Plymouth Argyle Lose Key Man Ahead Of Championship Return

Plymouth Argyle has announced the departure of defender James Wilson via the club’s official Twitter account.

Wilson, a one-time Welsh cap, joined Argyle in June 2021 from divisional rivals Ipswich Town and made 41 League One appearances in 2022-23 as his side went on to top the standings, break the 100-point barrier and concede just 47 goals. The Pilgrims won 11 of their final 15 matches to take the title by three points from Wilson’s former club, sitting atop the table after 35 of 46 matchdays. The defender was often used on the right side of a back three by manager Steven Schumacher. 

Who is James Wilson?

Wilson is a 34-year-old defender who originates from Chepstow, Wales and began his career at Bristol City then of League One. He would gain experience during loans at Brentford and Cheltenham as he struggled to cement a permanent spot in The Robins’ starting line-up, eventually leaving the club for Oldham Athletic in the winter transfer window of 2014. 

The defender would establish himself as a first-teamer over the following two and a half seasons in Greater Manchester making over 100 appearances for the club, the most he has made for any of his employers. His consistency would earn him a move to League One big boys Sheffield United but he would again find game time hard to come by, managing only seven league games as The Blades won promotion back to the Championship. 

Wilson would drop back into League One in a loan move to Walsall the following season, making 19 appearances in the division before a permanent switch to League Two playoff chasers Lincoln City in January. The end of the 2017-18 season would see the Imps fall short in their promotion quest with a playoff defeat to Exeter City. 

The 2018-19 one was a memorable one for the Sincil Bank side as they stormed to the title but it would be another tough season in terms of playing time as Michael Bostwick and Jason Shackell formed an excellent partnership at the heart of the defence. Wilson would make only 25 appearances for City during his spell and would be released from his contract a year early. 

Wilson’s next move was to newly relegated Ipswich Town for the 2019-20, one that would be ended prematurely due to the Covid outbreak. The Welshman had played in 23 of 36 league matches before the curtailment and would follow that up with another 17 in 2020-21 as The Tractor Boys finished a disappointing 9th. 

He left Ipswich for Plymouth Argyle ready for the 2021-22 season and enjoyed a consistent run in the starting line-up during his two seasons with the club, amassing 83 league appearances during that time. Wilson would end his stay in Devon by celebrating a league title and the club’s return to Championship football.

The Chepstow native is a former Wales Under 19 and 21 international and made his senior debut in October 2013 against Belgium in a World Cup Qualifier. 

Writer’s View

The decision from Wilson to walk away from contract negotiations may be a surprise, particularly having established himself in the team and with the opportunity to test himself in the Championship facing him.

Many factors may have been in the defender’s thinking, firstly about the amount of time on the pitch he is likely to get. The club have been linked with players such as Matthew Pennington as they prepare for life back in the second tier with signings such as this potentially cutting Wilson’s time on the pitch.

Secondly, as he approaches his mid-thirties, the Welshman may be looking for the stability a longer contract provides (assuming he was offered a shorter deal at Argyle, of course). Whatever his reasons for leaving, having been a mainstay in the defence of the League One champions, I am sure plenty of clubs will be chasing his signature to add experience and quality to their ranks.

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