IF central defender Peter Hartley wants to make a name for himself at Home Park, he has the right man behind him to guide him along the way.When Peter turns up for training, he sees a man with 491 Argyle appearances to his name, experience of winning this division and – curiously to medical science – green blood allegedly coursing through his veins.
Paul Wotton knows not only what defending is about, but knows what Argyle is about. In the summer his role was extended from player to player-coach, and he is tasked with imparting his considerable knowledge onto the current green crop.
Hartley is only seven games into his Pilgrims career, but three of those have yielded clean sheets, including the last two. The former Hartlepool and Stevenage defender attributes much of Argyle’s meanness of late to Wottsy.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Paul Wotton,” said Peter. “He has put so many hours and sessions into it, the gaffer has given him a job this year to look after the back four.
“He knows what it’s all about, to win things. He’s good, because he keeps your feet on the ground. We’ve done so many things well as a defence and as a team but he always shows you where you can improve.
“We are watching videos of opponents - and ourselves - and putting sessions on how we can improve. We are reaping our rewards at the minute, but we can’t take our eye off the ball. We are only six games into this season.”
Peter shares some of Wottsy’s standout qualities as a defender, standing out as a strong, tough and vocal part of the Argyle defence. He is using those qualities to good effect this season.
He said: “I don’t know any different, its second nature. Wottsy is the same type of player as me. He’s come from a similar background and you have to fight for everything you want.
“You don’t get anything given for free and if you put a centre forward off a game by shouting and raving he is going to miss a chance.”
In fact, manager John Sheridan made a point, on several occasions, of singling out Paul Wotton as a lone example of the type of vocal character he wants to populate his team. Hartley’s arrival and John’s analysis are surely not unrelated.
Alongside Peter is Curtis Nelson, a 21-year-old with 150 games to his name and – this season – an armband round his bicep. Curtis may not strike everyone as the vocal force that Peter surely is, but Hartley does not want anyone deceived by their impressions of his central defensive partner as in any way meek or mild.
Peter said: “I call Nelse ‘the leader of men’. He is 21 years old and a captain of a club this big. He has to take that chance; he’s got the ability to play in the Championship and beyond, and I think getting the captaincy at an age that Nelse is at is only going to benefit him.
“He leads by example on the pitch. People don’t give him enough credit for how much he talks, because he doesn’t shout like I do, but he’s a very good communicator. What he says to you on the pitch helps you – it’s all constructive.
“I do it without thinking about it, so its natural, but I do it because it makes my job easier. I’m not saying I’m a lazy player, but if I can get people around me to do jobs, it makes my job a lot easier.”