Exeter City F.C.

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Coordinates: 50°43′51″N 3°31′15″W / 50.7307°N 3.5208°W / 50.7307; -3.5208

Exeter City
Exeter City Club Badge
Full name Exeter City Football Club
Nickname(s) The Grecians

May 1901; 116 years ago (1901-05), as St. Sidwell's United[1]

Renamed on 31 May 1904; 113 years ago (1904-05-31), as Exeter City[1]
Ground St James Park
Ground Capacity 8,541 (3,000 Seated)[2]
Owner Exeter City Supporters' Trust
Chairman Julian Tagg (vice chairman)
Manager Paul Tisdale
League League Two
2016–17 League Two, 5th
Website Club home page
Current season

Exeter City Football Club /ˈɛksɪtə ˈsɪti/ is a professional association football club based in Exeter, Devon, England. The team play in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system. The club is owned by the club's supporters through the Exeter City Supporters' Trust.

The club was a member of the Football League from 1920 to 2003. Following five seasons in the Conference National, Exeter were promoted back to League Two for the 2008–09 season and immediately achieved automatic promotion to League One for the 2009–10 season. In the 2011–12 season of League One Exeter City were relegated to League Two, finishing 23rd with 48 points, they have remained in League Two ever since.

Exeter City was founded in 1904 and began playing on an old field used for fattening pigs, St James Park (not to be confused with the homes of Newcastle United or Brackley Town). Exeter remain at St James Park to this day. The club is nicknamed "The Grecians". For the 2016–17 season City's home kit is supplied by Joma and it consists of red and white shirts, black shorts, and black and white socks.

The club is known as the first side to play a national team from Brazil,[3] after a tour of South America in 1914 to generate awareness of football in the continent. As a result, City and Brazilian side Fluminense are now also partner clubs.[4]


Early history[edit]

A team photo of Exeter City in 1907–08
The team that played Brazil national team in 1914.
A match played by Exeter City in Rio de Janeiro during its South American tour of 1914.

Exeter City F.C. was formed from two predecessor clubs, Exeter United F.C. and St Sidwell's United. Exeter United was a football club from Exeter, Devon, that played between 1890 and 1904. In 1904, Exeter United lost 3–1 to local rivals St Sidwell's United and after the match it was agreed that the two clubs should become one. The new team took the name 'Exeter City' and continued to play at Exeter United's ground, St James Park, where Exeter City still play today. Exeter United was formed from the cricket team of the same name and were one of the first football teams with the moniker 'United'. St Sidwell's United (which had also been known as St Sidwell's Wesleyans and St Sidwell's Old Boys) was a club that had formed from the regulars who frequented the Foresters Inn in Sidwell Street, Exeter, although the public house was always known as the Drum and Monkey. The team played in St Sidwell's old colours of green and white.

On 10 September 1904, Exeter City played its first ever competitive match, a 2–1 victory at St James over 110th Battery of the Royal Artillery, in the East Devon League. The attendance was 600, and the winning goal scored by Sid Thomas, who was to serve the club in various capacities for 70 years. City topped the East Devon League with 11 wins, two draws, one defeat in its first season, and transferred to the Plymouth & District League for next three seasons.

In 1908, Exeter City A.F.C. became a limited company. City became a full-time professional team, and applied successfully for membership of the Southern League, replacing Tottenham Hotspur. A wooden grandstand was erected, and the club entered into a leasing arrangement over the ground.[5]

On 3 October 1908, City got its record highest FA Cup win: Exeter City 14–0 against Weymouth. The match was in the First Qualifying Round. James ("Daisy") Bell scored six goals, and 10 of Exeter's 14 goals came in the first half.

City changed to its current colours of red and white in 1910. This was after having had a poor start to the season (only two wins out of 11). City abandoned its supposedly unlucky green and white kit, and turned out for the first time in red and white striped shirts at home to West Ham United on 12 November. The result of the game was a 0–0 draw, but five consecutive league wins came for the club in December.

City made an historic tour of South America in 1914, during which time it played eight matches against teams of Argentina and Brazil.[6] The Brazil national football team is believed to have played its first ever game against City on 21 July, at the Laranjeiras stadium, Rio de Janeiro, home of Fluminense Football Club. The result of the match is disputed,[7] with some sources claiming City lost 2–0,[8][9] whilst others claiming a 3–3[10][11] draw. That was the last match of the tour, which yielded five wins, one draw and two defeats. The only other loss was in a match that kicked off 12 hours after the players got off the boat.

Exeter City were invited by the Football League to become founder members of the Third Division in 1920.[12]

Football League (1920–2003)[edit]

Exeter City vs Altrincham, a Conference National fixture played on 19 August 2006.

