Julian Tagg is president and director of external affairs at Exeter City Football Club. In this monthly column, written for the Express & Echo, he brings an exclusive look behind the scenes at St James Park.
So, our unbeaten run came to an end at the weekend. Something that’s inevitable, although it was good to ride the wave while we did. As usual we picked ourselves up and went again – and boy, did we go again! With a game under the floodlights on Tuesday night, that saw eight academy players in the squad, with five starting, we came away with a positively incredible 6-1 win over Colchester United.
Our very own Statto, in the form of the Supporters’ Trust’s Will Barrett, was impressively quick with the statistics; according to Will it’s the first time we’ve won by five goals in the league since beating Southport in the conference in 2006, and the first time we’ve scored six at St James Park since we beat Fulham 6-4 in 1993.
Whilst I’m sure we’re all ecstatic, there’s only one regret - that you weren’t there to see it. Although, following the government’s announcement this week, the return of fans may now be sooner rather than later. The announcement that clubs in areas of lower restrictions will soon be able to welcome up to 4,000 fans is extremely good news to us all, but those numbers are likely to be significantly less for us, and it’s something that Justin and his safety team are now working through. This is a multi-faceted and difficult decision-making process, with, as usual, a very short notice period. As ever, we will need your understanding and patience while we work through how we can bring fans back in the safest way possible. But let me assure you, we will do everything in our powers to make that happen.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me, but one of the highlights has been the Supporters’ Trust AGM, which took place on Saturday. It all happened over Zoom and it was great to see such a large number of people in attendance. Thank goodness for modern technology, which meant the AGM was still able to go ahead. This year also saw the introduction of online voting for the trust, another real positive which saw a huge increase in the number of votes cast. Congratulations to the trust board members who were elected.
As I’m sure you’re becoming used to from these columns, there is a lot of focus on the youth players, who continue to do us proud. I know I’ve said it before, but there’s no getting away from it, they really are having a cracking start to the season. Our under-16s became national champions, which is no mean feat in itself, beating Crewe Alexandra 7-3. I don’t think many of us saw that score coming when the city boys went into the break 3-1 down…Next for the youth, we’ve got the Under 18s who will face previous premiership side Bournemouth at St James Park in the third round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday, December 2. It will definitely be one to watch and the club’s planning to livestream it – so keep an eye on the social media.
We have recently seen the number of subs change from three to five for the remainder of the season. Matt has made his feelings very clear on this, certainly around the timing of it. In any team there will inevitably be injuries as the season progresses and when this happens you call on your younger players. We believe this new rule favours those clubs with bigger budgets who can afford to buy and maintain larger squads. We will see how this new rule pans out in the coming weeks and months. It was somewhat ironic that on Tuesday night Colchester made three subs – we all know why – and then a further two subs in the second half as things got worse for them and then following an unfortunate injury, ended up with 10 men in the last minutes of the game. Perhaps a little more thought into the new rule is required!
This season, we’ve been extremely lucky to gain new sponsors and retain those we already had. Their loyalty has been hugely impressive over this period and the whole Exeter City family is extremely grateful to them all. Carpetright have been just fantastic from the outset, most recently having shirts printed for teams including Exeter College, the Futsal squad, our development centres, disability teams, youth deaf teams and the Man v Fat squad, all teams which are organised by our partner charity, CITY Community Trust. We owe them a huge debt of thanks.
Talking of CITY Community Trust, can you believe that an incredible 1,500 people have signed up to take part in its annual Santa Run? They won’t be taking over the city centre as normal this year, though as the event is going to be virtual. So, when you see people running in their most festive gear, make sure you give them a wave and cheer!