Season Preview 2021/22
A new season is upon us, but there's something very different about this one. It's been a long time since most fans will have been to St James Park but, for the vast majority, the 523-day wait will end today. As a result, the sense of anticipation for this campaign is like none of its predecessors.
There's been a lot of change since SJP was last full. Numerous academy graduates have gone from young pros to established first-teamers, to highly sought-afters. Some have even become former Grecians. What is certain is that, despite a number of injuries, there will be plenty of homegrown talent in Matt Taylor's squad later this afternoon.
Whilst missing out on the play offs last season was disappointing, so many of our academy graduates are now seasoned professionals looking to build on positive 2020/21 seasons. The likes of Alex Hartridge, Archie Collins, Matt Jay, Josh Key and Ben Seymour all make for a strong core to the squad, with the likes of Jordan Dyer and Harry Kite looking to add more game time following a handful of appearances last season. The highly sought-after Harry Lee and Sonny Cox will also be looking to make their first team debuts after signing their first professional contracts in July.
Away from the first team, this year should also provide some of our youngsters with the opportunity to gain first team experience whilst out on loan, touch wood. Currently, Jack Arthur and Cheick Diabate have had loan spells until January 2022 confirmed at Bideford and Truro City respectively. James Dodd, having recovered from back-to-back ACL injuries to earn himself a new contract, is expected to go out on loan, whilst the likes of Nelson Iseguan, Ellis Johnson, Alfie Pond and Jack Veale could all easily spend time away from SJP this season.
Despite the emphasis on youth, Matt Taylor has not hesitated to bring in experience over the summer. Jevani Brown, Timothée Dieng, Jonathan Grounds and George Ray all bring with them a wealth of Football League experience. This has been supplemented with further young players with potential in the shape of Josh Coley, Sam Nombe and Callum Rowe. The temporary addition of the highly-regarded Cameron Dawson also adds real quality between the sticks without blocking the pathways of Harry Lee or Jack Arthur whilst they gain experience.
The volume of change within the squad, which has proven rarely high compared to recent seasons, doesn't seem to have affected people's opinions on how the Grecians will fare in League Two this season. City are currently tipped to be in the play off mix, with certain journalists even having the Grecians down as favourites for the title!
Further recruitments to the first team are likely before the window ends in a few weeks' time, but one thing is certain: this will be yet another season where we #TrustOurYouth.