No one is actually sure when Plymouth Argyle Ladies was actually formed. The early beginnings clearly started at the Mayflower Centre in the early part of 1975, when there was a ladies 5-a-side league running on Sunday afternoons.
Mr. Martin Curtis was manager of two teams and when attending a monthly committee meeting, a letter was read out from Newquay Football Club, informing the league about a women’s 11-a-side tournament they were planning for June 1975, which included an invitation to enter.
Players from the two top sides plus a selection from the rest of the league, made up the side, but a name was still needed, “Plymouth” was the easy part and as it was unknown territory, “Pilgrims” was chosen. The team went to Newquay and promptly came away as winners against already established teams and Plymouth Pilgrims were on their way.
The next few months were spent getting together enough players, officials and of course a pitch, as all of these were needed, if the team was to enter a proper league. On 6th May 1976, the forms were sent off and registered the name of Plymouth Pilgrims with the W.F.A. in London. This would become the official date of the forerunner of today’s team, with 2006 being their 30th year.
In June 1976, the Pilgrims returned to Newquay and duly retained the Invitation Cup ( which incidentally the Pilgrims won again the following year as well). A couple of weeks later, a friendly was played against Bristol City which ended in a highly creditable 3-3 draw, this after being 3-0 down at half time.
August 1976 saw the first official match in the league, with an away Western League fixture against Chard which ended in a 2-2 draw. The season was to get even better, as a remarkable Women’s FA Cup run ended with a dramatic 4-3 defeat against Leicester at the quarter final stage, after leading 3-1. Two years later the team went out at the same stage to Nottingham.
May 1977 saw us entertain the Swedish touring team Ronninge Sportsclubb at Torpoint in front of a large crowd, that ended honours even in a 1-1 draw. The season ended with the team finishing runners-up in the league, won one cup and lost another in the final, to end a remarkable 12 months.
Many league titles and cup victories have followed since those early days and hopefully many more will follow with the link up with Plymouth Argyle. The latest being the retention of the Devon Women’s Cup for the third successive season when beating arch Devon rivals Newton Abbot, 2-1 in the 2005 final at Cullompton Rangers FC. The Reserves, 2004 Devon Premier League winners, saw off Exeter University 1-0 to win the 2005 League Cup for the very first time.
During their history the team has played in the Western, South Western and Devon Leagues but always aimed to be the top Devon side just like Plymouth Argyle. Their best moment came when playing at Wembley in 1996, before Argyles promotion playoff victory against Darlington.
Early records show that Plymouth joined the Women’s Western League Division One in 1976, alongside Bath, Brislington, Bristol Avon, Bristol City, Chard, Newport and Warminster.
Plymouth left the league at the end of the 1981/82 season, rejoining again for the 1988/89 season. The league became the South West Regional League in readiness for the 1990/91 season. The WFA went bankrupt in 1993 and in order to preserve women's football, the FA took over the running of the game. This meant that women's football was at last on a par with that of the men's game with a common set of rules and regulations. The records of the Plymouth club, have become cloudy and efforts are being made to update the clubs history.
Saltash Pilgrims the forerunner of today’s Plymouth Argyle, were in the South West Combination League for three seasons before becoming Plymouth Argyle for the 2001/2 season where they finished 11th. The following season Argyle finished 4th, followed by a 7th place and 7th again in the 2004/5 season. The 2005/6 season saw Plymouth Argyle visiting new teams Luton and Queens Park Rangers, as well as clubs such as Swindon Town and Oxford City. Luton is a massive 460 mile round trip, a strange team to visit for a South West League. That season saw another mid-table finish, before things started to really take off in the 2006/07 season, where the club narrowly finished as runners-up in the league - an indication of a change in fortune, and justification for all the hard work in developing young players through the club's FA Licenced Centre of Excellence. Argyle's new ground is at Bolitho Park, home of Plymouth Parkway FC on Sunday afternoons. The club also enjoy a positive working relationship with Callington Town FC, home of the PALFC reserve team, who compete in the SW Regional League, making them the third 'ranked' team in the county - not bad for a reserve team.
In recent seasons, the clubs focus on a good coaching infrastructure and a sound financial base has seen young players flourish in a positive and friendly environment. The vast majority of the clubs current first team squad are graduates of the Centre of Excellence, and 6 of those players have gone on to represent England at youth level.
The future certainly looks bright for Plymouth Argyle Ladies.
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