Hopes and Expectations
& Pre-Season Friendlies
EXETER CITY FOOTBALL CLUB IN SEASON 1978-79
CITY ARE GROWING UP
During the course of the last few seasons Exeter City have taken great strides towards losing their "little club" image. On and off the field there have been positive developments.
They are now in a higher and much more competitive division and the club's financial position is slowly improving, allowing for one or two moderate excursions into the transfer market.
Last season started disastrously for the City. The loss of Beer was a body-blow to the club and a tragedy for the player. And there was absolutely no chance of replacing a man of his calibre from the funds at the club's disposal. The unfortunate and premature removal of the player from the game inevitably resulted in a certain amount of ill informed criticism from those who profess to be well-wishers of the City club when Exeter failed to conjure up a new "striker" out of the air. The job of playing alongside Tony Kellow went eventually to Bowker after Randell and Holman had each had a go, and whichever player it was who tried to follow in the footsteps of Alan Beer soon discovered that it was neither an easy or an enviable task.
FURTHER AND GREATER SUCCESS
Of course there are a lot of difficulties ahead, there always are, but having got their foot in the door, so to speak, and having held their own quite comfortably in that first testing campaign in the higher company of Division Three, nothing is more certain now than the fact that the directors, the manager, and the players are well on the way to further and greater success.
And there is, in the new spirit of determination at St James's Park, a real reason for optimism concerning Exeter City's future. For a team to progress it must be strong defensively, and in this department the City are extremely effective.
Without resorting to negative tactics they are the equal of anyone else in the Third Division with the possible exception of Walsall, and perhaps Chesterfield and Colchester. The acquisition of Vince' O'Keefe, the brilliant young goalkeeper from Leamington, has added another chapter to the incredible success story that the City club has recently written in their sorties after non-league players, and it is a safe bet that this young man will be an absolute "steal" before the season is out. The City were plunged into the desperate and unenviable situation of being without a goalkeeper when Richard Key accepted Cambridge's offer only a few days after last season ended, and now everything will depend on O'Keefe as the guardian of Exeter's citadel.
MAN FOR MAN MARKING SYSTEM
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the team which will start the new season concerns the "back four." Until the later stages of the last campaign the players who formed Exeter's defence were not always sure of just who each one was to mark, and too many goals were conceded to teams which switched the positions of their forwards without warning during the course of a game.
To counteract this Mr Bobby Saxton introduced what is known as the man-for-man marking system, and it was successful almost from the start, once the players had got used to the idea.
This method is said to be widely used on the continent although of course nothing is really new in football, and man-to-man marking, as it is called nowadays is no different to the defensive system that was universal in the days of the old team formation, when the backs would mark their opposing wingers, the wing halves would look after the inside men, and the centre half would take care of the centre forward. That was surely man-to-man marking.
CITY MORE MOBILE
However, as most teams in the lower divisions are unable to play in this manner, as it requires much more mobility than other systems, the City are fortunate in that they have an unusual amount of pace in the side. Both Roberts and Giles are able to match most forwards for speed, something that applies to very few central defenders. The "big boys" at the back also benefit from having two of the best and most experienced defenders in the League playing alongside them. Templeman is used as the third marker and Hore as a "free" man with the responsibility of being in the right place at the right time. If a team can keep the "goals against" record down it is more than half-way to success. In their midfield the City have a complete "new look" from their promotion-hunting days.
The introduction of Peter Hatch on the left-hand side has added a new dimension to their play, and Hatch of course is another of the City's speed merchants. The combination of Hatch, Delve and Randell is potentially the best midfield trio Exeter have had for years and there is a real balance and genuine ability in the "engine room" as each player complements the others.
With Randell being a masterly player in everything he does and with Delve, who has tightened up the whole side with his tackling and his vigour and above all with his unquenchable "never say die" spirit, the City are sure to improve as the men's understanding of other's play increases. each
SOME THOUGHTS ON DIVISION TWO
In order to improve their goalscoring Exeter City have searched far and wide, and have made twenty or thirty enquiries without having been able to land the sort of man they want. What they need most is a winger, now that Jennings has gone, who can provide ammunition for Kellow and Bowker, although Holman did quite well last year and the City have two or three promising young forwards coming along, such as Fred Ingham, Roy Ireland, and David Jackson.
It obviously appears from some of the opinions expressed that the City ought to be in Division Two when the season ends. In fact this is unlikely. There is a major weakness that will have to be overcome before any further promotion can be considered a possibility.
