Note: This weekly series will look for teams outside of the top flights of European football to find true underdog stories of clubs well below the radar. Clubs will be featured based on performance in the various tournaments that happen concurrently with the league seasons, or even strong runs in some of the leagues that dot the European football landscape. Chances are, these clubs will be years away from finding a home at the top flights of football – if they are ever able to get there – but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve attention from time to time. If you happen upon a team that you think might qualify, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @GuruEbby or @SportMuseNet!
Nickname: The Grecians
Founded: 1901 (as St. Sidwell’s United)
Team Colors: Red / White / Black
Ground: St James Park
Capacity: 8,541 (temporarily reduced to 6,087 due to reconstruction)
Current League: League Two (Tier 4)
Reason For Notice
I’m not going down as nearly far as last week, but without any fixtures in the FA Cup qualifying, I decided to look instead at the EFL (Carabao) Cup, which started its first round this past week with teams from the Championship (Tier 2), League One (Tier 3), and League 2 (Tier 4). I decided to look at League Two teams that faced off against a team from the Championship. In 35 games, there were five such games, but only one where the League 2 team actually won – Exeter City over Ipswich Town.
Exeter and Ipswich were tied 1-1 after regulation – after Ipswich had equalized in the 67th minute – and the Grecians prevailed on penalty kicks, scoring 4 to the Tractor Boys’ 2.
The Grecians have spent the bulk of their time in what is now known as the Football League, with 47 total seasons at Tier 3 and 40 seasons at Tier 4. Their best finish is a second place finish in the Third Division South (Tier 3) all the way back in 1933. They have one league title, winning the Fourth Division title in 1990.
In 2003, after the club was relegated to Conference National (Tier 5), the club’s ownership was taken over by the Exeter City Supporters’ Trust, who remain the owners to this day. A few years later, the club faced financial difficulties and needed a miracle to stay afloat. An FA Cup draw against Manchester United – at Old Trafford no less – provided the club with the funds needs to stave off conservatorship, and it was only a matter of time before the club found success, returning to League Two after winning the Conference National playoff after the 2008 season.
After a second place finish that season in League Two, they managed to stay up in League One for three seasons, finishing as high as 8th (in 2011). However, they were relegated again after a 23rd place finish the following season. They have competed in the League Two playoffs the last two seasons, finishing 4th last season and losing in the Playoff Final to Coventry City. They hope to return to League One after this season, and have started the young season off well, with 2 wins and a draw in their first three games, good enough to currently sit at the top of the table.
For their next match in the Carabao Cup, they will be playing Premier League club Fulham. The match will take place on Tuesday, 28 August, and will be their third match in a week after playing two league fixtures on 21 August (a 2-0 win against Cambridge United) and 25 August (MK Dons). All three matches are also on the road, so the odds will be stacked against them, but Fulham hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in their return to the Premier League this season, so it remains to be seen if Exeter can find magic on tired legs in a couple of weeks.
Update on Last Week’s Club
Last week, I profiled Racing Club Warwick after their FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round win over a higher tier team. They haven’t played their next FA cup qualifier yet – their game against fellow Tier 10 side Malvern Town is scheduled for this Saturday – but they did pick up a league win against Heath Hayes on 18 August, and a 2-2 draw against Cadbury Athletic yesterday, in advance of their FA Cup qualifier, moving them to 8th in the Midland Football League. We’ll see if those results help them against Malvern Town.
Until next time…