Argyle visit the Hawthorns after 14 year absence

West Bromwich Albion v Plymouth Argyle; The Hawthorns, Saturday 21st October 2023, 3pm

Domestic football returns this weekend with Albion entertaining Plymouth Argyle for the first time since September 2009 with the Devon club having won promotion last summer to reach the second tier since that 2009/10 season when they exited the Championship in the opposite direction to the Baggies.

Pilgrims boss, Steven Schumacher, is in his first job as a permanent number one having been promoted from the role of assistant manager at Home Park when Ryan Lowe left to take the job at Preston North End in December 2021. Argyle challenged for a play-off place that season but they picked up just two points from their last four games to finish seventh. Last season, however, they led the pack for much of the season as three clubs vied it out for the two automatic promotion places. The Devonians managed to hold off the challenge of Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday winning their last six matches to claim the League One title with an impressive 101 points.

Unlike runners-up Ipswich Town, Plymouth have not found life in the Championship quite as easy and they are currently in 18th place having won just one of their last six matches. That was, however, an impressive 6-2 win over Norwich City at Home Park, but they have since picked up just one point, thanks to a 1-1 draw at Hull City, and have lost their last two games at home to Millwall and Swansea City. They are yet to win away from home in this campaign, with their only other point on the road coming courtesy of a 0-0 draw with Watford back in August. That is one of only two matches in which they have failed to score this season, the other being a 2-0 home defeat to Millwall, and their goal tally matches Albion’s 18 in the Championship this season, albeit 12 of those have come in their three victories. They have recorded just two clean sheets so far in the league, and none since the 3-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers at the beginning of September.

Argyle signed ten players over the summer including former Baggies youth player, Finn Azaz, who joined on loan from Aston Villa. The young Irish midfielder has scored twice already this season in eleven appearances having also spent last season on loan at Home Park when he found the net on eight occasions. Other new signings include Morgan Whitaker who made his loan move from Swansea City last season into a permanent one, and Luke Cundle who has joined on loan from Wolves – both have scored four goals each in this campaign as the preferred pair behind central striker, and top scorer with five, Ryan Hardie.

Carlos Corberán has some decisions to make after the injury curse struck again in the last match at Birmingham with top scorer, John Swift, limping off. The former Reading man is not expected to play until after the November international break but, while it is an obvious blow to the team, it does offer others to stake their claim.

Swift was ostensibly playing on the left of a front three but was more of a number ten in reality with Matt Phillips providing the width on that side. As a left-sided forward, Grady Diangana is the obvious option with Sarmiento also out injured, although Phillips could move further forward with Conor Townsend coming in at left wing back.

An alternative option could be to play BTA and Wallace as a front two bring in Alex Mowatt as an orthodox number ten. Mowatt has impressed in central midfield in recent matches and he has the eye for a pass, as well as an eye for goal, and could perform well further forward.

I think that is unlikely, however, with Corberán likely to stick with the formation that has served him well in recent games, even allowing for the disappointing defeat at St Andrew’s. However, if he decides to give BTA another rest with another three game week coming up (albeit the third game is not until the Monday evening), it may be an option to consider.

This match is the first in a run of five until the next international break which include three home games against sides that the Baggies would expect to beat, along with two tricky away trips to Coventry City and Southampton. Despite dropping down to 11th after the defeat at St Andrew’s, Albion remain in touch with the top six but probably need to pick up at least eight points from these five games in order to remain in the mix. If the Baggies can achieve that with their current injury problems, it will bode well for the remainder of the campaign.

Three points against Plymouth Argyle would be a great start and, against a team that is struggling for form, it is a result that Corberán’s team should achieve. However, we all know that the Championship is an incredibly difficult division to predict!


More than thirteen years have passed since Albion last met Plymouth Argyle – Roberto di Matteo’s team completed a league double over the Pilgrims, who were then managed by former England striker Paul Mariner, who had started his playing career at Home Park. Mariner had taken over from Paul Sturrock in October 2009 for what proved to be his only job as a manager in English football.

In the last match between the sides at the Hawthorns, in September 2009 when Sturrock was still in charge of Argyle, Albion’s goalscorers were Shelton Martis, only of only two he scored for the Baggies, and Marek Čech who scored the only two goals he recorded in an Albion shirt.

Argyle were relegated that season and this campaign is their first in the Championship since then having jumped between League One and League Two in the intervening years. England’s most southerly league club have never played top flight football, their highest league finish being 4th in Division Two in 1931/32. They also came close in the very first season of Football League play-offs in 1986/87 – in a play-off spot with three games to go, they lost their last three games of the campaign and finished seventh.

With Albion spending most of their first century of existence in the top flight, the two clubs didn’t meet until 1930 but it was the Pilgrims who had the better of the early encounters. The Throstles managed just one win in the first eight meetings, a 4-2 win at the Hawthorns on the last day of 1938, but won five successive games over Argyle from October 1948 including two in the FA Cup in the sixties.

The 3-0 win at the Hawthorns in October 1948, when Jack Haines, Davy Walsh and Cyril Williams were on target, is Albion’s biggest home win over Plymouth, but they did better it at Home Park in the third round of the FA Cup in January 1963. Bobby Cram, Derek Kevan (2), Keith Smith and a John Newman own goal saw the visitors through to the next round with a comprehensive 5-1 victory.

Argyle have their own fond memories of the FA Cup, however, with their run to the semi-final in 1984 including a win over the Baggies. It was supposed to be John Giles’ triumphant return to the club he had guided to promotion in 1976 when he took over from Ron Wyle in February 1984. His first match was what was expected to be a routine FA Cup fifth round home win over Third Division Plymouth, but the visitors won 1-0 thanks to Tommy Tynan’s goal. Argyle went on to beat Derby County in the sixth round before losing out to Watford in the semi-final at Villa Park.

That may be the Pilgrims’ most famous win at the Hawthorns, but the biggest was in the third tier nine years later. In April 1993, Ardiles’ Baggies were chasing promotion but mid-table Plymouth paid no attention to form with a spectacular victory. Bob Taylor gave Albion an early lead before Steve Castle equalised before completing a hat trick with two more either side of half time. Paul Dalton and Martin Barlow extended the visitors’ lead before Kevin Donovan’s late strike made the final score 5-2.

A win for Albion would only bring them level on the head-to-head, with a 3-0 home win needed to make it level on goals as well!

Stat Attack

Current Form

Albion D D D W W L
Plymouth Argyle L L W D L L

All competitions; most recent game on the right

Last matches

Last meeting

6 Feb 2010 – League Championship
Plymouth Argyle 0
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Cox)

Last meeting at the Hawthorns

12 Sep 2009 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 3 (Martis, Cech (2))
Plymouth Argyle 1 (Mackie)

Albion’s Record against Plymouth Argyle

  Overall   Home
  P W D L F A   P W D L F A
League 30 10 8 12 44 50   15 7 3 5 26 24
FA Cup 3 2 0 1 8 4   2 1 0 1 3 3
League Cup 2 1 0 1 1 2   1 1 0 0 1 0
Total 35 13 8 14 53 56   18 9 3 6 30 27

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