With battles won on and off the field this season, it was almost inevitable that an ex-player that encapsulated everything bad about the past three years came back to remind us just how far we have come.
Steve MacLean was one of a few signings Argyle wrongly made in the Championship a bid to replace the genuine quality we had sold. We signed MacLean back in 2008 from Cardiff for £500,000 on wages reported to be around the £5000 a week mark. In return we got five goals in three seasons from a player that infamously stuck two fingers up to all four sides of Home Park after scoring a rare goal.
It is safe to say that we should have seen it coming, as MacLean arrived at Home Park on Saturday with Cheltenham Town, who is with the club on loan from Yeovil. There was a real party atmosphere around the ground before kick-off, as we celebrated survival as a football club, and miraculously, our league status that had been secured two games before. There was also the career of Argyle legend Romain Larrieu to celebrate, who had announced he would be hanging up his boots after eleven years of service to the Pilgrims before the game.
The game kicked off with neither side anywhere near full strength. Cheltenham manager Mark Yates chose to rest many key players as their place in this years play-offs were already confirmed, preserving those players made sense. As did the reasons that Carl Fletcher did not play many of our key players in the final game of the season. Some are already having treatment for niggling injuries to make sure they are fresh for the start of next season, whilst others are on four yellow cards – a fifth would mean suspension for the start of the next campaign.
For a game that was essentially a dead rubber, this one provided good entertainment value. Alex MacDonald, in only the second minute of the game, had rounded Brown in the Cheltenham goal, but could not find the net from a tight angle. Then some neat interchange play on the edge of the Robin’s box saw Warren Feeney try his luck, his effort was well saved though.
Then, on the 23rd minute, the inevitable happened.
Steve MacLean hit a free kick from 25 yards out, the ball cruelly deflected off of the legs of the Pilgrims wall leaving Jake Cole wrong footed as the ball diverted the other way and into the net. MacLean made a beeline to the front of the Devonport End, where he stood, hands cupped to ears, goading the Argyle fans. From that point on the party atmosphere disappeared, as many of the chants coming from the Devonport where aimed at MacLean, who seemed to enjoy the attention.
It was made all the more sweeter then, when Juvhel Tsoumou equalised for Argyle just 10 minutes into the second half. The man on loan from Preston crashing home an impressive header from an equally impressive Onismor Bhasera cross to level the scores for all of 60 seconds, as from the restart Cheltenham went straight down the other end and Marlon Pack headed home to ultimately give the visitors the three points.
The result did not change the atmosphere though as goalkeeper Romain Larrieu made his final appearance for the Greens, coming on with five minutes left to a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground; credit the Cheltenham fans for joining in the applause for a player that has spent eleven years at out club.
As the final whistle of the season sounded at Home Park, it took a while for it to settle in properly that we would be playing in League Two next year, and that we can actually look forward to next season. Our club has been dying over the past few seasons, but we are back, and next season our Chairman has indicated he wants to push for promotion so who knows what might happen.
The events of the day just reminded us all exactly the type of player that we never want to see in the Green again, and I hope for Cheltenham’s sake they don’t sign MacLean otherwise they will find out exactly why ourselves, and now Yeovil, detest a player whose attitude stinks more than a slag heap.
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