Exeter City can now confirm the club's retained and released list following the conclusion of the 22/23 EFL Sky Bet League One season.
A total of three players will be departing the club at the end of their contracts, with four in contract negotiations. Four loan players have returned to their parent clubs.
Players out of contract and departing:
- Jamal Blackman
- Jack Sparkes
- Jevani Brown
Players in contract negotiations:
- Josh Key
- Archie Collins
- Kevin McDonald
Player in discussion with:
- Jonathan Grounds as a player/coach role
Players returning to their parent clubs:
- Jay Stansfield
- Kegs Chauke
- Joe White
- Rekeem Harper
Players under contract:
- Jake Caprice
- Alex Hartridge
- Demetri Mitchell
- Sam Nombe
- Will Aimson
- Harry Kite
- Kyle Taylor
- Sonny Cox
- Josh Coley
- Harry Lee
- James Scott
- Pierce Sweeney
- Gary Woods
- Cheick Diabate
Scholars who have signed professional contracts:
- Pedro Borges
- Ed James
- Mitch Beardmore
- Gabriel Billington
- Joe O'Connor
- Harrison King
- Max Edgecombe
Manager Gary Caldwell has spoken to each of the released players individually and has thanked them for their contribution to Exeter City, and we all wish them well for their future careers.
Speaking about the players departing at the end of their contracts, Gary said: "It’s never easy telling players their time at the club has ended. We thank everyone that has departed the club for their efforts this season and in previous seasons and we wish them all the best for their future careers."
The four loanees of Jay Stansfield, Kegs Chauke, Joe White and Rekeem Harper have returned to their parent clubs and Gary was keen to thank them for their contributions to the club:
"The loanees made a huge impact on our season and whilst they have returned to their parent clubs, we hope to see them again if we can make that happen. I’ve been on loan myself as a player, it’s not easy but what I will say about them is they bought into the Exeter City way and the football club."
The club is in contract negotiations with Academy Graduates Josh Key and Archie Collins, and the experienced Kevin McDonald, who joined on a short-term deal in January:
"Josh and Archie are two Academy graduates and fantastic players that have given so much to the football club over a number of years. The offers that have been made to them are in hope they will stay as they will have offers from our league and leagues above and if they do go, we wish them well for the rest of their careers.
"Kevin is someone we brought to the club in January on a short-term deal because he has had a lot of health issues that he’s worked incredibly hard to get back from and has shown his quality in the short time he’s been with us and we are really hopeful he signs with us for next season as it would be a massive boost for us."
One early bit of business that has been confirmed is Gary Woods signing a one-year contract extension after joining in January. Gary made 7 appearances for the Grecians, keeping two clean sheets and Gary Caldwell was impressed with his contribution:
"Gary Woods came to us in January with the understanding he was back up to Jamal Blackman and to allow Harry Lee to go out on loan which was great experience for Harry to play games at a higher level.
"When Gary was called upon, he showed his quality, so it was a no brainer to sign him up for next season. He has been excellent in the changing room and among the boys so has been a huge asset to us.
"We will also look to sign another goalkeeper for next season to create real competition among the goalkeepers and possibly allow Harry Lee to go out on loan. What we want from the squad is competition and if we get another goalkeeper of real quality we can create that competition in the department."
Gary has offered defender Jonathan Grounds a player/coach contract and is keen to retain his experience on the pitch and support his journey into coaching:
"Jonathan Grounds is someone I’ve been really impressed with since I came into the club. He was injured when I came in but since the turn of the year when he’s been called upon he’s performed really professionally and has shown his quality and experience that he can bring on the Park.
"That’s first and foremost why we are asking him to stay next year, but I also feel from a coaching standpoint he could be a massive asset to the football club going forward and we can help support him in his development as a young coach and if it gets done it will be brilliant for both parties."
Towards the end of the season both Sonny Cox and Pedro Borges were given opportunities in League One which Gary feels will be very beneficial to their development and has urged them to come back and force their way into the team:
"We hope both of those will come back fitter, faster and stronger that last season. The aim with seven games to go was to give them minutes on the pitch and I feel like both had a brilliant end to the season in terms of League One experience, both good and bad and those experiences will help their development moving forward. Hopefully both come back to impact the first team squad and the plan is to keep them with us."
Work is in progress in terms of targets for the transfer window, which officially opens in early June, but Gary was keen to stress that like in January, patience is needed to make sure the right players come to the football club:
"It’s something we are working really hard on at the moment, but it’s going to be a long hard process where we need to be clear in what we are looking for and the type of player we want to come in. We really want players who want to be here so that normally doesn’t happen very quickly. A lot of players after a long hard season want to recover, get a holiday so we need to be really patient right throughout the window.
"I think January was a real example of how I think the recruitment should work. We want to get as many good players as we can quickly, but we have to understand it might take until the end of the window and we will be judged by what we get in come the end of the window, so the supporters have to trust the process and be patient right throughout the window."
"This window is going to be substantial due to players that are leaving or potentially leaving. We are going to be looking to bring in between eight and eleven players, so we are clear on what positions we need. I think defensively we look pretty strong, but from midfield to forwards we need competition for places to fill key positions that players are leaving. It’s going to be a long window in terms of numbers we are going to bring in and we need to go right to the very end of the window to get the quality we want and hopefully like in January we can come out of it better as a squad."
The club has a strong record of developing and improving players and Gary is aware that there may be some interest in those players under contract but explained that the club is in a position where it doesn’t need to sell and would only conduct business if it was in the right interest for the club:
"As a football club we always have to be prepared for bids as we have so many good players and players that have performed extremely well last season. We are not in a position as a club where we have to sell, but we have to look at bids for what they are and if it makes sense for the club it might be something we have to do, but right now every player that is contracted is full committed to the club and that will only change if we feel it’s in the best interest for the club."
"Ideally we are looking for a squad around 24 or 25 players including three goalkeepers in that. We managed to get that in January, and I think the competition for places helped that as after January when we had our injury crisis, we had numbers to cover that. But we will only sign players that we feel are committed to come to the club and are the right characters that we want in the building."