CARL Fletcher’s final act as Plymouth Argyle manager epitomised the character he showed as a player and a manager.Courageous and dignified, Carl insisted on facing the media only moments after being informed by chairman James Brent that his reign as Argyle boss was over.
In the minutes after Argyle’s defeat at Bristol Rovers, the former Argyle captain, twice player of the year and manager was relieved of his duties, and was visibly upset when walking into the Memorial Stadium Press room.
Looking at the assembled media through red, tear-stained eyes and with his voice cracking with emotion that has perhaps been bottled up from months, even years, Carl still spoke fondly of the man who his former employer, and the club at which he has plied his varying trades since February 2009.
He said: “I’ve got a good relationship with James. We’ve both been through – him more recently, me for the last four years – a lot.
“I might be a young manager but I’m not stupid - if you don’t win games, you don’t keep your job.
“I’m obviously disappointed. I’m sure it was a very tough decision for James, but he has the best interests of the football club at heart.
“Me and James have been through a lot. It’s his first club. He’s a young owner of a football club and I’m a young manager. We’ve learned a lot together.
“Both of us want the best for the football club - he makes the decision that getting a new manager will be best for the club.
“It’s a real good football club that has been through some real tough times. But hopefully it’s going the right way – on and off the pitch.
“Everyone wants more wins, but there are some really good people around the place. It’s important the club survives long term. I’m sure it will be fine in the future.”
After joining initially on loan from Crystal Palace, then becoming a permanent Argyle player, Carl has been an integral part of the football club during arguably its most tempestuous period.
Relegation from the Championship to League 2 and almost terminal financial difficulties have battered Plymouth Argyle for far too long. It has been hard for everyone involved, and Carl Fletcher is absolutely no exception.
At only 32 years old, one of the youngest managers in the game, he still has a long career in football ahead – should he choose to.
“I’d like to say that I look back on my time with real happiness, but it’s far from it,” he said.
“A couple of relegations and the administration, fighting to stay in the football league. It’s been a tough four years.
“It affects your whole life. The way your life gets overtaken when you are a manager is very hard to deal with. It’s been a learning curve; I’ve learned so much about people, myself and how people react in certain situations.
“I’ll see how I feel, whether I want retire. Sometimes you think ‘Is it worth the hassle?’
“All the stress, the late nights and the work…I don’t know. I’ll have a bit of downtime. I’ve never really had downtime at all since I was about 16. It’s been football non-stop.
“You never know – I might go back and play. I’ve seen some players in teams in this division and others, and I sometimes think I still might be able to earn a living that way.
“I’ll spend some time with the family and let everything settle down.
“It’s tough when you speak to the players; they’ve put a lot in and we’ve been through a lot together.
“It’s disappointing, but you’ve just got to get on with things. And the end of the day, it’s a game of football. You’ve got to put things in perspective.
“There’s some real good players in that changing room. Some real good characters. I wish them all the best. They’ve got some good quality and are still young. They’ve got a real chance in the future.
“We’ve tried to put foundations in, and it’s hard, with finances and things like that, but that’s the way it is. They’ve got some great fans, great travelling fans.
“All my staff have helped out and they’ve put their time in. Some of us have been through relegations and no money, but everyone has tried to do their best and has tried to work their socks off.
“But that’s the way football goes.”