Exeter City forward Matt Jay has praised the club’s academy for the work it continues to do to bring through young players into the first team.
The Supporters’ Trust have recently launched the STARS campaign in order to help fundraise for the academy to help continue the development of young players. Matt, who came through the ranks with the Grecians, believes the work that is being undertaken at youth level is of huge benefit and has improved over the years.
He explained: “It’s a bit more established. Everybody knows about the stories of players from the academy playing in the first team, and sometimes even better than that and playing at a higher level. It’s much more established now, people used to think of it as little old Exeter City but it’s not really like that now. We’re established with a really good academy and that shows from the first team all the way down.”
Matt made his City debut against Wycombe Wanderers in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy back in September 2013, and when asked to recall his early memories of the academy Matt explained the club has moved forward fantastically since his arrival as a child.
“It seems a very long time ago now and a lot has changed since it began for me. I remember training on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the freezing cold up at the old marine camp,” said Matt. “We then moved to ISCA college and trained there, we played Sundays and then moved to Saturdays as we grew up. A lot has changed around the training ground and the way the club and the academy is run.
“I remember being here as a kid and seeing the first team train and it seemed a million miles away, but as you grow up, you’re able to integrate more into the way that things are run. You can get close to the first team boys and the staff. The facilities have really improved and I’m sure they’re going to continue to improve over the next five or 10 years if we keep doing the right things. I’m sure it’s going to be something really great here.”
When recalling his early days in the academy, the City number 17 says the academy play a crucial role in developing the players way from the pitch and place a strong emphasis on ensuring players thrive in their education.
He explained: “Always as a kid it’s about football, football, football. Coming through the academy we were taught the basic things from mannerisms to acting professionally because you’re representing the club. It’s life skills as well and being able to look after yourself and present yourself in the right way. However old you are coming through you’re always taught the right things.
“Unfortunately, it’s a harsh game and not everyone makes it as such, so you’ve got to pursue your schoolwork and keep it on track. Other activities are encouraged, although football as you get older becomes the priority, when you’re a bit younger it’s not the be all and end all. You have to have a good balance and I think that’s something that is portrayed here.”
Players who rise through the ranks and train alongside the first team are often allowed to head out on loan to gain valuable experience in men’s football, and Matt believes that part of a players’ development is crucial upon breaking into the first team.
“You want to play in the first team, you want to play at the club that you’re at, but the loan system has helped me and helped a lot of players coming through,” said Matt. “Some of the younger boys are out on loan and doing really well, it’s the best thing to do if you aren’t playing here. You’re still training here but go and play your football on a Saturday. It’s all learning curves and something that people have to do.”
On the STARS campaign and the importance of supporting the academy, Supporters' Trust chairman Nick Hawker said: “The Supporters' Trust has always been a great and encouraging advocate of the academy. For the 2019/20 season we would like to take a step further and support all of the academy rising stars, launching a yearlong fundraising campaign to sponsor the efforts being made to ensure the future Exeter City teams are brimming with young talent."
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