Monsieur Salut writes: Mike Arthur* is a salt-of-the-earth Cornishman, so much so that we can forgive him for being not only the president of the Plymouth branch of the Argyle Supporters’ Club but also a supporter of Manchester United. As many will know, I don’t really hold with having a second team (unless it’s Shildon in my case). But Mike’s attachment to the Red Devils dates from the same horrific event that drew so many of us, if most only briefly, to the nation’s United love-in: Munich.
Mike, a retired police superintendent, is recovering from a hip injury sustained when some oaf reversed into him as he crossed a road. But despite advancing years – he’s 76 – he’ll be there for our match and also hopes to travel up to Sunderland for the return towards the end of the season. Now why is it that his own pessimism – optimism as seen by us when anyone says we’re going to win a game with ease – has me worried? …
Salut! Sunderland: great result at Scunthorpe (4-1) after an awful start to the season but what would it take to get Plymouth Argyle out of immediate danger and aim for higher things?
Mike Arthur: couldn’t be simpler. We just need to string some wins together. Like lots of clubs, we’ve lost a lot to injuries – 10 of ours are out – so getting a few of them back would help. It didn’t matter losing 5-0 to Chelsea Under 21s in the Checkatrade as we don’t really care about that. We just need some wins in the league.
The Australian comedian Adam Hills – yep, we approached him for this edition of Who are You? but were told it couldn’t happen – is reportedly an Argyle fan. Tongue in cheek but to support a lower league club, especially one near the bottom, does a sense of humour help?
I’ll be honest. I’ve never thought of it like that. We’re football supporters so we take things a bit more seriously. It wasn’t funny to lose 3-2 at home to Burton Albion in a game we should have won.
How did you become drawn to a bigger club?
The Munich tragedy really affected me. Like most boys then, I loved Duncan Edwards and from 1958 become a Man Utd supporter, even going to games as long as they didn’t clash with Plymouth Argyle’s, I must have got to 14 or 15 United games last season.
The manager Derek Adams has criticised sections of the Argyle support for their reaction to this season’s disappointments. Misplaced comments or does he have a point? And do you believe the side is strong enough, and the manager good enough, to climb the table?
The fans were wrong. Because of the Mayflower Grandstand work, he had to walk straight past them and got a lot of stick. Every one is entitled to an opinion, and to be critical, but there should be no place for effing and blinding. There is no one who works harder for this club than Derek. He’s there almost non-stop. He’s done well before and needs a chance now.
You have a keeper, Matt Macey, on loan from Arsenal and a midfielder, Stuart O’Keefe, from Cardiff. Are there other members of the squad who catch the eye?
Macey’s a good shot-stopper though he’s not always great with corners. But when we went 2-1 up at Scunthorpe and they got a goal ruled out for offside, we would have expected at 2-2 to go on and lose. Macey went on to make some really good saves.
What have been you highlights of supporting Argyle?
Two stick out: obviously going to Wembley the first time – a 1-0 win against Darlington in the 1996 Third Division playoff final. But also the FA cup games against Liverpool in 2017. We drew at Anfield and that was a proud moment even though we lost the replay. I never expected to hear Liverpool fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at a game against us.
And the low points? going into administration. And relegations, of course.
Are there particular players who, for one reason or another, have given you most pleasure in Plymouth colours? Paul Mariner, who also returned briefly as manager, must be among them.
Paul was a good ‘un. But I go back to 1950 and men like Neil Dougall. Scored lots of goals for us. But following football then was completely different from what we expect to see now.
And can you think of anyone who should have been allowed nowhere near Home Park? It’s a difficult question but no. I am firm believer that players generally give of their best.
Bobby Saxton, Bobby Moncur and Peter Reid are obvious links between our clubs – all having managed Argyle as well as playing (Moncur), managing (Reid) and being assistant manager (Saxton) for us. What thoughts do you have on any of them and on Sunderland AFC?
Bobby Moncur was a good player for you and others and a good manager for us, Bobby Saxton was a good player then manager and Peter Reid I actually met in one of my rare occasions in the directors’ lounge.
Were you surprised by Sunderland’s sharp decline and successive relegations? Yes I was. I also go back to the days of Len Shackleton. The North East is such a hotbed of football that it was a shock, yes.
I am fond of Sunderland. I follow England home and away and went to the match against Australia at the Stadium of Light. I loved the stadium and hope to get back there when our return game comes up next March. It’s the game all our travelling fans want to go to. Lots of people are already planning the long trip.
Hand on heart, where will the clubs finish this season? If we finish a place above relegation we’ll probably be happy, so anything better would be a bonus. But I just don’t want to be relegated again; the standard of football in League Two is appalling and if we did go down, I might not renew my season ticket and just get to a few games. As for Sunderland, quite simply you should go up.
What did you make of the World Cup? I had tickets that just went begging after my accident. Someone knocked me over as I crossed the road while on holiday in Cornwall and I am still on crutches. I would have loved to be there.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Yes, I’ll be there and, I hope, for the return game. There’s a lot of interest in the game at Home Park and you’re bringing so many fans. I wouldn’t be surprised it you won by three or four goals. If we got a draw, we’d be delighted.
Mike Arthur on himself: I’m retired police officer – started in the old Cornish Constabulary before it became part of Devon and Cornwall police and attended my first Plymouth Argyle game in 1950.
Interview. Colin Randall