Outside left Sammy Black goes down in history as possibly the greatest player ever to don the green shirt of Plymouth Argyle. A true Plymouth Argyle legend, he holds club records that are unlikely to be surpassed: Argyle’s all-time leading goal scorer with 182 goals, and, having graced the field 491 times, the second highest number of appearances for the club. In 2004 he became an inaugural member of the club’s ‘Hall of Fame’ and was selected by fans for the Team of the Century.
Born in Motherwell, Black was discovered by Argyle manager Bob Jack playing for Kirkintilloch Rob Roy in Glasgow and he arrived at Argyle in 1924, scoring on his debut – a 7-1 thrashing of Brentford that September. At just 5ft 6in and sporting size 4 boots, the ‘Mighty Atom’ epitomised the winger of the day, small, fast, tricky, and with dazzling skills. He rarely tracked back and his heading ability was always guaranteed to amuse, but wingers of his era were not expected to do anything other than terrorise full-backs. It was his eye for goal that made him stand out; he could shoot with either foot and many of his goals came from unlikely angles. He scored 5 career hat-tricks including all 4 goals in a win over Port Vale in January 1936.
Black became the darling of the Argyle crowd – one of his idiosyncrasies was to play with a cigarette stub tucked behind his ear – and his partnership with inside left Jack Leslie became legendary. Their clever exchanges would leave defenders chasing shadows. When transfer rumours reached fever pitch, a ‘Sammy Must Not Go’ campaign sparked demonstrations and public meetings. Black seemed destined to remain an Argyle player, but did finally leave Home Park in 1938 after 14 seasons, in the twilight of his career having made his final Plymouth appearance that January, playing just five times for Queens Park Rangers before retiring from professional football and moving back to Plymouth.