Paul Newman: Brent's Argyle rescue rewards faith of fans

The Football League Column: The 45-year-old businessman from north Devon had no particular interest in football but knew what Argyle meant to the region

Considering the last-gasp nature of James Brent's rescue of Plymouth Argyle, it was perhaps fitting that the outcome of the Pilgrims' first home match under his charge was decided in injury time. If Argyle supporters went home deflated by Nick Fenton's 94th-minute equaliser for Morecambe in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Home Park, the fact that their club's long-term future had finally been secured last week was a major consolation.

Insiders say that Argyle came closer to going out of business than any other Football League club in the last 20 years. The battle, moreover, to preserve their League status goes on: with more than a third of the season gone, Argyle are four points adrift at the bottom of League Two.

The thought of Plymouth not having a League club would be hard for the city to take. Plymouth is the biggest conurbation south-west of Bristol (at 256,000 the population is more than double that of Exeter) and, even if it is not always reflected in attendances, Argyle have huge potential support.

When Argyle were relegated from League One last season, only Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Huddersfield averaged bigger crowds in the division. The Green Army are one of the most devoted bands of travelling supporters and there are large pockets of exiled Plymouth fans throughout the country, especially in London.

However, all that counted for nothing when deepening financial problems resulted in the club going into administration eight months ago, when debts were said to exceed £17m. The subsequent deduction of 10 points led to relegation to League Two and the slide has continued this season. Peter Reid was sacked as manager in September and replaced by a caretaker, Carl Fletcher, who has since been given the job on a permanent basis.

In some ways Brent is an unlikely saviour. The 45-year-old businessman from north Devon had no particular interest in football but knew what Argyle meant to the region and became concerned at the club's fate. He was hugely impressed by the passion and commitment of the supporters, particularly the Argyle Fans' Trust, who worked tirelessly to keep him interested in the club's cause. Twenty-four hours after his takeover was announced 10 days ago, he sat among the Argyle fans during their 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham Town.

A former banker, Brent is the founder of the Akkeron Group, which counts hotels, urban regeneration, the Saltrock surfwear brand and agriculture among its interests. He has made it clear that he is no sugar daddy. He drove a hard bargain in takeover talks, having waited until the administrator exhausted other options. Players and other staff are owed substantial sums in unpaid wages but have had to agree to a repayment programme over the next five years.

Another crucial part of the deal is the involvement of the city council, which is buying Home Park for £1.6m and leasing it back to the club for £135,000 a year. Brent was also keen for Peter Ridsdale, who had been a central figure in the club's fight for survival, to stay. The former Leeds United and Cardiff City chairman has been appointed chairman of football operations.

With money remaining tight and with a 31-year-old rookie manager at the helm, the club will rely heavily on Ridsdale's contacts and knowledge to reinforce the playing squad. Paul Bignot, a 25-year-old defender, was the first signing under the new regime, joining on a three-month loan deal from Blackpool last week, while Ben Gibson's loan spell from Middlesbrough has been extended.

Keeping the club's many talented youngsters will also be a priority. Argyle fans do not want to see others follow the example of 17-year-old Jack Stephens, who was sold to Southampton for £150,000 earlier this year, or Ashley Barnes, who left for Brighton at the age of 20.

Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football League, said a "leap of faith" had been necessary to approve Brent's takeover. Argyle's financial affairs will be monitored closely in the years ahead. For the moment, the fans are simply happy their 125-year-old club is still alive.

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders