Ryan Hardie scored just six goals in all competitions for Plymouth last season.
And when the former Rangers starlet begun 2021/22 with six in his first nine games, even the most optimistic, glass-half-full Argyle supporter would have been forgiven for wondering just how much longer this purple patch would last.
As Plymouth boss Stephen Schumacher tells the Herald, Hardie has always been something of a ‘confidence player’. A man who runs hot and cold more frequently than the shower at your local five-a-side club.
“Confidence plays a part,” says Schumacher, who was promoted to the top job at Home Park after Ryan Lowe departed for Preston North End.
“When you are tired and you are not performing well, and you don’t get the goals that you feel you should get, then you probably start thinking about.
“Ryan is a big confidence player. He has got the most self-confidence as a player that I have seen for a long time. He backs himself every week to score.”
From Ibrox to Home Park hero
He hit ten by October 2nd and then only two more until mid-February. In typical fashion, Hardie broke that five-month barren spell with a hat-trick at Crewe Alexandra.
And, after another four matches without getting on the scoreboard, Hardie is now on a run of three in his last four. His winner against play-off rivals Portsmouth in midweek was the Scot’s 18th of the season. Even accounting for another cold spell, Hardie should end the season with 20 or more for the very first time.
The Hardie of last season may have crumbled after that devastating FA Cup penalty miss against Chelsea. It’s a mark of the man, then, that he’s come back stronger and more determined than ever this time around.
Three years leaving Rangers, Hardie is finally starting to fulfil the sort of promise he showed when rising through the ranks at Ibrox. So much so the former Scotland U21 star has been tipped for full international honours sooner rather than later.
“Such a special feeling,” Hardie beams after his midweek winner against Pompey. A result that leaves Plymouth fifth in League One.
“To get the win, in that sort of game, what a feeling it was. It’s just such a good feeling scoring goals and I’m glad to be doing that this year.”