Exeter City make another signing as midfielder Ed Francis joins

Ed Francis has signed for Exeter City FC
-Credit: (Image: Exeter City FC)

Exeter City manager Gary Caldwell has continued his summer recruitment with the acquisition of midfield playmaker Ed Francis from National League side Gateshead for an undisclosed fee.

The 24-year-old has been linked with a move to St James Park all summer and joins on a two-year deal, with the option of a third, becoming the Grecians’ fifth recruit of the summer so far.

“I’m very happy to be here, I’m really excited for the new season and I can’t wait to get started,” Francis said from a sunny Exmouth beach, where the squad were engaged in a pre-season team bonding session.

Read More - Ryan Woods says rejoining Exeter City was an easy decision

Read More - Exeter City sign striker Jay Bird on one-year contract

“I first heard about the interest about a month ago and I was desperate to get the deal over the line, and I’m very pleased. Myself and Gary had a very good honest conversation about the club and how it was fan owned, with the connection to the fans. That is something I had last year with Gateshead, so that really suits me. We spoke about how he wants me to play and where I fit in, and it all really appealed to me.”

Francis started out in the academy of Manchester City and captained the team in the 2017 FA Youth Cup final, which they lost 6-2 on aggregate to Chelsea. He then spent time on loan at Dutch side Almere City and their development side, Jong Almere City. In January 2019, Francis – then 19 - was signed by Wolverhampton Wanderers for an undisclosed fee, but did not progress beyond their Under-23 development team.

As a result, he spent time on loan at Swiss side Grasshoppers Zurich, but two years after joining Wolves, he joined League Two side Harrogate Town, just hours before Town beat City 2-1 at St James Park in a Tuesday night game in December 2020.

That was the first of 20 appearances he made for the club before he joined Notts County in a two-year deal in July 2021. He helped the club to the play-offs in his first season, but was on the move again in February 2022, joining their National League rivals Gateshead on loan.

That move was made permanent in the summer and Francis has really seen his career kick on. He helped the Heed Army stave off relegation in 2023 and last season, he made 42 appearances as the club finished sixth, but were denied the opportunity to partake in the end of season play-offs because the local council could not guarantee them a formal ten-year lease at their home stadium.

The pain of that disappointment was eased somewhat when Gateshead headed to Wembley for the FA Trophy final in May. After a 2-2 draw, the Heed went on to win 5-4 on penalties, although Francis saw his effort saved in the shoot-out.

Francis, a technically gifted, left-footed, deep-lying player likes to get on the ball and was a stand-out player for Gateshead. He has an average pass completion of 89 per-cent and with Caldwell’s preference to play a possession-based style, he certainly fits the criteria the manager would be looking for in a midfielder.

His arrival does pose the question of whether Tom Carroll, out of contract but offered fresh terms by City, will be heading back to Devon this coming season, though.

Caldwell added: “Ed is a left-footed player who is technically very gifted and we see him as someone who has a big future as our number six.

“He actually started out as a centre-back and transitioned when he signed for Harrogate, and is someone who is at a perfect stage of his career to continue his development and improve as a player. Most importantly, he was desperate to sign for us.”