The mid-1990s were precarious times for Exeter City; the club was in a dire financial state, finished bottom of the entire Football League in 1995 and only missing out on relegation to non-league on a technicality.
Stability was required, and as Charlie Howell finds out, the appointment of former goalkeeper Peter Fox as manager was the first step to guarantee just that.
Graduating through Sheffield Wednesday’s academy, Peter made his first team debut aged 15 in 1972, becoming the Owl’s youngest ever player – a record that still stands to this day. Six years at Wednesday, including a summer loan spell at Team Hawaii, followed before a career-defining £15,000 move to First Division side Stoke City in 1978.
Originally brought in to deputise for Roger Jones, Peter was given his first team opportunity in April 1980 as the Potters battled against relegation to the second tier. Two clean sheets in the final two games ensured Stoke’s survival and cemented Peter’s place in the team, as he went on to be an almost ever-present for the next four seasons, winning two player of the season awards too.
Future Exeter manager Alan Ball appointed Peter as Stoke’s captain in 1990, however by this point in his career the goalkeeper’s first team appearances were beginning to dwindle and in July 1993 after 477 appearances, Peter left Stoke to link back up with Ball, who had since become Exeter City’s manager.
Initially joining as a player-coach, Peter, who was fresh off the back of winning City’s player of the season, was appointed as manager in July 1995 after the resignation of Terry Cooper with the club in administration bottom of the entire Football League.
Working on a threadbare budget, Peter had to remain on the playing staff during the 1995/96 season, playing every single game that season despite being 39 years old. Regardless of those barriers, the Grecians still managed an impressive 14th place finish, and this would foreshadow much of Peter’s reign at City as the club constantly punched above their weight when budget restraints almost always placed Exeter as a relegation favourite.
A league high came in 1998/99, as the goals of Darren Rowbotham and Steve Flack pushed City up to their highest post-relegation finish of 12th, with a final day 2-1 victory over Halifax Town meaning that the Grecians finished above local rivals Plymouth Argyle for the first time in 19 years.
Peter left City in January 2000 and never managed again, instead holding various scouting and coaching positions at clubs such as Blackpool.
Star player: Darren Rowbotham
The legendary City striker was a crucial part of Peter’s side, being a regular fixture in the first team and even scoring a third of the Grecians’ league goals in 1997/98.
Standout Season: 1998/99
Unknowingly to Peter and City’s fans at the time, this would turn out to be City’s highest finish in the football pyramid until Paul Tisdale lead his City side to second place in the fourth tier in 2009.