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💬 Gary Caldwell on the retained list

Hear from the Manager

7 May 2024


💬 Gary Caldwell on the retained list

Hear from the Manager

7 May 2024

Gary Caldwell has given his reaction as the club have published the retained list after the conclusion of the 23/24 Sky Bet League One Season.

Departing the club at the end of their contracts are Gary Woods, Kyle Taylor, Alex Hartridge, James Scott, Harrison King and Joe O'Connor and Gary thanked them for their efforts in red and white:

"One of the hardest parts of being the manager is picking the team every week and leaving good people out and at the end of some people’s contracts you have to let them go and, we’ve always been fair to the people who haven’t been playing and kept in good communication with them and kept working with and supporting with them, and when it comes to an end it almost has a natural ending for the players.

"I spoke to every single one of them and they leave with our best wishes, and they leave with a good feeling about Exeter City. They have all had great moments here and they have all thanked the club for the warmth they felt whilst they have been with the club."

Goalkeeper Gary Woods joined City back in January 2023 and made nine appearances for the Grecians:

"Gary was a great signing at the time as we needed cover and someone to push Jamal Blackman. He did that and got into the team and had some really good moments. This year he faced real competition from Vil Sinisalo who was outstanding, but Gary was always there to support Vil and was great for Shaun MacDonald and Harry Lee and he was a great character in the dressing room.


"I can’t thank him enough and we wish him well wherever he goes, he still wants to play, and he can be a really good No.1 for someone, so hopefully he keeps his career going somewhere this summer."

Kyle Taylor joined City in August 2021 and leaves having made 50 appearance. Kyle suffered a serious knee injury at Oldham in March 2022 and showed hard graft and belief to get fit ahead of the League One campaign, scoring a crucial goal in City's Carabao Cup run.

"This time last year we were not sure if Kyle would ever play again, he had a serious injury and has worked extremely hard and trained pretty much every day this year. He has been fully fit baring a little ankle injury in pre-season.


"Kyle has shown character and resilience that you need to be a professional football player, and also, he has a massive technical ability that will be a huge asset to any football club.

"Hopefully Kyle finds a home where he can play and show that ability as he’s worked really hard to get to a level where he can do that and he leaves with our thanks, he scored a big goal for us in the Carabao Cup and came on and performed well in some difficult moments, and hopefully he can go from strength to strength from here.

Academy graduates Harry Kite and Alex Hartridge depart the club. Harry having been at City for 15-years and 102 appearances and Alex after 17 years and 154 appearances:

"It’s always a sad moment, but a proud moment at the same time when academy players leave. Hopefully they go into the wider football world and have fantastic careers as there are so many success stories from our Academy.


"The flagship story is Ollie Wakins in terms of what he is doing in the Premier League. Archie Collins is in a play-off semi-final this week with Peterborough United, Jack Sparkes won promotion with Portsmouth and Josh Key has had an amazing season with Swansea City in the Championship.

"All these players that leave the Academy are going on to have fantastic careers and hopefully Alex and Harry will go on and do that."

Forward James Scott leaves after 43 appearances and four goals. James joined St Mirren on loan in January and will be making the move permanent.

"James is a great talent and character, and it just didn’t work out for him here, he’s been involved in bits for St Mirren since January and has a big summer ahead of him and pre-season and hopefully he gets fit and starts to show his talent on a regular basis.


The young duo of Harrison King and Joe O’Connor both leave Exeter City with our best wishes for their future career.

"For young players who haven’t had first team experience it’s even more difficult to forge a way in their career and it’s really difficult to let those young players go as they were giving everything, but it wasn’t to be here, we will support them and give them everything they need so they are fit in the summer and ready to go to a new club and restart their careers."

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Exeter City are currently in talks with Zak Jules, Demetri Mitchell, Harry Lee, Caleb Watts and Tom Carroll to extend their stay at St James Park.

"It’s a huge frustration of mine and I’m sure the supporters are eager to see them get resigned. Getting Jack Aitchison signed up for another season shows the club’s intent and that we want to build a core group of players that can be successful over several years.

"We are working hard on all the players and hopefully they commit to Exeter very soon. It’s different from a signing outside of the football club with deadlines so we have a bit more flexibility. Everyone’s situations are different in terms of needs with a contract, everyone has family situations, so we are working with that. We want it to work sooner rather than later so come June 20 we have as much of the squad together who are ready to start the preparation for the new season."

