Hopes and Expectations

Exeter City Football Club

At the time of writing, it is exactly forty years since the birth of Exeter City as a professional football club. On August 29th, in the year 1908, the first public practice, including professionals, was played at St James's Park. The green and white stripes, who were all professionals, beat the whites, comprising three professionals and eight amateurs, by 7 goals to 2. The teams were:
Stripes:- Fletcher; Craig, Crelley; Ambler, Johnson, Wake; Parnell, Watson, McGuigan, Bell, White.
Whites:- W. Wells; Bulcock, R. Fenwick; Tierney, Sgt. Mudd, W.Letheren; J.Sillick, H.Eveleigh, Drain, W.A.Pridham, H.Singlehurst.

On the following Wednesday, September 2nd, the City's new team began their programme of Southern League fixtures on the Millwall ground. Exeter were not expected to win, neither did they, but two goals in the last ten minutes by Bell enabled them to make an honourable draw. The team on that occasion was Fletcher; Craig and Bulcock; Ambler, Johnson, and Wake; Parnell, Watson, McGuigan, Bell, and White.

Soccer football was not unknown fifty years ago in this district. At that time there was a club known as Exeter United and in those early days they played in Magdalen Road on the old St Luke's ground. Later they became the tenants of St James's Park and remained there for a number of years. They were undoubtedly a very good side, and played high-class football, equal to, and probably better than the best that can be seen to-day. All players of any distinction were centralised on what was the one and only club, whereas to-day players are spread over the innumerable clubs in the district. Devon in those days was of course a hot-bed of Rugby football, there being at least fifty clubs in Exeter and its immediate surrounding towns and villages alone. Exeter Rugby Club is able to claim 1872 as the year of its formation, and even then there were other adherents of the oval ball game in existence. But it would be about fifty or fifty-five years ago that the schools were taking up "Soccer," and school teams were being formed. The strongest of these school teams in those days was St. John's, but there was also a body of youngsters who attended St. Sidwell's School and who were very keen on soccer. The result of that association of boys together was that after they all left school, somewhere about the year 1900, it was decided to call a meeting of selected young men in the city who were known to be good exponents of the game. In those days there was a public-house in Sidwell-street, the actual name of which was the "Foresters' Arms," but which was more popularly known as the Drum and Monkey, and the meeting was held there at which it was decided to run a football team. The club's first name, Wesleyan United, was shortly afterwards changed to St. Sidwell's United. It is often said, and it cannot seriously be contradicted, that the meeting in the old Drum and Monkey was the origin of the Exeter City Football Club. Unfortunately the house was eventually closed on the grounds of redun dancy, but some sort of plaque should be placed on its walls in order to indicate the great part it helped to play in the formation of the City Club.


That little club met with instant success. There were not a lot of clubs at that time, but the first fourteen matches were gone through without a defeat. The vital factor in the success of the club was team spirit, the value of which cannot be over-estimated. Wherever one saw one of the members of that team, whether it was in the streets of the city or looking for apples in somebody's orchard, the whole team would be seen together. This little team operated at first on a field on which Monk road has since been built. In those days there were very few houses on that side of Mount Pleasant, and the whole of the land down to the bottom of Pinhoe-road was entirely unbuilt upon. An attempt was tried to take a "gate" in those days, and a sentry-box was placed at the entrance to the ground. The result of the first game was that something like 9d was collected. It can be seen that "gates" were a sore point even in those days, but the time arrived when local amateur soccer drew thousands to its matches. St. Sidwell's United at first entered the Exeter and District League and finally the East Devon League, and the time came when the juniors were good enough to challenge their senior rivals. A match was accordingly arranged and the juniors won by 3-1. At the end of that season the United took over the senior club, changed its name to Exeter City, and acquired St. James's Park. In the meantime, the old East Devon Football Association, under the secretaryship of Capt. Harvey and the chairmanship of Mr D. Sturdy, managed the affairs of the game locally. This was long before East Devon joined up with the Devon County Football Association.


It was not long before the affairs of the new Exeter City F.C. began to flourish and the Press began to specialise in the game which was daily winning adherents. Rugby football used to command its four to five thousand followers, and accounts of the matches were regularly reported in the local newspapers, but things began to move in the opposite direction when a man was brought here to do "Soccer" for the local paper, and a little later the Exeter Football Express commenced publication.

