Hopes and Expectations



False and unfounded optimism is to be avoided at all costs, but looking ahead with what it is hoped is justifiable optimism this could be the season Exeter City supporters have been waiting for while a quarter of a century has rolled past since the club last were in the maelstrom of a promotion battle. This early, in fact before the season has even started, it is not wise, neither is it intended, to plump the City's name forward for promotion. But the work of the close-season and the atmosphere at St James's Park does give rise to the hopes that the City will be fighting hard towards the top instead of floundering helplessly only a few degrees above the rock bottom. Straight nomination for the top is one thing, optimism is another. And certainly no team can have a bigger share of optimism than Exeter City.

Since last season closed with a despairing thump, with Exeter 22nd in the League, with one of the worst goalscoring records in the League and with their own most meagre average for thirty years, a colossal amount of work has been done. The board of directors, maligned in the past (and no doubt again in the future) should now receive nothing but praise. Praise for the way in which they have dug deep, deeper than it seemed possible into the funds to get the players so badly needed. And praise for the way they have backed up manager Norman Dodgin, whose task it has been to find those players and then persuade them to come to "Cinderella City." On paper, and that is really the only way to judge this early, Norman Dodgin has done a fine job. Altogether ten newcomers have joined Exeter's professional staff.

Seven of the newcomers are men with experience, and who have excellent records behind them. Three of them are fresh to the business, but who are already showing great promise.

One of them, wing-half Norman Packer, now a professional, must in fact be on the brink of a place in the Third Division side. Just a slip by either of the men in possession and Packer will be in. Of the seven new men with experience one, George Hunter, looked in the practice match, more than able to fill the gap left by Alec Bell, now in Germany with the British Army of the Rhine. Another, Steve Parr, looks capable of fitting into the City's already tight defence. But it is in the other five, the forwards, Simpson, Burke, Iggleden, Worthington, and Buckle, that the great hopes and interest lie. Money went out of the City's coffers for each of them, money, that is, in exchange for goals. That is what the transactions amount to for it is goals that the City have so desperately wanted. And in the records of each of the newcomers it is goals which fill in quite a few spaces in their football histories. It is on records, then, that the assessment is now made. But, and now manager Dodgin takes up the story, it is not on past efforts that the City team will be picked.


"No man" Mr Dodgin says "will get into the City side on his reputation alone. Each man will be picked on his performances now, right now, and I want from all my players not only their greatest ability but their greatest effort as well. One is no good without the other.

"Much of the trouble with football all the way from Exeter City Club to British football itself, has been the lack of triers. I believe if a man does not try he should not only be thrown out of a team but out
of the game."

And that is the principle on which Mr Dodgin will work. That, too, is in effect a message to the players. And Mr Dodgin also has a message for the spectators. It is this: "Be Exeter City minded. Give the players encouragement and criticism when it is needed, but make it constructive criticism. And do give the new players and the youngest ones time to settle down." Mr Dodgin makes no appeal for support. He simply says: "We need much better support than last year, but it is not up to the public. It is now up to the players. If they get the results the crowds will come."


What, then, does the man for whom Exeter City's success would not only be a pleasure, but a milestone in his career, think of the prospects? He says: "Our chances are very bright. We have the experienced players and the youngsters who are fighting their way up to first team grade. "The new training under Mr Campbell at St. Luke's College, has been the means of increasing the players' fitness a great deal, and the newcomers, who have not yet had it, will be taken by Mr Campbell in special sessions. "In fact, barring a crop of injuries, I have every hope that this will be a great season, and it could easily put Exeter City right on the football map." Here is a quote, the final one: "My nomination of the Exeter City Club as a top team is ambitious in view of their lowly placing and poor football last season, but manager Norman Dodgin has my award for the best team-building feat of the summer. I do believe that the new power of the Grecians will shoot them right into the thick of the promotion battle." This comes from Reg. Drury, the old England, West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal forward, in Sport Express.

But while Exeter City have been team-building so have a lot of the other Southern Section clubs. Aldershot and Walsall have both signed eight new men from different other League clubs. Running them close in the signature race come Bournemouth and Exeter City, but then comes a big gap, clubs like Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Colchester, Coventry, Crystal Palace, Millwall, Norwich City and Southampton have only added one or two men with Football League experience. In the case of the City's opponents on the opening day of the season, Colchester United, this is particularly surprising after their poor showing last season. Included in Walsall's new faces are the Irish international centre or inside forward Dave Walsh from Aston Villa, Argyle's George Dews and Hugh McLaren from Notts Forest. Their activity is not surprising, in view of four re-election applications on the trot. Watford, likely to be one of the season's strong teams, have signed Arthur Shaw and Ben Marden from the Arsenal. They have also engaged full-back Frank Lock from Liverpool and inside forward George Graham from Newport County. Relegated Ipswich obviously intend to try their hardest to return to the Second Division in the quickest possible time, for their signings include Ashcroft (Liverpool), Baker (Cardiff), Leadbetter (Brighton), and Blackman (Notts Forest).