The six loan players in Vil Sinisalo, Dion Rankine, Luke Harris, Ryan Woods, Admiral Muskwe and Mo Eisa all head back to their parent club with our thanks for buying into everything the club does, and our best wishes for their future:

"The loan players are really important at this level, and we are a fantastic club for them with our facilities at the Cliff Hill, the environment at SJP and the support the players get from the staff, the club and the supporters.

"Every loan player that has come in has given us something back. Just look at what Vil Sinisalo has done in terms of minutes played, getting player of the year, from where he was last year not playing at Burton Albion. It just shows what we can do for these younger players and next year we will look to the Premier League and Championship clubs for their top young talent to come and support our squad.


"I thank all the boys that came, they committed to the football club and bought into everything Exeter City is about so thank you for all that they did as they were excellent.

"Over the last couple of years, we have developed strong relationships with the likes of Fulham, Aston Villa, Brentford and Chelsea and shown them how we can support their young players and provide minutes for them and hopefully we can get more player in the future from these clubs."

One young player signing a pro contract is academy midfielder Tom Dean. Tom has had a standout season for the under-18 group where he scored 22 goals from midfield. He has also represented the Club extremely well off the pitch, as a very well-rounded young man:

"Tom has a big summer ahead of him. We spoke to all the younger players and told them how much the off-season will help them when they come back and how important it is they work hard and keep their fitness up.


"Tom is coming into an environment that will really shock him and I think last year we found a lot of the younger players struggled in pre-season as they weren’t aware what was coming.

"Tom is a naturally fit lad and every time he comes with the first team his attitude and enthusiasm has been brilliant – he will need this, this summer and hopefully we can support him to develop and get better and be in the first time like Sonny Cox and other young players have this season.

16-year-old Jake Richards had a season to remember as he made 12 appearances and six in League One and Gary explained his contract situation:

"Jake is still a scholar and as he is so young we can’t yet sign him on a professional contract. We have offered him two or three now as he keeps doing so well we are putting different contract offers to him and when he is 17 he can sign that contract and extend his stay at the club.


"He has been a huge success this year, they aren’t many 16-year-olds that play anywhere in football, never mind in League One. So, for him to have started so many games in League One shows the talent and potential he has, so hopefully when that contract gets put in front of him he signs it and stays here."

One of the most pleasing aspects for Gary Caldwell ahead of the new season is that he has a strong core of players to call upon when the players return to training on June 20:

"That was the big challenge for us all at the club, to not just build a team for a season or one or two windows, but to build a team for the years to come, hence the signing of Jack to give him another year so he is set here, he knows what he has to do and is only focussed on his game and getting better. So, to have fourteen/fifteen contracted and hopefully we can add to this in the summer with players resigning, loan players potentially coming back and new signings.

"The more players we can get in the group hat understand how we play is really important for how we progress as a football club."

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:

"The big thing we look for is good people. Since I’ve been at the club, we have recruited well but the big thing is good people and last year was a perfect example of that, in that difficult period everyone stood together and kept working and supporting everyone and that is because we have really good characters at the club.

"On top of that we want good players and getting them in the building makes such a difference, when we had them to pick from in January it was a challenge to pick the team and the finishers and we created competition, so hopefully we will have that at the end of the window to really attack League One next season.

"The expectation is always the same. To be better as a squad and to create more competition in the squad by the end of the window. At Exeter City we have to do it in a different way and be patient on how we do that. We can’t throw money at them early in the window to get them here. We have to get the right people who want to be here and that takes time and meeting with players and through that process the supporters have to be patient.

"I think they have always been pretty happy at the end of the window, even though we would all like it to be quicker, but I ask them again to show patience which I feel we are lucky that the supporters understand how we work."


Exeter City's pre-season campaign is set to be revealed shortly, and Gary has explained the reasons for keeping it mostly local again this season:

"Pre-season will be pretty similar to last season, we are coming back on June 20 and the players are actually back before that working with the coaching team three days a week so they are ready to go again.

"We will be fairly local in terms of our early games and plan to trip away again in Cornwall, then the games will broaden out a bit further afield and the quality improves as we get closer to the season.

"We are still trying to arrange a home game which is proving really difficult for early August but everything apart from that game is in place.

"It’s important for us to support our local teams that take our young players on loan. The crowds we got at Tiverton and Taunton were great to see. We will get to local clubs again and give them that support they need in terms of finances and thank them for everything they do for us."

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