The Exeter City Club entered the Plymouth and District League and did reasonably well, but after two or three seasons a Press agitation was started for improved football. There was an exhibition match between West Bromwich Albion and the Arsenal at the County Ground, and the outcome was that Exeter City made its first step towards professionalism by engaging Jack Banks, a first-class player in his day. It was a very important deputation which went to see him at the old Plymouth Argyle Sports Club.


As is probably known, the City Club as it is known today, was formed in May 1908, but some time before an historic meeting was called at the house of Mr A. Norman Kendall. It was decided there and then to explore the idea of entering the old Southern League, a wonderful organisation in those days, which, had it been kept together, would have run the Football League very close for predominance in the game. The Southern League made its first retro grade step when it turned down an application from Chelsea F.C.

At that time the meetings of the Exeter City Amateur Club were held at the Red Lion Hotel, Sidwell-street, and in this way the late Mr. Tom Oliver (the licensee) became interested. Capt. Harvey also came along, and Mr Fred Parkhouse, who for a great many years continued to be a member of the Board, was also introduced. The men named, together with one nominee from the amateur City club, Mr William Fenwick, formed the first Board of Directors. The upshot of many meetings and much consideration because there was no prepared ground available and very little money (the Exeter Rugby Club were not prepared at that time to share the County Ground when asked to do so) was that it was decided to go full steam ahead in an endeavour to get into the Southern League.

For many months and several times a week, very often, Messrs Kendall and S.H.Thomas dodged around to Football League and Southern League matches, anywhere where a vote could be snatched to achieve the feat of getting Exeter City into League football. Mr Kendall was a well known personality with a reputation as an able raconteur. These two advocates were taken in hand by Mr Jack Howcroft, one of the game's best referees, and by other giants of football, including the great Steve Bloomer, who had not finished his playing career. There were players of outstanding ability in those days, men whose value in the transfer market at the present time would be absolutely incalculable. Money also played a big part in the election of clubs at that time, and it would not be untrue to say that many a pound note passed in the good cause of Exeter City in the great fight for advancement. In due course came the momentous meeting which was to decide the fate of Exeter City. Mr Thomas, the present chairman, squeezed in as one of the so-called representatives of Plymouth Argyle only to be thrown out as an inter ested party! Exeter City got into the Southern League in a crisis year. Queen's Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur defected and applied for entry to the Football League 2nd Division, and in an attempt to jockey these clubs into a false position the meeting of the Southern League clubs was called at the same time and on the same day as the Football League meeting at which their applications were to be heard. The outcome was a great sensation in the football world. The Rangers and the Spurs had ceased to become members of the Southern League and they were voted out by the Football League clubs. So they were both left stranded.


However, Exeter City were voted into the Southern League by the assent of every club in the meeting, a wonderful achievement. In the end the Spurs purchased the place of Stoke City in the Football League and Queen's Park came back into the Southern League, as an old club, conditional that they fulfilled all their fixtures in mid-week. It is interesting to note that in the first season (1908/09) Exeter City occupied a higher place in the Southern League than the Spurs, whose place they had taken, did in the previous season. The City were a very fortunate club to be elected in such circumstances and at such a time, and their status in the football world should be accordingly most jealously guarded. But elected they were, and having obtained admission in June 1908 all sorts of difficulties had to be faced. A ground had to be made and a grandstand built. That most important necessity in football, money, had to be found, and the whole conglomeration of essentials to start first-class football by the end of August. It will readily be seen that things had to move quickly. The club was very fortunate in that prior to election they obtained the services of Mr Arthur Chadwick as manager. His death in 1936 took place under tragic circumstances in the grand-stand on the ground on which he had seen and shared in so many triumphs. The City team was practically complete before the club got into the League. In those days players of good calibre were available without transfer fees having to be paid; there was no working arrangement between the two main Leagues. It was probably the fear of the old free-lance times which eventually decided the Football League to absorb the Southern League clubs into its membership. At the end of each season players were free-lance unless they had been offered the F. A. retaining wage.