City's historic first match in the Football League took place on Saturday 28 August 1920, when Brentford was the visiting team to St James Park. Exeter won 3–0.[12][13]

In 1931, City reached the sixth round of the FA Cup, losing a replay 4–2 to Sunderland in front of its largest ever home gate.[14] 50 years later, City reached the sixth round again, but lost 2–0 to eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur.[15] Earlier Exeter had beaten Newcastle United 4–0 having beaten Leicester City in the previous round.

In the 1963–64 season, City achieved their first ever promotion, going up to Division Three. However, City were relegated just two seasons later. It wasn't until 1977 that they would return to Division Three, under the guidance of Bobby Saxton.[12]

The end of the 1970s and the very early 1980s were regarded as City's most successful spell in the Third Division, including a finish of 8th in 1979–80 and an FA Cup run the following season. Star players included Tony Kellow, John Delve and David Pullar.

City's only major trophy so far has been the Fourth Division Championship which it won in 1990. In that season, City won 20 league games at St James Park, and remained undefeated in 31 home matches, including dramatic draws against Norwich City in the FA Cup third round and Sunderland in the League Cup 4th round, both of which featured late equalisers for the visitors.[16]

Following that promotion, City rarely shone at the higher level. The departure of manager Terry Cooper and key players such as Shaun Taylor, Richard Dryden, Clive Whitehead, Brian McDermott and Steve Neville left new boss Alan Ball to pick up the pieces. There were some successes under the former World Cup winner—including winning both games against local rivals Plymouth in the clubs' first derbies for a decade in the 1992/93 season[17]—but Ball left for Southampton in January 1994 and the returning Cooper was unable to save Exeter from relegation.[18]

Back in the bottom division, City struggled for nearly a decade, with chairman Ivor Doble taking the club into administration and starting a chain of events that resulted in the sale of the club's ground.[12] In November 1994, the club almost went out of business and sold its stadium to Beazer Homes for a sum of £650,000, but were able to stay there after the local council took it over.[19] After nearly two years on the brink of closure, the club came out of administration on 1 August 1996, although the problems on the field were far from over.[5][12]

In 2003, City finished 23rd in Division Three and was relegated to the Conference National; Exeter were the first club to suffer automatic relegation without finishing bottom of the league.[12] City won their last game against Southend United 1–0, but were still relegated as Swansea City's victory over Hull City left the Grecians one point short of safety.[20]

Conference era (2003–2008)[edit]

The starting line-up for the Conference Premier play-off Final win against Cambridge United on 18 May 2008, resulting in promotion to the Football League.

Following relegation to the Conference, the club was taken over by the Exeter City Supporters' Trust, purchasing a majority shareholding on 5 September 2003.[21] In May 2007 two of the Directors who had been in charge during season 2002–2003 were convicted of fraudulent trading at the club,[22] John Russell receiving a prison sentence and Mike Lewis a community service sentence.[23]

Several million pounds in debt and with no big investor in sight, the Trust kept the club going through fund-raising activities amongst rank-and-file supporters. Complex legal arguments with both Inland Revenue and football authorities meant that City's first season of non-league football was plagued by off-the-field uncertainty.[24] The claim was finally dropped in June 2004.[25]

In 2004, a Creditors Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) was put in place to reduce the club's debts. Through the club's "Red or Dead" scheme, hundreds of fans pledged at least £500 each to fund the CVA repayments, but the FA Cup proved to be the income boost the Grecians had needed, as City was drawn Manchester United away in the third round of the FA Cup. City drew 0–0 at Old Trafford in January 2005,[26] gaining £653,511 as City's share of receipts from the 67511 attendance. Further income from a televised replay—won 2–0 by United[27]—coupled with ongoing fund-raising and unpaid work from the club's supporters helped the club to repay its debts, and the CVA was cleared in December 2005.[28]

2004 also saw the club's centenary. In May 2004 a friendly fixture was arranged against a Brazilian masters team at St James Park, a celebration of City's South American tour of 1914. The Brazilian team, containing such notable players as Careca and Dunga, won 1–0.[29]

The Exeter team celebrates after the 2008 Conference National playoff final win.

City's first team finished the 2006–07 season in fifth place, qualifying for the play-offs. After beating Oxford United on penalties in the semi-final, City met Morecambe at Wembley in the final,[30] where they lost 2–1 despite taking an early lead.[31]

Exeter reached the play-off final in the following season; this time Exeter looked to be heading out of the play-offs after losing the first leg of the semi-final at home to local rivals Torquay United 2–1, but came back to win the second leg 4–1 with 3 goals in the last 20 minutes.[32] In the final Exeter met Cambridge United in front of a Conference play-off record crowd of 42,511, winning 1–0 with a goal from Rob Edwards, earning promotion to League Two.[33]

Return to the Football League (2008–present)[edit]

League Two (2008–2009)[edit]

