With the big kick off now only three days away, the excitement of a new season is building nicely. Supporters of all the seventy two Sky Bet Football League clubs cling longingly to that pre-season optimism that this is their year. The same rings true for all Exeter City fans. Or does it?
After a summer of managing expectations, public declarations that 2013-14 will see a greater reliance on youth, the release of last season’s top scorer Jamie Cureton, speculation over the manager’s future, and only two new signings (one of which has already left the club on loan), some City fans can be forgiven for their pessimism. But are things really all that bad?
The squad assembled by Paul Tisdale and his management team has very much the same feel to it as the season just gone. A season defined by a catastrophic loss of form just as The Grecians looked odds on to claim a play off berth, if not an automatic promotion place.
The goalkeeping position looks to be firmly in the possession of our Pole in the goal, Artur Krysiak, following the release of Rhys Evans over the summer break. Krysiak, 24, has made great strides since the back end of 2012 and is really looking like living up to the obvious potential he has always had. Should the improvement continue into the new season and beyond, anyone would be hard pressed to find a better keeper in League two.
In front of Krysiak the defence will probably look largely as it has done for the last twelve months. Club captain Danny Coles will surely resume his partnership with the combative Pat Baldwin in the centre of defence, with Craig Woodman, a League Two winner with Brentford, continuing in his role at left back. After the release of both Kevin Amankwaah and Steve Tully, Arron Dawson looks likely to fill the vacancy at right back, giving fans the chance to see one of the club’s younger stars given the opportunity to step up and make himself a permanent a place in the side. In the coming season Coles, Baldwin and Woodman are sure to come under pressure from the highly rated Jordan Moore-Taylor, a player many ardent supporters expect to see make a breakthrough in 2013-14.
In midfield, the work rate and versatility of Scott Bennett and the trickery of Arron Davies will be complimented by the welcome return of City favourite Liam Sercombe, who has regained fitness after a long term lay off. They will be joined by, arguably, the best midfielder in the division, in Alan Gow. The skilful midfielder, despite being sometimes frustrating to watch, has the ability to regularly create something from nothing, and also often occupies several opposition players at the same time, allowing his team mates greater time and freedom on, and off, the ball. The classy Matt Oakley, having belatedly signed for another season, should provide plenty of competition for the places up for grabs. Oakley’s influence and experience could prove pivotal to the likes of Jake Gosling and Jimmy Keohane, when their opportunity to shine comes, as it surely will.
Up front City look strong, having added the physical presence of Sam Parkin to the predatory instincts and work rate of John O’Flynn, who everyone hopes will have an injury free campaign this time around, and blow away the memories of last season’s Player of the Year, and League Two’s second highest goalscorer, Jamie Cureton. In addition to the experienced duo will be Jamie Reid, who exploded onto the scene with his pace and directness towards the end of last season, Tom Nichols, who will be determined that this is the year he turns obvious potential into appearances and goals, and of course last, but not least, Elliott Chamberlain. Elliott, will be followed eagerly and cheered on by the 1931 Fund contributors, who hope and believe that he is the man to break their duck and become the first 1931 prospect become a regular first team star.
In summary, the most obvious thing to jump out from this is the settled spine City will have to their first team this season. Added to which we have the excitement of looking forward to seeing an emerging group of highly talented youngsters, battling to displace their more experienced peers and cement themselves a place in the side.
We may not win promotion, in what is sure to be a competitive league once again, but there is plenty for City fans to get excited about as the big kick off draws near.