25. Neil Ramsbottom
THE Greatest Pilgrims, voted for by the Green Army, lists the top 25 Argyle legends in all positions and we start with the goalkeepers.
Greatest Pilgrim Goalkeepers
Ranked No. 25
The Argyle journey for Neil Ramsbottom began with the unenviable task of filling the gloves of iconic predecessors in Jim Furnell and Milija Aleksic.
Having begun his career as a junior at Bury, where he graduated to a full professional and enjoyed six successful years at Gigg Lane. Ramsbottom then became something of a journeyman, enjoying short spells with Blackpool, Crewe Alexandra (loan), Coventry City and Sheffield Wednesday.
The next move was to Home Park in 1976 and his one season as a Pilgrim yielded 41 appearances between the sticks, with performances of sufficient quality to earn Ramsbottom the Player of the Season award for 1976-77.
It was a significant blow to Argyle when he was tempted away from PL2 to sign for hometown club Blackburn Rovers. He later played for Sheffield United, briefly starred in the American Soccer League and then completed a fine career with stints at Bradford City and AFC Bournemouth.
Ranked No. 24
It is a mark of his greatness as a Pilgrim that Bill Harper’s name remains ingrained in the daily life of our football club, as the modern generation head down to the Harper’s Park training ground adjacent to Home Park.
Born in 1897 in Scotland, Harper rose to prominence with Hibernian, playing in two Scottish Cup Finals before moving south to sign for Arsenal in 1925 for a then-record fee of £4,000 for a goalkeeper. He also won 11 international caps for Scotland around this time.
Harper fell out of favour with legendary Arsenal boss Herbert Chapman and opted to try his luck in the new American Soccer League for a few years. His football journey briefly took him back to the Gunners, where he helped Arsenal win their first ever Football League title.
At the age of 34 and seemingly in the twilight of his career, Harper signed for Argyle and the impact was instant. Battling with the wonderful Harry Cann for the number one jersey, rarely have the Pilgrims enjoyed a period of two such wonderful goalkeepers competing in the same squad.
Harper was a mammoth goalkeeper but also a hugely influential individual, making the odd appearance for the club well into his forties. He fell in love with Argyle and through a 50-year association with our club, he worked as a coach, groundsman, kitman and more.
Bill left us in 1989 at the age of 92 and a truly great Pilgrim.
Ranked No. 23
One of a few loan players included in your list, David Stockdale was an outstanding young goalkeeper and his performances for the Pilgrims arguably proved to be the springboard for his career.
Stockdale came through the ranks at York City and then a sparking spell with Darlington earned him a move to Fulham in 2008, where he featured in the Europa League for the Craven Cottage club.
He signed for Argyle in an initial one-month loan deal in January 2010 and immediately replaced Romain Larrieu between the sticks. Although he only made 21 appearances for the Pilgrims, Stockdale produced some magnificent displays in a difficult campaign.
The loan was extended to three months and Stockdale had done enough at Home Park to now become a major contender at Fulham, featuring in the Premier League under manager Mark Hughes and earning a place in the England squad.
Further loan spells at Ipswich and Hull preceded a move to Brighton, helping the Albion win promotion to the top flight. He surprisingly turned down a contract offer at Brighton to sign for Birmingham City.
A super goalkeeper who deserves his place in our list of greatest Pilgrims.
John Willie Sutcliffe
Ranked No. 22
The Green Army have done their research with number 22 on our list of greatest Argyle goalkeepers and found a sportsman of amazing versatility.
John Willie Sutcliffe was born in 1868 and began his sporting life in rugby union, winning a cap for England against a New Zealand side in 1899. He then changed to the round ball by signing for Bolton Wanderers, quickly converting from a forward to goalkeeper.
Sutcliffe became a Bolton legend, making well over 300 appearances for one of the leading clubs in that era and earning four England caps. He then switched to Millwall Athletic and then future giants Manchester United.
At the grand age of 36, Sutcliffe signed for Argyle and yet still had time to rack up an incredible 218 appearances for our club. Sutcliffe was an incredible sportsman and goalkeeper, who lives on in Pilgrim memory more than a century after his final game.
He died in 1947 at the age of 79.
Ranked No. 21
A proper Cornish hero, Harry Cann was playing for his hometown club of Tintagel when Argyle recognised his obvious talent, signing him to the Home Park story in 1927.
Cann had the giant task of succeeding the legendary Fred Craig between the sticks and it is testament to his ability that the transition was relatively seamless. He was not massive in modern terms but his lack of size was compensated by incredible agility and bravery.
He would make 232 appearances over an impressive decade at Home Park and then signed for Fulham in 1939, only for the outbreak of War to prematurely end a fabulous career.
Harry Cann passed away in 1980 and another Argyle Great.
Greatest Goalkeeper Results So Far
21. Harry Cann
22. John Willie Sutcliffe
23. David Stockdale
24. Bill Harper
25. Neil Ramsbottom
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