After a mixture of suspended play, fixtures behind closed doors and restrictions on training all coming over the past twelve months, it has been a frustrating time for Exeter City's Women’s Squad.
David Gribble caught up with Manfy Sharpe to get her thoughts on the Season that has been 2020/2021.
Appointed Captain in the summer, Manfy was acknowledged for her dedication and commitment to the Women’s set up at Exeter City. Joining the Club in 2016, she has been part of a group that continues to progress the Women’s game in the City and now has the responsibility of leading the current Squad.
Due to circumstances, this past season has been as much about off field leadership as on it, something Manfy recognises as not being easy: "It has been difficult to stay connected at times. We had a Zoom call every week to help with fitness, then every other week we have had another Zoom call for a quiz, games or general chat. It’s good to just chat and check in on each other. Once exercise was permitted outside with one other person, I know those who live closer together made the most out of that. Aaron organised a Strava group with a leaderboard so we could be competitive with our runs, it was a really good idea and kept us all connected.”
The return to football in recent weeks has seen a change in Management structure, as Clive Watts undergoes knee surgery and the lengthy convalescence that accompanies it. The appointment of Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley, as familiar voices, is a popular one. “I couldn’t be happier personally. They were a massive part of running the team before and they both know us all as individuals and players. They know our strengths and weaknesses and their high standards, goals and professionalism bring out the absolute best in players. It’s a shame Clive has had to take a step back though, we all wish him well and hope to see him back soon.”
The League Season had started positively and, with the Grecians nicely placed in 5th, the hope was that the New Year would see a rise up the table. Sadly, those fixtures were curtailed as the Season ended early. However, Manfy is keen to take the positives from the campaign. “We had some really good results against tough opponents. We have had a proper taste of what this league is like now and learnt some important lessons on what we have to do to excel next season. I am grateful for every time I got to step on the pitch with the team this season and every training session we got to have, it was a chance to grow and that is a massive positive in itself.”
Thankfully, though League football will not return until the late Summer, competitive football has resurfaced in the form of the Devon County Cup. After victories over Feniton and Marine Academy Plymouth, City will compete in the Final against Plymouth Argyle on May 30.
With football's return, Abbie and Aaron chose to begin their Summer recruitment early with the signings of Jaydee Seaman and Mollie Taylor. “They are both huge characters within the group already. They offer natural leadership with great amounts of experience, which is what we need. It’s really good to have them onboard and they have settled in fantastically.”
After next Weekend's Final, all eyes will turn to next Season and the mood is positive for what can be achieved. “We have high ambitions for next season; we have the squad and capability to excel in this league if everyone applies themselves. Abbie and Aaron already have set plans in place that everyone is eager to be part of. There will need to be a lot of hard graft from all of us between now and then, but we all have the same vision, so I have no doubt everyone will work for it.”
With attendances considerably increased and visibility for the team improving, Manfy is excited to lead the Team into this next chapter. “The club have always been inclusive of the Women’s team, but particularly over the past two seasons, it really does feel like one club. We are grateful to everyone that comes to support us and cheer us on and our following is getting bigger. With the setup of an ECWFC Supporter’s Club and fantastic media coverage, the team is only going to get better.”