EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD Jamie Richards made his senior league debut for Argyle on Tuesday night at AFC Wimbledon in the Pilgrims’ 1-1 draw with their relegation rivals......but Richards’ sudden introduction came as rather a shock to him.
The Essex-born teenager has been on Argyle’s books for nearly a decade and, after turning out in minor cup competitions this season, he finally made his full league bow.
Jason Banton had to limp off towards the end of the first half at Kingsmeadow, prompting manager John Sheridan to ask Onismor Bhasera to push forward from his left-back berth to occupy the space vacated. Richards then left the substitutes’ bench to slot on the left side of the Pilgrims’ back-line.
“It was a great feeling to get thrown in,” said Jamie, “I wasn’t expecting it when it was a winger that went down; I never thought it was going to be me that would come on – but it was brilliant that it was.
“We had Paris [Cowan-Hall], Andres [Gurrieri] and Youngy [Luke Young] who can all play out wide, so it was a great feeling.
“The gaffer picked me out in training the other day and said ‘Be ready, because I might throw you in’ and he asked me if I’d ever played left-back. It was a little indication and I’ve been working hard in training.
“Thankfully it’s paid off.”
After the game, his manager backed up the sentiment, and had some encouraging words to boost Jamie’s day.
“He’s a steady player,” said John. “He’s done well in training to try to force his way in, and he’s impressed me.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong. The pace of the game caught up with him in the end, but I thought he did okay.”
Richards concurs that the step up in class at a young age is the main thing he will have to improve on should he wish to be involved in first-team affairs on a more regular basis.
He said: “It’s hard for me to make that adaptation from reserve-team football to first-team football. You’ve got to switch on and concentrate so much more because the pace is so much quicker.
“A few times I got caught out on the ball. In a reserve game, you’re used to having a bit of time to pick out a pass but in this it’s a lot quicker and you get someone close you down. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready for that.”
Argyle took the lead and then immediately surrendered it midway through the first half in South West London.
The draw left Argyle and their opponents as the two sides occupying the npower League 2 relegation slots, rendering Saturday’s game at Home Park against fellow divisional strugglers Barnet as crucial as any game so far this season.
“To get a point out of that...it was a vital point,” said Jamie. “Three would have been nice, but it’s still a point that is vital at this stage of the season.
“It was really good first half. In the second half, we dropped off it a bit but I think that’s going to happen in these sorts of games.
“Barnet is an absolutely massive game. If we get three points from that, then tonight’s point becomes a great point.”
Over 800 members of the Green Army backed their team at Wimbledon, and their support naturally enhanced the excitement of Richards’ big night.
“It’s brilliant when they get behind you,” he said. “For me – and maybe it’s different for other players and I’m not used to it – if you hit a good pass and they get behind you, it’s a great feeling. I just want to go on and do it more.
“Fingers crossed, hopefully the gaffer knows he can trust me and I’ll always give 100% if he does throw me in.”