You know the drill by know.... Bigus' Norwich City FC have been relegated to League One. Now that the tears have stopped flowing, Bigus is doing a bit of research on next year's opponents in the third tier of Engerlandish football.
One of those teams is my beloved Exeter City FC. So, Bigus has asked me to take the wheel to discuss my beloved Grecians. I'll try my bestest after the jump.
First, where exactly is Exeter?
As you can see, Exeter is located in Devon, along the coast in Southwest England, around 300 miles from Carrow Road, Norwich. Exeter was founded by the Romans in the first century A.D. along the River Exe (Gaelic for "water"). After that, it was the usual English history of Saxon, Danish and Norman invaders; cathedrals built and repaired; floods and rebellions; international trade in wool; industrial revolution; and Luftwaffe bombings. In fact, you can look for yourself on the Wikipedia.
But, more importantly for our purposes, Exeter is of course the home of Exeter City FC. The club was founded in 1904. Exeter's nickname is the Grecians, although no one is sure exactly why. (Most likely the name comes from the term for people from St. Sidwell, who are from outside the city wall, like the Greeks outside the walls of Troy.) For the last 100+ years, Exeter has never risen above the third level in England. But that doesn't mean that they don't have a rich history.
In 1914, Exeter made a historic tour of South America, and became the first club team to ever play against the Brazilian national team. In the intervening years, Brazil and Argentina have shown that they have learned well the lessons taught to them by Exeter City.
Exeter's greatest product everwas Cliff Bastin, who transferred to Arsenal after only two seasons with the Grecians. While with Arsenal, Bastin scored goals and also featured for the English national team. Like many athletes of his era, Bastin's prime years were cut short due to WWII. Even so, he scored 150 goals for Arsenal (a record that was finally bested by Ian Wright and Thierry Henry) and helped the Gunners win a number of trophies in the 1930s. After WWII, Bastin played in only a handful of games before injuries forced him to call it day, upon which he returned to his hometown of Exeter and ran a pub.
Exeter City visit White Hart Lane in 1981 in the FA Cup
After enjoying a bit of success in the late 1970s, the past twenty-five years for Exeter City has been joy followed by heartbreak followed by joy followed by heartbreak followed by joy. Not that this is all that unique about English football teams, but the depths of these extremes has been quite remarkable. In 1990, Exeter gained its first and only trophy by winning the Fourth Division/League Two. After that, it was a slide back down to League Two combined with financial difficulties and administration, which led to the club having to sell its St. James' Park to raise money. Although Exeter continued to play at St. James under a lease agreement, the grounds were eventually purchased back by the Exeter City Council.
But that was only the beginning of the dark days. In 2003, Exeter was relegated to the Conference League. Meanwhile, in stepped new owner John Russell, who claimed to be the sort of angel investor that lower league teams dream of. The only problem was that Russell was in fact penniless. Russell's genius plan was to get Uri Geller, and eventually Michael Jackson involved. Yet again, Exeter was ahead of the curve: have their owners were literally bilking money from the club, years before Malcolm Glazer who was just figuratively bilking money from his club! Unsurprisingly, things collapsed for Exeter, who were again were on the brink of administration, with Russell eventually being sent to prison.
Thankfully, in stepped the Exeter City Supporters Trust. Although the club continued to languish in the Conference League, the football gods looked kindly upon Exeter in 2005 when they drew Manchester United in the Third Round of the FA Cup. Sir Alex sent out a weakened squad that day, which even included Timmy Howard and Jonathan Spector, along with the very young Kieran Richardson, Wes Brown, Chris Eagles and Gerard Pique, who was particularly terrorized by the Grecians. At the end of that day, the result was fantastic...
Man U wound up winning the return leg, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the go ahead within only ten minutes. But there was no reason to be sad, because the television rights helped Exeter wipe out its entire debt. Exeter continued to build from there.
In 2006, gaffer Alex Inglethorpe became the S***rs youth coach. In stepped new manager Paul Tisdale, a former Southampton/Bristol City player who had coached non-non-league Bath City for a few seasons. It was a bold chance on an unknown that has paid off spectacularly over the past few years. And, Tisdale even has close ties to swank English fashionista Ted Baker.
So now Exeter City find themselves in League One. I'll admit that my beloved Grecians overachieved last year, that it wasn't supposed to happen this quickly. But there certainly is something magical about this current run. The key this summer was holding on to Tisdale, who was linked with the Reading and Swansea job openings. At the same time, left winger and academy product Dean Moxey went to Derby County, and important midfielder Matthew Gill is now a Canary thanks to a free transfer. Add this to leftback George Friend moving to Wolves during last season's transfer window. The good news is that both Moxey and Friend were academy products and netted over 1m pounds in transfer fees. That's a good sign for the health of Exeter's youth system, and also a nice amount of cash to have on hand for a lower league club.
Coming into the squad for next season are Barry Corr, Scott Golbourne and Joe Burnell -- all players looking to rekindle their careers after leaving their respective squads on frees. The most recent moves by Exeter is to a bid for Charlton Athletic striker Stuart Fleetwood and an offer to sign Troy Archibald-Henville from S***rs on loan. Both players were with Exeter at the end of last season and had a big hand in the club's promotion.
So, where does this leave us? I'm honestly not sure. Life in League One will be rough, so the goal next season is simply to hang on. But given the fact that Exeter was just a whisker away from disbanding twice within the last fifteen years, the future is bright for my Grecians.
And so I'll leave you with a favorite Exeter chant... Which goes "cider, cider, cider, cider, cider, cider."