Exeter City captain Jake Taylor spoke of his desire to return to football with a set of strong performances as the Grecians begin their play-off campaign.
It will be Jake’s third play-off campaign in four years at the club, though his first as club captain. He said it will still be unusual for the players though, despite their knowledge of the play-offs, because of the current Covid-19 crisis but it is something for them to relish.
“It’ll be different for sure, the travel, the build-up, the atmosphere will be different, but we’ve prepared as well as we can,” he said. “We’re in a nice position and it’s definitely something to look forward to.
“Everyone feels ready to go, the staff have been fantastic. We’ve had a really good season and we’re really excited for the next few games, it’s up to us to perform.
“Playing without the fans will be very strange, coming out to warm up in the play-offs is one of my best memories. However, we’ll be motivating ourselves in different ways.”
Looking at the opposition, Jake said: “Colchester are a good side with lots of good players. They’re a side we’ve got to be wary of, but we’re confident in the group that we have, we’ve prepared as well as we can do. A lot of hard work has gone into it and we’re looking forward to getting going.”
The first leg on Thursday will represent the first game played in the English Football League since its suspension in March and eventual curtailment of the regular seasons in Leagues One and Two earlier this month. The curtailment has been disruptive, but Jake says the squad have prepared as best they possibly can.
“We’ve had programmes since we’ve been off in the hope some football can be played so the boys have come back in a really good position,” he said. “Everyone’s going to be in similar positions, but I feel we’ve prepared really well and that stands us in good stead. It’ll be difficult without being in the swing of things but that’s out of our control.
“It’s not going to be something we’ve experienced before. We’re going straight into the deep end in the biggest game of the season so far – we’ve got a great group of boys and the camaraderie and everyone sticking together will definitely help over the next two, hopefully three, games.”
Speaking about what it would mean to win promotion, Jake added: “I’ve been so close to promotion over a number of years and not quite got there yet, but all those emotions make you stronger each year. We’ll see where it takes us this year. It’d be fantastic to win promotion, not just for us as players but also for Matt after two years as a manager. I’d love to return my thanks to the club by helping them get promoted.
Lastly, Jake credited the Exeter fans, who have been purchasing cardboard cutouts of themselves to be placed at the ground, for their fantastic support throughout the regular season. He hopes that continues into the play-offs but without them coming to the ground. He said it was important that fans stayed away from both Thursday’s first leg at Colchester and Monday’s second leg at St James Park.
“The fans have been amazing with the season tickets and the ticket donations – the cardboard cut-out of fans is brilliant as well,” he said. “We appreciate fans’ support and we have done all season, but we don’t want them breaking government guidelines to support us. We have fantastic support, whether it’s on TV or on social media, and while we’d love for everyone to be with us it’s unfortunate that can’t happen.”
If you want to have a cardboard cut out of yourself at the play-off semi-final second leg against Colchester at St James Park, click here for more details.