• Julen Beer

#TrustOurYouth

Updated: Mar 6

With the season opener against Salford looming in September, much was said about the up-and-coming youth talent within the squad and how, for many of them, this unusual season would present them with a golden opportunity to break into the first team.

And so it has proven. Academy graduates have been the backbone of Matt Taylor's side this season, with a number of youngsters cementing their place in a City side that, with less than half of the season left to play, find themselves in the race for automatic promotion.


As we pass the midway point of the league season, we take a look at how a number of 'Our Own' have fared:


Archie Collins

Though not his breakthrough season, Archie is having arguably his best year as a Grecian due to the faith Matt Taylor has shown in him.


The only member of the squad to have started every single league game so far this season, the Bridgwater-born midfielder's consistent performances in the centre of the park have made him an indispensable member of the team; captaining the side on several occasions, scoring a career-best tally of three goals, and making his 100th City appearance against Forest Green Rovers in December.


Matt Jay

Much had been said about Matt Jay's ability prior to this season, but most of the City faithful had only really seen glimpses of what the longest-serving academy graduate at the club could really do.


That has all changed this season as MJ, who made his 100th appearance in red and white against Tranmere in December, has made a starting XI place his own and the much-loved forward is arguably one of the first names on the teamsheet every week.


Much like Collins, Jay is having a career-best season, scoring 13 goals in all competitions and providing five assists; earning him a new contract last month. At the time of writing, only two players have been directly involved in more League Two goals than MJ's 16.


Joel Randall

A key member of the City side who were cruelly denied a place in the Leasing.com Trophy final last season, Joel Randall had spent the early part of last season on loan at Weston-super-Mare and Weymouth. Few doubted that this would end up being his breakthrough season, but not many would have expected Randall to become an integral part of City's fluid front line quite so quickly.


Contributing an incredible eight goals and four assists in all competitions, including a match-winning brace against League One Gillingham in the FA Cup 2nd Round, Randall quickly established himself as City's biggest goal threat, leading to heavy speculation linking him with a move away from SJP in January.


Having just returned from his recent injury setback, Joel will be hoping to reach double figures as City push for promotion from League Two.


Josh Key

Having had a second loan spell at Tiverton Town cut short last season by the pandemic, and with the experienced Jake Caprice arriving in the summer, few would have imagined the impact Josh Key would have this season.


However, a combination of injuries to Caprice and strong, energetic performances have cemented Key's place in the team. Making 29 appearances in all competitions and scoring two match winning headers against Forest Green Rovers and Mansfield Town, Key's form this season earned him a new contract in January 2020.


Jack Sparkes

With the emergence of Joel Randall on the left wing, the summer arrival of highly-rated Lewis Page at left back, combined with having just recovered from a long-term injury, you could be forgiven for thinking Sparkes may have found game time difficult to come by this season.


But much like Josh Key, Sparkes has benefitted from his versatility, jumping in following injuries to Page to become City's first choice left back/wing back. Much like his fellow academy graduates, the Exmouth-born winger is having a career-best season: making 31 appearances in all competitions and assisting three goals.


Alex Hartridge

Another academy graduate who had his loan spell cut short by the pandemic last season, Alex Hartridge has started breaking into the team in the last few months; helped in part by City's move to a three centre back formation.


Having scored his first professional goals against Swindon in the Papa John's Trophy and AFC Fylde in the FA Cup First Round, Hartridge has gone on to make 19 appearances in all competitions for the Grecians this season. He will have to watch City's next game from the stands, however, after being sent off for a professional foul in the 1-1 draw against Newport County on Tuesday.


Ben Seymour

Having been given the famous number 9 shirt at the start of the season, many held high hopes for the young forward coming into the season. It has, however, been a bit of a stop-start season for the youngster.


The season started well for Seymour, netting his first goals as a Grecian against Swindon and West Brom U21s in the Papa John's Trophy, unfortunately picking up a hamstring injury against the latter. When combined with the sublime form of both Matt Jay and Ryan Bowman, Seymour has been limited to mostly substitute appearances but has still managed 20 in all competitions; with this only set to increase as a result of Ryan Bowman's current three-match suspension.


Harry Kite

Another of the four academy graduates to have signed contract extensions in January, Harry Kite is remarkably the fourth Exeter City player to score their first professional goal this season, scoring an incredible curler against Swindon Town in the Papa John's Trophy at the start of the season.


Whilst Kite has been limited to just eight appearances in all competitions this season (and just three of those in the league), the departure of Nicky Law to the USA has opened up a regular place in the matchday squad for the Crediton-born playmaker; and with City facing a gruelling schedule as we head towards the end of the season, expect to see more of Harry Kite in red and white.

Honourable mentions to Cheick Diabate, Nelson Iseguan, Louis Morison and Lewis Wilson, all of whom have made their first team debuts this season; and to Will Dean and Jordan Dyer, whose loan deals in the National League South have been cut short due to the pandemic.


#TrustOurYouth


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