Saturday, 4 October 2008

Sticking to the task

First published in The Grecian, 04 October 2008, Exeter City -v- Gillingham

It’s a topsy-turvy life in League Two. Victory at home to Accrington, a bit of a mauling away to Bradford, a hard-fought draw against Notts County, and then last Saturday’s fine 4-1 win at Macclesfield. Now we face Gillingham, then high-flying Bury away, who have still not lost a league game. Quite a test.

Overall, things are going pretty well for Exeter City this season. That was the verdict of manager Paul Tisdale, speaking to the media just before the latest victory. His sensibly cautious smile was probably a little wider on Sunday morning – but I’m equally sure the work rate at the Cat and Fiddle training ground will have stepped up a gear in anticipation of the visit of the league leaders.

Even without winger Charlie Daniels, who has opted to go back to Spurs following his month-long loan spell, the Gills are going to be a tough proposition. (By the way... have you heard the one about “what’s difference between Tottenham Hotspur and a triangle?” the answer is that a triangle has three points.)

Levity aside, the next twos matches really will show how Exeter can fare against the best. Have an off day, make too many mistakes or fail with our touch in the box and we will be punished. Even the teams nearer the foot of the table – and leaving aside those trying to claw back massive point deductions – are sides capable of more than they are showing. League Two is tight.

Thankfully, we have a sane steer on the Club from our coach, management and Trust. Twice this past week I have seen press headlines proclaiming “Chaos at St James Park”, and have felt thankful that we in Devon are separated from Newcastle by more than just an apostrophe in the names of our respective grounds!

Top-level football really is a surreal business these days. While the world economy is in turmoil and people are concerned about their homes and security, a few multi-billionaires remain keen to soak up big Premier League sides for fun, with decidedly mixed results.

A comedian recently joked that Goldfinger would now have a new line to throw at Britain’s favourite fictional secret service agent: “So, Meester Bond…” (swarthy accent required), “our people can now buy as many Frank Lampards as we want, and there is nothing your country can do about it!”

Not that there is much laughter resounding around that other St James. With King Kev dethroned, fan-owner Mike Ashley has been desperate to offload a sinking asset while the supporters abuse him, and probably any non-Geordie manager who doesn’t immediately turn things around. Forbearance is a rare commodity around the Tyne.

Not so in the land of the Grecians, I’m glad to say. But it’s useful to remind ourselves that if we take a few knocks in the coming weeks, sticking together becomes even more vital. That’s true for the players, too. And they are showing it.

Here’s how. The day after that Bradford hammering, my internet connection was down and I had to access the wi-fi at a local hostelry. Nope, I’m not making this up! Anyway, there I was, penning a piece for The Grecian, when who should I see opposite me but a few ECFC boys enjoying a night off together – very soberly, I should add, lest a certain Mr Tisdale is reading! I had a quick word with Dean Moxey, and he immediately emphasised his confidence that our strikers would come good, after a couple of difficult games.

Sure enough, Exeter have just scored six goals in two outings. One or two more today would be a welcome addition. If you believe it, the whole team believes it and everyone sticks hard to the task – it can happen. That’s the meaning of unity.

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