Who Are These Jobbers?
I like Paul Whitehouse. In fact, I bloody love Paul Whitehouse. In creating The Fast Show, he gave the world arguably the best sketch show ever to grace television. His genius made characters such as “Unlucky” Alf, Ron Manager, Rowley Birkin QC, Ted and Ralph, Ken and Kenneth and The 13th Duke of Wybourne into icons of British comedy.
It is a show that stood the test of time. It is one that I would discuss at school with my classmates and one that I still kick back with after a long day crafting illuminating away guides. The mastery of Whitehouse, alongside Charlie Higson, John Thomson, Mark Williams and the late Caroline Aherne made those half hours a real treat.
However, when Whitehouse would appear on my television screen donning a Plymouth Argyle shirt shilling insurance I would immediately bow my head and shout “oi, Whitehouse, naaaaaaah”.
The prosthetically bloated Whitehouse would cram into a sensibly-sized hatchback with other fellow Pilgrims going on about how far away Plymouth is from everywhere (WE’LL GET TO THAT). He would end the segment with a cry of “Green Army”, which is not reciprocated by his fellow passengers.
They’re probably all thinking “hey, you remember when Rowley Birkin QC broke from his usual ramblings to produce a heartbreaking tale of lost young love and it made us all nearly cry? And now we’re here sat in the back of this shit motor while he bangs on about car insurance for this endless journey to Newcastle? Bullsh*t this”.
Erm, right, Plymouth Argyle. Well they play in green (thanks Paul), they play a long way away from Sunderland and they’re currently having an absolutely terrible season. They are managed by Derek Adams who upon leaving Ross County in August 2014 pondered to himself “where is literally the furthest football club from Dingwall?”.
So he embarked on the 700-mile trip from the Globe Energy Stadium in the Highlands of Scotland to the Devon port city. Adams got the Pilgrims promoted from League Two in 2016 and almost squeaked them into the League One play-offs after a horrific start last campaign.
Beating Plymouth Argyle, Paul, is very much like making love to a beautiful woman, first you travel 600 miles, then you…(YES I KNOW SWISS TONI WAS A CHARLIE HIGSON CHARACTER I’M DOING A BIT HERE FFS).
What’s The Ground Like?
Who’s ready for a football stadium next to a leisure centre? Plymouth is about to deliver. While it may not have the League One je ne sais quois of Shrewsbury and Doncaster, per se, Home Park is trying its very best to tow the line of isolated lower league football grounds.
It does, however, buck the trend in this regard as Argyle have been running out at the Theatre of Greens (I genuinely haven’t made that up) since 1901. So it has witnessed all the highs and lows The Pilgrims have encountered such as *checks notes* clinching the Western Football League title in 1905, winning the Southern Football League in 1913 and pumping Chesterfield 7-0 in 2004.
It has been redeveloped numerous times during its existence and is currently undergoing yet another facelift as the Mayflower Stand is being ploughed down to make way for a shiny new grandstand. Home Park was also selected as a host city for the ill-fated England 2018 World Cup bid which would have seen them lumbered with a 46,000-seater stadium.
Probably best we didn’t win it.
How Do I Get There?
Can we please stop going on about how far Plymouth is from Sunderland? You knew this when the fixtures were announced, stop trying to gain uber fan points, you petty, petty people. “It’s over 800-mile round trip”, yes, we know, everybody knows. Shall we just get on with this?
Right, driving. Take the A1 (M) to Doncaster before switching to the M1 and follow this bad boy until junction 23A exiting for the M42 before joining the M5 heading towards Bristol. Once you pass Exeter, you’re on to the sexily named Devon Expressway (or A38 to you and me) and simply follow the signs for Plymouth.
Home Park is well signposted as you exit for the A386 (Outland Road) and is situated on your right hand side. There is free car parking at the stadium on a first-come-first-served basis or you could head into the nearby city centre and find a parking spot there.
Planning on getting lost? Fear not - just put PL2 3DQ in your sat nav.
You big dawgs, that stumble off the train from the north-east, all bleary-eyed from cracking open your first can at 4am - Plymouth railway station is about a 20-minute walk away.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at an eye-watering 4.30am with return fares priced at £55. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
As everyone keeps banging on about, Plymouth is a bloody long way from Sunderland so you’re probably going to want to have a beer or a Coca-Cola or a refreshing pint of orange cordial and water with git loads of ice in (they are the absolute best). Don’t worry, as your pal, Cans & Megabus, knows all the hip joints around this charming port town.
As is customary on our League One odyssey, you can kick back with a few drops of the good stuff at the local club, the Hyde Park Social Club on St Gabriel’s Avenue to be precise. For just £2 you could be mixing with the sea of the Green Army and the ground is just a 15-minute walk away.
However, if like me, the mere thought of that sounds like complete hell let’s try the city centre. Luckily, the Plymouth Herald decided in 2017 to compile the “17 best pubs in Plymouth for proper beer” - so let’s peruse.
The West Hoe on Bishops Place overlooks the harbour and sells a lovely drop of Doom Bar while The Dolphin Hotel on The Barbican (also overlooking a harbour) is described as a “Plymouth institution steeped in history” - so, I guess that’s good.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little closer to the station then The Nowhere Inn on Gilwell Street is the cornerstone of Plymouth’s punk scene and, as such, will be absolutely class. You can also pitch up at the achingly trendy Bread & Roses Free House on Ebrington Street which has a range of organic ales, lagers, ciders and a banging selection of pub snacks.
Wetherspoons Reprobate Corner sponsored by Ruddles and stained carpet - Union Rooms on Union Street.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
It’s a long way to Plymouth an….I KNOW PLEASE JUST DROP THIS WE’RE ALMOST AT THE END GOD FORBID YOU’VE EVER BEEN TO P*SSING DEVON PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA DRIVE THREE HOURS JUST TO GO TO THE SUPERMARKET.
Okay, you’re staying over. We’ve established that. Aye, because it’s a lon….I SWEAR TO GOD. With a night in Devon’s premier city (sorry Exeter), you will no doubt want to spend it watching a Metallica tribute band, in a venue just outside of the city. That’s right, because Metallica Reloaded are hitting up The Wharf in Tavistock on Saturday.
Alternatively, why not enjoy a leisurely stroll along Five Gold Anchor Marina and watch all the yachts belonging to people much richer than you float into shore. You can follow my lead and enjoy a game of crazy golf on the incredibly named Plymouth Hoe and see, if like me, you can bag that free game by sinking a hole-in-one on the 18th.
You can also see the imposing Smeaton’s Tower - the “centrepiece” of the city and one of the most recognisable landmarks in the south-west - which has been a Plymouth ever-present since 1759. And if that doesn’t take your fancy then the National Marine Aquarium certainly will with over over 70 sharks from ten different species to gawp at.