Many players have donned Exeter City’s famous red and white shirts over the years, representing the Grecians both home and away. While most move on after a season or two there are a select group of players that have stayed with the Grecians for a number of years, walking out in the stripes over 100 times. They are our Centurions.
In this series, Charlie Howell builds a squad of Exeter City centurions, taking a look at each player’s career issue-by-issue, starting with goalkeeper Richard ‘Dick’ Pym.
The skills of a goalkeeper and fisherman cross over a lot more than most people think. Being patient while keeping your concentration is key, whether that be waiting for a fish or a ball to come, and catching either before they slip past. Dick Pym could have gone into the family business of fishing but, luckily for Exeter City, he chose land over sea and a career between the sticks at St James Park.
Spotted playing locally for Topsham in December 1911, Dick was quickly signed up by manager Arthur Chadwick and made his City debut three months later in a 1-1 draw with Stoke. Once he on that place in the starting 11 the keeper proceeded to never let it go as he started in a jaw-dropping 186 consecutive league matches.
In 1914, Dick was part of the City squad sent to South America on tour and the former fisherman ironically suffered from awful sea sickness on the boat journey down. Dick’s personal tour only got worse from here as he proceeded to crack his ribs in the first match against North Argentine and missed the rest of the matches including that famous game against the Brazilian National Team – the Seleção’s first ever game.
Football was quickly halted upon City’s return from Brazil due to the outbreak of the First World War and not being one to sit on his hands, Dick took up the role of a Physical Training Instructor in the Devonshire Regiment.
After staying at City for one more season when football returned in 1919, Dick left to join Bolton Wanderers for a club-record fee of £5,000. This money was instrumental in the recovery of the club post-war as it allowed City to buy St James Park and have the financial footing to enter the Football League.
Dick only kept on improving at Bolton, winning three FA Cup finals including the famous ‘White Horse’ final of 1923, where reports of the crowd for Bolton vs West Ham estimated over 300,000 fans had packed into the Old Wembley Stadium. The Topsham-born keeper also became an England international, winning three caps before he retired from playing in 1931.
Aged 95, Dick died in 1988 but his name still lives on to this day at the Grecians with Richard Pym, Dick’s grandson, returning the Pym family to Exeter in June as the club’s Board Chairman, almost 100 years after his grandfather left the club.