Major Harvey became the first chairman of the City Club, shortly to be followed by Mr M. J. McGahey, who continued to occupy the position until a year or so before the war. Mr McGahey's great experience of the failings and strivings of the human character and his sympathy therefore made him a popular figure with the hundreds of professional players who passed through their tenure of service with the club. Those players always knew that they would receive from Mr McGahey a very generous measure of fair treatment that might arise in any and every possible question that concerned them. The Exeter City Club has had its great days and its ups and downs.

The Present 

At the present time, forty years on, and entering upon its third season of post-war football, the outlook is "fair to middling, and following the long sequence of undefeated League matches last year, a certain amount of optimism necessarily prevails in respect of 1948-49. Under certain conditions, and if the well known "team-spirit" prevails, the Club should recover its former glory. There are around Exeter sufficient sportsmen to keep the City going, provided the goods are placed in the window. A long story of fascinating events in Exeter City's history could be written if one had the time. As a finishing note, it is appropriate to state that the formation of the professional clubs in Exeter, Plymouth, and Torquay has given a tremendous impetus to the game in the county. Today, there is a huge organisation in being dealing with hundreds of clubs, where longer ago they could be numbered on the fingers of both hands.

The present Exeter City Board consists of:
Mr. S.H.Thomas, chairman.
Mr. F.P.Cottey, vice-chairman.
Messrs. A.T.Ford, C.W.H.Hill, J.Lake, F.P.Nichols, J.G.R.Orchard, J.Rigby, L.J.Seward, J.G.Warne, H.L.White.

Mr G.J.Gilbert, secretary.
Mr W.G.Roughton, manager.
Mr W.J.Fellowes, assistant manager.

The New Grecians

For the 1948-49 season Exeter City have retained the services of 22 professionals and engaged six new ones. Details of the new Grecians are given:

The new centre forward, Ron Johnston, has the reputation of being a strong and unselfish leader, whose transfer the City obtained from Rochdale at the highest fee ever paid by the club. Aged 23, Johnston is young enough to develop into a centre forward of the highest class. His positional play and the manner in which he can bring his partners into the game stamps him already as a player with distinct possibilities. One of the Scottish colony on the City club's books, Johnston joined Rochdale from Glasgow Perthshire in December of last season and immediately claimed a regular place in the first team, scoring 7 goals in 17 Northern Section games.

Powell is a well set-up young player who is capable of filling any of the intermediate line positions, but prefers the right flank. A work manlike player, he is an industrious type who keeps going throughout the most strenuous match and covers a tremendous amount of ground in the process. After playing for his native Chester Powell joined the Royal Air Force and was chosen for big representative Services games in Egypt and elsewhere. When he left the R.A.F. Cardiff lost no time in signing him, and he now comes to Exeter on the personal recommend ation of the old City star, George Wardle.

Football runs in Archie Smith's family, for this young and enterprising forward is a nephew of Dave McCulloch, the Scottish international. The City club obtained Smith from Hamilton Academicals, where he spent two seasons as a regular member of the first team and scored 17 goals last term.

In signing William Harrower the City have made in the opinion of many people their best capture since the war, and have beaten several other clubs for his signature at a fee of £1,000. Torquay United obtained Harrower from Third Lanark two seasons ago. He was, during his time with the Royal Air Force, selected for the R.A.F. XI against the F.A.XI and has many admirers for his clever play either at inside forward or on the right wing


The Exeter City manager's pilgrimages to Scotland have brought forth a fresh result with the arrival at St James's Park of James Clark, a left-back from Aberdeen. Clark's signature was secured in the face of competition from Heart of Midlothian and Dundee, among others. Clark, a native of Keith is a husky highlander, and inch over 6 feet tall, weighing 13 stone, and aged 23. He has been with Aberdeen for two seasons since his release from the R.A.F., and although not often a first-team player was a consistent member of their second eleven.


