Ronnie Jepson has pledged £100 and two signed shirts to the two causes that will benefit from Sunday’s Eamonn Dolan Memorial Match at St James Park (1pm).
The former Grecians striker was a team-mate of Dolan’s when he played for City from 1992-1994 and had agreed to play in Sunday’s match, but he has unfortunately had to pull out after being named as part of Neil Warnock’s coaching staff at Cardiff City, who are at Nottingham Forest for a televised Sky Bet Championship game on Saturday evening.
However, keen to do something to help out, the popular Jepson, who scored 21 goals in 54 appearances for the Grecians, has given a donation to Action Bladder Cancer UK and the Exeter City Academy, the two chosen causes for Sunday’s game, as well as a signed Manchester United and Manchester City shirt.
“I used to have such great craic with Eamonn,” Jepson said of his former team-mate.
“I remember at Exeter, when we had a bad result, Bally [manager Alan Ball] would want us all in for extra training and the lads wouldn’t be happy. Eamo would be saying: ‘Listen lads, we’ll be OK.’ He was always so positive.
“If I hadn’t played well, he would say: ‘You know what Ronnie, it didn’t go good today, but it will go good next week.’
“He was such an optimist and that is why he went on to do what he did at Reading.
“That was the sort of character he was, he had time and patience. He didn’t see the instant, he saw the whole picture and it is a great attribute to have, especially in football where you are not given much time.
“It is great that Reading gave him that time and it says something that they have named a stand after him.”
Jepson vied with Dolan for a starting berth in the Exeter team at that time, but despite the competition between the two, Dolan almost acted as a mentor for Jepson, despite being four years his junior.
“To be a number nine back in those days, it was hard to be nice, you had to get in there and occupy two horrible centre halves, who wanted to kick you,” Jepson said.
“But Eamonn was such a help to me. We were both trying to get in the team and he would take the time to speak to me and help me and I was in his position. I couldn’t understand that... But that’s what type of guy he was.
“He was different, he was an intelligent guy and here he was giving me advice when I am nicking his place and saying to me ‘Well done Ronnie’ – it was fantastic. That doesn’t happen in football. He would talk to me as if he was my best mate.
“I would walk away and couldn’t believe what he said. Even when he had his cancer, he would come back in and come into training with a smile on his face and it didn’t happen if we had won, lost or drawn. He was a constant.”
Jepson’s departure from St James’ Park in an £80,000 deal signalled the start of a downward spiral for the Grecians, which was only really steadied when Dolan became manager following the club’s fall out of the Football League in 2002.
But despite their paths going in different directions, the two remained good friends and their paths would often cross when they went into coaching.
“I used to bump into Eamonn a lot when I worked at Palace and QPR and we would take teams over there and I’d bump into him at first team games when we played Reading,” Jepson said.
“He’d always greet you with that lovely smile and that demeanour of his... he was such a nice person. He knew we were there for the three points, but would still make the time of day for you.
“There are some great names in the game and Eamonn went under the radar a little bit. He was never a great player, but as a person, he was bigger than Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho – all of them. Nobody could touch him.
“He was massive as a human being and no one could touch him. He was an amazing guy.
“He had time for you, your family – everyone. He was an amazing guy, a really special, special guy.”
Sunday’s match kicks-off at 1pm and admission is by donation, with the suggestion £10 for adults and £5 concessions.
A special commemorative programme has also been produced priced £2.