Paul Tisdale’s record as Exeter City manager has been one of constant improvement on the previous season. Before the start of the season I predicted that a loss of key players would mean we would not improve on last season’s excellent seventh place finish. Right now we couldn’t be further off it as we sit rock bottom of League One.
So what exactly has gone wrong for Exeter City this season? A question I have been asked quite a fair bit in recent weeks by onlookers who didn’t expect us to struggle quite as much as we have. There is obviously no one reason for this but there are a few big factors.
The biggest issue is that in each area of the pitch we have lost arguably our best performer. In goal reliable custodians Paul Jones and Ben Hamer have both gone. In defence the rock of Paul Tisdale’s defence of recent years Matt Taylor has moved on to Charlton. The midfield playmaker and creator and scorer of numerous goals last season Ryan Harley went to Swansea on a free (and subsequently Brighton for over £250k) and up front last season’s top scorer Jamie Cureton also left on a free for what many suspect was a money motivated move.
Tisdale did his best to bring in reinforcements in the summer but I tend to suspect that his first choices failed to show interest and others didn’t materialise due to what seems to be a large drop in the wage budget to offset the northern nature of League One this year. The attendances have dropped due to a lack of games against local teams but also have dropped based on the fact we are just not performing very well. In this case it seems the board would have to spend money to make money.
Exeter City fans can also be a fickle bunch with a minority of so-called supporters choosing to criticise the team rather than show positive encouragement. It has admittedly been worse in the past but there have been a couple of incidents which has highlighted how the players are not appreciating some of the stick coming their way. None more so than Saturday’s game against an excellent Huddersfield team where a section of fans started chanting the name of the substitute goalkeeper, after several more insults went the way of City number one Artur Krysiak he made some sort of gesture to the crowd and at half time he was substituted due to an apparent injury. The question I have to ask is who benefits from the crowd falling out with the players when we are in such a position. For me if your team are bottom of the league that is when they need as much of your vocal support as possible to spur them on.
Paul Tisdale has in fact mentioned in the local press this year that the players are nervous about playing in front of the St James Park faithful due to the negative murmurings that have been present so far. Needless to say this prompted the usual debate on how those who paid the players wages are entitled to criticise but for me being a supporter means just that; support your team. If you pay the money and care about getting good results a bit of positive encouragement may even go some way to giving the side the confidence boost it so massively lacks this year.
There are however some encouraging signs despite all the doom and gloom. Matt Oakley and Jake Taylor have come in on loan from Leicester City and Reading respectively and have done very well. I have no doubt that given time they will get goals and more importantly set them up. Oakley in particular is clearly a class act and his experience in the middle of the park is much needed right now.
There are still players in the Exeter City side who can change games. The likes of Guillem Bauza, Dan Nardiello and John O’Flynn can all create goals they just all lack any kind of consistent form so far this year with O’Flynn only just having returned through injury. Get any two of those firing on all cylinders and I think City can climb the table and achieve some respectability yet this season.
Written by Ian Bond, We Are Going Up’s Exeter City blogger