Mike Bickle 1944-2023
Mike Bickle, one of Argyle’s greatest ever goalscorers, has died at the age of 79.
Mike played 195 times for the Pilgrims, scoring 74 goals. His story, of being a local boy, coming through regional football to star for his hometown club, is a classic tale which resonates with so many football fans. Mike Bickle was ‘one of us’, and grew to become the hero of so many members of the Green Army, to this day.
Born in 1944, Bickle would not feature for Argyle until the age of 21. In an age long before the modern Academy structure, it was not uncommon for players in local football to be scouted and given an opportunity. Bickle caught the eye playing for St Austell in the South Western League, was offered the chance to prove himself at Home Park – and he took it.
Famously, Bickle was a milkman by trade, also turning out for the Co-op’s works team in midweek fixtures. Even after switching the gold top for a green and white top, he continued to deliver.
After an eye-catching run of goals for the reserve team, Bickle was given his first-team debut by Derek Ufton in December 1965. Incredibly, he scored seven goals in his first four games, including a hat-trick in a 6-0 FA Cup win against non-league Corby Town. By the season’s end, Bickle had scored 12 goals in 19 games, becoming the top goalscorer for that season despite playing fewer than half the games.
The name of M. Bickle was rarely off the scoresheets during the ensuing years. Mike was leading goalscorer for Argyle for four consecutive seasons, through to the 1969/70 campaign. In 1967/68, when Argyle were relegated from the second tier to the third, Bickle scored more than a quarter (10) of Argyle’s total league goals (38).
Perhaps Mike’s most well-remembered goalscoring achievement was his four-goal haul in a 6-0 victory over Torquay United at Home Park on Boxing Day, 1969, in front of more than 17,000 fans. Along with an emerging Norman Piper, Bickle helped dismantle the Gulls in a game that lives long in the memory for many Argyle supporters.
The four-goal feat was Bickle’s second in an Argyle shirt; he had scored four times in a 7-1 win over Cardiff in October 1966. Mike is one of only two men to have scored four or more in a game for Argyle twice. The other is Maurice Tadman.
By the 1970/71 season, injuries were beginning to affect Mike’s ability to play regularly, and early in the following campaign he was sold to Gillingham for £7,000. The Gills manager, Andy Nelson, was a former Argyle team-mate of Bickle’s.
In 1972, Mike was badly injured in an on-pitch collision, and though he would attempt a comeback following a neck injury, he was forced to retire aged 29.
In May 1973, Home Park staged the Mike Bickle Testimonial Match, against First Division side Manchester City. More than 12,000 attended the fixture, an indication of what a beloved figure Bickle was among the Green Army.
This has not changed. Returning to the city, and working in Devonport Dockyard before his retirement, Mike was a regular visitor to Home Park, and will always be talked about in the same breath as the litany of great forwards to have graced the Theatre of Greens through the years.
Our love and best wishes go to all of his family and friends. Thanks for everything, Mike.