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.
And so, the football train rumbles on through winter; we’ve certainly been getting the miles in over the last few weeks, but it’s all worthwhile when you come away with a win as we did at Colchester on Tuesday night and a glorious goal for Ben Seymour; let’s hope it’s the first of many for him, in the coveted number nine shirt.
The weather took its toll on Saturday as our home game against Grimsby was cancelled following the torrential downpour leading up to the game. I was at St James Park for most of the day and can certainly attest to the hard work that went in to trying to get the game on, but it just wasn’t to be. Since the pandemic, there is, of course, no catering provided for the small number of home and away directors who are allowed to attend the game; but we always make sure there’s a west country welcome especially for our travelling guests, in the form of real Devon pasties…with the game off, they were shared around the media team and others at the park, I triumphantly took one home for Charlie – not quite the romantic meal for two she was anticipating…
The forced break had to be a blessing in disguise for the team that had battled against Newport on the previous Tuesday; down to 10 men after a few minutes and then nine for the whole of the second half, they really had a mountain to climb, a team that included 10 home grown players from our academy and, boy, did they do it with spirit and resilience. It was a real nail-biter and gutting when Newport equalised in the 88th minute. You could sense the pride in Matt’s voice when he praised the team afterwards, not reflecting or commenting on the ref’s decisions – much like the response of Rob Baxter when a decision in the final minute of the game against Northampton meant a loss for the Chiefs at the weekend. What amazing ambassadors both these men are for our city and for the generations of young people who look up to them.
I can’t remember many seasons where there have been so many games postponed due to the weather, and of course covid considerations and, although its conjecture at this stage, it does seem ever more likely that the season will be extended to accommodate the extra matches. This will again have a knock-on effect on the pitch, as we lose that vital window to make those valuable reparations during for the summer. So, Saturday therefore was bittersweet for our groundsman Chas and his team, as on this occasion the pitch was saved. but the summer just got a little bit more difficult. I have to say, we’re loving Chas’s pitch reports and working progress, delivered in his own inimitable style. I think our media team are doing an amazing job, and we might just be looking at the next star of stage and screen – definitely well worth a watch!
Boris’s announcement this week won’t allow the return of fans for the domestic season, but it may mean fans can attend the play offs, but let’s not go there just yet… Once it’s safe to do so, we will be very pleased indeed to see you all back at SJP. A match at St James Park without fans is a very surreal experience and not one that we want to go on for any longer than it needs to. You can be sure that we will follow every rule and guideline to bring you back safely and, most importantly, enjoyably.
Unfortunately, one player you won’t see will be Nicky Law, who has left us after he was offered an incredible opportunity coaching and playing in the States. I’m sure, that like so many at the club, you will be sad to see Nicky move on, but one of the things this club is renowned for is not standing in people’s way when they have an exceptional opportunity made available to them and there is no doubt that this was just that. In every interview Nicky has always spoken highly of the club as a whole and we wish him well in his career.
The strength of our club is our ownership model and our Supporters’ Trust continues to do amazing work for the benefit of the whole Exeter City family. Most recent has been the initiative to replace funds which would have been raised for our partner charity CITY Community Trust through bucket collections. Thanks to the Supporters’ Trust’s Grecian Goal initiative, (the membership, including myself, took a recent hammering when we scored 11 goals in two games) they were able to donate £2,500 to replace the lost income. The funds will go to help CITY Community Trust deliver their projects for the community, particularly those around supporting people who are isolated and lonely – so it’s an amazing gesture from them. In normal times, our match day bucket collections are usually shared with more than 20 local charities and we certainly intend to resume that effort as soon as we are back.
In the meantime, stay safe, sit tight, and don’t forget the future’s bright, the future’s red and white!