‘KNOW your enemy’, as they say. Exeter City are Argyle’s biggest rivals, but how much do you really know about the Grecians?
Here are several fun facts you might not have known about our Devon counterparts –and the Devon derby - ahead of this weekend’s clash at St. James’ Park.
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME
The Pilgrims have faced the Grecians a total of 99 times, meaning this weekend’s tie at St. James’ Park will mark the 100th Devon Derby. During that time…
• Argyle have won 41, drawn 30 and lost 28
• Argyle have scored 137 goals and conceded 99
• The biggest attendance at any Devon Derby was at Home Park on January 12, 1952. Some 25, 494 fans were treated to an Argyle 2-1 win against their rivals. Around 1,700 travelling members of the Green Army will be watching this weekend.
• It has been 13 years and five months since Argyle last recorded a win at St. James’ Park. Marino Keith scored twice as Argyle won the last league derby against Exeter 3-0 on their way to the Third Division title. In front of a 16,369 crowd, the Scottish striker fared better than Sean McCarthy, who was red-carded for elbowing Graham Coughlan (but we still love you, Macca!).
• Argyle enjoyed their longest unbeaten run against their Devon rivals between 1st January 1996 – 26th Februrary 2002 (7 wins and 4 draws)
• Argyle suffered their longest winless run between 8th February 1958 – 28th March 1978 (5 defeats and 6 draws)
When? 11th November 1908
Result? Exeter City 2 - 1 Argyle
Where? St James’ Park
League? Southern League
Argyle played their first Devon derby against Exeter City on 11 November 1908, losing 2-1 at their neighbours. Centre-half Charlie Clark scored the goal. Argyle have since played Exeter on 98 occasions, with this weekend’s Sky Bet League 2 encounter at St James’ Park marking the 100th Devon Derby.
CHRISTMAS DAY DEBUT
Walter Price made his Argyle debut in a home Third Division (South) 1-1 draw against Exeter, the only time in Pilgrims’ history that a player has been handed a first appearance on Christmas Day.
Argyle's record win against derby rivals Exeter City came in January 1957, when goals from Eric Davis (2), Neil Langman, Jack Rowley, and an own goal gave the Pilgrims a 5-0 Third Division (South) victory at Home Park.
Our biggest defeat, however, was a 4-0 Third Division (South) beating on Christmas Day, 1925. Exeter fans will no doubt take delight from the fact that, ultimately, the loss cost Argyle promotion to the Second Division as they finished the campaign just a point behind Reading.
Two Sean McCarthy goals saw the first Paul Sturrock-selected league side get off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory over arch rivals Exeter at St James’s Park on 2nd December 2000. Defenders David Worrell and Brian McGlinchey, and midfielder David Friio made Pilgrims’ debuts.
Argyle players have scored a hat-trick in a Devon Derby on seven occasions – two against Exeter City and five against Torquay United. The last Pilgrim to score three times in a little local spat was Paul McGregor, who performed the feat in a Third Division clash against Torquay at Plainmoor on 25 March 2000.
Did you know…it is the only time an Argyle player has rung in a triple in a Devon Derby at a venue other than Home Park?
It was Argyle’s Welsh forward Jack Fowler who first notched three goals against the Grecians in a Division Three South game at Home Park, a derby day fixture that dates back nearly 92 years. Despite only making 22 appearances during the 1922/23 season, Fowler finished the campaign as the club’s top goal scorer with 17.
Ray Bowden, a prolific inside forward from Looe, Cornwall, was the next – and last to date - Pilgrim player to score three goals against City in a single, competitive match. The Cornishman, who went on to play for Arsenal and Newcastle United during his time, completed the feat during a Division Three South game on 26th October 1929 in front of over 15, 000 fans packed into Home Park.
Since then, the only man to register three goals in an Argyle-Exeter encounter is Johnny Nicholls, who did so in a Third Division (South) game on 8 February 1958 when Argyle lost 4-2 to the team that finished bottom of the table that campaign.
Had Argyle won, they would have been crowned the 1957/58 champions. Nicholls, an FA Cup winner with West Bromwich Albion in the 1954 FA Cup Final, won two England caps before joining Exeter in 1957.
The Home Park’s floodlights were turned on for the first time when the Pilgrims entertained Exeter in a friendly on 26th October 1953. Only 2,025 people turned out to see Argyle shine 2-0, with goals from Maurice Tadman and Sam McCrory.
Percy Cherrett, who finished the 1923/24 season as Argyle’s top goal scorer with 27 goals in 41 matches, managed to score ten goals in just five games in 18 days.
Cherrett started his impressive run of form, scoring two as Argyle beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0, on 8th December 1923 before scoring in two fixtures in as many weeks against Newport County. The forward completed his rout in Argyle’s 4-0 home win over rivals Exeter City.
Three days later, Cherrett did not score and Argyle did not win.
ON THE MARCH
The Argyle theme tune is Semper Fidelis, a march written in 1888 by John Philip Sousa, a US composer known particularly for American patriotic marches, of which he wrote 136, including Stars and Stripes Forever, the national march of the United States; the Washington Post; and the Liberty Bell, otherwise known as the theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus (but not including the raspberry).
Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful” and the City of Exeter – Argyle’s most deadly rivals – has used the motto since at least 1660 on the instigation of Queen Elizabeth I in recognition of a gift of money toward the fleet that had defeated the Spanish Armada.
The motto is also used by the Royal Navy HMS Exeter, which was named after the City of Exeter; by various Exeter-based units of the British Army; and there is a Masonic Lodge in Exeter called “Lodge Semper Fidelis.”