Given that Plymouth missed out on a place in the League One play-offs on the very last day of last season, there has been no hangover.
In fact, everything is going swimmingly at Home Park at the moment.
Argyle have a four-point lead over Ipswich at the top of the League One table and are already a healthy 16 points clear of seventh-placed Derby, while manager Steven Schumacher looks set for a second straight Manager of the Month award after he guided his side to a club-record ninth straight home win against Exeter on Monday night.
And if that was not enough, in Morgan Whittaker they have, arguably. the division’s hottest property.
The 21-year-old – who is on a season-long loan from Swansea – has made 17 appearances this term and has seven goals and five assists under his belt already. Only Aaron Collins, Jevani Brown (both 15) and Jonson Clarke-Harris (13) have superior goal involvement rates.
Prior to the loan spell he spent at Lincoln in 2021/22, the Derby academy graduate – who played both with and under Wayne Rooney during his time at Pride Park – had played almost 50 games in the Championship
So what tempted him back to the third tier? The answer is simple. Regular first-team football, freedom on the pitch and the development that sought-after pairing will no doubt facilitate.
In Schumacher, he has found the perfect manager to grant him just that.
“I had a chat with Steven Schumacher and Neil Dewsnip [Plymouth’s director of football], who I knew from the England set-up, at the end of last season and what they were saying was right for me, so I knew this was the next step I needed to take in my career,” Whittaker tells Sky Sports.
“Scoring a hat-trick against them in the Carabao Cup last year was a good audition!
“He [Schumacher] is someone that understands me and knows how I want to play. We both know the things I need to work on and it’s just that understanding that is key.
“I could go on loan to a Championship team and just be sat on the bench. Having this experience in League One is massive, just getting out there playing and experiencing different kinds of games. I experienced Wycombe a few weeks ago, which is a completely different game to what I’m used to.
“Knowing you have that trust from the manager gives you a lot of confidence knowing you are not just there to make up numbers. Having that backing goes a long way.”
Seemingly the key to the former England U20 international’s impressive season so far is the fact that Schumacher has, primarily, deployed him in an attacking midfield position, as opposed to his usual berth on the right flank.
It is where he sees his long-term future, too.
“I’m playing as a No 10, which I like because if I’m not getting on the ball or I’m not getting in the game, I have that licence to go and find it,” he says.
“We don’t just have to stay in one position, but everyone in the team still knows their jobs and responsibilities. Everyone is contributing.
“As a No 10, you are in the game a lot more and, as a result of that, you just enjoy it more. I definitely want to play in this position in future. It’s where I can get the ball the most and create things.
“I’m confident on the ball and feel I’m capable of creating things each game. Just knowing you can do that and carry it forward helps with the games coming up. It’s massive.”
Whittaker’s form has been a significant factor in Plymouth’s resilient recovery that has followed the aforementioned heartache of missing out on the play-off places on the final day of last season.
But, in truth, this lofty position is nothing new for the Pilgrims. On November 3, 2021, they were sat second to Wigan in the table, albeit with eight fewer points on the board, which probably makes the eventual failure that little bit harder to stomach.
Contrary to the politician-like answer repeatedly churned out about focusing on the next fixture and nothing more, Whittaker says automatic promotion to the Championship – after 13 years away – is the goal, particularly given the final-day events.
“I think we’re definitely capable of getting play-offs and I think we can go and get one of the top two positions,” he adds. “Especially after what happened last season, that is a real goal.
“I think being so close last season shows we can do it. The club want to go that one step further and I think that’s why they have looked to bring in the players they have, not just me, the other lads that have come in on loan and settled in really well. I think we’ve got a good balance all over.
Plymouth’s record-breaking home streak
- July 30 – Plymouth 1-0 Barnsley
- August 13 – Plymouth 2-0 Peterborough
- August 27 – Plymouth 2-0 Bolton
- September 13 – Plymouth 1-0 Oxford
- September 25 – Plymouth 2-1 Ipswich
- October 4 – Plymouth 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
- October 8 – Plymouth 3-0 Accrington
- October 25 – Plymouth 2-1 Shrewsbury
- October 31 – Plymouth 4-2 Exeter
“The fans play a massive part, too. They get right behind us and we know as players that if we start fast and get the fans behind us, Home Park is a horrible place to come for any team. I think that’s shown in the games we’ve had already.
“We know we can perform against the bigger teams, now we’ve got to show that we can do it against everyone else – if we can do that, we will be fine. If we just try and keep this momentum and keep it going, I think it can definitely be possible.”
Should Whittaker’s purple patch extend into the new year, it seems Plymouth will face a fight to keep him in Devon for the rest of the season.
But if they do manage to hold onto him, their hopes of staying in those automatic promotion spots until the end of the season will receive a huge boost.