Sacked by Plymouth, but a big future awaits Carl Fletcher

Michael Holden
Carl Fletcher 300x225 Sacked by Plymouth, but a big future awaits Carl Fletcher

Carl Fletcher

Football is a results business and nobody understands that better than Carl Fletcher right now. The 32-year-old rookie had the worst possible start to 2013 – he was sacked by Plymouth on New Year’s Day, just moments after his team were beaten 2-1 by a Bristol Rovers team buoyed by the arrival of a new manager.

That the fatal blow should be delivered by John Ward in the oppositng dugout was ironic. It was only a month ago that Ward was on the brink of joining Plymouth to work alongside Fletcher as director of football. Instead, he performed a U-turn when the Pirates came calling in their search for a successor to Mark McGhee.

Some might say the writing was on the wall for Fletcher once owner James Brent had approached a seasoned campaigner like Ward but it had long been apparent that Fletcher needed some help and he seemed genuinely open to the prospect of being advised by the former Carlisle and Colchester boss.

Indeed, Fletcher was the first to admit he was out of his depth. He was a first-time manager working for a first-time owner with nobody else to point them in the right direction. Both men had the best intentions and no shortage of initiative, but neither had any experience of running a football club – never mind one that had endured such hardship in recent times.

For Fletcher, it was the administrative side of the job that was proving most obstructive. But, equally, it was also clear that he needed help in the transfer market. He needed someone with better contacts, somebody able to pull a few strings to get him a better class of player.

Because when you look beyond the league table and analyse Argyle’s results in detail, accounting for what Fletcher had at his disposal in contrast to the class of opposition, you start to wonder whether he deserved to lose his job at all. Rather, you start to wonder how things might have been different had he been given the right guidance by a more experienced right-hand man.

When Fletcher picked up the reins in September 2011, Plymouth were rooted to the bottom of the Football League with just one point from nine matches. They looked doomed. However, soon enough, he began to make a difference. The recovery was slow but, over the next seven months, real progress was made and relegation was averted.

Come mid-January, Argyle were out of the bottom two. By Easter, they were all but safe with a 1-0 win over Aldershot. Having lost eight of the first nine matches, they would only lose a further 12 in the remaining 37. And yet it was all achieved with modest transfer activity, most of the repairs were carried out on the training ground.

Fletcher didn’t have much control over many things that were going on around him but he had remarkable control over the two things that mattered most: results and performances. In terms of personnel, Plymouth weren’t a top-half team by any stretch of the imagination and yet they finished last term undefeated in 19 matches against bottom-half opposition. Predictably, their record against top-half opposition was dismal, but only three times in 18 matches did they suffer defeat by two clear goals.

Given Plymouth’s limitations, it was an outstanding show of uncertainty avoidance and it marks Fletcher out as a highly-promising young coach with the in-built leadership credentials to one day be his own man. You simply don’t get that level of consistency in League Two unless the players are hanging on your every word.

All of which brings us to the sequence of results that ultimately brought about Fletcher’s demise because the current campaign is laced with similarities to last term. When the Pilgrims played out a 1-1 draw with Torquay on Boxing Day – their 24th in 61 league matches under Fletcher – they had accumulated 22 of their 24 points from 15 matches against the bottom 15.

However, Fletcher entered the Christmas period on the brink of the axe following a run of seven successive matches against top-half opposition. Naturally, the Pilgrims had mustered just one point from that sequence but only once had they been comfortably beaten. It was the same old story but now the randomness of the fixture list was having an impact on the league table and testing Brent’s resolve.

Only time will tell whether it’s possible to glean more from the Argyle players by taking them on a roller-coaster journey of emotional highs and lows, although presumably John Sheridan will use his contacts to recruit better players in any case. Either way, we should probably expect fewer draws.

Meanwhile, as Fletcher said his tearful farewells to the waiting media at the Memorial Stadium, he was left contemplating the future and whether he still has a role to play in football. Taking everything into consideration on the evidence of his first managerial post, he doesn’t just have a future, he has a big future. All he needs is the right guidance.

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  • Casper Joseph

    Absolute dross! Fletcher’s record is awful this season, despite having a budget far in excess of many of the teams in the league (argyle are 3rd in the average attendance table despite being 23rd in the league). Its nothing to do with ‘randomness’ of the fixture list; 24 points from 27 games is terrible, including a recent run of 1 win in 17!. Of the 5 league games won, two of them involve Argyle being awarded 2 penalties!

    Splitting the table into ‘top-half’ and ‘bottom-half’ is pretty meaningless as most of the teams are of pretty similar standard and are therefore clustered together in the middle (10points separates 4th from 18th). Likewise saying that he ‘turned it around’ last season ignores the fact that prior to his appointment we were playing a bunch of players who hadn’t been paid in months are were probably thinking the club might not survive – this included many youth players who were being played because no-one else was available. Being able to improve on that isn’t necessarily a sign of genius.

