Director of Football gives verdict on Respect & Fair Play Award
The Grecians’ Director of Football Steve Perryman was understandably delighted that Exeter City were given the Football League Respect & Fair Play Award by The FA for the 2013/14 season.
When Perryman arrived at the club in 2003, when the side had been relegated out of the Football League and the Supporters’ Trust had taken over the club, the Grecians had the second-worst disciplinary record of all of the 92 clubs.
The Exeter side had accrued 102 yellow cards and nine reds during the course of the 2002/03 campaign, meaning the cash-strapped side that were facing a drop to the Conference were also slapped with a frankly unaffordable £25,000 fine from the League.
But when Perryman arrived at the club fresh from Japan – where Shimizu S-Pulse and Kashiwa Reysol had topped the J-League fair-play tables under his guidance – he was tasked with reversing that trend at Exeter City. Throughout his tenure with Exeter, he has consistently worked towards eliminating indiscipline throughout the club.
Over the course of a decade of cultivating an environment of respect and fair play at St James Park, discipline has improved year on year under the tutelage of Steve and the managers and coaches he has worked with during that time. That culminated with the Grecians being ranked comfortably first for fair play amongst the 92 clubs last season, landing City a £10,000 prize to be spent on a specific project.
“Over the years, [our discipline] has progressively got a bit better and a bit better,” said Steve. “Of course you have a blip and the odd sending off here and there, but it’s a competitive sport and you’ll find that happens.
“But over the course of the season, I’d back us to be as good as anyone with discipline to the referee. And that’s why I’m proud and delighted that instead of costing us money, we’ve gained some money out of it.”
Steve doesn’t feel that a team playing by the rules doesn’t inherently means that they are a soft touch – and in fact hopes that playing fair can be conducive to long-term success. Indeed, his Shimizu S-Pulse team won the J-League and Asian Cup Winners Cup under his stewardship whilst being taught to protect the integrity of the game.
So in particular, he is pleased that this City side doesn’t contaminate itself with an anti-football mentality.
“Some people think that if you play fair, you play soft,” he said. “That doesn’t have to be – absolutely not – because when you go for that ball, you’re going in as strong as anyone else because you’re going for the ball.
“The odd time you’re going to mistime it and you’ll get a yellow card, and that would be deserved. But don’t get done for dissent, kicking the ball away, or lashing out at an opponent.
“I think poor discipline is the cancer of the game. Crowds pay money to see the ball in play – they don’t always like what they see when it’s in play! – but at least it’s in play.”
Watch the full interview with Steve on our YouTube channel below – and make sure to hit the Subscribe button to get alerts to our new YouTube content for free.