Exeter City Season Preview: the post-Tisdale era

With the 2018-19 League Two season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Exeter City fan Rodney Boulton (@roddersecfc)…

The big news for Exeter is that Paul Tisdale has gone to MK Dons after 12 years at the helm. Although he’s been a polarizing figure during that time, should there be an element of respect for what he’s accomplished?

Of course. I’ll be forever grateful for what he’s done for the club and has left it in a better state both on and off the field. I and many others will always respect him for that.

The new manager is Matt Taylor, whose only relevant experience came from two years as a player-coach at Bath City. As somebody who had questioned Tisdale, are you glad to have change, or concerned by Taylor’s inexperience?

I would’ve been happy for him to stay but after being here for so long and the disconnect between him and some our fans a change was probably needed. I’ve been happy with Taylor so far in what he’s said and his signings but obviously it’s very early days yet so you can’t judge until the end of the season so no real concerns from me.

Jordan Moore-Taylor followed Tisdale to MK Dons while fellow centre-backs Danny Seaborne, Jordan Storey and Troy Archibald-Henville have also left. Aaron Martin signs from Oxford, but will it be important for Troy Brown to fully recover from injury?

It’s vital that troy has a relatively injury free season. We look so much stronger when he’s there. He’ll have a big part to play this season.

You’ve gained a reputation for being a possession-based side in recent years but last season, you had a big target man in Jayden Stockley. How did that impact on the style of play?

Under Tisdale we haven’t utilised him properly. Lumping hopeful balls to him isn’t going to work. He works a lot better with someone up there with him. That said his goalscoring record was very good despite that. Hopefully things change under Taylor.

Replacements for MK-bound Robbie Simpson are Jonathan Forte and Tristan Abrahams, two big strikers at different stages of their career. Does that suggest power up top will be the way forward?

I would hope so, hopefully they work well with Stockley. I know nothing about Abrahams but I do know Forte has a bit of pace, something we’ve been severely lacking over the last few years.

The other player going to MK Dons is attacking midfielder Ryan Harley. Will you miss his technical quality, or do you see this as an opportunity for somebody like Jack Sparkes to shine?

Harley has been a legend for us but sadly his good performances have been few and far between and he’s a shadow of the player he was first time around. This will be a big opportunity for Jack Sparkes who I believe will be our next big youngster if he gets the opportunity to show what he can do.

Lloyd James has gone to Forest Green but new midfielder Nicky Law looked handy at times for Bradford in League One. Do you expect him to partner Jordan Tillson?

I imagine it’ll be him or Hiram Boateng to partner him in midfield. But from what I’ve heard he’ll give the space for the others to play in.

Jake Taylor chipped in with eight goals last year. Do you think he’s at his best attacking the right flank, or making late runs in the box? 

The latter personally but he seems to do well wherever he plays. But he’s pretty good at shooting from long range. Very underrated in my opinion.

Lee Holmes struggled with injury at times last year and Hiram Boateng sometimes filled in on the left. Do you think you get more out Boateng’s energy and dynamism in a wide position?

I prefer him down the middle. With the signing of Nicky Law that should give him more space to operate in.

Pierce Sweeney and Dean Moxey were your full-backs in the play-offs. Do you expect them to keep their places this year?

Sweeney isn’t a natural right-back but he’s made the position his own. Taylor has talked of bringing one in but he’ll have to do well to displace Sweeney. I fully expect Moxey to keep his place with woodman as backup if he gets injured.

Goalkeeper Christy Pym seems to be progressing nicely. Are you glad to have kept hold of him this summer?

Delighted. He’s really come on in the last couple of years and will be one of our key players. This may be his last season with us though and he deserves to go onto bigger and better things.

Grecians aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I think Lincoln will be leading contenders along with Mansfield and MK Dons also Notts County. Dark horses could be Cambridge or Carlisle. It’ll be a pretty close one this season.

Where will you finish?

Top half of the table. Taylor needs time and i’m not expecting promotion or playoffs this season.

Thanks to Rodney for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Exeter can be found on We Love Betting from late-July.