    Fletcher’s ‘good spell’ last season coincided with the appointment of John Deehan as DoF. Deehan’s departure at the end of last season (apparently partly because Fletcher didn’t want his help) has resulted in Argyle struggling again. A team struggling like Argyle can’t afford to employ a DoF to babysit an inexperienced manager. Its cheaper just to get a more competent manager.

    Fletcher might make a good manager in the future, and I wish him all the best, but to suggest that it was wrong to sack him or that he has a ‘big future’ is just ridiculous.

  • Chris Webb

    It was all bad luck that Carl lost his job. Plagued by injuries to 2 players which lasted a week, and a bad bout of colds that struck down the tea lady for 3 days. This really demoralised the players who had to work out how to use the coffee machine!

    Carl took over the reins in an impossible position. The previous manager had signed all these terrible players, most of them made their league debuts that season and our strikers were awful. Why Peter Reid didn’t splash the cash is beyond me!

    So Carl had to valiantly take over a team that had recently been paid for the first time in months, this meant they were invariably in Nando’s splashing their cash instead of training. Then he had to buy cheap options like Darren Purse on a piddling £6,000 a week, instaed of having the raw hungry players that Reid had at his disposal.

    Carl’s team almost pulled off a real cup shock live on TV which brought in more bothersome funds which the owner said he could use to strengthen the side further, but Stourbridge proved just too good for us. We were hampered by a terrible referee though who sent off 3 of our players in the 2 games, for absolutely nothing.

    So despite meddling from John Deehan and Sean O’Driscoll interrupting his good work, Carl Fletcher single-handedly kept us in the league.

    He was rewarded with a new contract and a competetive budget from the owner, the philanthropic James Brent. Mr Brent was so impressed with Carl Fletcher that he told anyone who would listen that Carl was an exceptional individual, and gave him the money to launch an assault on the play-offs.

    Carl stayed loyal to his deadly strike force of Warren Feeney and Nick Chadwick, 6 goals between them in the previous 3 seasons, and several other players who many thought would be out of the door once there was money to replace them.

    Carl was also busy in the transfer market. Scouring the casualty waiting rooms where he stumbled across a 47 year old fireman with a pan stuck on his head and immediately signed him up because he was Welsh, someone called Lowry who he signed to paint murals on the walls but who turned out to be an injury prone footballer and not a matchstick men painting superstar, and 7 wingers all brought in on loan from higher division clubs.

    These 7 wingers were usually the entire subs bench just in case the 4 wingers already at the club and in the starting XI got puffed out working their socks off.

    After scoring a wonder goal in our 3-0 demolition of high-flying Portsmouth in the League Cup, Irish International Johnny Gorman was sent back to Wolves for showing up the other players with his tekkers. He wasn’t liked by the other youngsters in the squad because he didn’t like Nando’s or FIFA 13, and indeed drew this tweet from a fellow young winger at the club, Milan Cowton-Landing ” He’s booboo boy nuffink said unless he walks the talk in the buff and ting. Shanks a ready beeee ach”

    We have been so unfortunate this season with terrible refs, bobbly pitches that the ball bounces too high for our midget strikers and having to try and play whilst the Argyle Ultras gang, Salsa Verde, with their stunning displays and pounding drumbeat, 750 foot flags that travel all round the ground while the game is on, but only 3 out of 4 weeks as it needs to get cleaned you know.

    This is so distracting while trying to beat AFC Wimbledon at home. Even the new Argyle anthem “We’re sh*t, but we try our best” has failed to lift us as expected. The whooooa, whoooa la la la la la la la la la song is another distracting one, especially with the irregular drum beat pounded out by a boy in his Exeter City shirt.

    We’ve had many great achievements off the pitch, postboxes dedicated to anyone who didn’t win an Olympic medal last summer, a family area which has a supply of plastic seats, coins, darts and toilet rolls ready for the kids to hurl at the away fans next to them, and of course singing “Play up Pompey” to help inspire our opponents in the League Cup.

    Our Cup form has been outstanding. We won a game in the League Cup! And two in the Ronseal varnish trophy, Devon sides who play in green and are called Argyle, southern section, before being beaten narrowly by Totnes Argyle on penalties.

    We didn’t fare quite so well in the F.A.Cup, losing narrowly to Dorchester in a game marred by the TV cameras sticking their noses in everywhere, and another crap ref who sent off our player for merely heatbutting the opposition phsio.

    So yes we have had to wave goodbye to Carl Fletcher with the club in a false position, but we have been inundated with a call from Liverpool who want to know if Carl would be available to be their press spokesman, after hearing his interviews online, and no doubt he will go onto much bigger and better things than Argyle, like Ebbsfleet, and if John Seridan does somehow match Carl’s achievement of last season and keep Argyle from dropping into non-league football, I’m sure that at least 2 Argyle fans will thank Carl Fletcher for his part in the great escape, because you can only have an exciting end of the season if you are battling relegation.

    Good bye and good luck Carl and please come back and visit when you are managing Barcelona, maybe for a pre-season friendly where once again we could fail to score like the 3 we played last season, but still not be worried about needing a striker who could hit a cows ass with a banjo.

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