Plymouth Argyle chairman Simon Hallett has backed Exeter’s quest for promotion which would see the Devon rivals continue to battle in League One next season, writes Ollie Young.
After League Two clubs voted to end the 2019-20 season using a weighted points-per game system, the Pilgrims’ automatic promotion was confirmed after they finished third in the adjusted table.
The Grecians, meanwhile, who themselves had enjoyed a brilliant campaign prior to the season being halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, dropped a place to fifth and will play Colchester United in the play-offs.
Speaking to The Independent from his home in America, Hallett revealed his respect for Exeter, whilst acknowledging the clubs’ bitter rivalry.
Hallett, who personally financed the £8million Mayflower Grandstand refurbishment at Home Park, also has admitted that he admires the job that chairman Julian Tagg has done at St James Park.
He said: “I have a lot of respect for Exeter City and I think they do a tremendous job. They may not have our massive fan base but they’re a good club.
“Despite my instincts as an Argyle fan, I would absolutely love it if they got promoted with us so we can carry on that rivalry.”
Hallett now holds a 97 per cent stake in Argyle and he conceded that he will never win over Grecians’ fans, but that he can at least try and gain their respect:
“We have been very public in the last few years about our vision to make Argyle a club supported and respected by many in the South West and beyond,” he remarked.
“We will never make Exeter City fans support us, or even like us, but we can make them respect us and I think we’ve made great strides in that aspect in the last twelve months.”
The Home Park supremo even joked that he would like to have the Grecians in League One for a ‘guaranteed six points’ next year but conceeded that after this season’s humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of Matt Taylor’s men, he wouldn’t go that far.
The 64-year-old did, however, admit that the rivalry can lead to problems off the pitch. “I love the rivalry; I really do but I don’t like the viciousness that infects it because I find it personally distasteful.
“Also, people think we make lots of money out the Exeter game but that is simply not true as our expenses go through the roof due to the threat of unrest between supporters” he added.
Focusing on Argyle’s acheivements in winning their place back in League One at the first attempt, Hallett was understandably overjoyed at promotion.
“It has been a wonderful season and I am just thrilled,” he admitted, before going onto thank chief executive Andrew Parkinson for the part he played in chosing Ryan Lowe as a permemnat successor to Derek Adams.
“Andrew Parkinson came on board the day after we got relegated and his first job was to lead a process of hiring a manager. He hired Ryan Lowe and what a success that has been.
“Ryan has had a great impact and his relationship with the fans is very very good. In fact, his relationships throughout the club is very good.
“He’s a force, but he’s a force of positivity and optimism. Although he’s the front man, there is a great team behind him in a footballing and executive sense.”
For many years, the Pilgrims have been considered one of English football’s sleeping giants, not achieving the footballing success to match their fan base. However, Hallett thinks this promotion is step one on returning the club to past glories, something which has a particularly personal attachment to him.
“My first Argyle game was 1966, we were roughly sixth in the old Division Two, that’s the highest we’ve been, we have never been higher than my first ever game.
“This club has under delivered but we are on a mission and promotion to League One is the first step.
“We want to be a sustainable Championship club and this year this football club has changed massively. We are more structured, detailed, fan-focused and transparent than in the past.”
Hallett also confirmed that there will be a promotion celebration when the time is right and fans can enjoy a party with their heroes who have helped delivered the first part of their chairman’s grand plan.