GREEN BARMY: Boom time for Argyle as crowds flocked to Home Park
THIS season, Green Barmy is looking at all aspects of Home Park stadium. Its changes, the way we use it, and anecdotes connected with the home of Plymouth Argyle.
Our season has taken us through to the introduction of Football League action in Plymouth.
Attendances at Home Park were very healthy through the 1920s, but Argyle supporters were forced to be patient to see further success.
In an extraordinary period, the club finished in the runners-up position in Division Three (South) for six successive seasons from the 1921-22 campaign. It was especially agonising as just one club from each of the north and south sections were promoted to the second tier of English football.
Free consultation for thread/spider vein, mole, skin tag and wart...View details
Free consultation for thread/spider vein, mole, skin tag and wart removal
Contact: 01803 221072
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
Promotion eventually came in May 1930, and the final match of the season, which saw a 2-1 win against Watford, drew over 23,000 to Home Park.
On May 31, the triumphant team was paraded on a tour of the city.
A celebration dinner was held at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel.
In an ever-changing period for the immediate area, Argyle finished in 18th place in their first Division Two season, and just two months later, the official opening of the new Central Park took place.
With new paths laid, a swimming pool was on the site where Cottage Field stands today. Bowling greens were placed where they still exist today, and at the entrance to the current pitch-and-putt was a running track.
There were more bowling greens to the north of the car park with neighbouring tennis courts and Plymouth Cricket Club.
Outland Road was then known officially as Tavistock Road, and the houses from the Milehouse junction to the site of the filling station, were yet to be built.
The stadium saw further changes. As well as the main stand on the south side of Home Park (on which an extension was added), and the small Spooner Stand, which ran from what became known as The Spion Kop corner, a huge roof was erected at The Devonport End.
Funded mainly by the efforts of The Supporters Club and new club president, Archie Ballard, Home Park was really taking shape.
On the pitch, not only did Argyle merely survive in Division Two during the 1930s. The club seriously challenged for further promotion.
The most successful season was 1931-32 when the Pilgrims finished in fourth place, with the highest attendance of 36,344 when Bury provided the Boxing Day opposition.
But that figure was bettered in January 1934, when the then mighty Huddersfield Town played out a 1-1 draw with Argyle in the third round of the FA Cup.
A crowd of 43,426 almost witnessed a major upset, only for Argyle to be beaten in a replay in Yorkshire.
Two years later, another record was created when 43,596 crammed inside Home Park for the League visit of Aston Villa.
The last match to be played at Home Park before the Second World War took place on August 26, 1939. Argyle were defeated 3-1 by West Ham United eight days before war was declared.
Two away matches – at Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday – were played before competitive football was suspended.
Matches played during the opening week of the season were declared null and void.
The management committee of the Football League issued a directive to all clubs that players' contracts be cancelled for the duration of the war.
However, that was not the end of football at Home Park.
The wartime government recognised, for the sake of public morale, that 'there was a need for relaxation from the strain of wartime conditions and to comply with the public demand for some kind of competitive soccer.
The Football Association arranged a number of regional leagues which were grouped in geographical areas to comply with the limits of the ruling travel order.
With so many players in the armed forces or gaining employment on essential war work, 'guest' players were permitted if not required by their parent clubs.
Home Park played host to an Argyle side competing in the South West regional league with Cardiff City, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Newport County, Swansea Town, Swindon Town and Torquay United.
But there were limitations as far as football fans were concerned and crowds at Home Park failed to go above 4,600 as attendances were limited to within a safety margin which was calculated by the local military authorities.
Despite the vast changes to player personnel, Argyle finished the season – where they played against each opponent four times – as champions.
The fall of France in June 1940 saw the intensity of war increase. Plymouth, with its importance of a naval base, was seen as a prime enemy target.
This was proved when the intensity of bombings in the city intensified.
Argyle were forced to withdraw from the regional league for the 1940-41 season and Home Park was officially closed for business.
NEXT WEEK: HOME PARK FEELS THE FULL FORCE OF WAR
WE ARE asking you to share your reminiscences about Home Park. Your favourite, or maybe less favourite memories of the changing face of Argyle's home ground, and how you have watched football down the years.
Mike Whitcher has done just that. He recollects an event that was very special to him:
"This memory has stuck with me, and will remain forever with me. The date was September 21, 1966 and fans across the country were still buzzing after England lifted the World Cup.
The FA decided to send the trophy around the country and matches were played by the majority of that England team under the guise of the Football League representative side.
On the date in question, the Irish League were the opponents at Home Park.
Like the other 36,000 fans in attendance, I could not wait to see our England team.
When I arrived at Home Park, the stadium was already packed out, so I had to sit on a fence at the Barn Park End as it was the only way I was able to see what was happening on the pitch.
The Jules Rimet Trophy was paraded around the pitch before kick-off, and I was then left in awe as the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters were there playing, right before my eyes.
The game itself was something of a dull affair as the Football league strolled to a 12-0 victory. George Eastham scored four, and there were two each from Hurst, Terry Paine, John Connelly and Johnny Byrne.
I still hold dreams that maybe, one day, that great day could happen again."