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  • David Gribble

#TrustOurYouth | Part 2

Such is the cyclical nature of Women's football, the 2020/2021 Season has been one of developing new stars. England College's Captain Georgie Barbour-Gresham and, current Player's Player of the Season, Daniella Tyson both moved on to University over the summer and so focus has turned to the next group of Young Footballers breaking through.

The Development Centre graduates of 2018 have certainly set a high standard. Alongside Barbour-Gresham and Tyson, Sophie Gillies and Ella Mae Miller both added a strong youthful core to a team that would win the South West Premier Division in 2019. Sophie Gillies’ achievements were significantly rewarded, as she become the first English player to represent the University of California at Irvine, beginning her scholarship in 2020. Gillies scored 50 goals in the Season City lifted the Title, the most in a single campaign by any player representing Exeter City. Ella Mae Miller is another Development Centre Graduate to gain success from excelling both in her football career and studies, the dynamic full back began her own scholarship in the US at the beginning of 2021, as she headed to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

Four of City's current First Team Squad have progressed from the Exeter City Girls Development Centre and now attend Exeter College as part of their Sport's Academy. The partnership between Exeter City Women’s Team and Exeter College is increasingly prolific in terms of producing talented female footballers, it will certainly be fundamental as the Women’s game looks to continue to grow in the City. We look at how those Development players have progressed in, what has been, a stuttering last 12 months as national restrictions on grass roots football have resulted in the season encountering two significant pauses to the fixture scheduling.

Mia Preston

After making seven appearances last season, this year has seen more progression from Mia Preston. In City's 7-0 FA Cup Qualifying victory over AEK Boco, Mia showcased her talent with a dynamic performance in an advanced midfield role, linking play and creating chances for her teammates. It was to be an afternoon where Mia scored her first goal for the Grecians, converting an Emily Toogood cross to round off a fine performance. Mia was also selected to participate in the Second Round trials for England Colleges, after a successful first trial in October.

With excellent technique, pace and creativity, Mia will continue to be one to watch in 2021.

Connie Pengelly

A goal shortly before the curtailment of the 2019/2020 season gave Connie a solid foundation in which to continue her development this year. In the Devon Derby at Buckland Athletic, Connie scored a sensational volley from distance to open her goalscoring account for the season. It was the second goal of the City Number Nine's career and the second at Buckland's Homers Heath venue. Connie would star from a substitute appearance in the Grecian's FA Cup Qualifying tie against Swindon Town in October, scoring twice as the hosts came from behind to win 2-1.

With strong hold up play, a physical approach and the ability to convert chances, Connie will be keen to build on a strong start to her City career.

Sasha Henderson

Another Young player who has built on her involvement the previous season. Sasha was selected to participate in the Second Round of England College trials and was beginning to increase her first team opportunities before the Season was suspended in January. Playing in midfield and at full back, Sasha was a player gaining strong momentum, returning from an early season ankle injury with a desire to make a significant mark at first team level. Not perturbed by the setback of football being put on hold, Sasha cycled 290 miles in 10 days to raise money for Dementia UK in January before successfully securing a scholarship at Arizona Western University to commence later in 2021.

Hopefully, we will see some more of Sasha and her continued development before she heads state side.

Esme Kilburn-Thompson

Commencing her Exeter City career this season, Esme scored two goals on debut, helping the team to a comeback victory over Poole Town on opening day. Starting Six of City's nine games, Esme has been a focal point of the City attack and added an FA Cup goal to her tally with the opening strike against AEK Boco in an FA Cup Qualifier. Voted by supporters as November’s Player of the Month, Esme has made a positive impact on the squad in the first few months of her City career.

A powerful, pacey forward, Esme will be looking to further establish herself in the role of leading City’s attack in 2021.


Mia Preston: @hryrwn

Connie Pengelly & Esme Kilburn-Thompson: @tom_bondy

Sasha Henderson: @LDAWGraphics

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