These Have Gone

  • Donaldson to Carlisle United,
  • Mackay to Millwall,
  • Anderson to Dundee,
  • Owens to Rochdale,
  • Priestley to Grimsby Town,
  • Les Doyle to Bideford,
  • McClelland to Portland United,
  • Rowe to Bridgwater Town.

The New Grecians and the date of signing

  • May 13 Dilwyn Hill, centre-forward, ex Pontypridd Youth Club, born Porth, South Wales. Height 5ft 11ins weight 11st 21bs.
  • May 13 Norman Packer signed as a professional, played a few matches
    as an amateur last season. Height 6ft 1in weight 12st 71bs. May 13
  • Graham Bowkett, inside right, ex Pontypridd, born Pontypridd, height 5ft 7ins weight 10st 3lbs.
  • May 16 Steve Parr, left back, ex Liverpool, born Preston. height 5ft 9ins weight 13st.
  • May 19 Dennis Simpson, outside right, ex Coventry City and Reading, born Coventry, height 5ft 9ins weight 10st 101bs.
  • June 10 Ronnie Burke, centre-forward, ex Manchester United, Huddersfield Town and Rotherham United, born Redcar. Height 5ft 9ins weight 11st 10lbs.
  • June 27 Ted Buckle, outside left, ex Manchester United and Everton,born Southwark, London, height 5ft 10ins weight 10st 3lbs.
  • July 7 Fred Worthington, inside right, ex Bury and Leicester City,
    born Manchester, height 5ft 8ins weight 10st 71bs.
  • July 15 Horatio (Ray) Iggleden, inside-forward, ex Leicester City and Leeds United, born Hull, height 5ft 7ins weight 11st.
  • Aug 13 George Hunter, goalkeeper, ex Glasgow Celtic, with which club he won the Scottish Cup-winner's medal, and Derby County. Born Troon, height 6ft 1in weight 12st.


Alec Bell, Hugh Kelly, goalkeepers.
Brian Doyle, Alan Marsh, Dick Walton, full-backs.
Fred Davey, Tommy Dunne, Theo Foley, Keith Harvey, Frank Houghton, half-backs.
Bill Ellaway, Ian Grinney, Ray John, Eddie Murphy, Arnold Mitchell, Graham Rees, David Robinson, Alan Sword, Peter Thomas, forwards.
Norman Dodgin, left-half back and player-manager.

Practice Matches

Wednesday August 10th 1955:
Exeter City's first public practice gave the new signings their first chance of showing their paces and while it is never safe or wise to judge solely on practice form the general impression gained was that things this season will be greatly better than they were in 1954-55. Teams:
REDS:- Kelly; Walton, Parr; Dunne, Harvey, Mitchell; Thomas, Ellaway, Sword, Murphy, Rees.
BLUES:- J.Lobbett; P.Hill, Foley; Packer, Davey, Houghton; Simpson, Worthington, Burke, Iggleden, Buckle.

In the second half Grinney came on for Thomas and G.Shaw for Lobbett. Sword (2) and Thomas scored for Reds and Burke, Buckle, and Worthington for Blues, the match ending all-square 3 goals each.


The second and last practice took place on Monday August 15th, and as the first one was, was drawn. Worthington scored twice for Reds, Ellaway and Packer for Blues. The Reds' defence found the youthful Blues forward line hard to handle in this game, and their forwards found it equally difficult to penetrate the Blues rearguard. But with Houghton being badly injured when he broke a bone in a foot just before half-time, thunder, lightning, heavy rain and hailstones this practice match atmosphere was hardly the type to bring the best out of the players. One thing, however, was proved. It is that few places in Saturday's team for the opening game of the season will be filled automatically. Mr Dodgin's job will be (to use an old cliche) not so much whom to pick, but whom to leave out, for there appears to be a real wealth of talent available.

REDS:- Kelly; Walton, Parr; Dunne, Harvey, Mitchell; Simpson, Worthington, Burke, Murphy, Buckle.
BLUES:- Hunter; Doyle, Marsh; Packer, Davey, Houghton; Thomas, Ellaway, D.Hill, Bowkett, Rees.

Attendance 3,070, receipts £240.18s.0d

Board of Directors

Messrs. S.H. Thomas (chairman), F.P.Cottey (vice-chairman),
C.W.H.Hill, J.Lake, J.G. Warne, H. White, G. Gillin, A.T. Ford, J.Rigby, W.J.Heath, A.W.Crawshaw, L. Seward.
Secretary Mr G.J.Gilbert.



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