12th June 2015
THERE is a fairground on Higher Home Park at the moment; Anderton & Rowland have moved in for a couple of weeks. Roll up, roll up.
This century has been something of a switchback ride for the Green Army. After starting the new millennium in arguably their worst state since turning professional in 1903, a fresh-faced Scotsman with large ears grabbed the Pilgrims by the scruff of the neck and – in a two-act play – steered them to the top half of the Championship by 2008.
The rapid acceleration was followed by a swifter descent. Successive relegations sandwiched an agonising period of administration which put the club into a freefall that threatened its very existence until a stubborn Mancunian dodged the drop and put a new spin on things: from write-offs to the play-offs in two years.
The funfair had a media circus to compete with this week as the Pilgrims unveiled their latest big wheel – a fresh-faced Scotsman with no discernible aural abnormalities, but with the same calm as his successful predecessor; the same ability to fully engage a room or an individual with an impish line or a relaxed smile.
Some would instinctively argue that it is unfair to compare Derek Adams to Paul Sturrock at this stage of his career. The reverse is probably true. The youthful looking Adams, who actually turns 40 next week, might have the appearance and demeanour of a head prefect, but he has arrived at Home Park as a massive overachiever in his native land, which was remains uncracked by Luggy.
The facts have been trotted out so often in the last few days that they have maybe lost their impact a little: two titles and three cup finals for highland outliers Ross County, a club based in a town less than half the size of Saltash (which nevertheless took 20,000 people to Hampden for the 2010 Scottish FA Cup final), all in the space of seven years. He took over a team grateful to beat Berwick Rangers and Peterhead and left them competing on level terms with Celtic, Aberdeen and the elite of Scottish football. Three years ago, he was Scottish Manager of the Year, and came close to making it a double the following season.
Take a little time to let the above sink in. Then consider the plaudits righty handed out to Eddie Howe this side of Hadrian’s Wall. County did not have a Russian multi-millionaire to underwrite eight-figure losses, either.
In his introduction of Derek, Argyle chairman James Brent outlined the strict criteria employed by the Argyle Board to identify their new man, and the orderly methodology of their two-week selection procedure. He need not have bothered – by the end of the day, everyone would have been satisfied if the only question of the decision-making process had been ‘Anyone got Derek Adams’ ’phone number?’
If that had taken just a minute, it would not have mattered. Derek duly answered every question without hesitation or deviation, even though there was a lot of repetition from the many media representatives throughout a long day of interviews that began shortly after his lunchtime arrival at Home Park and ended after tea on the BBC Spotlight sofa. He had them all eating out of his hand.
It would be easy to say that, in the same way that Bobby Williamson failed to satisfy demand simply because he was not Paul Sturrock, Derek could not fail to make a mark merely on the basis that his naturally cheerful disposition was a stark contrast to the dourer demeanour of his two predecessors.
Such an argument would not respect the sterling, life-saving, reviving work of Carl Fletcher and John Sheridan, and Derek was eager and politic in paying due deference to the man whose decision to leave Home Park after last month’s play-off semi-final defeat made his appointment necessary.
It would also be absolutely belittling of a man who, in one afternoon, managed to banish all the hurts of the past few seasons and have the Green Army dreaming again of great things. No pressure, then?
No matter, then. “I think that, when you’re under pressure, sometimes you perform better; you know you want to do well,” he said.
“I’m driven, I’m determined and I want to succeed. With that, you’re going to get pressure and that’s what drives me on.”