ARGYLE are set to welcome Exeter City to Home Park on Saturday in what could be the most important Devon Derby in recent history.
Both clubs are pushing for automatic promotion, with the Pilgrims are currently in second position in the Sky Bet League Two with 57 points from their 28 games this season; nine points clear of City, who are in fourth place with 48 points and having played a game more.
One man who is familiar with the Devon Derby is Argyle left-back Gary Sawyer. Gary, who is in his second spell with the club, joined City on loan from the Pilgrims in the 2004-05 season and extended that loan for the following season.
Since returning to Home Park in the summer of 2015, Gary has featured in a pair of Devon derbies, and knows exactly what boths clubs - and their rivalry - is all about.
“It’s always a little bit more than just one game when you play Exeter," said Gary. “I don’t think there has ever been a time where at this stage in the season both clubs have had a chance of realistically pushing for promotion. It’s a massive game.”
City can set a club record of eight successive victories if they are to beat the Pilgrims on Saturday but that not a statistic that is worrying the Argyle defender.
“Exeter are on a really good run, but we’re on a good run ourselves," said Gary. “It’s one game of the season where form doesn’t come into it.
“It will be a big occasion and it will be a big crowd. I’m sure they’ll be up for it as much as we are.
“You have to be professional to play the occasion. It’s still three points whoever you play but being the game it is and the atmosphere that it brings in, you have to really put your professional head on.”
Gary Sawyer has not forgotten his time at Exeter, despite his loyalties being with his boyhood club.
“I hold Exeter close to me.” Said Gary. “I always have done.
“They were fantastic with me when I was down there. I don’t think that I would have had the career that I have without them.
“Eamonn Dolan was the manager who took me down there, he wanted me to go down there when I was a kid but I chose Plymouth – in my eyes I made the right decision.
“I came through the youth team here but it was hard to go from the youth team to the Championship straight away being that young.
“I did enjoy my time there but I came through at Plymouth, I am now back at Plymouth again and Plymouth is where my heart lays.”
Gary Sawyer isn’t the only player who could feature this weekend that has been part of both camps. Saturday could see the return of ex-Argyle striker Reuben Reid return to Home Park for the first time since leaving the club at the end of last season – a player that will be known about within the Argyle squad.
“I know Reubs inside and out," said Gary. “He’s a great player and has had a very good career so he is definitely one that we’re going to have to watch out for.”
Reuben made a total of 165 appearances, scoring a total of 50 goals for the Pilgrims in two spells between 2005-2008 and 2013-2016, before making the switch to Exeter earlier this season. He has six for Exeter so far, but there are plenty of Grecians firing in the goals in their recent hot spell.
“They’re really free flow scoring at the moment,” said Gary. “They’re hitting four past opponents so we have to stop that. I feel we have the defence to do so. It will be a good game and everyone in our dressing room is definitely up for it."