Manager looks ahead to exciting start to the season
The arrival of the fixture list on Wednesday morning has given the Grecians a mouthwatering start to the season – and manager Paul Tisdale is excited to get going again.
City host Portsmouth on the opening weekend and travel to Plymouth a week later – and the two Sky Bet League 2 games bookend a Capital One Cup clash with AFC Bournemouth.
And shortly after the trip to Home Park, City will make their first Tuesday-night away trip to meet Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium. Gary Rowett’s Brewers narrowly missed out on a first season in the third tier, being defeated by Fleetwood in the League 2 play-off final.
So the opening fortnight looks set to be a challenging one for Paul Tisdale’s young squad, but he is relishing the prospect of getting back going again when City kick off against Portsmouth.
“With us facing three teams from the south coast in Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Plymouth, it’ll be a really tasty week to get us going again,” said Paul.
“They will certainly be tough games – in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Burton we couldn’t have asked for a much more challenging first three league games. We know we’ll have to keep as many of our players fit as we can during a gruelling first couple of weeks.
“But it’s the best spread that we’ve had in a long time – I’m really excited about the season and the fact that we’ve got some big games early on.
“We’ve got some of the real key dates at home, in the first game of the season [Portsmouth], the Boxing Day game [Cheltenham], the first game in the New Year [Accrington], Easter Monday [Newport] and then the last game of the season too [Dagenham]. So I’m looking forward to getting down to it again.”
The cup tie against Championship outfit Bournemouth looks set to be a particularly interesting affair. Just six seasons ago, the two teams were squaring off in the fourth tier and a Ryan Harley goal at Dean Court gave the Grecians a 1-0 win early in a promotion-winning season.
Since then, however, the Cherries have been taken over by Maxim Demin and earned two promotions of their own – and last season they weren’t far away from earning a play-off place which could have paved the way to a first ever campaign in the top tier of English football.
It follows in a trend of drawing some seriously tricky opposition in the League Cup, but Tis is keen to see his troops in action and making a fist of it against Eddie Howe’s men.
“The Capital One Cup draw against Bournemouth is a good fixture – we seem to have had a lot of tough draws and we have drawn Championship or Premier League clubs every single year since we’ve back in the League,” said Tis.
“Bournemouth have now established themselves in that category financially too. So times have changed for them since we were facing and beating them in League 2 on the way to getting promoted.
“But it will be a great challenge for our players and an exciting game for our supporters and one we’ll all look forward to.”
City took until the penultimate weekend to secure survival in 2013/14, but a new season brings a new wave of optimism and hope and Paul is looking at it in much the same manner.
While several senior players have left St James Park over the summer, the emergence of a number of young players are first-team regulars last season means that a young squad already has a bank of experience to call upon.
Paul continued: “Around this time of year, you always get that feeling that it’s a clean slate and a chance to go again. Everyone has something to play for and everyone starts on an even keel.
“You know who the favourites will be to go up and down and where you sit amongst that, but you never quite know how things will pan out.
“12 months ago, players like Jordan Moore-Taylor, Tom Nichols, Matt Grimes and David Wheeler hadn’t played a great deal of League football – and now they’ve all got a season behind them. They will all be starting in a completely different mindset to a year ago and that’s something to be excited about.”
Click here to view the full 2014/15 fixture list.