ANTONI Sarcevic returns to Plymouth Argyle tonight with a debt of gratitude for turning around his football career.

The Wanderers skipper had been experiencing a three-year lull back in 2017 when Derek Adams took him out of his North West comfort zone and down to Devon.

Sarcevic had plateaued at Fleetwood then endured a nightmare six months with Shrewsbury before making the move south with his family – one he now regards as one of the best he has ever made.

“At that time in my career it was a bit of a standstill,” he told The Bolton News. “It was a hard time on and off the pitch and then that opportunity came about which I took with both hands and it took me and my family down there.

“We had Derek Adams as the manager, and we all know how good he is, we had some of the best lads who I still speak to now that are really close to me and Kate.

“I think you just go to Plymouth and you have to take it in and you have to be a part of it, because if you’re not it’ll suck you in and it can get you, but for us it was the other way around and we thrived down there.”

Sarcevic played 131 games for the Pilgrims, scoring 20 goals, earning the nickname “The Manchester Messi” with the renowned Green Army.

He helped them out of League Two as runners-up in 2017, then after a relegation repeated the trick as the club’s player of the year in 2019.

“When we first got down there I think it was a bit of an eye opener,” said Sarcevic, who led Bolton to sucess immediately after returning with his family to the North West. 

“But we settled fast and once you are down there, you are part of a family and that’s what was massive about it and that’s why we ended up staying down there for four unbelievable years.

“It’s like a fishbowl, that’s how I’d say it. Everyone down there, you go shopping, you go in the street and everyone knows who you are and obviously when you’re doing well down there it was the best thing. It holds a nice place in my heart down there.”

Ryan Lowe was one of the names touted strongly for the Bolton Wanderers job in the summer of 2020 before Ian Evatt’s arrival and after a season of consolidation, the Liverpudlian has led Plymouth to a fine start to the current campaign with just one defeat in their first 13 games.

Sarcevic sees echoes of former Bury boss Lowe in his current manager, Ian Evatt, and is not surprised to see him push the club on this year.

“I know the gaffer down there really well,” he said. “They stayed in the league last year, but knowing Lowey, he knew what he needed to do to make them go one better, and he is proving it.

“Both (Lowe and Evatt) see the game in a very good way and once you get the set-up right and the personnel right, I think that’s what Lowey has concentrated on this year because I still follow them very closely, he’s done that and he’s recruited well.

“I still know lads down there that are good footballers and they’re proving that.”

Wanderers go to Home Park looking for a spot of redemption of their own, having disappointed so many in defeat against Wigan at the weekend.

Sarcevic, who played in the game with an injured ankle, believes the team can come back from a spell of adversity.

“We’ve done it many times this year already,” he said. “If you look back at other results, we look back and think it was disappointing. I know the magnitude of it on Saturday was an overwhelming response with it with everyone coming for it, but we’re confident and we’ve had a meeting this morning and we’re ready to go tomorrow.”