Former Argyle captain Darren Purse heads for Port Vale with message of hope for beleaguered Argyle
Defender Darren Purse has admitted that he will always have fond memories of his time at Plymouth Argyle.
The 35-year-old centre-back parted company with the Pilgrims by mutual consent last Friday, ending a 13-month stay at Home Park.
Purse has swapped a battle against relegation from npower League Two for a promotion push at the top of the table after signing for Port Vale, and he trained with his new team-mates for the first time yesterday.
Purse will continue to follow the fortunes of Argyle from afar and has spoken of his respect for the club's fans.
Purse highlighted a lack of goals as one of the main reasons why the 23rd-placed Pilgrims are in such a perilous position, with 19 games to go this season. He has also wished new manager John Sheridan well in his attempts to lead Argyle to safety.
Purse said: "I loved every minute of my time at Argyle. It's a great club and there are some very good people involved in it.
"I'm just disappointed it hasn't worked out as well as I had hoped it would."
The experienced centre-back played a key part in Argyle escaping relegation last season, after arriving from Millwall in November 2011, initially on loan before completing a full move. He had hoped the Pilgrims would make a promotion push this season, but it has not worked out that way.
Purse said: "I'm sure Argyle will get back to where they belong, which is in League One and then the Championship, but it's going to be a struggle.
"The fans are great and I hope they stick with the club and get behind the players, and don't expect too much too soon. I had high expectations for this season and maybe they were too high. I'm sure that if everyone sticks with it, though, it will turn around."
Purse only played 46 times for Argyle but became a firm favourite with the 'Green Army', with his leadership qualities especially important last season as the club emerged from a disastrous time in administration.
He was put on the transfer list for financial reasons in November as Argyle tried to free up some money in their playing budget to make two or three additions to their squad.
Purse continued to captain the Pilgrims, and play with typical commitment. His last game for them was the 1-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers at Home Park on December 29. He said: "All a fan ever wants from a player is that when he steps over that white line he gives 100 per cent, and that's something I've always tried to do. Even when I was on the transfer list, it was great to hear the fans singing my name. It shows the respect we had for each other."
Purse has played in the Premier League, represented England at Under-21 level, and scored for Birmingham City in a League Cup final. But he rates Argyle's escape from relegation last season as one of the highlights of his career.
Purse said: "The win at all costs mentality we had in the dressing room for the last four or five months of last season was amazing. I never had any doubts we would stay up but, when we did achieve it, it was a great feeling.
"I think we were nine points off safety when I arrived. It was a brilliant achievement by everyone involved to stay up and one I will always look back on with a lot of fondness. I had hoped we could push for the play-offs this season, but it never came about through one thing or another."
Argyle dropped into the League Two relegation zone after a 4-0 defeat at Port Vale on Saturday, which was watched by Purse. He sat in the directors' box next to Sheridan, who was officially confirmed as the Pilgrims' new manager on Sunday night.
Purse said: "I was surprised when I looked at the league table after the game and saw Argyle were in the bottom two. I had thought with the mini-run we had before Christmas we had dragged ourselves away from it.
"Recent results have pushed the club into the bottom two. It's not a nice place to be. We spent a lot of time there last season, so the lads have got experience of it."
Purse admitted it had been "very tough" to watch Argyle beaten so heavily by Vale. He met his new team-mates for the first time yesterday. "They are full of confidence and training was lively," said Purse. "There isn't a lot of difference between the sides [Argyle and Vale]. It's just that Port Vale look like they are going to score goals.
"You can't dominate games like we [Argyle] did over the Christmas period and not come off winning them."
As for Sheridan, he said: "He's somebody I know from playing against him. He's a decent bloke and I hope he does well at Argyle."
In a subsequent interview for Port Vale's official website, Purse revealed that he had been impressed by what he had seen from the Valiants when they beat the Pilgrims.
"You look at the result at the weekend and you can't get much better than that, and it is something that has drawn me to the club. The potential to get promotion this year is there for everyone to see," he said.
Asked to describe his style of play, he replied: "I'm a no-nonsense defender, and I can play a bit of football if I need to.
"It does exactly as it says on the tin with me, and hopefully the Port Vale fans will see that over the next few months."