New signing on coming to the GreciansExeter City’s newest recruit Manny Oyeleke believes that the club could be a good fit for him at this stage in his career.
A product of the Brentford Academy, Oyeleke has played a majority of his competitive football away from Griffin Park, with loan spells at Northampton, Aldershot and Woking.
And after five years with the Bees, the 22-year-old midfielder has become Paul Tisdale’s first summer signing as the Grecians’ squad for 2015/16 begins to take shape.
He admitted that the club’s reputation for garnering and developing the potential of aspiring players was an influential factor, and was happy to get the deal over the line so early in the off-season.
“When I came to Exeter for a trial, I didn’t know much about the club at all – other than that it was long train journey away!” said Manny.
“But as soon as I got in to the training ground, I saw a lot of photographs of players that have been here and moved upwards in their careers – players that I knew but which I didn’t realise who had come through with Exeter.
“So I learned a lot about the club and it was very impressive for me. I realised that this was a club that can produce and help players to get to the next level, but also that they are also respected in that other clubs feel that the players here are capable of playing in higher leagues.
“And that was proved most recently with Matt Grimes joining Swansea in the Premier League – it was a real eye-opener for me.
“That isn’t something that happens a lot in London. It is very fast-paced and there isn’t a lot of patience. To have a manager that is going into their tenth season is unheard of for me.
“It was exactly what I was looking for and I was really happy that they were impressed enough with me that they wanted to sign me as well.
“And also now I can focus on Exeter instead of going on holiday thinking, ‘where am I going to be?’ and ‘what is my future looking like?’ That has settled things for me and my family.”
Brentford were in League 2 as recently as 2009, but Mark Warburton’s men are now within three matches of making it into the Premier League. If the Bees can make it past Middlesbrough over two legs and defeat Ipswich or Norwich at Wembley, it would secure back-to-back promotions for the club and a place in the top-flight for the first time since 1947.
The flip-side of that success has meant that some of the younger players such as Oyeleke are now less likely to get a look-in at Brentford. But Oyeleke doesn’t begrudge the club anything and only has kind words for the role they have played in his development to date.
“If Brentford were still in League 1 and I still wasn’t getting a chance and the team wasn’t progressing, it would leave more of a bitter taste in my mouth,” Oyeleke said.
“But the way that the club has improved – things like the training ground, the training sessions, the calibre of players – it is just amazing how well they are doing. They have players that are top-end in the Championship and they could be Premier League players next season.
“I could hardly go and knock on the manager’s door and tell him I should be playing! They have been doing unbelievably well and I haven’t got a bad word to say about Brentford. I’ve only got good words for that club and I’m hoping that they do get into the Premier League.
“Alfie Mawson [of Wycombe] is a good friend of mine – I played with him at youth level and he was in the exact same position as I was in at Brentford where the opportunities were always going to be limited to get into the first team.
“He has gone on to make such an impact at League 2 – he was named third-best player in the division at the Football League Awards. That gives you confidence, to know that players which you have played with and who have been your peers, can do it. It gives you belief that you can do it as well.
“And so with the type of football that the manager wants to play and the history that the club has of producing young players and making them become better players, I think it is ideal conditions for me to improve.”
Manny was in attendance at St James Park for the final fixture of the year as City beat Dagenham 2-1 at the Park.
He felt that it reaffirmed his thought that Exeter and their style would be a good fit with his own.
“I was very surprised with both teams to be honest,” he continued. “Dagenham & Redbridge played some really good football as well which I probably didn’t expect, especially in the first half.
“I had just finished my season a week before with Woking, and in the Conference it can be very much a case of getting the ball forward in the channels and percentage football – not a lot of possession and getting in down, which I’m more used to at Brentford and in playing youth football.
“But I was very impressed and very happy because this is the kind of football that I want to be playing in. You can tell that the manager gives the players a lot of freedom and that impressed me the most.”
On his own game, he is looking to bring an energy and impetus to the Grecians’ midfield when the season kicks off again in August.
“I think I bring versatility, energy and attacking play – especially in one-on-one situations, which I enjoy,” Manny continued.
“I hope that I can get on the ball and inject a bit of excitement for Exeter. I’ll try to excite the crowd and have end-product as well.”