Fletcher bids emotional farewell to Plymouth Argyle
A tribute to outgoing Plymouth Argyle boss Carl Fletcher following his sacking
Stepping into the role of manager as a player is always going to be difficult. On top of that, throw administration, months of unpaid wages, a new owner and a season-and-a-half of life in League Two and the job becomes nigh-on impossible.
In terms of results, it comes as little surprise that Plymouth Argyle's 2-1 loss away to Bristol Rovers on New Year's Day was the final straw for club owner James Brent, who brought an end to Carl Fletcher's 16-month reign by sacking the 32-year-old Welshman.
Despite his obvious disappointment, Fletcher kept his dignity and remained gracious towards Brent. In an emotional post-match interview with BBC Sport, he said: "Since I've been down here we've (James Brent) been through a lot, that's football really. I might be a young manager but I know if you don't win games you don't keep your job.
"It's been a tough four years. It's obviously disappointing to end this way but that's life and that's football."
As player and club captain, Carl Fletcher guided the Home Park club through the administration process in 2011, including standing up to Lead Administrator Brendan Guilfoyle, demanding that the players and staff finally receive some wages.
The decision to hang up his boots in favour of the dugout came when Peter Reid was sacked at the end of September in 2011. Carl became caretaker manager alongside assistant Romain Larrieu, and the situation looked bleak. Argyle were cast adrift at the bottom of the Football League with just one point from their first nine games.
Relegation looked a certainty but slowly and surely, 'Fletch' guided Argyle to safety - a dominant 4-1 victory over Northampton Town in November kickstarting their upturn in form. This sparked a fantastic run where the Pilgrims only lost four times in six months, a remarkable achievement given the circumstances.
Highlights of that time included the dramatic comeback against Bristol Rovers where goals from Warren Feeney and Nick Chadwick cancelled out Matt Harrold's brace, before on-loan winger Ashley Hemmings struck the all-important winner in the 96th minute.
Then there was the 4-0 hammering away to Accrington Stanley in the middle of February. The team from Lancashire were sitting just outside the play-off places with new manager Paul Cook overseeing his first game in charge. But two goals from loanee striker Alex MacDonald, plus goals from Darren Purse and Luke Daley, got Cook off to the worst possible start and gave Fletcher and his team a crucial win.
The 1-1 home draw against Oxford United on April 21 was enough to preserve Argyle's status as a League Two club, bringing a temporary end to a troubled but triumphant campaign in what was Fletcher's maiden season as manager. The 2012/13 season has not been as positive, however. A disappointing set of results leaves Plymouth sitting in 21st place with just five wins from 26 matches, losing 12.
Working under considerable financial restraints, Fletcher never really had the opportunity to bring in the goal-scoring forward that the club so desperately required to help fire the Pilgirms up the league. That said, there have been some success stories in terms of transfers. Take Paris Cowan-Hall, for example. The speedy winger has been one of the few highlights this season, causing the opposition all sorts of problems when in full flow.
The loan signings of Guy Madjo, Alex MacDonald, Ross Jenkins and Mark Molesley have also been very effective during their temporary spells at Home Park, but the funds just aren't there to bring these players in on a permanent basis.
There is no denying that Fletcher went about getting the team playing the right way. Over the years the Green Army have been used to long ball, hit-and-hope football which has been difficult to watch, along with a drop down the divisions that has seen Argyle go from the lofty heights of the Championship to the lowest division in the Football League pyramid.
Fletcher had got the team holding on to the ball, passing it around creating a whole host of chances. The defining problem has been converting those chances into goals. The manager went as far as deploying 17-year-old striker Tyler Harvey in a bid to get Plymouth firing, with Fletcher's decision paying instant dividends after he scored a late equaliser at home to local rivals Torquay United.
Yet for whatever reason, things haven't worked out for Fletcher this season, and like most Argyle fans, I'm as disappointed as any to see that he's no longer with the club. I'd like to thank Carl Fletcher for the time and effort he has put in since joining the club - he gave everything to the cause, but football is a cruel game and poor results have put an end to his tenure as manager.
I'm sure all Argyle fans will join me in saying thank you, and wishing Fletcher the very best for the future.
Watch Carl Fletcher's final post-match interview in full below: