As the new League One season is almost upon us it’s fairly difficult to assess if Exeter City can emulate or even better last seasons high finish where we surprised many by finishing just a solitary point outside the play-off places.
Last seasons joint highest finish in league history was a commendable achievement given our traditional problems of relatively low budget and out of the way geographical location. So at this point the best assessment of things is either to look at pre-season form or see what the bookies think. A quick look at the latter has City 10-3 for relegation but a higher price of 14-1 for promotion, which as a rough comparative sees the bookies predicting a mid-table or lower finish.
Looking at pre-season form is completely different and I would suggest an inaccurate indicator – City’s matches so far have been against one team from the Blue Square South, two from below that and three Norwegian fourth division outfits (this on a tour which included the last twenty minutes being played against Exeter City fans). The only match of any relative worth for the pundits seems to have been the match against Torquay United last Wednesday where a very average team with a pretty rotund front line humiliated us 3-0. Still we have Derby County to come at home on our brand new pitch and it is well known how much our glorious manager Paul Tisdale (above) loves playing his admired style of passing on a nice pitch. a style of passing which looked all at sea on the laughingly titled English Riviera this week.
As for transfer comings and goings the jury is somewhat out on whether we have a stronger, or as I would suggest, slightly weaker squad than last year. The midfield puppet master of the last few seasons Ryan Harley has gone to Swansea for literally nothing. Goalkeeper Paul Jones made it very clear he wanted a fresh start and has moved to Peterborough on a free, and former captain and defensive rock Matt Taylor declared he wanted to move up North before subsequently completing a move to Charlton Athletic. Plus there was the long running saga of out of contract top scorer Jamie Cureton who said he wanted to stay and then he wasn’t sure – and then he didn’t want to drop down a league, but he was speaking to League Two Bristol Rovers. To cut a long story short he’s now at Leyton Orient presumably on a fairly inflated contract.
Tisdale needed to act to bring in replacements and he has for the most part. Danny Coles has come in from an admittedly leaky Bristol Rovers defence but he has a very good CV previous to that. Lenny Pidgely has arrived to fill the goalkeeping gap – he’s a former Chelsea stopper but has been around a bit in the last few years. He’ll start as backup this season but I expect him to make an impact one way or another. Finally, in came long time Exeter target Guillem Bauza, who comes with a very good reputation for setting up and scoring goals from midfield and attack. He could be the real X-Factor in the team this year, if he finds his form and settles in. The real worry has to be that Cureton was not replaced and so John O’Flynn, Daniel Nardiello and Richard Logan all need to increase their productivity this season. It will be interesting to see if O’Flynn can really fulfil his potential this season, if he can good things will begin to happen.
All in all there are a lot more questions than answers at this point, but if everything comes together we could push on. I certainly won’t be rushing to the bookies to back us for promotion just yet however. If I had to predict a finishing position realistically I would go for eleventh but I hope that Paul Tisdale goes on to prove me and the other doubters wrong again as we all know he can do.
Written by Ian Bond, We Are Going Up’s Exeter City Blogger