Despite the recent struggles with their squad’s health and match fitness, Exeter City’s Under-18s received some good news recently when they found that no further COVID-19 cases had been found within their playing squad, and that those individuals who had just self-isolated are through that period without any added complications, and they are now ready to return to training.
Those other members of the youth squad who were training in isolation have managed to get in some productive work despite the complicated circumstances, however, Exeter City's under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble, admitted what concerned the staff was the safety of the players returning, as there can be certain respiratory issues if players get straight back into physical exercise.
Gribble said, “We got in contact with the Football League, and they have allowed us to postpone our next two league fixtures which were away trips to Bristol Rovers under-18s and Plymouth Argyle under-18s. I want to thank the two clubs for their understanding, and we can now use the time we’ve been given to get everyone back into training safely.
"I have to give credit to the governing bodies who have seen sense and helped us, and we are now looking forward to getting 50% of the squad back onto the training pitches this week, and the others during the next few weeks.
“We can’t use what has happened as an excuse, as COVID-19 has affected other teams. We’ve seen it throughout the world, and even at the top clubs, where they have had to fulfil their fixtures with a depleted side. But what this time off will allow us to do is allow us to get the players back in and make up for a bit of lost time. Time was not the thing that worried us however, it was more readying the players for their return to matches.
“We are very much hopeful that the 10-day shutdown has meant we are over it, and that everyone now has a clean bill of health. We are confident at the Academy that the measures we have in place will help prevent us from contracting the virus again, however, we were rather unfortunate that this was picked up from outside of the club. What we didn’t want to do was then bring it into the first-team group.”
So while the young Grecians may end up playing catch up in terms of games played in comparison to their Westcountry rivals, it means that City will return to competitive action on Saturday, September 11 with a home fixture against Cheltenham Town, before Portsmouth visit the Cliff Hill Training Ground the week after.
Swindon Town under-18s currently sit top of the Youth Alliance South West division having secured maximum points from their opening two matches, while Exeter’s youngsters currently prop up the table after playing only just one solitary game to date.