Born just down the road in Exmouth, Jack Sparkes is the latest in a long line of exciting academy products.
Blessed with a wicked left foot and a keen eye for goal, he is now enjoying his second season in and around the first team, having clocked up 11 senior outings in the process. Freshly returned from a one-month loan spell in the National League South with Chippenham Town, the young midfielder will likely be a key part of the first team squad in the coming years.
1931 – Having been called into the senior squad at the start of last season, aged just 16, Jack was named as the 1931 Fund’s fan sponsored player. Named in honour of the Grecian side that battled its way to the FA Cup Quarter Finals, members make a monthly contribution, which helps to pay a City player’s wages. Wearing the number 31 in recognition of his status, Jack signed a new fund supported contract in October.
74 – Jack made his senior bow in August 2017, away at Swindon Town, joining the illustrious ranks of Ethan Ampadu, Matt Grimes, Matt Jay, Tom Nichols and Jordan Moore-Taylor, all of whom made their City debuts as teenagers. With the scores tied at 1-1, he entered the fray in the 74th minute and nearly sealed all three points for the Grecians, rattling the post with a fierce long-range effort.
3 – After another impressive cameo against Lincoln City, Jack opened his scoring account on just his third senior appearance in red and white, when the Grecians played host to Yeovil Town in the Checkatrade Trophy. With City trailing 3-0 as the game reached its dying embers, he snuck in at the back post to head home an Alex Byrne cross, adding some gloss onto what was a difficult day at the office.
6 – Ultimately featuring on six occasions during his debut season, Jack also enjoyed a similarly impressive campaign at age group level, with his brightest moment coming during an under-18s fixture against Gillingham. Having picked the ball up near the corner flag, he beat his marker with ease, before curling the ball into the far top corner. Nominated for the prestigious League Football Education’s Goal of the Month Award, he finished a close second to FA Youth Cup semi-finalist, Dylan Sumner.
64 – Never one to rest on his laurels, Jack started this campaign in a similarly bright vein of form, making a vital assist against Championship side, Ipswich Town, in the EFL Cup. With the Grecians trailing 1-0, Jack stepped up in the 64th minute, whipping in a dangerous cross that was nodded home by Troy Brown. City went on to seal the victory, winning the tie 4-2 on penalties.
5 – Definitely one to watch for the future, Jack has made five appearances so far this season, including a lively half-hour spell against Premier League side Fulham in the Carabao Cup. Having gained valuable experience out on loan with Chippenham, he will no doubt be hoping to further his footballing education as the season progresses.
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, March 2 in a 3pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.