At the end of every season, in any league, at any level, there will always be a club that finishes bottom.
In the English Football League’s three divisions, it is the club that finishes 24th who is bottom, and Exeter City have finished in that feared position only twice in their history.
The first time came in the 1957/58 season, where the Grecians bared the weight of 23 other Division Three South sides on their shoulders as they sat bottom of the league. Exeter finished on 31 points, joint with Millwall, but with a worse goal average (the ratio used to position clubs on the same points before goal difference was introduced in the 1976/77 season). The season had been dire, with just one win away from St James Park (a 3-1 victory at Plainmoor against Torquay United) but, luckily for City, they were re-elected and remained in the league.
It took 26 years for City to finish 24th again, as Gerry Francis’ side finished 10 points adrift of Port Vale in 23rd in the now-nationalised Division Three. After promotion from the Fourth Division in 1977, the Grecians had hit the heights of back-to-back top 10 finishes in England’s third tier and a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. After that cup run City’s league position slipped down the table, and after two seasons of narrowly avoiding relegation the Grecians succumbed to it in the 1983/84 season.
However, those were not the only times City had finished bottom of a league. It wasn’t until the Grecians were 35 years old before they first finished at the base of a league, as they sat at the foot of the 22 team Third Division South in the 1935/36 season. Despite winning just eight games out of 42 all season and finishing nine points adrift of safety, the Grecians survived as they were re-elected to the league.
City most recently finished bottom in the 1994/95 season, as they came 22nd in the fourth tier’s final season with 22 sides before an expansion to a 24 team league. Even though the Grecians were in major financial trouble and restricted by a transfer embargo all season, they only just finished bottom on goal difference behind Scarborough. Exeter weren’t relegated that season though as Macclesfield Town, the Conference champions, didn’t meet the stadium requirements for the Football League.
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