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Ipswich Town v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1

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Fan Focus: Plymouth fan Joe chats about facing Sunderland, Bali Mumba & life after promotion!

Ahead of Sunderland’s trip to Home Park we spoke to Plymouth fan Joe Bell of Argyle Life to find out how they’re getting on at Championship level, armed with former SAFC academy prospect Bali Mumba on the wing!

Photo by Kevin Hodgson/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Plymouth were promoted as champions last season with an incredible 101 points, how do you think the team is adapting to Championship life?

I do think our performances don’t necessarily reflect our points tally or our position.

We’ve been typically strong at home bar a couple of blips and remained largely competitive on the road which has already featured some stern tests.

On the whole, I think we’ve acquitted ourselves adequately.

After a steady start, Argyle have won just one in your last eight matches - do you think manager Steven Schumacher’s job is safe after what he has achieved, or is he coming under pressure?

The easiest answer I’ll give - he’s under zero pressure other than the pressure he puts on himself.

Nobody is questioning him. I’d argue that the way to look at that statistic is of the four defeats in those eight games, two have come at Leeds and at Ipswich. Both games were decided by a single goal and we were competitive in both games.

Leeds United v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet Championship
Steven Schumacher has managed over 100 games for Plymouth, after taking over from Ryan Lowe in December 2021.
Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

At home, Plymouth have scored 20 goals in eight matches so far - what makes your side so dangerous at Home Park?

It’s no secret that in recent seasons, Home Park has become an incredibly tough place to visit.

At home, we play with a freedom that is a joy to watch. We get forward with pace and in numbers and we’re always a constant threat and with 16,000 in the stadium every week, it can get quite loud when things go our way!

Moving onto the players, ex-Sunderland midfielder Bali Mumba has established himself as a wing-back at Plymouth, were fans delighted to see him return permanently in the summer?

I think this was the more surprising deal of the summer purely because of how good he was last season, his age and that Norwich were clearly short in that position.

He’s playing much further forward now because he’s better attacking than defending and he’s slowly adapting to what’s required to play at this level.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Bali Mumba made 10 appearances for Sunderland, making his debut as Sunderland’s youngest ever captain.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Another former Sunderland defender, Brendon Galloway, really struggled at this level during a loan spell on Wearside, how would you summarise his spell with your club?

It’s a real shame for Galloway because nobody can doubt the quality he possesses, but he’s just been so unfortunate with his injuries.

We’ve given him every chance and maybe when he returns this time he can put it behind him, but there’ll always be a question mark hanging over him.

Sunderland midfielder Jay Matete was part of your promotion side last season on loan, is he someone you would welcome back when he returns from injury?

I liked Matete. Thought he played with a real aurora about him last season, even if he did end up being a card magnet.

It’s a shame to see he got injured earlier this season. We will be looking for another midfielder in January I’d imagine, but I’d be a little surprised if it was Jay.

Bolton Wanderers v Plymouth Argyle - Papa John’s Trophy Final
Jay Matete made 22 appearances for Plymouth last season, scoring once.
Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Looking at the danger-men, Morgan Whittaker and Ryan Hardie are Argyle’s top scorers this season - what makes them so deadly?

Like most in the squad, they play without fear, with full confidence and they just love scoring.

Morgan’s key is happiness and being in Devon and at Argyle has given him that in his life.

Ryan is just such a good, intelligent centre-forward.

Aside from the above-mentioned players, who do you think will cause Sunderland problems?

Finn Azaz has taken his time to get up to fitness since rejoining from Aston Villa on loan but he’s really stepped up now to be such a threat.

Lewis Gibson has been excellent at centre-back since arriving from Everton and well Michael Cooper… is Michael Cooper. That kid is going far in the game.

Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Sunderland’s last visit to Home Park ended in a 0-0 draw back in 2022.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How would you describe Schumacher’s style of play and which eleven players do you think he will select?

Fearless, confident and attacking. They’ll give the utmost respect to their opponents, but reputations and outside noise mean nothing to this group and that’s what makes them so exciting.

Schumacher isn’t a stranger to a bit of selection roulette but providing they’re fit in time, my starting XI would be: Cooper, Kesler-Hayden, Pleguezelo, Gibson, Miller, Azaz, Houghton, Cundle, Whittaker, Hardie, Mumba.

Sunderland are unbeaten at Home Park since 2004 - what is your prediction for the final score?

We’re due a home win over Sunderland albeit you have to respect the quality of the side that Tony Mowbray, who is a manager I have a great amount of respect for has assembled.

However, our record at Home Park is impressive and there will be goals, I do think we will get something out of it and I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.


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