Billy Rafferty grateful to still feel the love of Plymouth Argyle fans

Plymouth Argyle legend Billy Rafferty has added his congratulations to the Pilgrims' staff and players for winning their fight against relegation from the Championship.

Rafferty was a special guest at the season-ending 1-0 victory over Hull City at Home Park, which was enough to see Argyle to safety as they finished one point above the drop zone. The 73-year-old, famous for his goalscoring partnership with Paul Mariner at Argyle under manager Tony Waiters from 1974 until 1976, was really impressed with the way the Pilgrims coped with the pressure of the occasion against Hull.

Rafferty, who lives in Carlisle with his wife Elaine, told Plymouth Live: "The atmosphere was so electric, and it was quite tense a times, but I thought the Argyle team had a good plan and they followed it to the letter. I don't think they looked nervous or anything.

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"Neil Dewsnip and Kevin Nancekivell did a great job. They won some crucial matches when it looked like they were going to be down and out. I was very impressed they got the tactics right. The Hull team, to me, didn't look as though they were ever going to score a goal.

"The only time I was a little bit worried was when they put the five minutes extra time up. That felt like four hours! That was tense. It will be interesting to see what players they bring in this summer. The way they played the last few games, it looked as though the whole team understood what their role was. I was really impressed."

Rafferty thought Argyle did well to stay up after manager Steven Schumacher left them for Championship rivals Stoke City six days before Christmas. "That's a big blow to any team," he said. "I remember looking at the league table and they seemed to be in the top half and they were really doing well, and then that went and happened."

Argyle owner and chairman Simon Hallett had the chance to talk to Rafferty at the Hull game. "He seems a nice man," said the former Pilgrims' striker. "I wish them all well. I was just so pleased they stayed up. It's great."

While it is 48 years since Rafferty played the last of his 101 games for the Pilgrims - he scored 40 goals over a two-year period at Home Park - he is still revered by the older members of the Green Army.

His partnership with Mariner, who passed away in July 2021 at the age of 68 due to brain cancer, will forever be remembered at Argyle. Rafferty said: "The thing that gets me is the number of people who come up to me and say 'If it wasn't you, I wouldn't have supported Argyle'. It's incredible.

"A lot of them would have been six, seven, eight years old, that's all they would have been, and it must have had a big effect on them, the 74,75, 76 seasons. There was a real buzz about the place, especially at the home matches. It was a great time to be there.

"I was in the hospitality area before the (Hull) game and I'm always looking over my shoulder thinking Paul is going to come through the door. Paul loved to tell a few funny stories. He was gone far too early."

Rafferty did meet up with two of his former team-mates from the 1974/75 season because Bill Green, who was a defender and Argyle captain at the time, and John Hore, who later became the Pilgrims' boss, were also invited guests at the Hull game.

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