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The first Argyle football club was thought to have been formed in September 1886 by former college and public school pupils who wished to continue playing the game. The reason for the name Argyle however is more open to conjecture. One story is that the founder members of the club were impressed with the footballing skills of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were stationed in the area whilst the more likely explanation is that the team was named after a local street or terrace. It was fashionable to do so at the time due to Queen Victoria's great interest in Scotland and Argyle Terrace in Mutley is thought to be have been the inspiration.

What is certain is that, as part of the Argyle Athletic Club, the Argyle Football Club played its first game on October 9th 1886 against Dunheved College. By the turn of the century the Argyle Athletic Club was a prominent local establishment and comprised of not just football and athletics teams but also cricket and rugby sides. Leading members of the club at this time were the Spooner brothers, Clarence, Guy, John and Stanley. Interest in the professional game was stimulated by the visit to the area of several of the countries leading sides and in 1903 the decision was made to set up a professional club in the city. Plymouth Argyle were formed and elected to the Southern League in 1903. The team also gained entry to the Western League, which although a first team competition was considered to be inferior in quality.

New team manager Frank Brettell put together a mature side to compete in Argyles inaugural season. The clubs first professional match was in the Western League on September 1st 1903 at West Ham United and they made their Southern league debut four days later at home to Northampton Town. Argyle also competed in the FA Cup in that first season and gained a famous draw in the first round proper against that seasons eventual league champions Sheffield Wednesday. The early years were a difficult time for the club. Financial problems stemmed from falling attendances due to the draw of two rugby teams in the city. From 1907-1910 the club operated without a manager due to the economic situation and decisions were made by a management committee. It was only thanks to the Spooner brothers that the club survived when faced with liquidation. Robert Jack returned to manage the side in 1910 and when Clarence Spooner formed a new company to take over the running of the business the club prospered both on and off the field.

Argyle won the Southern League in 1913 but this progress was interrupted by the outbreak of war. The league resumed in 1919 and Argyle competed in the Southern League for one further season before joining the newly formed Third Division of the Football League. For six consecutive seasons from 1921 to 1927 Argyle finished second in Division Three South prompting many people to insinuate that the club did not want promotion. This myth was dispelled when Argyle won a place in Division Two for the first time in their history in 1930. The team struggled to 18th in that first season but in 1931 finished fourth, a league placing that has since been equalled but never bettered. Over the next few years Argyle achieved a consistency never matched since, but as the 1930's neared their completion and with the team going through a period of change the league positions dropped lower and lower. The league programme was abandoned after the outbreak of the Second World War and Argyle competed in the South West Regional League, a geographically arranged competition which they won.

The first season after the war saw Argyle compete in the temporary Football League South. This campaign saw an incredible 72 players wear the green shirts during a season where Argyle often struggled to put together a side and on many occasions had to borrow 'guest' players from other clubs. The standard of the opposition was also high and included many First Division teams so it was no surprise that Argyle won only three matches. A period of struggle and team re-building followed which culminated in relegation in 1950. In 1952 Argyle regained their place in Division Two and the following season, with the team near the top of the table, top flight football looked a distinct possibility. However a record equalling fourth place was still far better than had been expected. Such standards could not be maintained and within two seasons the team had once again been relegated. Major changes on and off the field then took place with a new manager, players and directors coming into the club and a strengthened side took just two seasons to regain a place in Division Two. Despite several managerial changes in the ensuing years Argyle survived for nine seasons in the higher division.

In 1964/5, Argyle managed to reach the semi-final of the fledgling League Cup. Progressively lower finishes in the league led to relegation in 1968 and it took Argyle seven years to once more regain their place in Division Two. Argyle again reached the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1973/4 beating a host of First Division clubs on the way. The usual pattern of a brief spell in Division Two followed by a struggle to get out of Division Three continued throughout the 1970's and 1980's. This normality was punctuated with occasional moments to remember such as the FA Cup semi-final appearance in 1984 and the wonderful promotion season of 1985/6. Argyle's proud history of never having been in the bottom division came to an end with relegation to Division Three in 1995. The team however bounced straight back up by winning the play-offs whilst achieving the clubs first ever visit to Wembley Stadium. The higher league placing could not be sustained and Argyle again fell into the bottom division in 1998.

Argyle returned to Division Two in style, winning the Third Division in 2001-02 with a record 102 points and setting numerous club records along the way, including 27 clean sheets and a 19 match unbeaten run.

After one consolidation season in Division Two, Paul Sturrock led his team to the top of the league in 2003-04. Despite Sturrock leaving towards the end of the season, the team finished the job under new manager Bobby Williamson, winning Division Two and gaining promotion to The Championship. After comfortably keeping Argyle up in his first full season Williamson was sacked early in 2005-06, after a poor start to the campaign. He was replaced, temporarily, by Jocky Scott and then by Tony Pulis. Pulis stabilised the club but after a 14th place finish was lured back to Stoke City following a change of ownership at his former club.

Ian Holloway became Argyle's new manager and enjoyed a highly successful 17 months at the club, including an FA Cup quarter-final and an ever improving league position. He then stunningly resigned to take over at Leicester City. It was an easy decision for the Argyle board of directors to then bring Paul Sturrock back to the club. The club narrowly avoided relegation in 2008-09 in Sturrock's first full season back in charge.

A new era began at Home Park in July 2009 when, after many months of speculation, a boardroom takeover was completed, led by new Chairman Sir Roy Gardner and Japanese investor Yasuaki Kagami. However, the decline on the pitch continued and Paul Sturrock was relieved of his duties midway through the season, replaced by his recently acquired head coach Paul Mariner. The former Argyle striker was unable to arrest the slide though, and the season ended with relegation to League One.


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