Wotton's Wembley Way
PAUL Wotton has plenty of memories of being at Argyle's big day out at Wembley in 1996, and believes this season's sqaud and supporters are capable of creating a similar occasion.
Two decades on from being a youngster on the fringes of the Argyle side that experienced Wembley glory in the play-off final, Wotton comes full circle on May 30, coaching a new batch of Pilgrims as they walk out at the Home of Football for a play-off final of their own.
Despite only being 18, Wotton vividly remembers that day in 1996 - apart from some understandably shady memories post-match - and sees plenty of parallels between the two finals.
"I just remember the fans, really," said Paul. "I remember it being a fantastic occasion - not a particularly great game, but a great occasion and a great result.
"I remember getting the suit fitted and all that, which was good. I just remember being a young pro, but the older pros saying how important it was and how great an occasion it will be. It is similar this time around.
"It was the first time I'd ever been to Wembley. The old Wembley as well, so it was pretty iconic - the Home of Football, so to speak. Fortunately we won, so afterwards was just a blur really. It was a wonderful experience really, and I just remember a sea of green and white all up the motorways.
"I remember the buzz around the city before the game. It feels very similar this time. The Argyle fans will be there in force, as I'm sure Wimbledon's fans will be, and it'll be a great occasion."
Wottsy did get his chance to stamp his authority in a match at Wembley 14 years - and one stadium renovation - later with Southampton. Matches in that arena, with that level of importance, are what every player aspires to be a part of, and Paul feels that with some help from the coaching staff, the players are ready to fully embrace the occasion on Monday.
"I've been fortunate enough to play for Southampton in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final," said Wotton, "and I've been a couple of times to watch friends there. It's a beautiful stadium, it really is. It's stunning.
"You want to play in atmospheric games. You don't want to play in quiet games; you want to play when there's something on the game, there's an edge, an excitement, and a prize at the end."
"I think it's getting to the stage now where the boys want to go and play the game, but it is what it is - the manager's managed it really well. We've had a break; the balancing act between a break and keeping fit and ticking over has been good. We've had a couple of intense training sessions and a couple of relaxed training sessions, and had a few days off here and there. The boys are physically fit and in a good frame of mind.
"It's a big group effort and he [Adams] is at the head of that. He treats me well - he's been great for me. We'll be as prepared as we can be, and put the lads in a relaxed state of mind and make them believe in themselves."
Wotton has been an integral part of that coaching setup this season, bringing additional experience, knowledge and Plymouth passion to the fold. Argyle's record appearance-maker may not have the chance to make a difference on the pitch nowadays, but is reveling in his new role, ensuring his successors at Home Park have every chance of achieving the sort of success he managed in a green shirt.
"I've loved it, every second of it," said Paul. "I've enjoyed the coaching side of it so much that I haven't really missed playing as yet, which says it all really.
"I'm actually a lot calmer on the bench than I was playing. It's a nice place to be, because the manager and Brew [Craig Brewster] make sure that we don't leave any stone unturned before a game, so you literally can't do any more.
"Someone's going to be a hero, aren't they? Whether it's Plymouth Argyle or AFC Wimbledon. The name Ronnie Mauge will always be held dear in Plymouth Argyle fans' hearts because of that iconic goal. It's a chance for someone to make themselves a hero, definitely.
"Listen: we've done really well. We're in the play-off final at Wembley, 90 minutes away from League 1. So are AFC Wimbledon, and it's all to play for."