In this series, Charlie Howell builds a squad of City Centurions, taking a look at each player’s career issue-by-issue, with returning striker Tom Nichols the latest to feature.
Having made the switch to Crawley in the summer of 2020, Tom Nichols is back in League Two and played against City twice in the last campaign for the first time since leaving his hometown team for Peterborough United just over four years ago.
Arguably, the game that sealed his move was a 2-2 draw against Premier League giants Liverpool in the FA Cup, as Tom scored in the opening 10 minutes, shocking the nation on live TV. That would be his 11th of 12 goals in the first half of the 2015/16 season but goals weren’t always so easy to come by at the beginning of the academy product’s career.
After making his debut aged just 17 on the final day of the 2010/11 season away at Sheffield Wednesday, Tom quickly became a familiar name for many City fans as began the following season with a run in the first team.
A winning goal against Chesterfield a day before his 18th birthday seemed to have cemented the young striker’s place in City’s squad but an influx of more experienced strikers saw Tom’s opportunities limited and he spent the next couple of seasons bouncing between the Grecian’s reserves and various non-league loans.
At the beginning of the 2013/14 Tom was Exeter’s fourth choice striker, not even making the bench in the opening months of the season. While many players’ heads would drop and their form spiral downwards, Tom worked harder, putting in training performances that Paul Tisdale could not ignore.
Given his chance with the Grecians 2-1 down against Bury, Tom scored his first League goal in two years to drag City level and convince Tisdale to start him the following week away at Accrington, and he duly repaid his manager’s faith with two more goals in a 3-2 victory.
In a season where City struggled on and off the pitch, Tom eventually made 29 appearances and was the club’s joint top scorer with six goals but, most importantly, he finally cemented his converted starting spot.
Tom followed that with two more club top scorer accolades, scoring 15 and then 12 goals in the next two years. That stat sounds even more impressive when you consider that in the 2015/16 season Tom left in January to make the move up to Cambridgeshire to join Peterborough.