This weekend marks Exeter City’s 4000th Football League game and ahead of the occasion we celebrate this landmark achievement.
Saturday’s fixture against Mansfield Town comes after 101 years of Grecian involvement in the English Football League. after being elected as founding members to the Third Division in 1920.
Same as it ever was, our home was here at St James Park. The first Football League Game to be hosted at EX4 was against Brentford on August 28, 1920. City comfortably won the game 3-0 through goals from John Feebury, William Wright and Charles Vowles.
Dick Pym was in goal that day and his record-breaking sale to Bolton a year later helped raise the funds to develop SJP.
In 1926 Fred Mavin guided City to their record League victory over Coventry City. An 8-1 triumph over the Sky Blues was repeated in ’35 as City smashed Aldershot by the same score-line.
The 1932/33 campaign was City’s best in the early Football League years. The Grecians netted 88 times in the league that season, a record that remains to this day- as the Reds finished runners up in Division Three (S). Fred Whitlow topped the charts that year with 33 strikes to his name. A tally never matched by another City striker in a single year.
The Second World War called a halt to proceedings between 1939-45 and upon resumption to Division Three in ’46 City failed to top 50 pts in the next 12 seasons, ultimately being relegated to Division Four for the first time in 1958.
There was a terrific return in 1964, when spearheaded by new face Alan Banks, City finished fourth and gained promotion. Just two years later Arnold Mitchell, Exeter City’s highest appearance holder, called an end to his time at St James Park after 495 games played, between 1952-66.
The Seventies and eighties, though unremarkable success wise, brought another club legend to the fore at St James Park. Signed from Falmouth Town, Tony Kellow is synonymous with this Football Club. In three spells in Devon’s capital, Kellow netted 129 goals in 298 games.
The Golden Boot is not a trophy you would typically expect to find outside of the top divisions, but it was awarded to club Kellow following the 1980/81 season in which he scored a total of 25 goals in 46 appearances. Tony outscored players both in his division and the country to be bestowed with this prestigious award.
The end of the decade marked Exeter City’s greatest achievement to date. Manager Terry Cooper joined the club in 1988 in one though in his mind. As the 80’s swung into the 90’s, City won 28 times with five draws in 46 games- as a record 89 points were accumulated, and Exeter City won the Division Four title.
City would remain in the Football League until trouble hit in the early 2000’s. A five-year spell outside the League brought some of the brightest memories for City fans. Alex Inglethorpe earned a 0-0 draw against Manchester United and a year later Paul Tisdale took his office in the Cat & Fiddle and swiftly brought Exeter back into the Football League with victory at Wembley.
One promotion brought two and Tisdale successfully guided City back into the third tier at the first attempt whilst underneath, the Academy- saved by Eamonn Dolan- was starting to cook up some real treats.
Dean Moxey and George Friend had already gone on to gain Championship and Premier League experience by the time the flurry of youngsters from Devon began to take centre stage. Exeter City graduates have made nearly 900 League appearences between them since 2003.
Recent stats from the Premier League revealed player production from the Club (who are now playing elsewhere in the EFL), showed that over the last three seasons: out of the 72 Football League clubs Exeter were seventh; and in City’s own category, (Category Three), the Grecians sit at number one.
One of those was Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins. In March, Ollie broke an 83-year standing record when he came on for England against San Marino, becoming the first Exeter City graduate since Cliff Bastin to wear the Three Lions. Even better still, Ollie found the corner to score on his international debut making the entire Grecian army grinning with pride.
Our youngest ever player Ethan Ampadu made his League debut at 15-years and 336 days, himself breaking another Bastin account.
In 101 years of Exeter City Football League history, the Grecians again are looking toward the future and will be gunning into Saturday’s 4000th League appearance hoping to build on their 1356th win on Tuesday night.