Exeter Memories: Le Grand Debut

PAUL Sturrock took over as Plymouth Argyle manager in October 2000, and had a rather protracted start to his reign.

His first game, officially, was away at Torquay, although he stressed that Kevin Summerfield was in charge that day. Luggy, according to him, had a ‘wee input’ in the 1-1 draw at Plainmoor.

Wet weather destroyed the fixture list shortly after Sturrock’s arrival, meaning that in his first month in charge he only presided over a pair of games against Chester City in the FA Cup, resulting in the non-league side dumping the Pilgrims out of the cup at the first stage.

It would be December 2, 2000 when Luggy finally sent out a team he could call his own in a league match – and it was against none other than Exeter City, at St James Park.

When this team was announced, though, it contained a name not only new to the Argyle teamsheet, but a name new to ears of everyone with green hearts.

“Friio, D”

Qui est-ce?

We had never heard of David until approximately 2pm on that day. And given that it wasn’t quite as easy then to have a spin around the Internet on a smartphone at that time, it was quite the mystery.

After ninety minutes of football and some gentle journalism, the world would soon know of the new man’s origins, but there was no way of knowing, on that singular day, of the impact that David would have on us all.

That goes, indeed, for his manager, too. His first true game as manager brought his first win, as Argyle prevailed that afternoon, and he would go on to accumulate wins quicker than any Argyle boss before him, transforming the club’s fortunes.

The game itself was a positive for Argyle, winning as they did 2-0 thanks to goals from current coach Sean McCarthy (He would go on to play a notable part in a Derby the following year, but we’ll not mention that.) But, looking back, the game was not notable other than the fact that any win against your rivals is a big one.

Argyle went into that game – admittedly at an early stage of the season – as the team third from bottom in the Football League. Eerily, it is the same position we currently occupy, although on that occasion, nearly 14 years ago, the season was over a third of the way through.

The transformation from Third Division (old money) also-rans to Championship play-off contenders was fairly swift, in hindsight, and you can argue that it began on this day. Without a doubt names like Wotton, Coughlan, Evans and many others made huge contributions to Argyle’s rise after the turn of the century – this was also David Worrell’s debut, an underrated part of the team that would come together -  but arguably none made more impact on this club that the names of Sturrock and Friio.

Merci beaucoup, gentlemen. And haste ye back.