The board, and the manager, are aware of it, but whether or not they can rectify it is another matter. Exeter City are under-staffed, and consequently there is a lack of depth in the numbers of players available for first-team duty. There is so little in reserve that any injuries or losses of form will make the job in hand too difficult.
The City need at least two more good quality players, and obtaining them may well prove to be beyond the club's financial resources, at least for the time being.
The City's first match of the new season is the Football League Cup tie against Plymouth Argyle on August 13th. And who could wish for a better and more exciting start than that?
Directors:- Messrs F.Dart (president), L.G. Vallance (chairman), W.Rice (vice-chairman), J.Cowley, C.Hill, I.Webb.
Secretary:- Mr P.Wakeham.
Manager:- Mr R.Saxton.
Trainer:- Mr J.Edwards.
Exeter City Players
Exeter City will start the season with seventeen professionals, which seems an insufficient number to see the club through its programme of League and Cup games. There is one goalkeeper, five defenders, five midfield players, and six forwards, two of whom are wingers, Hodge and Holman. O'Keefe (from Leamington) and Mitchell (from Leatherhead) are new to the club, while Giles (Charlton Athletic), Roberts (Shrewsbury Town), during the course of last season.
Delve and Randell (Plymouth Argyle) and Ingham (Dawlish) were signed. Key was retained but later transferred to Cambridge United, Weeks, Ford, and Howe were not retained and have fixed up with Bournemouth, Barnstaple, and Tiverton, in that order.
Baugh, Jennings, and Beer have retired, the latter on account of the knee injury sustained on the Shrewsbury ground last season.
The reserve team will be made up mostly of apprentice professionals and amateurs. These include Steve Nute (goalkeeper), Paul Smythe, Brian Clarke, Paul Clatworthy, Andy Rowden (backs), Peter Howarth, Andy White, Kevin Skinner, Tony Long (midfield), Andy Bell, Colin Bickley, David Jackson, Paul Gidley, Trafford Tucker, and Ian Cole (forwards).
Former "Grecians" Tony Morrin and Mike Jordan will this season turn out for Barnstaple Town and Bideford respectively.
Foxhole v Exeter City
July 27: Exeter City made it 15 goals in two games when they cruised to a comfortable 8-1 victory over the Cornish side Foxhole in the second of their "warming up" matches. The match, which signalled the opening of Foxhole's new pitch, was in doubt because of the thick fog, but Exeter sportingly agreed to play, and they seemed to have little difficulty in finding the net! The goals were obtained by Kellow (4), Bowker (1), Hodge (1) and Ingham (2).
Although the opposition was obviously well below Third Division class the result coupled with the 7-0 win at Axminster (July 26th) the previous evening does at least show that Exeter can score goals.
July 31: Dorchester Town should have entertained Exeter City in a friendly match, but the deluge of rain which had poured down on the Westcountry was too much for the Dorchester pitch, which was water logged, and the game had to be called off.
Exeter City v Stoke City
August 2: Pre-season friendlies are not really supposed to provide the crowd with first-class entertainment. They are there to brush away the cobwebs, smooth a few of the rough edges, and to iron out some of the difficulties. There was therefore some excuse perhaps for the drabness of Exeter City's 1-0 defeat by Stoke at St James's Park.
City: O'Keefe; Templeman, Giles, Roberts, Hore; Hodge, Bowker, Randell; Forbes, Kellow, Delve.
Stoke:- Jones; Marsh, Doyle, Scott, Richardson; Kendall, Conroy, O'Callaghan; Crooks, Busby, Irvine.
At first sight, losing by such a margin to a side in a higher grade of football might seem to be satisfactory, and Exeter were not at any time in any danger of being overwhelmed. Their defence stood firm throughout the match despite the threat from such experienced players as Viv Busby, Terry Conroy, and Howard Kendall. But the City, at the same time, never once looked like producing the sort of clever attacking football needed to make them even remotely successful when the Third Division campaign starts. The match proved one thing beyond all doubt, and that is that Exeter need another forward to supplement Tony Kellow, who was the only man to seriously threaten the Stoke City defence. Stoke's goal, scored by Conroy after 35 minutes, came after a prolonged spell of pressure by the Potters, and followed a delicate interchange of passes between Crooks, Busby, and the scorer.
August 3: City Reserves v Torquay United Reserves at the Cat & Fiddle ground, result not known.
August 9: Wellington 2 (Kew 2) City Res 1 (Hatch with a penalty), at Wellington.