Loan signings hit and miss affair for Argyle
FOOTBALL League clubs are, more and more, using loan signings as a way of bolstering their small squads.
With finances outside the Premier League getting tighter all the time, that trend is set to continue in 2012/13.
Argyle already have 23 players under contract for next season, so manager Carl Fletcher has the bulk of his squad in place.
But it would be no surprise were Fletcher to try to add one or two loan signings from higher division clubs before the League Two campaign gets under way on August 18.
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The Pilgrims have regularly borrowed players from rival clubs over recent years, apart from in 2010/11, when the club's financial collapse led to a transfer embargo being imposed on them.
Only three loanees arrived at Home Park that season, compared to 10 in 2009/10 and 13 last term.
So who have been the best and worst of the loan signings made by Argyle?
Accompanying this article is a list of all the players borrowed by the Pilgrims since the start of the 2007/08 season, and I have picked those who, in my opinion, have been the best and the worst.
CRAIG CATHCART: The centre-back spent the 2008/09 season on loan from Manchester United and was voted as Argyle's young player-of-the-year.
He moved from United to Blackpool for an undisclosed fee in August 2010, following the Seasiders' promotion to the Premier League under former Pilgrims boss Ian Holloway.
The Northern Ireland international is still at Bloomfield Road, having made 57 league appearances for Blackpool over the past two seasons.
But Cathcart missed their three matches in the 2011/12 Championship play-offs because of a heart scare.
CARL FLETCHER: Manager Paul Sturrock tried to sign the Wales midfielder for Argyle from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2008, but without success.
However, Fletcher eventually moved to Home Park on loan in February 2009, scoring on his debut in a 2-2 draw at home to Sheffield United in the Championship.
Fletcher made a permanent switch that summer, after leaving Palace, and was the Pilgrims' player-of-the-year in 2009/10 and 2010/11 as they were relegated twice.
The 32-year-old is now the Argyle manager, after taking over from Peter Reid last September, initially in a caretaker capacity.
PAUL GALLAGHER: His goalscoring record for Argyle was one of the keys to them narrowly escaping relegation from the Championship.
Signed on loan from Blackburn Rovers, the Scotland international netted 13 times in 36 starts and four substitute appearances.
Perhaps most memorably, Gallagher scored inside the first minute of the away game against eventual title-winners Wolverhampton Wanderers, with the Pilgrims clinging on for a 1-0 victory.
Was transferred from Blackburn to Leicester City for an undisclosed fee in August 2009 and has been a big hit at the Walkers Stadium.
ALAN JUDGE: The Republic of Ireland under-21 midfielder spent so much time at Home Park it was easy to forget at times he was on loan.
He was borrowed from Blackburn for the final three months of 2008/09 and put in a series of good performances.
Paul Sturrock brought Judge back to Home Park on a season-long loan in 2009/10, and he featured regularly in the starting line-up as the Pilgrims dropped out of the Championship.
Judge is now a firm favourite at League One outfit Notts County, winning the club's two main player-of-the-year awards last term.
DARREN PURSE: Arrived at Home Park last November, on loan from Millwall, with Argyle facing a desperate fight for Football League survival.
The Pilgrims were crying out for an experienced, obdurate defender, and Purse fitted the bill to perfection.
Purse completed a permanent transfer in January as he formed an excellent partnership at centre-back with Maxime Blanchard.
Purse, 35, will continue to have an important part to play for the Pilgrims in League Two next season.
KENNY COOPER: Argyle paid a substantial fee to German second division side 1860 Munich to take Cooper on loan for the final three months of 2009/10.
The United states international hoped to make a late push for his country's 2010 World Cup finals squad.
But Cooper's fitness levels were not up to scratch and his contribution to the Pilgrims' cause was limited to seven substitute appearances, without getting on the scoresheet.
Now a team-mate of French star Thierry Henry at New York Red Bulls in North America's MLS.
RICHARD ECKERSLEY: A former Manchester United defender who was signed on loan by Argyle from Burnley in March 2009.
He played at both full-back positions, as well in the centre of defence, during his short spell with the Pilgrims, but did not impress in any of the roles as the club were relegated from the Championship.
Eckersley was brought to Home Park by Paul Mariner while he was Argyle's boss and the pair were later reunited at Toronto FC in 2011.
The defender signed for the Canadian-based Major League Soccer side, for whom Mariner was the director of player development, initially on loan before completing a permanent move in January 2012.
TOM HITCHCOCK: Put in some promising appearances in pre-season last July, which included scoring in a 3-2 home defeat by Bristol City.
But the teenage on-loan Blackburn striker did not make any impact when the League Two campaign got under way.
After three starts and five substitute appearances, without hitting the target in any of the games, he returned to Blackburn.
Hitchcock had his contract cancelled by Rovers later in the season but was soon snapped up by Queens Park Rangers – the club where his father, Kevin, is on the coaching staff.
NICOLAS MARIN: Argyle made a bold triple signing at the end of the summer transfer window in 2008.
They took Paul Gallagher on loan from Blackburn, snapped up free agent and former Belgium international Emile Mpenza on a ridiculously lucrative contract and Marin arrived from FC Lorient.
The small French winger with bleached-blond hair, was signed on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent transfer.
He played only six times for Argyle, with five of his appearances coming as a substitute, before he was sent back to Lorient at the start of January 2009. Played for UAE Pro-League side Dubai Club last season.
CRAIG SUTHERLAND: Arrived on loan from Ian Holloway's Blackpool in November 2011, as one of a spate of new recruits after Argyle's exit from administration.
He was effectively a replacement for Tom Hitchcock, but fared no better than him during his three-month stay.
Sutherland made five starts and four substitute appearances for the Pilgrims and did not get on the scoresheet.
He returned to Blackpool at the end of January and did not play any first team football for them before the campaign drew to a close.