After a Championship winning 2018/2019 season, one in which the team scored a staggering 100 League goals, how Exeter City responded to the challenge of the National League was always going to be fascinating to watch.
With the Season sadly voided due to COVID restrictions, the team sat in 3rd position in a technically superior, more physical league than the one from which they had come from, representing a fine transition into a higher division. Perhaps nothing underlines the development of the team greater than the two fixtures against Southampton, each end of what was to prove a curtailed season.
Suffering an 8-2 defeat in September, City would only suffer a narrow 2-1 defeat in March, a considerable achievement and declaration that they had arrived as a National League side. Sadly the Senior Devon County Cup Final was also voided, but a final appearance to add to an ever improving league season, left everyone connected with the team both proud and excited for what is to come.
There were some significant individual achievements for the season. Kyanna Orchard won the Young Player of the Year award. Coming into the side at only 16 years of age, Kyanna's bravery and shot stopping were a big asset and helped establish her at No.1. Ella-Mae Miller won the Manager's Player of the Year Award. On her second season at senior level, the attacking full back continues to shine, showing intelligence in possession and excellent positional awareness. Finally, Danielle Tyson won the Player's Player Award. A skilful midfielder whose improvement last season came at an accelerated pace. With good vision and an eye for goal, Danielle will continue to be one to watch.
One of the main success stories to come from last season was the recognition for the talents of Georgie Barbour-Gresham. Georgie was called up to the England College's Under 19 side and it represented a noticeable achievement for "one of our own." Georgie would not only be Vice Captain for the team's tour of Italy, she would also Captain the side throughout their WSL Academy Cup campaign. To emphasise the impact Georgie made in her time away with the National side, she was awarded the Luke Buckingham Award for the Female Player of the Year for the 2019/2020 season. As a club we proudly articulate the development of the likes of Ethan Ampadu, Ollie Watkins and Ben Chrisene, Georgie Barbour-Gresham has every chance of emulating their successes in the Women's game and we should be equally proud and vocal of her achievements. This type of progression does not come without hard work, the commitment put in by Georgie and the coaching team to allow such an opportunity to arise must be applauded. National recognition for a player developed at Exeter City is vindication for the work being accomplished within the Women's section and evidence that the methods are working.
With the new season fast approaching, the management team have been busy assembling a squad to progress the side further. Phoebe Baker arrives from Bideford. Tenacious, energetic and an ability to move the ball quickly, Phoebe will add balance to the midfield. Steph Beck's signing from Plymouth Argyle will provide experience to the squad, alongside her quality. An intelligent midfielder who will give guidance to her younger team mates both on and off the pitch. With two of last season's Annual awards presented to Development Centre talents, Esme Kilburn-Thompson is next to make that step up. A quick forward player with an eye for goal, it is hoped Esme can adjust to senior football and surprise some of City’s National League opponents over the coming months.
With the experience of last season now behind the team, the ambition for this year is to once again be competitive. Grecian's manager Clive Watts explains. "Our aim is to achieve a top four finish again; a good cup run would be nice too. Most of all it's about development and playing an attractive brand of football."
Exeter City Women's set up is growing fast. There are nearly 100 girls in the development programme and the successes of Tyson, Miller and Barbour-Gresham will act as an inspiration to those looking to progress into the senior side. With an infrastructure in place to promote young talent, Exeter City are a team on the up, with big ambitions to strive forward with. Our Club ethos is focused on development and progressing alongside the improvements of those players, Exeter City Women's squad are the epitome of that ethos. This is a group of hard working, committed people who are going places, make sure you play a part in their upward journey by supporting the team throughout this coming Season.