THE starkest differences between Argyle and Saturday’s visitors Crawley Town this season seem to come down to coaches - of two varieties.
The clubs’ coaches, in the managerial sense, could hardly be more contrasting when it comes to their backgrounds.
Derek Adams, the player, played 300+ matches at the top level in Scotland, and was a player-coach at Ross County having only just turned 31. Within 18 months he had become the boss, and now has over 350 games as a manager under his belt, aged 41.
Dermot Drummy, who took charge of Crawley in April, is 14 years Derek’s senior, but is short of having a tenth of the matches to his name, professionally. Londoner Drummy never quite made it as a player, totalling five games for Blackpool as his only league experience, before playing for many years in non-league football.
At 35, he got a job at Arsenal – the club with whom he served an apprenticeship - as a youth coach, before moving to Chelsea to work in a similar capacity. He rose through the Chelsea ranks to become youth team manager, then reserve team boss, before accepting the job at Crawley with two games remaining during last season.
The Red Devils finished 20th in 2015-16, and currently lie 14th in the table, following a summer of upheaval not dissimilar to that at Home Park.
“Dermot Drummy has come out of the academy system, and likes to play his football out from the back,” said Derek.
“They have a number of players that are different from last year; it has changed around quite a bit. We will be mindful of the fact that they have some good players there. They are very expansive and open, and it should be a very good footballing match.”
Next, then, to coaches of the wheeled variety: Argyle have had a great deal of joy on the road this season, winning eight games out of 10 away from home in Sky Bet League. In addition, the Pilgrims have played two clubs from the same division – Mansfield and Newport – on their travels in the FA Cup, and won those games too.
Argyle boast the best away record in the division by some margin, with 24 points from a possible 30. Exeter City are the next best, with 22, but they have played two more games. City have a yield of 1.83 points per game on the road; Argyle’s is a stunning 2.4.
For Crawley, life on their travels has not been so palatable. From their 12 games, they have the most away defeats in the division (seven), the most goals conceded (25) and the worst goal difference (-11). They have amassed just 11 points, at 0.92 per game.
If all matches were on teams’ own turf, though, Crawley would be play-off contenders. They are seventh in a ‘home-only’ table, with 18 points from 10 games; three points behind Argyle (fourth) in that table, having played two games fewer.
Games which become open have tended to suit Argyle, and Adams is confident that the attacking players he has at his disposal would be a threat to any team.
He said: “We have shown with the players we have – Slew, Garita and Jervis were unplayable at times on Saturday – and Graham Carey as well can play in that area and go and score goals.
“You need a number of players in your team that are different from other teams, and have that creative edge, a wee bit of quickness; players that score goals and put you in a good position.”
After the Crawley game, Argyle will have fewer than 48 hours to rest, recover, train and travel to north London to meet Barnet on Monday afternoon. Such is life, though, in Sky Bet League Two, which Derek believes is an even more competitive division than it has been.
“It’s not easy, but we’ve shown that physically we have done well,” said Derek. “After the Newport game we recovered well to play Wycombe, who had ten days rest, compared to the few we had. The players looked in good shape.
“I think it’s better this year than it was last year. It’s more competitive. From the bottom to the top, sides are all beating each other. You only have to look at the number of teams that have pushed up the league in recent months and weeks, like Exeter and Cambridge, that tells you how competitive it is, and what a tight league it is.”
Argyle meet Crawley Town at Home Park at 3pm on Saturday, December 31. Get your tickets online at eticketing.co.uk/pafc, in person at the Ticket Office (there is a separate queue for Crawley tickets) or on the gate on the day of the game.