The last of the City's close season signings, F.O'Hagan, arrived in Exeter on August 13th 1948, but has since then been under medical treatment for an ulcerated eye. Born at West Calder, O'Hagan played for St. Johnstone and East Fife in Scotland, and is reported to be an outside left of more than average ability.
Full list of players:

  • H.Hoyle, goal, b. Bradford, 6ft.Oins., 12st.01b., from Wolves.
  • B.Singleton, goal, b. Conisborough, 5ft.10in., 12st.0lb., Wolves
  • J.D.Clark, b. Dornoch, 6ft.lin., 13st.0lb., from Aberdeen
  • C.Johnstone, b. Hamilton, 5ft.llin., 12st.0lb., from Hamilton Ac.
  • E.S.Rowe, 1.b., b. Exeter, 5ft.10in., llst.71b., from Buddle Estate.
  • D.B. Warren, r.b., b. Colyton, 6ft.2in., 13st.0lb., from Colyton.
  • J.Angus, c.h., b. Newcastle, 5ft.llin., 12st.81b., from Scunthorpe
  • H.Bartholomew, r.h., b. Motherwell, 5ft.10in., 12st., from Motherwell.
  • A.Coles, c.h., b. Crediton, 5ft.10in., 11st.0lb., from Coleraine.
  • S.W.Cutting, r.h., b. Norwich, 5ft.9in., 11st.6., from Southampton.
  • F.Davey, c.h., b. Crediton, 5ft.llin., 12st.71b., from Crediton.
  • P.D.Fallon, l.h., b. Dublin, 5ft.9in., 11st.0lb., from R.A.F.
  • R.Gibson, c.h., b. Tideswell, 5ft.10in., 11st.0lb., from Plymouth
  • A. K.L.Powell, r.h., b. Chester, 5ft.9in., 11st.10lb., from Cardiff C.
  • S.Walker, 1.h., b. Sheffield, 5ft.llin., 12st.41b., from Sheffield U.
  • W.H.Dymond, o.r., b. Shillingford, 5ft.8in., 10st.10lb., Bristol City.
  • H.A.Evans, i.r., b. Woking, 5ft.8in., 11st.61b., from Southampton.
  • B.Grant, i.1. b. Annanthill, 5ft.5in., 9st.71b., from Third Lanark.
  • W.Harrower, b. Kirkcaldy, 5ft.10in., 10st.101b., from Torquay United
  • D.G.Hutchings, o.r., b. Axminster, 5ft.7in., 10st.71b., Axminster.
  • R.Jeffrey, i.1., b. Aberdeen, 5ft.9in., 11st.81b., from Derby County.
  • R.Johnston, c.f., b. Glasgow, 5ft.10in., 12st.11lb., from Hamilton Ac.
  • A.M.Mackay, i.l., b. Glasgow, 5ft.9in., 10st.41b., from Ipswich Town.
  • F.O'Hagan, o.1., b. West Calder, 5ft.9in., 11st.0lb., St Johnstone.
  • D.J.T.Regan, o.1., b. Yeovil, 5ft.8in., 10st.71b., from Ingleside.
  • R.Smart, i.r., b. Crook, 5ft.9in., llst.0lb., from Stanley United.
  • A.N.Smith, c.f., b. Larkhill, 5ft.10in., 12st.0lb., from Hamilton Ac.

Wednesday, August 11th 1948.
Practice match at St James's Park.

REDS 3 (Smith 2, Jeffrey)
BLUES 2 (Regan, Johnston)
Attendance 3,351,
receipts £187. 15s. 6d.

Reds: Hoyle; Johnstone, S.Rowe; Evans, Davey, Powell (Cardiff City); Dymond, Harrower (Torquay United), Smith (Hamilton Academicals), Jeffrey, Grant.
Blues: Singleton; Warren, Coles; Bartholomew, Gibson, Walker; Hutchings, Smart, Johnston (Rochdale), Mackay, Regan.

2nd half:- G.Burnham (Leytonstone) and Fallon replaced Johnstone and Dymond for the reds.

Saturday, August 14th 1948.
Final practice match at St James's Park

REDS 0 WHITES 3 (Smart, Regan, Smith).

Attendance 4,305, receipts £228. 14s. 3d.

Reds: Hoyle; Johnstone, S.Rowe;
W.Rowe, Davey, Powell; Hutchings, Evans, Johnston, Jeffrey, Grant. 
Whites: Singleton; Warren, Coles; Bartholomew, Gibson, Walker; Fallon, Smart, Smith, Mackay, Regan.
Referee:- Mr R.P.Jewell.


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