Last week saw the club announce that Matt Jay, Josh Key, Harry Kite and Cheick Diabate had all signed new deals with the club, rewarding the four Academy graduates for their hard work over the last year.
Upon hearing the news, ECFC Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble, admitted how proud he was of the four players he once taught.
“From an Academy point of view, it is really pleasing. Credit has to go to the four lads. They are incredibly hard-working, and from day one they’ve always maximised the opportunities given to them.
“Lots of individual parts make up a player’s development, and it has been a real collective effort. I have to thank, and credit, the first-team staff for providing opportunities to the younger players. That is what is unique about this football club. The young players get a lot of time and attention, and if they get to a point where they are in the manager's thoughts, they will get rewarded with opportunities.”
Whilst the four are all in the first-team set-up and are set for bright future at the Grecians, Gribble first worked with them during their time in the youth set up, and even at a young age, Gribble noticed there was a real focus from them all that would help them succeed.
“You don’t graduate from the Academy if you don’t show hunger and desire, and they dedicate lots of time to their development outside of training. They are at various stages of their careers, but it doesn’t surprise me that they are now starting to see the rewards for their hard work. MJ is getting more goals, the others with their first-team chances, and Cheick has earned a contract because he is demonstrating his potential.
“The new deals are a testament to the players. When an Academy player graduates, they have to learn to stand on their own two feet and show off their potential. Every club would love to produce players from their Academy, and it is great that we have homegrown players in our first-team squad, but the four of them know they can’t take that for granted, and they have to continue to work hard.
“A footballer’s career is not an easy journey, but the more examples we have of Academy graduates succeeding, the better it is. Their stories are inspirational for our younger Academy players, and shows that there is a pathway. The four lads, along with the other first-team group are great with the young players. They have all come through Academies at some stage so they can pass on the knowledge they’ve learnt over the years. That is the type of club we are, and that is led by the manager. Just recently the captain, Jake Taylor, spoke with the Under-16s, so it makes them all feel like a part of the club. Everybody at the club wants the same thing. They want to see more graduates breaking into the first-team, doing well, and earning more contracts."