Fighting for promotion has almost become a regular occurrence for City over the last few years with two Wembley visits and three top ten finishes.
Although this is not a reflection of the Grecians’ past as it took until 1965, under the leadership of Jack Edwards, for the club’s first ever promotion.
Born in the South Wales town of Risca in 1929, Jack first played football at an amateur level for Cardiff City and Lovell’s Athletic before crossing the border to become professional with Crystal Palace aged 19.
Jack stayed with Palace for 10 years, making over 200 appearances for the eagles as they often battled with Exeter in the Third Division South. After remaining in the Football League for two further seasons with Rochdale, Jack then got his first experience of coaching at non-league Ashford Town where he was appointed player-coach in 1961.
In 1962, Jack retired from playing after receiving a call from his good friend and former Crystal Palace teammate Cyril Spiers. Cyril had been appointed Exeter City manager in May and wanted a dedicated coach for bringing youth players into the first team with Jack top of his wish list.
Unluckily for Cyril, the season went downhill quickly and with the Grecians sat 22nd in late February the directors decided to make a change, sacking Cyril and placing Jack as temporary boss.
An immediate nine game unbeaten run propelled City out of the re-election places and the season finished with City in a comfortable 17th and Jack appointed permanent City manager.
It was safe to say nobody outside of the club expected what was to come in Jack’s first season as full time manager, as just three new players were added to a squad that hadn’t finished outside the bottom half of the table for three years but this lack of belief didn’t deter City. The side built up their form throughout the season and, after smashing Chesterfield 6-1 in the penultimate game of the season, the club’s first ever promotion was all but confirmed.
A 0-0 draw with Workington sent City up, defying all pre-season odds whilst also solidifying Jack’s place amongst Grecian legends.
Unfortunately, City couldn’t keep up their form in the Third Division and Jack handed in his resignation in January 1965. Some rumours citied Jack’s tipping point being Ellis Stuttard’s appointment as chief scout without his knowledge.
Jack went on to manage Torquay United before returning to City for a brief spell as a coach under Johnny Newman in 1975.
Star player: Alan Banks
Jack convinced the directors to pay a club record fee to acquire Alan in 1963 and this paid off, as the striker scored 18 times to help City to promotion.
Standout season: 1963/64
Jack’s only full season in charge of the Grecians saw the club’s first ever promotion.