DEREK Adams is looking forward to leading his side out onto the Wembley turf with a significant – and vocal – backing.
More than 30,000 tickets have been sold to the Green Army so far, with Pilgrims travelling from all over the country – and the world to be part of Argyle’s Sky Bet League 2 play-off final against AFC Wimbledon.
Argyle’s fans are expected to outnumber that of their opponents, but it could be argued that the Dons’ story may sway the observing neutrals.
The phoenix club, that was only established in 2002, was formed after the original Wimbledon FC relocated to Milton Keynes, and became the first club founded in the 21st century to reach the Football League.
They now sit a game away from promotion to English football’s third tier. This is not only unchartered territory for the new-age Wombles, but it is the division in which Milton Keynes will play their football, too.
Add in a pinch of people’s natural instinct to support an underdog, and the Londoners may well have the hearts of those with no dog in the fight.
According to Derek Adams, though, Argyle will not be without their backing.
“It’ll be a tremendous atmosphere,” said Derek. “We’ve got 30-odd thousand coming to this game, coming all over the world to come back and watch their local side at Wembley for the first time in 20 years and everyone wants to see their team at Wembley. To sell so many in as short a space of time shows the support Argyle have in the area and far and wide as well.
“I think Argyle has a story as well. The club was in administration just over five years ago, had to cut their cloth accordingly and get back to a position where they could compete in League 2.
“I think there will be a lot of people wanting us to get back in League 1 because it’s such a famous football club.”
Almost a week after Peter Hartley’s late, late header ensured the Pilgrims return to Wembley there is still a palpable buzz around Home Park.
With the game under the arch over a week away, memories of a last-gasp two-legged win over Portsmouth are still fresh, as minds turn to Wembley.
Derek Adams has steered the Greens to the League 2 play-off final in his inaugural season in English football and shared his delight at doing so, whilst also providing his insight on the squad’s fitness, the numbers in which the Green Army will travel to the home of English football and Argyle’s opponents in the final.
“We’re obviously delighted to progress to the finals of the play-offs,” said Derek. “I think that they were two good games against Portsmouth, which I thought we deserved to win in the end because of the chances we created in the tie.
“Over the two play-off matches the atmosphere has been excellent from the away and home supporters, and provided backing to the squad. The players have responded to that by getting to the final.”
The finality of Hartley’s header, with it leaving Pompey virtually no chance to respond, was reflected in the wild celebrations at Home Park and Adams provided a manager’s perspective on such a moment.
He said: “I think as a manger you get that relief of pressure and sometimes it’s enjoyable and it was a very good way to end the football match. Peter did very well to score the goal, it was a great header and he will live with that for the rest of his life.”
Adams shared how the Pilgrims picked up no new injuries and will only be without long-term absentees Josh Simpson and Ryan Brunt for the final.
“We don’t have any new injury concerns,” said Derek. “We just have Josh Simpson and Ryan Brunt who will be out; we’re hopeful that everyone else will be fit.
“At this stage of the season you want the strongest squad possible. We’re not too short of that; a couple of players missing, but we’ve shown that we’ve got a squad that’s more than capable.
“We’ve had a break which has been good because we’ve needed to refresh. The players have done that, and have come back in and trained well. We’re just ticking over now looking forward to next week. By the beginning of next week we'll be flying and then it’s not too long until we go to Wembley.”
Argyle will play Wimbledon for the fourth time this season, having won both the league fixture and a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie in south-west London, but losing the league fixture at Home Park. The Dons finished seventh in League 2, two places and six points behind Argyle.
“They’ve done very well this season,” said Derek. “Neal Ardley has done an excellent job and has some of the best backroom staff in the league - we get along well. It’ll be a good game because they’re a good footballing side with a mix of youth and experience and in the three games we’ve played against them, they have all been exciting matches.”