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📝 One of our Own: Exeter City Youth Development successes

Our Academy is dynamite!

18 March 2024

Club News

📝 One of our Own: Exeter City Youth Development successes

Our Academy is dynamite!

18 March 2024

This week marks the EFL’s celebration of Youth Development across the 72 League clubs. Here at Exeter City, we are no stranger to - if not renowned for - our fantastic promotion of academy players into first team football.

As a supporter-owned club, the Academy has been a vital source of first team talent, countrywide recognition, and valuable income.

After its 2006 restructure, the Exeter City Academy works on a three-tiered ‘Players Progression Pathway’ which develops the South West’s best young prospects through education and football. George Friend was the first to graduate that same year and has gone on to captain Middlesbrough in the Premier League - beginning an emphatic 18-year trend!

Not only is the Academy’s goal to produce the next generation of footballers, but Exeter City also prides itself in developing well rounded young men and women - suitably fitting our ethos as a club for the community. For Everyone.

Just last week the club announced that we are set to team up with the world’s leading sports scholarship agency FirstPoint USA to create new opportunities for its Academy players to play and study in the States. 

Part of the club’s Academy pathway, the partnership is designed to provide a route for players to continue playing at a high level, while developing their education, with FirstPoint USA providing expertise and support to those considering the option of a college scholarship in the US.

As a club, we are committed to building our player care provision and this partnership allows players to explore a different pathway, but one which can be hugely beneficial to their future career. By tapping into FirstPoint’s experience and expertise, we are now in a position to further support our transitioning players.

There have been 472 First Team games in a row with at least one Academy graduate in the starting line up. The last time this was not the case was in January 2016 at Hartlepool, though even still, Jamie Reid came off the bench!

During the 2022/23 season, our first back in League One for a decade, Exeter City averaged 4.5 Club developed players in the starting 11, the average in the EFL was 1.1. These statistics (provided by the EFL), don't include Jay Stansfield who made 39 appearances.

A record breaking season saw an incredible 19 Academy graduates made first team appearances in the 2022/23 season, the most ever in one season. Eight of the Second year Scholars were offered professional contracts at the end of the 2022/23 season, the joint most ever for the Club in one season.

Eight Academy graduates made first team debuts in 2022/23, the average in the EFL was 2.32.

The 2023/24 season has continued the trend, with seven graduates having made first team debuts already this season.

Sonny Cox, who signed a new two-year deal recently, has now scored five league goals this season at the age of 19, with three of them winning goals and the other 2 being outstanding finishes to earn a 2-2 draw with promotion chasing Bolton Wanderers last week. Sonny is one of only three U19 players to have scored 5+ League goals in the EFL this season (Jobe Bellingham - Sunderland and Daniel Kanu - Charlton are the other two).


Whilst four Academy graduates have made over 20 appearances for the first team this season (Alex Hartridge, Harry Kite, Cheick Diabate, Sonny Cox) a further five have made over 30 appearances for League One Clubs, four of which are in promotion/play-off chasing Clubs: Jack Sparkes (Portsmouth), Archie Collins and Joel Randall (Peterborough Unied), Jamie Reid (Stevenage), Liam Sercombe (Cheltenham Town).
Six Academy graduates are featuring regularly in the Championship this season: Ethan Ampadu (Leeds United), Matt Grimes and Josh Key (Swansea City), Jordan Storey (Preston North End), Jay Stansfield (Birmingham City - on loan from Fulham), Ben Chrisene (Blackburn Rovers - on loan from Aston Villa).
Five Academy graduates have made international appearances in the past year: Ben Chrisene - England U19, Jay Stansfield - England U21, Ollie Watkins - England Mens, Alfie Cunningham - Wales U17, Ethan Ampadu - Wales Mens, meanwhile both Sean Goss and Jamie Reid have been called up to the Northern Ireland squad.
Ollie Watkins currently has the most goal contributions of any player in the Premier League this season on 26 (16 goals, 10 assists) ahead of Mo Salah (24 goal contributions), Erling Haaland (23 goal contributions) and Bukayo Saka (21 goal contributions).
Watkins Carlisle.jpg
As the EFL celebrates Youth Development across the three leagues, the chorus from the Big Bank will always hail the "local lads… who love the Red and White, because the Academy is Dynamite!".

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