City boss delighted with progress of forward
While the run of results that the Grecians currently find themselves on it less than satisfactory, the emergence of some of the younger players in the squad has been a pleasing aspect for manager Paul Tisdale.
Young striker Tom Nichols has put himself back in the frame for first-team selection after a prolific run at reserve and under-21 level, first-year pro Matt Grimes has already notched 10 appearances in his maiden season, and 17-year-old Matt Jay made his first senior start against Southend United on Saturday.
Tis reserved praise in particular for the latter, who has broken into the thoughts of the first-team manager because of his play in the under-18s, under-21s, with the reserves, and in training.
“Of all the forward players we’ve got, Matt has got the best retention rate and he’s the brightest of all of them at the moment in training and in matches, and he completely merited his selection,” explained the City manager. “I picked him because over the last month he has been the best player in the squad in attacking areas in looking after the ball. He performed as his skill-set suggests and he does it very well.
“He was one of our best two or three players on the day – I didn’t think it was fair to leave him on for the 90 minutes as I had to make changes and it seemed a stretch for him. But he did extremely well and I’m delighted for him, and for all the gloom, we should remember that that’s another young player that’s a talent to have come through.”
Supporters that have seen the Grecians’ performances at youth level so far this year – namely the Under-21 Premier League Cup, where City upset Crystal Palace and Jay netted the winning goal – will undoubtedly have been impressed with the crop of players being developed at the Cat & Fiddle.
The Grecians face Southampton in the competition on Wednesday. Jay and his young colleagues will have another chance to impress and prove they are ready to step into the breach at first-team level too.
Indeed, it has been the performances against supposedly tougher opposition that earned Jay the opportunity to line up against Southend and Tis was more than happy with what he saw from the teenager in his first competitive start at senior level.
“I made the decision to play Matt Jay because I think he deserved to play, and I think he was wonderful,” continued Paul. “He was probably our best player in that first half and he has gotten his selection off the back of his performances in training of late and in under-21 games and he did extremely well – and maybe that’s where we have to go. Sometimes you have to go through a dip in form just to shake it up a bit, and that’s what I’ll do.
“It was a tough introduction for him but I think he will have preferred that problem. He’s only an apprentice but he will be a very good player. He won’t play every game from now – he’ll come in and out and he’ll have a chance here and there, and it’s a shame for him that it didn’t work out better, but he played really well, so well done him.”
City supporters can come and see Exeter City v Southampton in the Under-21 Premier League Cup on Wednesday 20th November (kick-off 7pm) at St James Park, where Matt Jay and young colleagues including Matt Grimes, David Wheeler and Jake Gosling are likely to feature.
Entry is £5 for adults and £1 for under-18s with all entry via the Stadium Way turnstiles. Click here for further details.