The club followed its success in the Conference by finishing as runners up to Brentford in League Two. A goal from Richard Logan helped Exeter to win promotion to League One with a 1–0 win away to Rotherham United on the last day of the season.[34]

League One (2009–2012)[edit]

2009–2010 was Exeter's 45th season in the third tier of English football. They have played more seasons in the third tier than any club who have never reached the top two tiers. They survived their first season at this level for 16 years by one point; an 82nd-minute Ryan Harley goal against Huddersfield Town on the final day of the season saw Exeter overcome the promotion chasers 2–1 and relegated Gillingham in the process.[35]

The club suffered a tragedy on 10 August 2010, days after the start of the 2010–11 season, when striker Adam Stansfield died of cancer aged 31.[36] As a result, their next fixture against Dagenham & Redbridge on 14 August was postponed as a mark of respect.[37] Exeter recovered well, however, and finished 8th in the league that season, one point off a playoff spot.[38]

Following such a strong season, hopes were high for the 2011–12 season, but poor away form (with just two wins away from home all season) saw Exeter relegated to League Two. Relegation was confirmed on the 28 April 2012, following a 4–1 defeat away to Carlisle United.[39]

League Two (2012–present)[edit]

Chart of yearly performance of Exeter City in the Football League.

The club remains owned by its fans, through the Exeter City Supporters Trust. During the 2012–2013 season saw Exeter have a marginally successful season, spending the season travelling up and down the top half of the season from 1st place to 10th. Exeter set new club record for away wins in a single season, winning 11 of their 23 fixtures away from home.[40] City had one of the highest away win percentage of the season however disappointing home form lead them to fall into the playoff positions only to see a poor end-of-season run leaving them to fall into 10th position; despite their earlier automatic promotion and then reestimated playoff ambitions. Tisdale claimed that injuries were to blame for City missing out on the play-offs.[41]

At the end of the 2012–13 campaign, poor funds and lack of income lead to an unfortunate squad trim with boss Paul Tisdale having to let go: Jamie Cureton, lead goal scorer of the last campaign netting over 21 goals and the 2010 campaign (with similar statistics); Guillem Bauzà, Kevin Amankwaah, unable to renew his contract despite of his fan- favourite status and great playing abilities heralding fan chants and songs; Mark Molesley, despite being there only half a season; Rhys Evans and later Tully's new contract was withdrawn due to financial constraints.[42][43] Despite this Tisdale managed to sign Sam Parkin[44] and Doug Bergqvist.[45]

Exeter City warming up at Estádio das Laranjeiras ahead of their pre-season friendly against Fluminense U23s in 2014.

In 2013–2014, Exeter participated in Football League Two and the Football League Cup, but they were eliminated in the First Round of the competition by Queens Park Rangers.[46] In the FA Cup Exeter City were knocked out by Peterborough United in the First Round.[47] In the League 2 season, Exeter finished in 16th.[48]

In pre-season, after a 0–1 friendly loss to Reading, the club went on a short tour in Brazil to commemorate 100 years since they played the Brazil National Football Team.[49] Exeter drew 0–0 against Fluminense under 23's and then beat sides Tupi and a Rio Cricket Club 2–1 and 3–1 respectively. Exeter finished pre-season with 2–0 home losses to Swansea City and Torquay United.[50]

Exeter City's opening matches of 2014–15 were a 1–1 draw against Portsmouth in League Two and then a 0–2 loss against Bournemouth in the Football League Cup. Both matches were played at St. James Park. In the 2014–15 FA Cup in the first round, they were beaten 1–0 away to Warrington Town, a club 100 places lower than them at that current point in the season.[51] The game was also broadcast live on BBC Two. The Grecians finished tenth in League Two in 2014–15, their play-off push just falling short in the final few weeks.[52][53]

City finished in 14th position in 2015–16, a season that included a memorable 2–2 draw against Premier League Liverpool in the FA Cup.

In the 2016–17 season, City started badly, and were bottom of the league by November.[54] However, a turnaround in form saw Exeter finish 5th in the league, and earn a playoff spot.[55] Following a thrilling 3-3 draw in the first leg of the semi-final at Carlisle, the second leg, tied at 2-2, looked destined to go to extra time. But, in the 95th minute, Jack Stacey's long range shot with his weak foot fired Exeter into the final, earning them a spot at Wembley.[56] The final took place on the 28th May, and Exeter faced Blackpool. Their hopes for promotion were shattered when they conceded a goal within 3 minutes, and although they equalised, City eventually lost the game 2-1.[57]


The club is nicknamed The Grecians, a name whose origin remains the subject of much speculation.

One suggestion is that in 1908 the club voted for the name because of its association with St Sidwells parish. Historically people living in the parish of St Sidwells were said to have been known as "Greeks" or "Grecians".[58] This is possibly due to the parish's location beyond the city walls. For instance, in Homer's epic poem Iliad the Greek forces laid siege to the walls of Troy.

