In the summer transfer window there is always speculation among football fans about who will arrive at their club.
Which position are we going to strengthen? Who are we going to bring in to bolster the midfield or add to our goal tally?
City fans may have spent considerable time pondering what positions Matt Taylor would address over the summer. In fact, he’s recruited right across the pitch as he readies his squad for another marathon of a League Two campaign.
But one question that always guaranteed an answer concerned the goalkeeping department. Who would turn out in goal for the Grecians for the 2019/20 season?
With Christy Pym, James Hamon and Felix Norman all departing for pastures new this season, City had to recruit two new goalkeepers to battle for a starting spot for the new campaign.
Alongside coach Steve Hale, City have brought in two capable shot stoppers in Lewis Ward and Jonny Maxted.
The former took the much-travelled path between Reading and Exeter, whilst the Grecians signed the latter from League One side, Accrington Stanley.
It’s so far, so good, for the Grecians in the league campaign with two goals scored, six points accumulated, and zero goals conceded with Lewis being given the nod in between the sticks thus far.
“I knew it was always going to be tough to come into a new environment for the first time permanently and move down here, but it’s been really enjoyable, and everyone has made me feel really welcome,” explains Lewis after helping the club to two consecutive wins in which he has impressed over his 180 minutes in a City shirt. “It’s been really nice to settle in, the changing room is great, and the staff are great, so it’s been really easy.”
Lewis is enjoying life with the Grecians so far
Lewis has found his feet quickly at the club, teaming up the familiar faces in Jake Taylor and Pierce Sweeney who have joined the Grecians from the Royals in recent seasons. Lewis has had a number of loan spells before leaving the Madejski Stadium permanently having learned his trade at the likes of Hungerford Town, Aldershot Town and Forest Green Rovers.
He explained: “Everywhere else I’ve been has been on loan so I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider and you’re always going back to your parent club, but now I’m here permanently it’s nice to be a part of the dressing room and really feel at home.
“We’re a tight knit group (Jonny Maxted and goalkeeping coach Steve Hale) and train away from the rest of the boys, so we’re on our own most of the time. The competition between us is going to be good, I’ll push him (Jonny), and he’ll push me, so it’s going to be really interesting to see how far we can take it.
“We’re all new to each other so it’s quite nice to become a close-knit group quite early on. We’ve bonded quite quickly, and our sessions are going really well.”
Despite impressing in his first couple of competitive matches for the Grecians, Lewis admitted there were nerves ahead of his first match against Macclesfield as we he wanted to ensure he got off to the best possible start.
He continued: “I think it’s the most nervous I’ve been before a debut because it’s a permanent move rather than a loan move. It was in front of the home fans as well, so I think it was probably the most nervous I’ve been before a game. It was nice to get off to a good start with three points, the boys made it easy for me by the way they played.
“The crowd were great, the atmosphere that they brought to the game was really good, hopefully they can bring that every week and we can bring the standards that we want, and then just keep going.”
Having picked up back-to-back league wins so far, how does he feel the Grecians have done in their opening fixtures?
“We’ve not played to the best that we can, but we’ve got six points from six with two clean sheets, so if we can add more goals and maybe score earlier then it might help people’s hearts!” laughed Lewis. “Hopefully scoring earlier will allow us to take control of the game early on, rather than having to grind it out. But it shows that we can grind out results when we’re not playing as good as we could do.
“We’ve scored late in the last two games, and that’s down to the boys being determined and solid throughout from back to front. We just need to make sure that we’re focused on ourselves and move forward.”
Lewis in pre-season action away at Torquay United
We’ve seen in recent years the link with Reading continue to grow in Lewis’s arrival as well as Pierce Sweeney, Jake Taylor and Jack Stacey, who spent time on loan with City in the 2016/17 season.
But one of the biggest links comes in the form of the late Eamonn Dolan, who helped guide Exeter City to stability during one of its most troubling times and took over as academy manager at Reading following his departure from St James Park in 2004.
Whilst a young Lewis was developing at Reading, he came into contact with Eamonn before he sadly passed away at the age of 48. Like Jake and Pierce, who have paid tribute to Eamo in recent years, Lewis believes he owes a lot of thanks to him.
He explained: “I grew up with Jake and Pierce being in an older age group to me, but I played in the under-21s with them a little bit as I was coming through. The setup there is really good, the academy is so renowned there and it was nice to have my 13 years there.
“Eamonn was a massive part of that, he brought me all the way through, and it’s nice to come to a club where he did that here as well. It’s nice to have that little link, the academy is so solid there and they bring a lot of players through.
“Eamonn was one of the people all the way through. I was a gangly kid when I was younger and didn’t really grow into my body until I was about 17 or 18, so he was the one that was telling people to take time and give me a little bit of space. He was the one who defended my corner all the way through, which was really nice.”
Having acquired another of Eamo’s youngsters from Reading, the Grecians have brought in a player in Lewis who is incredibly driven to be successful with the club. And having made a promising start to his career with City it looks like he could have an integral role for the club this season.
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