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Paul Sturrock's fall from grace at Plymouth Argyle

Paul Sturrock
Sturrock now has a business support role with Plymouth Argyle

by Philip Tuckett

For many people associated with Plymouth Argyle, the departure of Paul Sturrock as manager on Thursday was a bittersweet moment.

The Scot oversaw the most successful period in Plymouth's history, when they won two promotions between 2000 and 2004, and he was widely hailed as the club's greatest ever manager.

These achievements proved to be in sharp contrast to the fortunes experienced by the club during Sturrock's second spell in charge, which began in November 2007.

On his return, Sturrock inherited a side that were fourth in the Championship and tipped as outsiders for the play-offs.

It's been a slow death and it's been coming for a long time

John Lloyd, Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association

But a little over two years later, Sturrock's tenure ended with Plymouth second-from-bottom in the league, three points adrift of safety and with only four wins all season.

The question many fans will ask when they look back over this period, is where did it all go wrong for Paul Sturrock and Plymouth Argyle?

BBC Radio Devon's Argyle commentator Gordon Sparks believes money, or a lack of it, lies at the heart of the problem.

"Sturrock's been battling against other clubs with multi-million pound budgets at their disposal, including clubs with parachute payments from the Premier League," he said.

"Those in his defence would say that being manager of Plymouth Argyle is basically playing on an uneven playing field."

Sparks not surprised to see Sturrock go

Keeping their star players away from the prying eyes of richer clubs has always been a problem for Plymouth and, like his predecessor Ian Holloway, Sturrock found it difficult to hold on to the club's most valuable assets.

In the months after Sturrock's return, a mass exodus of players ensued from Home Park, with David Norris, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Dan Gosling, Peter Halmosi and Akos Buzsaky all heading for the exit door.

Plymouth ended the 2007/8 season ninth in the Championship, just short of the play-offs, but good enough to retain hopes of more to come.

But over the summer of 2008 Sturrock brought in several big-name players including Emile Mpenza and Simon Walton, whose reputations were never enhanced in the green shirt of Argyle.

The Pilgrims subsequently struggled that season and only just managed to fight off relegation, finishing just one place and five points above the drop-zone.

In July 2009, a Japanese-led consortium took control of Plymouth Argyle and a renewed hope for the future was evident at Home Park.

But once again, Sturrock's charges failed to cope with the challenge of Championship football and the current season has been plagued by defeats, with only four wins gained.

John Lloyd from the Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association told BBC Radio Devon he believes the dire situation at Home Park left the board with little option but to remove Sturrock.

"It's been a slow death and it's been coming for a long time," said Lloyd.

"It's been a crushing, relentless logic that something had to change.

"I've been pretty much behind Paul Sturrock fairly consistently all the way through this season even though there's not been a lot of evidence to keep with that opinion.

"I think the board had to do something."

Looking at the statistics for Sturrock's second-spell with the Pilgrims does not make for pretty reading, with 100 matches only bringing 28 wins, alongside 22 draws and most significantly, 50 defeats.


Since the start of 2009, Argyle have only won four games at home and have only taken all three points in nine of their last 47 league games.

But despite the disappointing end to Sturrock's reign, the Scot will never be forgotten for his achievements between 2000 and 2004, when Plymouth Argyle threatened to make a meteoric rise from the bottom to the top flight in English football.

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see also
Mariner in for Sturrock at Argyle
10 Dec 09 |  Plymouth
In pictures: Paul Sturrock
10 Dec 09 |  People and Places
Swansea 1-0 Plymouth
08 Dec 09 |  Championship
Mariner set for Plymouth return
18 Oct 09 |  Plymouth
Scot buoyed by Mariner's arrival
29 Oct 09 |  Plymouth
Seip available for Plymouth game
07 Oct 09 |  Plymouth
Sturrock determined to fight on
28 Aug 09 |  Plymouth
Sturrock returns as Plymouth boss
27 Nov 07 |  Plymouth

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