• Julen Beer

#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:

Matt Jay

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

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.

Josh Key

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.

Joel Randall

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.

Jack Sparkes

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."

Alex Hartridge