Midfielder looking forward to Selhurst Park trip
Exeter City’s under-21 contingent travel to South East London on Tuesday night to face Crystal Palace, with the ambition of securing a place in the first round proper of the Under-21 Premier League Cup against Southampton.
The game kicks off at 7pm at Selhurst Park, and it is sure to be a testing game for the young Grecians. Competition rules state that clubs can name three over-aged outfield players, and the hosts – whose Academy has produced diamonds like Wilfried Zaha, Nathaniel Clyne and Victor Moses in recent years – will be using first-team players as they look to progress.
The Eagles are set to name three players with international and top-flight experience in their squad - Jonathan Parr and Jimmy Kébé have full caps for Norway and Mali respectively and Cameron Jerome is a former England under-21 international, and all three are set to be in the line-up for the hosts.
18-year-old midfielder Matt Grimes put in a metronomic display in the centre of the park for the Grecians as they dispatched Torquay United 4-1 in the first of their two qualifying rounds, and he is looking forward to the prospect of playing against a big club in a big arena.
“It’s a really big game for our under-21s and the players that are looking to push towards the first team to show what we’re all about,” said Grimes. “The lads are looking forward to it, and I’m certainly looking forward to it – it’ll be a good test for the squad.
“We played at a few big grounds last year like the Madejski, but this game will have more to it as it’s in the cup.
“I thought the lads played really well against Torquay – it was a really good team performance and we all clicked on the night. We’re always working in training to improve – and improve as a unit – and hopefully we can click again on Tuesday.”
The competition is in its inaugural year and has been set up to help to bridge the gap between youth football and adult competition, by giving young players the opportunities to play in larger surroundings and in competitive action.
Grimes in particular feels that the competition has value to players like himself that are teetering on the fringes of the first team, but need the experience of more game-time in matches that matter – and that the squad’s relationship on and off the field is a factor too.
“We’re not playing week-in-week-out for the first team, so it’s good for us to get competitive games,” he continued. “We get a lot of friendlies against teams like Torquay, Plymouth and the Bristol teams – but it’s good to be playing in a cup, where you’re playing for something.
“We all get on really well – there isn’t anyone that doesn’t fit in with the group. We’re all a close-knit bunch and we’re hoping we can reflect that on the pitch.”
Selhurst Park, of course, is where Exeter-born defender Dean Moxey plays his football regularly now in the Premier League. While admitting that that pathway is not something that every player will be able to emulate, he feels that it is something they should at least aim towards.
“That’s what we’re all aspiring to get to, said Grimes. “Deano has done really well for himself by going from playing in the Conference to playing in the Premier League.
“To be honest, not many of us are going to do that, but we’re all looking forward to it and we want to do ourselves justice on the night.”
Tickets bought on the night of the game at Selhurst Park will cost £8 for adults and £1 for concessions.