Season Summary

EXETER CITY'S BEST SEASON FOR YEARS But They Could Have Been League Champions

Defeat in their last match (at Shrewsbury) cost Exeter promotion. Had they won there the City would have been fourth and Shrewsbury fifth instead of the other way round. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, and that is that in spite of their narrow failure right at the end the City have had their best season in 1958-59 than they have had for many years, and that every supporter of the club owes a big vote of thanks to the manager and his players. Exeter City started this season with virtually the same side that was bottom of the Third Division (South) last year. And with only one regular addition, Jimmy Thompson, they have become a promotion hunting combination. From 46 games in the League last season the City got 31 points; they let in 99 goals and scored 57. This season they collected a total of 57 points from the same number of matches, conceded 61 goals and scored 87. So they have scored more goals, got more points, and finished in a better position than in any season since they ended the 1932-33 one as runners up to Brentford with 42 matches played, 88 goals against 48, and 58 points.


Highlights of the season? It is hard to pick out any one thing. But there were plenty of cheers when the City topped the League table for the first time in years, when they became the first team to beat York on their own ground, when after three months they still had the best defensive record in all the Football League, and when after fifteen matches at St James's Park they were still unbeaten there. Low spots? Keith Harvey breaking his leg at Northampton in October; Brian Birch having to pull out of the first-team through injury after only four games; the first home defeat, by Northampton on the last day of February, and George Hunter breaking his leg on March 28th in the match against Port Vale. The City have not been too lucky with their injuries, especially the goalkeepers, but they have been lucky with the men who have stepped in. Thompson was bought, and took over from Harvey, and he has held his place ever since. John Lobbett, the young Exeter-born goalkeeper, has exceeded every expectation of him, and has proved a cool, clever, and competent last line of defence as Hunter's deputy. Brian Whitnall cannot be faulted since he came into the team at left back, and Dave Butterworth held his place well for several games. Theo Foley, Ken Oliver, and Arnold Mitchell have been the defence's "ever-presents," and their appearance records speak for themselves, with Mitchell, as captain, being the club's most improved player.


Always a good, steady club-man, Arnold Mitchell has really come into his own this season as a hard defensive and good constructive wing half. The forward line is the only place where the City have had to make changes without injuries. Ted Calland is the only regular there, and with his 27 League and 1 Cup goal he is the City's highest scorer for a great many years, in fact since Rodney Williams in 1936-37 had 36 League and Cup goals. Graham Rees is second-highest in the scoring list with 21 goals, and though he was dropped for three games the City soon found that they could not do without his dash, goalscoring, and 90 minutes' effort. Nelson Stiffle and Gordon Dale, despite their cleverness, have often been disappointing, but Exeter have not had two better wingers for a long time. Johnny Nicholls, who was secured at a high cost from Cardiff City in the previous season, is one of soccer's enigmas. This former English international inside forward can sometimes outshine anyone in three divisions. At other times he looks like a novice.


The most goals that the City have had scored against them in any one game was five, at Port Vale, and even then they got three themselves. In 14 games Exeter conceded no goals at all. Their best wins were at York, when they scored 2 goals to 0 and at home, when they defeated Coventry 2-1. Mr Broome, after his first full season as the City's manager, thinks the team has done very well. He says: "Taking everything into full consideration the team has generally been very sound. Here we are, having narrowly missed promotion with virtually the same side which was bottom of the League last year, and with a little more luck, and more effort from the players who came down here with plenty of top grade experience we could have been League Champions. The defence as a rule has been consistent, and the main trouble has been usually in the forward line. Generally, I think we have achieved a lot, for we have built a good third-team, juniors, and it will be better still next year. The Reserves are young and have been gaining experience all the season. The results haven't been brilliant, but you cannot keep a young and untried forward line and expect to win all your games. You either clutter the side up with old players to win games or you give the youngsters a chance and hope they will progress. The scouting system here leaves a lot to be desired, but it needs cash to build it up and we can't afford it yet. "The future looks very bright for Exeter City. We could have a great season next year, and with a couple of good forwards we could be a good Third Division side. "But everything is governed by cash, and if the board do decide that they are going to raise the entry fees I don't think the supporters can grumble.


"Dozens of jobs here need doing, and I think it would cost something like £1,000 just to clean up the ground without touching the covered popular side.
"The spectators are entitled to value for money, and we must give them good football in comfort. But the money for these things has got to come from somewhere, and it can't keep coming out of the directors' pockets. "It would be a great pity if we slipped now with the chance we have got. But however disappointing it would be if we didn't get what we all want, promotion, next year, and I think we will, no-one at least can begrudge the fact that this season we've had our best one for a long time."


End of the season football is a phrase that creeps into a lot of the reports which come out at that time of the year. But does it really mean anything?

Exeter's manager says: "Not if you're fighting either for promotion or to avoid relegation. But if you have a middle of the table team that can't go up or down, then the players are inclined to slacken off.

"Very few people realise that footballers can't have other outside interests. It's not just a question of trotting out on to the field on Saturday afternoon and then forgetting everything until the next Saturday. For eight months of the year, sometimes with two games a week, you've got to analyse how you've just played, think about how you can improve, train, live, sleep, and eat football.

"Football is a short life but a good one. But like every other job, the only craftsmen in it are those who live for the game, not those who watch the clock and forget everything else when they pack up and go home"


Two goalkeepers, four full-backs, nine half-backs, and twelve forwards, a total of 27 players, as follows, have been retained for the 1959-60 season, when it is hoped the City will go one better and secure pro motion to the 3rd Division.

Goalkeepers:- G. Hunter, J.Lobbett.
Backs:- C.Rutter, T.Foley, L.MacDonald, B. Whitnall.
Half-backs:- A.Mitchell, D. Butterworth, J. Thompson, M.Cleverly, B.Lightly, K.Oliver, K.Harvey, N. Packer, R.Cragg.
Forwards:- N.Stiffle, T.Atkins, G.Rees, B. Pulman, E.Calland, D.Hill, P.Rapley, J.Nicholls, B.Birch, G.Dale, R.Rackley, D.Robinson.



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