Lowe's Great Expectations
AS Ryan Lowe walked through the doors of the Manadon Sports Hub to take his seat next to chief executive officer Andrew Parkinson, there was an air of anticipation in the room.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of countless Press conferences that Lowe will hold as manager of Argyle, but it was arguably his most important. The club’s late season crash back to Sky Bet League Two last season left the Pilgrims almost exactly where they had been when Derek Adams took charge four seasons ago. This time, though, expectations are greater.
This time, the club is no longer re-emerging from the dark days of administration. A new Grandstand, with Home Park once again to become a four-sided fortress, provides new commercial opportunities. Meanwhile, at board level, a new chief exec, with experience at European champions Liverpool on an impressive CV, is in place under the ownership of Simon Hallett; who has parted with a not insignificant sum of cash to acquire almost total ownership of the club he has supported since he was a child. We may have returned to Sky Bet League Two on the pitch, but there is no desire to lurch backwards off it.
Even the acquisition of the manager himself, and a three-year contract to boot, evidenced ambition. An ambition that Lowe acknowledged, and reciprocated, in taking the plunge to depart a club that regards him as royalty, to relocate the best part of 300 miles to Devon, bringing his young family with him. Expectations are greater.
If the new manager felt the burden of these expectations as he sat down in front of local and national media – which included Sky Sports, the BBC, as well as city media in Plymouth Live and Radio Plymouth - he certainly did not let it show, in an open, engaging and honest discussion about the dawning of a new era at Home Park.
The following 15 minutes served as Lowe’s first test in Argyle colours, as he faced all manner of questions from a media contingent that had waited five weeks to quiz the new manager.
“When a club like Argyle comes calling for you, it’s a no brainer. The football, the fans, the town, the club. These opportunities do not come around that often,” Lowe batted away an early question about leaving Bury with confident ease.
Included in the board’s personality criteria for a new manager, alongside on-field style of play, which Lowe has evidenced in abundance, is an ability to navigate the often-challenging world of modern media. Reassuringly for those charged with appointing the manager, the former striker seemed to have convinced the gathered Press that his tactical nous was matched by charisma in front of the camera.
In much of the build-up to the managerial appointment, a few themes were associated with Lowe. The most obvious of these, of course, was his penchant for attacking football. On Tuesday, though, it was Lowe’s personal philosophy that was becoming better-known. Throughout both the public Press call, and the one-on-one interviews conducted afterwards, there was a lot of emphasis on family. Not only his own, but also the Argyle family he had just been adopted into.
Inevitably, this led to discussing the age-old issue of location, and relocation, for the Lowe family. A question that, once again, the Pilgrims’ gaffer did not shirk – revealing that he had already been to see his new apartment, and that he would be based in Plymouth.
“I’m a big believer in family – lots of the players have got families, and you get home when you can. First and foremost, it’s work, it’s business, and you get down to it.
“The footballing side of things was done when I got offered the job, really. But, I’ve got an 11-year-old daughter who is the boss.
“They are coming down for six weeks. My partner and my two children will be at the ground every other week, when we’ve got a home game. They’re looking forward to it.”
As the discussion wheeled away from the minutiae of the Lowe family’s living arrangements and towards the bigger picture of his motivations, the new manager’s ambition was clear: to reach the Championship – and he sees Argyle as the vehicle to take him there. Expectations are greater.
“People say, you know, I was in League One [with Bury]. My ambition is to get to the Championship in the very near future. Yes, I’ve taken a step back, but that’s to take two steps forward. The fantastic people behind the scenes at this fantastic football club will work to make that happen.”
In several of the break-out interviews that occurred after the main session, talk shifted towards transfers, both incoming and outgoing. Lowe spoke candidly, implying that a number of current Pilgrims may depart in the coming days. If that were to be the case, they would be replaced by someone who had not only the playing characteristics, but also the personal ones, to thrive in the Liverpudlian’s new extended family.
“If you want to work with us, and we can make you better, then brilliant. If you don’t, and you want to move on, that’s fine. If they move on, no problem, we just replace them.
“The lads who are still in contract, and out of contract, they were relegated. If they want to give something back, that’s great, but I’m not waiting around.”
By the end of the day’s Press activities, which was rounded off by a quick jaunt to BBC South West’s Mannamead studio for a television interview, the new gaffer had laid his credo bare for all to see.
Expectations are greater.