Maia Freeman - Plymouth Argyle Fan

Maia Freeman - Football And The City

Maia Freeman

Plymouth Argyle Fan

I realised that, above the entertainment of the game, football was giving me a sense of identity and a connection to my hometown that I’d never experienced before.
— Maia Freeman

FATC: What made you first fall in love with football? 
MF: For me, as cheesy as it sounds, I think it was the feeling of finding a community and the pride that it gave me in my city. Beforehand, I’d never really viewed Plymouth as anything more than an area I happened to grow up in, but after I started properly going to Argyle and watching them season-in, season-out, I realised that, above the entertainment of the game, football was giving me a sense of identity and a connection to my hometown that I’d never experienced before. Again, this happened recently with the World Cup – before 2018, I’d never particularly cared about our national team, having always felt pretty disillusioned with both England the team and England the country. After reaching the semi-finals, though, I realised how an inspiring and determined England squad had brought the whole country together, united fans across the country, and made me feel proud to be English for the first time ever. 
 
FATC:  How did you come to support Plymouth Argyle? 
MF: I became an Argyle fan by birth-right, essentially. Although I was actually born in Edinburgh, my whole family moved back to Plymouth, my dad’s hometown, when I was around eleven months old, and some of my earliest memories are going to Home Park with my family. I really couldn’t imagine supporting any other team, with it being such a large part of my life both as an individual and within my family. 
 
FATC:  What are your earliest football memories? 
MF: Like I said, some of my earliest memories full-stop were going to Home Park with my dad and brother and watching matches from the family section. There was a period of time in which I became not so interested in football, as I think my family had expected, but I got right back into it soon enough. Some of my stand-out memories are of freezing cold winter games, unsurprisingly, and disappointing games in which we lost, such as vs Dagenham & Redbridge to effectively eliminate our automatic promotion chances, or our final-day draw vs Grimsby which gave the League Two title to Portsmouth, a club that we’ve always enjoyed a bit of a rivalry with. Looking back, those were some of the best games I could have watched – for every loss like that it proved to me more and more how much I loved the club, and how much football meant to me. 
 
FATC:  What is the hardest thing about being a Plymouth Argyle fan? 
MF: Probably proximity and location. Plymouth is very, very southern – we’re the most southerly and westerly League club in England – and so it makes it very, very hard to attract quality players who are willing to move all the way down here to play when they could choose other clubs that are better connected and less isolated. Coupled with the fact that, frankly, we’re not a very big nor a very rich club – Plymouth is the largest city in England to have never played in top flight football, and has only recently survived administration – I’ve always felt like the club is often fighting an uphill battle before we’re even on the pitch. 
 
FATC: What is the best thing about being a Plymouth Argyle fan? 
MF: The fact that Argyle is my hometown club. As I mentioned before, I live very close to Home Park – around ten minutes away – and going every other Saturday feels local and homegrown, as opposed to how I would imagine it is supporting a big, big team. Shirt and season ticket prices aren’t extortionate, players aren’t superstars who don’t care about the fans, and the club plays an important role in Plymouth’s local community, as well as enjoying a good relationship with the supporters. Nothing ever feels too much like a business or a franchise, and I feel like Argyle still functions with the supporters at the very heart of the club. 
 
FATC: What is your favourite football memory? 
MF: Even though we went on to lose the final at Wembley, my favourite ever memory watching Argyle was our 1-0 win at home against Portsmouth in the second leg of the play-off semi-final (3-2 on aggregate). It was a beautiful day, Home Park was packed, both teams were playing excellent football, and a ninety-first minute winner was absolutely insane to experience. I think another great game was our FA Cup third round draw against Liverpool, where we managed a 0-0 at Anfield and secured a replay back at Home Park. I was so incredibly proud to see Argyle on such a big stage and with so much media buzz around them, and the way it brought the whole of Plymouth together was second to none. 
 
FATC: What is your worst football memory? 
MF: Off the pitch, Argyle going into administration in 2011 was awful. In recent times we had been enjoying some great football under Paul Sturrock, and to go from that to being days away from not even having a football club anymore was pretty horrendous. On the pitch, probably our play-off final loss against Wimbledon at Wembley. All credit to Wimbledon – they were amazing, and it really was a fairy-tale for them to be promoted after everything they’d been through – but to get so close and fall at the final hurdle felt awful. Luckily, we went up through automatic promotion the next season. 
 
FATC: Who is your favourite Plymouth Argyle player of all time? 
MF: That’s a tough one. Of all time, I’d probably go with the likes of Romain Larrieu or David Friio, because they were both part of an Argyle team that played great football (for the most part) and achieved great things for the club, such as finishing Third Division champions in the 01/02 season. Paul Wotton is also an Argyle legend, having made 491 appearances for the club and then taking up a job in the coaching staff, currently as Derek Adams’ assistant manager. Obviously, I can’t really talk about best Argyle players without mentioning both Tynan and Mariner, both amazing players who did wonders for the club and will always be remembered fondly by our supporters.  
 
FATC: Who is your favourite non-Plymouth Argyle player of all time? 
MF: Again, very difficult. I think there are men like Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Bobby Charlton who I’ll always hold so much respect towards for what they did for our country and England’s game, as well as legends like George Best and people like Kenny Dalglish who achieved so much as both a player and a manager. I think as a player, though, I’d have to go with either the original Ronaldo 9 or Paul Gascoigne, purely because of how much fun it is even now to watch both of them play, and, alternately, how much fun you can see that they had while playing. 
 
FATC: Tommy Tynan or Paul Mariner?
MF: They’re both legends in their own right, and highly respected among all Argyle fans, but personally, I’d go with Tommy Tynan, just because of the time he spent with us and his proficiency in front of the goal.

J.S. Leatherbarrow