However, perhaps more plausibly, the association arose because of rivalries between city boys and those of St Sidwells during the annual beating the bounds.[59]

It has also been suggested the name derived from a group of children in St Sidwells who were referred to as the 'Greasy Un's'. A further possibility was that it derived from a jeweller's shop in Sidwell Street, close to the ground, which had a clock hanging outside displaying the name 'Grecians' on its face.[59]

Yet another theory suggests that it is a corruption of Caerwysg, the Welsh name for Exeter (Caer = fort, Wysg = Exe – fort on the river Exe, similar to the Cornish Karesk). Thus, citizens could have been known as Caer Iscuns and so possibly mutating to Grecians.[59]


Famous supporters[edit]

Famous fans include Coldplay frontman Chris Martin,[60] Adrian Edmondson,[61] Mark Nicol, Noel Edmonds, swimmer Liam Tancock,[62] and Hoosiers drummer Alan Sharland. Singer Joss Stone signed up as a member of the supporters trust, being introduced to fans on the pitch as a new member during a League Cup match against Liverpool.[63][64]

In 2002 pop singer Michael Jackson was made honorary director of Exeter City.[65] He visited St James Park with celebrity friend Uri Geller, who was also a director.[7] The crew of HMS Defender also adopted Exeter City as their home team and use their strip when playing games.[66]


Current first-team squad[edit]

Last updated 25 July 2017.[67]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
1 England GK Christy Pym
2 Republic of Ireland DF Pierce Sweeney
3 England DF Craig Woodman
4 Wales MF Lloyd James
5 England DF Troy Archibald-Henville
6 England DF Jordan Tillson
7 England MF Ryan Harley
8 England FW Robbie Simpson
10 England MF Lee Holmes
11 England MF David Wheeler
13 Guernsey GK James Hamon
15 England DF Jordan Moore-Taylor (team captain)
No. Position Player
19 Republic of Ireland FW Liam McAlinden
20 England FW Matt Jay
21 England DF Dean Moxey
23 England DF Luke Croll
24 England MF Alex Byrne
25 Wales MF Jake Taylor
27 England FW Archie Collins
30 England MF Jack Sparkes
32 England GK Lewis Williams
33 England FW Reuben Reid
39 Wales DF Troy Brown
40 Wales MF Max Smallcombe

Out on loan[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
18 Northern Ireland FW Jamie Reid (on loan to Torquay United)
34 England DF Alex Hartridge (on loan to Truro City)
35 England FW Ben Seymour (on loan to Weston-super-Mare)
36 England DF Kyle Egan (on loan to Dorchester Town)
37 England DF Toby Down (on loan to Weymouth)
38 England DF Jordan Storey (on loan to Dorchester Town)

Retired numbers[edit]

9England Adam Stansfield, Forward (2006–10) – posthumous honour.[68]

Notable former players[edit]

Notable former players include Harry Gee who during the 1927–28 season made 29 appearances for the club scoring 2 goals. He retired from professional after just one season at the club suffering a career ending broken leg, Harry had formerly played for the championship winning Burnley F.C. side of 1921/22. Cliff Bastin, who went on to play for Arsenal and England, Maurice Setters, who won an F.A. Cup winner's medal with Manchester United in 1963, and goalkeeper Dick Pym, who later played for Bolton Wanderers and England. Pym's sale to Bolton in 1921, for a fee of £5,000, allowed City to purchase St. James Park.[12]

Other well-known players include the prolific 1930s striker Fred Whitlow, Arnold Mitchell, who played 495 games for City,[69] Tony Kellow, City's record goalscorer, Ian Main, the gifted goalkeeper from the club's most successful years who died very young, Fred Binney and Darran Rowbotham in the 1980s and early 90s. Former England winger Lee Sharpe played four games for Exeter at the beginning of their 2002–03 Division Three campaign, scoring two goals. Jamie Mackie and Dean Moxey are products of the Exeter team.

Former City player George Reader went on to referee the 1950 World Cup final, becoming the first Englishman to do so.[70]

David Pleat scored 14 goals for Exeter whilst playing for them between 1968 and 1970. He went on to manage several successful clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur,[71] before becoming a football media pundit for ITV and Radio 5 Live.

In a survey published by the Professional Footballers' Association in December 2007, Alan Banks was listed as the all-time favourite player amongst Exeter City fans.

Exeter-born Matt Grimes transferred to Swansea City for a club record fee of £1.75 million in January 2015,[72] after only making his professional debut in August 2013.[73] This record was broken only two years later as 2017 EFL Young Player of the Year Ollie Watkins joined Brentford, though the exact figure has not been disclosed.[74]


Current management and coaching staff[edit]

As of 16 June 2015[75]