Date: 23rd December 2011 at 9:32pm
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Exeter City are one of those sides we`ve met rarely since our promotion to the Football League. It’s something of a shame really as the Grecians are a fine little club. Yeah they are little and some might take that as an insult but it`s not. There is a lot to admire. They have one of the finest terraces in the Big Bank; they are run competitively by their own supporters and yet have still succeeded in maintaining their League One status.

That’s right, two and half years ago now they were promoted as runners-up from League Two whilst we finished one place below them. Yet under manager Paul Tisdale they stayed in the division whilst we had to do it all again under Gary Waddock. We might be fiercely proud of our achievements but we doff our caps to the Grecians as they show us the way forward. Let’s hope we`re following them soon.

Yes, I know I am back on my soapbox again, but ain’t all supporters, at one time or another. Plenty are miffed at the recent departure of King Kev whilst Blackburn Rovers is in open mutiny. Essentially though, it comes down to the same thing, we all want the very best for our football clubs, it is just that we don’t all agree on how that should be achieved.

The next target for the Chairboys is three points from City on Boxing Day. Readers of Len’s Vital preview will now know if they didn’t already that Exeter arrive with the second worst away record in League One and have scored just eight goals on the road. Am I the only one who gets nervous when you read facts like that? At least we shall have the pleasure of watching Stuart Beavon in action again, as he reprises his promising partnership with Marcello Trotta.

The City of Exeter has a wonderful history largely due to its favourable location on a dry ridge of land ending in a spur that overlooks the River Exe. Coins have been discovered dating from the Hellenistic period (250BC). The city was probably of Celtic origin before the arrival of the Romans. The Saxons defeated the Britons at the Battle of Peonnum in 658 but it’s likely that both peoples lived in their own quarter of the city under their own laws.

In modern times it was heavily bombed during the Second World War and many historic buildings were destroyed which meant large parts of the city centre had to be rebuilt in the 1950s. Comedian Tommy Cooper lived in the city from the age of 3 whilst Portishead singer Beth Gibbons and Coldplay singer Chris Martin were both born there. (We won’t hold it against them in the latter’s case.)

The University of Exeter plays a significant role in the area and boasts some famous alumni including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, comedian Rhod Gilbert and Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke. In footballing terms, the famous Cliff Bastin played for the Grecians before moving on to Arsenal whilst ex-Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe also played for them.

The club itself was formed in 1904 when Exeter United and St Sidwell’s United merged. They agreed to use St. James Park, home of the former and wear green and white, the colours of the latter. They competed in the East Devon League before being elected to the Southern League in 1908, where they replaced none other than Tottenham Hotspur.

In the same year they became a limited company and a full-time professional team. Somewhat ridiculously a poor start to the 1910/11 season saw them ditch their “unlucky” green and white colours for red and white striped shirts and they have worn them since. One wonders whether there was also a latter day Barry Fry peeing in the four corners of the ground.

Exeter City became founder members of the Football League Third Division in 1920 but have won just one league title since. That was the old Fourth Division in 1989/90. They became the first club to be relegated from the Football League without finishing bottom in 2002/03. That relegation had come after John Russell and Mike Lewis had been convicted of fraudulent trading at the club, with the former being sent to prison.

The club slowly got back on their feet under the stewardship of the Supporters Trust and with the help of two F.A. Cup ties with Manchester United. Under current boss Tisdale they have enjoyed great success with a return to the Football League and another promotion. The aforementioned Chris Martin is said to be a fan as is Deal or No Deal weirdo Noel Edwards, singer Joss Stone and Young One / Bottom star Adrian Edmondson.

There have been thirteen players to have worn the stripes of City and the quarters of the Chairboys and they are Jack Obersteller, Chris Vinnicombe, Rob Dewhurst, Scott Golbourne; Joe Burnell, John Cornforth, Paul Buckle; Ian Pearson, Nicholas Bignall, Gavin Holligan, John Williams, Paul Read and Sean Devine. This will be just the fourth time we’ve hosted them at Adams Park and we are yet to lose! (eek!)

The first ever meeting between the two clubs was witnessed by just 1,026 fans. It was a Football League Trophy tie on a cold December evening in 2000 and manager Lawrie Sanchez picked a strong line-up. The Blues were a league above their opponents and it certainly showed in a one-sided first half. Striker Sam Parkin was denied an early goal when visiting goalkeeper Stuart Fraser pushed his effort around the post.

Fraser made a brave block to keep out Steve Brown`s close-range effort and then made an incredible double save to push Parkin’s header against the post and the palm away the re-bound from Andy Rammell. The Grecians glovesman then saved in a one-on-one from Mo Harkin after the midfielder had taken a heavy touch.

The second half started in a similar vein with Parkin heading just over and then being kept out by the feet of Fraser. Striker Kevin Rapley almost gave the visitors the lead against the run of play when his shot clipped the outside of the upright. There were just two minutes remaining when Jermaine McSporran showed some neat control before teeing up striker Niall Thompson to tap-home from close range.

The first ever league meeting in Buckinghamshire came on Boxing Day 2008. A freezing cold afternoon was livened up when Matt Harrold went down under a challenge and even he was a little surprised to see the referee point to the spot. He picked himself up to beat goalkeeper Paul Jones from 12 yards. Defender David McCracken had to clear off the line to deny midfielder Ryan Harley and keep the hosts’ lead intact going into half-time.

The visitors had the better of the second half and deservedly levelled when defender Leon Johnson’s clearance hit Emmanuel Panther and flew past Wanderers goalkeeper Scott Shearer. Peter Taylor`s men could have snatched the win but winger Matt Phillips slipped at just the wrong time and the ball was judged not to have crossed the line after an almighty scramble following Angelo Balanta`s corner

The last meeting came in March 2010 as the Chairboys were desperately fighting against relegation. The first 45 minutes were largely forgettable but ten minutes after the break Gareth Ainsworth pounced on a misplaced pass to race clear on goal and poke the ball under Jones. Six minutes later midfielder Dean Keates played Stuart Beavon through and he too slipped the ball under Jones and into the net.

If you had ever wondered how the Wanderers had been relegated then the following would have enlightened you. Midfielder Liam Sercombe fired a sensational 30-yard strike into the top corner to pull a goal back for city and in the last minute, Craig Woodman played substitute Richard Logan onside and he ran onto Barry Corr’s flick to slot the ball past goalkeeper Tom Heaton and make it 2-2.

Both Len and I would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and thank you for reading.

“All that`s left are memories”