Plymouth Argyle is reaping the rewards of youth development and with more to come


There was an important point about the continued development of Plymouth Argyle as a football club which may have been overlooked following the 2-1 win over Ipswich Town.

League One executives had three academy graduates aged 22 or younger in their starting lineup and all of them excelled in front of 16,000 fans in a sold-out Home Park.

They were the talented trio of goalie Mike Cooper (22), midfielder Adam Randell and forward Luke Jephcott (both 21).

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Cooper has always been around this season, starting all 16 league games while Jephcott only missed one game and that was due to a Wales Under-21s call-up.

However, for Randell it was his full league debut after nine previous substitute appearances and he seized the opportunity superbly.

For a team at the top of the third tier of English football, having three of their own young players developed from such a prestigious game is a reward for the Argyle academy.

And there seems to be a lot more in the pipeline, following in the footsteps of Cooper, Randell, and Jephcott.

Ryan Law and 17-year-old midfielder Will Jenkins-Davies – just after signing his first professional contract – were both among the substitutes against Ipswich but did not enter the pitch.

There are also eight other academy products that have appeared for the Pilgrims senior squad, albeit primarily in two Papa John Trophy group games.

Forward Rhys Shirley has made three league appearances and also scored his first goal when he came off the bench in the 4-1 Carabao Cup loss to Swansea City on August 24.

Defender Ollie Tomlinson started in that second round game at Liberty Stadium, while Finley Craske, Carlo Garside, Freddie Issaka, Oscar Massey, Brandon Pursall and Angel Waruih all contested for the Pap John’s Trophy.

For his part, manager Ryan Lowe is committed to giving young talents a chance, with an important condition attached to it.

Lowe said: “It’s part of our philosophy, our structure and our plan of what we want to try to do with these players.

“We want to get them through, but first and foremost they have to be good enough. If they keep doing what they’re doing, they will have opportunities.”

Randell had the opportunity to make his first start in the Argyle League because Jordan Houghton, still in the midfielder role this season, was serving a one game suspension and Lowe was delighted with his display.

Midfielder Adam Randell, 21, made his first league start for Argyle in the 2-1 win over Ipswich Town at Home Park on Saturday, October 30, 2021 – Photo: Dave Rowntree / PPAUK

“I love Rands – we all love him in pieces,” said the Pilgrims boss. “We know what it is. Sometimes he tries too hard.

“He’s a boy from Plymouth and to make his Ligue 1 debut in front of 16,000 I think it will be remembered and remembered by his family.

“To be honest, he was probably the man of the match for me because everything he did was simple and efficient.

Rands learned one of the best in the division in that ‘number four’ position, and that’s Jordan Houghton. So when he goes and does what he’s done (against Ipswich), then he becomes a good player.

“Now the goal for Rands is to keep doing the right things, and when he’s called upon to play like he did. I’m really happy.”

Lowe added, “Rands is a fantastic talent, the same with Ryan Law. They’re ready, they’re next to be called up.

“All last week he was like a possessed man, he was brilliant every day in training. I said ‘It’s because you felt there is an opportunity that you could start’ and he grabbed it, so fair play for him. “

Jephcott, who scored Argyle’s 44th-minute tying goal against Ipswich with his sixth goal of the season, was also impressed with Randell against Ipswich.

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The forward said: “I thought he was unreal. He showed real composure on the ball and real maturity. It didn’t look like his first start.

“Looks like he’s been around for quite a while. Every day in training he’s improving and I think the Gaffer trusts him, like he trusts everyone else, to just come in and realize a performance like he did. “

The emergence of Cooper and Jephcott, in particular, under Lowe was one of the highlights of his tenure as manager.

In those two players, Argyle has some talented players who gained a lot of league experience at a young age and could charge a seven-figure transfer fee if they were to move on at some point.

At the moment, however, with the Pilgrims flying high, they gain so much for their development being key parts of the team’s current success.

They are also role models for everyone else in the academy pipeline because Cooper and Jephcott have made it this far, so why can’t the others do the same?

Were you impressed with the players produced by Argyle Academy? Post your responses in our comments section HERE:

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