#TrustOurYouth | Season Recap
Following the curtailment of the 2019/20 season and the restrictions on supporters at matches, the 2020/21 season was always going to be one where the Grecians would rely heavily on academy graduates to make up for a smaller playing budget.
And so it proved, with 50.5% of all league minutes played by academy graduates in 2020/21. Furthermore, academy graduates contributed to just over half of all goals and assists, scoring 46 goals in all competitions and assisting 30 goals. Here's a recap of each of their seasons:
The Fans’ Player of the Season. The Players’ Player of the Season. The club's top scorer. Named in the League Two Team of the Season. It has been an incredible season for Matt Jay.
Having struggled to nail down a place in the starting XI prior to this season, Matt Taylor put his faith in the diminutive MJ to play in behind the main striker. 20 goals and 8 assists (in all competitions) later, MJ has emerged as one of the division's most dangerous players, earning himself numerous personal accolades and a new contract with the Grecians.
Matt Taylor is looking for more of the same from the Torbay-born striker next season, saying that "he was our best player and that shows with the end of season awards. [...] If he stays here next season, then I will be building a team around MJ.”
Archie Collins has played consistently well in the centre of the pitch for City for a few years now, so much so it can be easy to overlook his consistency - we've grown accustomed to Archie controlling the midfield.
His importance to the team is evident - he missed just 56 minutes of the League Two season as City just missed out on the play-offs. Not only did he play the full league campaign, he also added goals to his game, scoring a number of long range efforts despite playing in a deep role in the centre of the park.
As a result of his improved goalscoring tally, Matt Taylor may well consider giving Archie more freedom to roam forward and add to his attacking contribution next season, much like he did as he progressed through the age groups in the academy.
As far as breakthrough seasons go, they don't get much better than Josh Key's. Starting the season behind the experienced Jake Caprice in the pecking order, Josh benefitted from injuries to gain his chance in the first team and he hasn't looked back since.
A combination of phenomenal physical prowess and a tireless desire to get forward have terrorised opposition defenders all season, making him a key outlet for the team down the right-hand side of the pitch.
Josh will be looking to nail down his place in the starting XI next season and add to the 36 league starts he made during 2020/21.
After an electric start to the season in which he scored 8 goals in 18 appearances, Joel's season was curtailed by injuries. Despite this, he still managed 36 appearances and 10 goals in all competitions in his breakthrough season, reportedly drawing attention from clubs higher up the footballing pyramid in the January transfer window.
Sadly for Joel, his season was ended in March when he picked up a hamstring injury whilst equalising against Tranmere Rovers. There is still likely to be interest from Joel from elsewhere over the summer, but he will be hoping to add to his appearance and goal tally next season should he remain at SJP.
Despite Matt Taylor describing this as a "disappointing" season for Jack Sparkes, it was his most productive as a first team Grecian. Despite quality competition in the unfamiliar left-back position in Lewis Page, Jack made 50 appearances in all competitions, contributing 4 goals and 5 assists.
Looking forward to next season, Matt Taylor has explained that City want "to give [Jack] the freedom of playing higher up the pitch, but we could play with a back three as well next season and we know he can play as a wing-back."
Having spent numerous seasons on loan in non-league, Alex Hartridge came into the season as a back-up option at centre back. Fast forward to the end of the season and Alex has staked a very strong claim for the starting left-sided centre back in Matt Taylor's XI next season.
In total, Alex made 34 appearances in all competitions last season, progressively growing in confidence as the games wore on and forming a formidable partnership at the back with the experienced Rory McArdle. Alex will be looking to build on his strong finish last season to cement a regular starting berth in the first team and to build a partnership with whoever plays alongside him at the back.
Unfortunately for Ben, he struggled at times to impose himself on games when brought on, with City's style of play more suited to a target man like Ryan Bowman. Despite this, Ben enjoyed his most productive season in the first team, making 39 appearances in all competitions (27 from the bench) and scoring three times, including his first league goal against Colchester.
Despite the departure of Nicky Law clearing a pathway into the first team in midfield, Harry Kite was unable to capitalise to get more game time under his belt. Harry was unfortunately limited to just nine appearances in all competitions, starting just once in the league.
In his limited appearances, Harry appeared comfortable in midfield and will have been disappointed not to get more time on the pitch. With further departures in the midfield area over the summer, Harry will be hoping to get a consistent run in the first team next season to showcase his talent.
Jordan Dyer was given City's famous number 31 at the start of the season, becoming the ninth player to take the number since the 1931 fund was started.
Without the possibility of having a full season on loan at lower levels due to the curtailment of the season, Jordan was limited to just four appearances in his brief spell at Chippenham Town in the National League South. It was, however, a positive season for Jordan, making his league debut for the Grecians against Leyton Orient in March. He will now be looking to break into the first team next season.
Cheick Diabate, Nelson Iseguan, Louis Morison and Lewis Wilson all made their first team debuts this season. Unfortunately, both Morison and Wilson were joined by Will Dean in leaving the club at the expiry of their contracts. The Supporters' Trust would like to wish all of them the best of luck for the future.