG!’ every time young King touched the ball. We decided if you can’t beat them, join them, and so we opted to aid Scottish Brian in drumming up support for the young Scotsman. Fairplay to Brian for his persistence as as he moved around the stand we could still hear him singing every single time King got near the ball.
In the last-minute, Swansea earned themselves a freekick just outside the penalty box. Perfect range for Sigurdsson. There was only really going to be one outcome here. Gylfi stepped up coolly, sidefooted the ball and it soared into the top corner past the Argyle keeper, who was rooted to the spot. Bloody hell, it is good to have you back Siggy!
Full-time: Plymouth Argyle 0 – 4 Swansea City. Overall, a very comfortable run out for the Swans. It was obviously great to see Sigurdsson back and scoring and I had to say that I was impressed with some of the youngsters such as Bray, Sheehan, King and Kingsley. However, Ki was the real star for me and I’m relieved to hear that he’ll more than likely be playing in a Swansea shirt this season and not heading elsewhere.
Me and Sheridan said our goodbyes and headed for the exit. The plan was to get a taxi back into town, but we couldn’t resist having a proper nose at the magnificent Mayflower Grandstand before we left. As we got around the back of it we found ourselves greeted by a small crowd of Argyle and Swans fans including our Argyle pal Ryan, who we had met at Plymouth Parkway the day before. In the middle of the gathering was Lukas Fabianski and Wilfried Bony. It seemed that autograph hunters had hung around after the game waiting for the Swans players to emerge. We decided to go have a nose too.
As Bashley FC loving Sheridan supports Arsenal as his Premier League team, he wanted a photo with Fabianski. The Polish goalie turned out to be a very nice guy as we chatted to him and I made sure to welcome him to the Swansea City family. All of a sudden the rest of the Swans team starting to emerge from the stand. Then the thought hit me: “I could meet Gylfi!” As fanboy mode kicked in, I informed Sheridan that we would not be leaving until Gylfi came out. Whilst we waited for Gylfi we chatted to pretty much every Swans player with all of them more than happy to chat/ pose for photos/ sign things for all the gathering fans behind the stand. I finally got to ask Ashley Williams does he read this blog, after fellow Jack Nic Grey told me out in Malmo that he does read it having worked with him at a charity event; “I have done,” was the Welsh skipper’s response on being asked and so I declared to him that it must be a dream come true for him to meet me and do the double thumbs up pose. I also got (Super) Garry Monk to do the trademark double thumbs up pose and pretty much every Swans player (apart from Shelvey, who was clearly too cool to do it). Meeting the players, also gave us the opportunity to ask Adam King did he appreciate the support from Scottish Brian (he did).
Finally, like a true headline act, Gylfi came out last by himself as most of the players were getting on the bus. I felt like one of those ‘Beliebers’ as I turned into a giddy mess as I asked him for a photo; I’m fairly sure it’s those magical blue eyes of his. With photo seized and love for Gylfi Sigurdsson expressed, I was content. It was time to go into town.
So that was my Plymouth weekend and it was certainly a top one accompanied by my groundhopping pal Sheridan for the weekend. England’s Ocean City is indeed a lovely city and I enjoyed my two days there. A great day was had at Plymouth Parkway on the Saturday, it was brilliant to be back amongst the Jack Army again on the Sunday and it was great to see the Swans on the pitch again, complete with Gylfi Sigurdsson. Of course, there was still one thing left to do, before my weekend was complete: back to the Kitty O’Hanlons to have a Slippery Nipple (despite it sounding horrible, it was actually rather nice).
Highlights: Plymouth is a nice city, good pubs (particularly Kitty O’Hanlons and its Slippery Nipple), the Mayflower Grandstand – wow, convincing win for the Swans, Gylfi back in a Swans shirt, meeting the players after the game (especially Gylfi).
Low Points: other half of the ground is fairly bland, despite the Swans win, game was a typical preseason friendly in second half.
See all of my photos of our day on Flickr here \9contains a lot of double thumbs up with Swansea City player). https://www.flickr.com/photos/125327149@N05/sets/72157645624605277/
Swans fans, make sure to check out our Swansea City fan podcast, The JackCast http://thejackcast.com/
Also, make sure to check out Sheridan’s site Stadium Trotter, as I’m sure he will also have a report on his first experience with the Jack Army soon. Give him a follow on Twitter at @SheridanSparkes or @StadiumTrotter and check his site here: http://thestadiumtrotter.weebly.com/