Striker talks to matchday programme The Grecian
After netting against Dagenham on Saturday, Tom Nichols moved onto six seniors goals for the campaign and became the Grecians’ current top-scorer. However a year ago this week, Nichols was lining up at Twerton Park in a Bath City shirt on a cold Tuesday evening, as the Romans to lost 2-0 at home to Conference South side Bromley.
That was the first of two loan spells away from the Park for Nichols last season – the second coming with Dorchester at the tail-end of the campaign.
Loan spells for young footballers often serve the purpose of allowing them to get good experience of competitive football and prosper in matches that mean something – but for Nichols, the motivation came from the other end of the spectrum.
For Nichols, who was then 19, it was a stark reminder of what can lie in wait for a youngster that falls by the wayside. Since first getting first-team action as a 17-year-old, Nichols had been largely peripheral at Exeter and his development had stalled. So time spent out on loan with the Romans provided a bleak account of the oft-romanticised non-League and the striker is now thriving on that fear of wasting his potential.
“That was a difficult time in my life,” explains Tom. “When I look back on it now, I wasn’t happy playing, things at home weren’t going right and my football wasn’t going how I wanted it to.
“When I play now, I play in fear of stepping backwards to where I was. I’m driven by the fear of being the type of player I was – I’ll do whatever I can to make sure I never go back to that. I wasn’t doing things properly and I didn’t put in as much effort as I should have or could have.
“But the penny finally dropped – I’m not just going to get given a career, I need to work hard and get a career by putting the effort in. I’m doing that now and I’m getting the rewards off the back of it.”
You can read the full interview with Tom Nichols in The Grecian, our matchday programme, which will be on sale around the ground when we play Northampton – Tom discusses the Under-21 Premier League Cup, getting given his current contract, and his three friends that are both teammates and housemates.
There is also a tribute to Scot Bennett, due to play his 100th first-team match in a City shirt against the Cobblers, a look back at the Under-21 Premier League Cup, and an alternative league table of the 92 clubs which has Exeter City blazing a trail on top of the pile.