Young defender praises his peers after successful debut
Centre-half Jordan Tillson made his maiden appearance for Exeter City’s first team against Hartlepool United last Saturday, becoming the fifth player to make a professional debut with the Grecians this season as he played the entire 90 minutes. Ollie Watkins was also introduced as a late sub to become the sixth.
Speaking after the game, the youngster was full of praise for his teammates for helping him through his first outing in the Football League. Manager Paul Tisdale said the performance was one of the best he had seen from a debutant during his tenure as manager, and the defence kept their sheets clean in a 2-0 win against Pools.
In particular he picked out Pat Baldwin, his roommate for the night ahead of the game at Victoria Park, as being a huge influence in settling any frayed nerves, as well as young teammates Scot Bennett and Jordan Moore-Taylor who played alongside him in the three centre-half positions.
“It’s been hard because I’ve been in the squad quite a lot,” said Tillson, reflecting on having to wait for his opportunity. “But the older boys have been really good to me – they’ve talked to me all season, and Pat has been unbelievable with me this week.
“Pat has really helped me out. He spent a lot of extra time after training with me and he really gave me a head start in the game by helping me out. I shared a room with him last night – he wouldn’t stop talking!
“The lads were brilliant in the changing rooms and talked me through it, which calmed me down during the game.
“It was nice to play in a back three. Scot and Jordan have played a lot of games together and they knew what they were doing, so I played off the back of them really. They talked to me constantly.”
Tillson perhaps showed a little naivety in conceding a penalty for colliding with James Poole in the box on the cusp of half-time, but 18-year-old stopper Christy Pym saved the first penalty of his pro career on his ninth appearance.
But that was the only real fly in the ointment on what was otherwise an exceptional start for the 21-year-old.
Equally impressive was coming out on top of a battle with Marlon Harewood, a veteran of over 500 professional games including spells in the Premier League with Nottingham Forest, West Ham United, Aston Villa and Blackpool.
The defender was just pleased that he managed to control any anxieties around his first match and to get off to a good start – and is now targeting the opportunity to feature a bit more next season.
“It was hard – it’s not as easy as it looks when you’re watching in the stands,” he continued. “But I’m dead chuffed to get a start, and I can build on it next year.
“[Harewood] is a big boy! I struggled to win a few headers off of him, but it went alright. I got my first header in early which really helped to settle me down. I was quite nervous before the game and that just calmed me down, so then I could get on with the game.
“I went shoulder to shoulder with [Poole] and I think he saw me coming. I thought the penalty was a bit soft, but it happens and I’ll learn from it and not do it again next time.
“Christy helped me out – it was a great save! He said before the game that he knew where he was going to go, and he stuck to it.”
Jordan is the son of former Exeter City coach and Bristol Rovers legend Andy Tillson, who was also a centre-half in his day.
Andy was the Pirates’ record signing when he joined the club in 1992, but his boy Jordan was released from the Memorial Stadium a year after completing his apprenticeship, whereupon he joined the Grecians in 2012.
Despite the anguish of that setback, Tillson believes that it has been of benefit in the long run.
Jordan explained: “I was gutted when that happened, but I think it has made me a better player. I’ve come back and Exeter have been really good to me – I feel like it is my home now.
“My dad didn’t play until he was 21 either when he made his debut – I’m younger! If I can have half the career he had, I’ll be chuffed.”