Exeter City manager Matt Taylor says planning is well under way as he looks to ready his squad for the 2019/20 season.
The Grecians, who narrowly missed out on a place in this year’s Sky Bet League Two play-offs, will now have a summer break before pre-season begins at the end of June with a trip to Jersey.
Ahead of the club announcing its retained list from 9am on Friday, May 10, the City manager admitted that he hasn’t had time as yet to reflect on his first year in management and says he still feels frustrated not to have been competing in the play-offs.
The City boss explained: “Honestly, I’ve not had a chance to sit down and digest it yet. My first port of call were the players and staff at the start of this week, so it’s been a busy few days.
“At the end of this week I will go away for a few days and will get a chance to reflect on it. I’m still bitterly disappointed that we didn’t make it into the play-offs, and despite being pleased with the performance on Saturday (v Forest Green) there were still frustrations that we’ve had at times this season and the end product, the hardest part, which is putting the ball in the back of the net. We needed the points and we needed the goals at the end of the day, so to fall so close is disappointing, but like I say, preparations have already started ahead of the new season.”
When thinking back over previous months and his first year in charge of the Grecians, the City boss says he’s thoroughly enjoyed the role and is looking forward to kicking on next season.
“There’s been plenty of surprises, ones that you can’t predict, some unfortunate issues and some pleasant surprises,” said Matt. “I’ve enjoyed it, the highs and lows of football are part and parcel of every manager’s life, and anyone who works in football, it’s part of your life.
“You’ve got to enjoy the ride, I keep saying to the players that they’re at a good club, a good environment, and a good place to come and train. Their reactions are that they do come into training and enjoy it, we want that to continue and we want to keep improving.
“There have been various highlights, some victories on the way and some good goals and performances. The thing I’m most proud about is the way that the players have conducted themselves because they represent this club really well, they’re proud to represent Exeter City. We see them on a daily basis, a lot of people don’t see how hard they work on the training ground, and as a manager, I’m pleased with that.”
City made use of the loan market last season to bolster their options throughout the squad, and Matt was keen to emphasise how Dara O’Shea, who joined for the season from West Brom, developed over the course of the year and the manager could well opt to use the loan system going into the next season.
He explained: “Dara is one that I need to highlight as a perfect example of a loan player. At the start of the season he came in on the back of a season in the Southern Premier League with Hereford. He was our best trainer in the first part of the season when he wasn’t playing and when he got into the team, he was a fantastic performer for us, and still our best trainer away from performing on a Saturday.
“It shows you what sort of character he was, he was a manager’s dream in terms of the loan because he wanted to improve, he wanted to learn and develop. Thankfully he put in some good performances, he’s gone back to West Brom a better player because he invested in the club and it worked out well that we had him for the season.
“That’s what we want from loan players, people who it really matters to, and those that aren’t selfish about their own performances and they’re all about the team. Dara was a shining light in terms of that and we wish him all the best because he’s one who will go on to bigger and better things, we’d love to work with him again in the future. It strengthens our relationship with teams like West Brom because Dara’s development has been foremost in our minds, so like I say, we’ll be looking to use the loan market again but that’s always late on in windows, and I’ve got to get my permanent signings in place first and foremost.”
On permanent signings the City boss says he will be looking to add to his ranks over the course of the summer but admitted when targeting players who can improve the squad, there is likely to be competition from a number of other clubs.
“It’s clear what I want to do, which is easier said than done, there’s obviously restrictions in terms of the sort of club we are,” said Matt. “We’re targeting good players and there are other managers in Leagues One and Two doing the same.”
With the club having sold a record amount of early bird season tickets ahead of the new season, Matt praised the support that he and the team has received over the last year.
He explained: “They’ve played their part this season, we’ll need them to have a rest and reset and come back stronger than ever. They get behind the lads and we want to reward them with performances at home. Our home form after Christmas was a slight frustration for me. There were some good games, but some poor ones as well. The boys have got to relish playing at home, especially at the Park. It suits us, it’s a good atmosphere, a good pitch, and a good place to play football.”
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