City winger looks ahead to Cheltenham visit
From his time spent with Staines Town, Grecians winger David Wheeler is no stranger to scrapping around the lower reaches of a league table towards the end of the season – and believes that keeping a positive frame of mind and sticking together is what will get City over the line.
During his two seasons at Wheatsheaf Park, Wheeler was part of a Swans side that twice successfully battled against relegation from the Conference South. Last season, the Staines side that Wheeler was captaining were in the drop-zone three weeks before the end of the year, but won three of their final four games in the run-in to survive the drop.
From his time in that situation, Wheeler feels that he learned that a large part of scrapping at the bottom can come from being wholly positive – and he feels that City have the same traits going for them that can result in a fruitful end to the 2013/14 campaign.
Even a win against Cheltenham on Saturday would still leave City with a bit of work to do to see out the season, but with games running out, three points would be invaluable. Wheeler feels that Exeter have the tools to pick up points during this vital period and that they have reason to feel confident in their own game.
“Last season at Staines I was captain and playing all the time, so I felt the responsibility was largely on me,” explains Wheeler. “But at the time, the spirit amongst the team was really good and we worked together to get ourselves out of the situation we were in.
“A big part of it was trying to put a positive spin on everything. Once everyone had gotten into that mentality of being positive instead of moaning at each other or being moaned at, everyone started to make the best of the situation. That’s what made the difference – everyone was sticking together, pulling in the same direction and being positive.
“On the whole we’ve had the same thing at Exeter this season too. There may have been times when we could have all helped each other out a bit more – but recently we certainly look like we’re working as a team much better, which is definitely a good sign.
“So hopefully we can pick up enough points between now and the end of the season. As long as we don’t panic and don’t get drawn into being negative about the situation, we’ll be fine. Positivity is the difference.
“Tis has said throughout the season that we shouldn’t be affected too much by any individual result. When he talks about us holding our nerve, that is talking about the team being positive and confident in our own game. If you panic, it is born from negativity.”
After featuring regularly during the opening months of the campaign, Wheeler has been used a little more sporadically in recent weeks, and played the final ten minutes from the bench at Bury last weekend.
He isn’t one to begrudge other players their run in the team and insists that the key for him and the other players in reserve to keep themselves primed to be ready to make an impact when they are called upon, whether from the bench or thrown into the starting XI.
“At the start of the season, there were players that weren’t involved who are playing regularly now – the team has changed around a fair bit,” he continued.
“It would be ridiculous for me to feel sorry for myself for being out of the team, because at the start of the season there were guys that were doing really well that were on the bench.
“That’s all part of professional football. I just have to make the most of it when I come on – some of the most important things I have done this season have been off bench.
“I feel that with the pace I have, I can be a different prospect to the opposition’s back-four if they’re tiring after an hour or so. If I come on from the bench, I can cause problems for them.”
Saturday’s visitors Cheltenham are not mathematically safe from relegation – though nor are they technically out of contention for a play-off position, for that matter.
They are, however, looking increasingly likely to be one of the first teams in League 2 this season that will have nothing to play for in the closing weeks of the season.
While that can sometimes mean the opposition are already on the proverbial beach, Wheeler is conscious that Exeter will need to be on their game against a team that can afford the luxury of not having to be too desperate for points.
“When I was playing with Lewes a long time ago, we found ourselves in the situation where we needed to win on the last game of the season to stay up,” he recounts. “We were playing against Hampton & Richmond, and they were mid-table and had nothing riding on the game.
“From that experience, I found that it can be even harder because they had no pressure whatsoever so they could go out and enjoy themselves – quite often teams play a lot better like that. We ended up winning 2-1 though and got the result we needed.
“I’ve had my fair share of these kind of nervy games down the years, but it does add a little extra to the game and in a sense it can make it interesting to have that edge to the match.”