Exeter City expecting busy transfer summer as Cheick Diabate contract extended

Exeter City manager Gary Caldwell is expecting another busy summer on the transfer front as he constructs a squad that he hopes can improve on the Grecians strong finish to this season. With two games to go, starting with Northampton Town tomorrow before the sold-out clash with play-off chasing Oxford United, Caldwell’s men have already surpassed last season’s 56-point tally thanks to their superb form in 2024.

But Caldwell has no such plans for another relegation scrap next season and after a summer of transition last year, it is expected to be another busy – but not as busy – couple of months of recruitment at St James Park. And the Grecians have been busy extending the contracts of some of their contracted talents.

And what Caldwell has to his advantage, though, is knowing what his budget is from as far back as January, thanks to the efforts of chief executive Jeremy Tipper and the club’s chief financial officer Joe Gorman.

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“I think that’s been a big change since I came into the football club,” Caldwell said. “Jeremy coming in and Joe coming in has made our future preparation much easier. We’ve managed to do that earlier.

“When I first came to the club, it was quite late. Our financial planning and how we looked at the next season and what the budgets were and that. In fairness to the club, they’ve been amazing at changing that and trying to look further ahead at what the finances look like. That’s where I think the summer was really important as well.

“We sold some big players for this football club but that allows us to really plan into the future and look at what we can do and how we can kind of almost rebuild. This was always going to be a difficult season for that reason, for the second season back in League One and the amount of players we had to bring into the squad and kind of rebuild the team. So the fact we can do all that at the same time while showing progress I think is a testament to everyone at the Football Club and how we see the future and how we see not just ‘survival,’ as everyone says, as the kind of number one priority, but how are we going to build from that and look to be even better.

Caldwell continued: “It will still be a busy summer. I think that’s just the nature of modern-day football that there is always ins and outs. But what we’re hopeful of is that, day one of pre-season, we have potentially 13, 14 players who’ve been at the club for this season and previous seasons, so we’re not starting from scratch again.

“I think we had eight or nine last year, so building that core group that understand how we play, what we do, the culture at this football club and at the training ground, it’s easier to get new players up to speed and to get the team ready for attacking another really difficult League One season.”

Defender Cheick Diabate has had a clause in his contract triggered by the club, extending his stay until the end of the 2024/25 season. The 22-year-old had gone on to rack up 74 appearances in red and white - scoring three times.

Speaking about the extension, Diabate said: "It feels good that the club wants me to stay, my time here has gone so quickly and it's great to have another year. You can see the club is progressing and moving forward. So I'm really happy to be here and look to keep improving.

"I feel like my game has improved as a whole, and I've learnt a lot from the manager and players around me. I can't wait for the new season and to come back stronger.

"Exeter feels like home now. I've been here for a long time and had a lot of good experiences. I love the club and the fans, they have shown so much love to me ever since I made my debut. Everytime I wear the shirt I wear it with pride and honour and I love representing the club."

Caldwell added: "We are really pleased to have signed the extension. Cheick came into the team at a really difficult time of the season and showed his qualities, first and foremost as a defender.

"He is part of a really competitive area of the squad, in terms of the quality of our defenders and when he has played he has shown what a big future he has ahead of him.

"We always want to keep hold of our academy players as long as we can but there will always be a time they look for something new in their career, but at this current moment in time Cheick is fully committed to the club and we are fully committed to developing him so he can be the best player he can possibly be."

Caldwell believes League One will be a far tougher division in 2024/25 than it was this year as the end of season permutations begin to resolve themselves. Last weekend, Stockport County and Wrexham sealed their promotion from League Two with the former non-League sides again spending big on their pursuit of success. Stockport then won 5-2 at Notts County on Tuesday to seal the championship on the same night Mansfield Town – another lower league big spender – sealed the third and final automatic promotion spot from the fourth tier.

Rotherham United’s relegation from the Championship was confirmed some time ago, but the final two relegation spots are still to be decided in an incredible scrap – involving arch rivals Plymouth Argyle – to stay in the Championship.

Whoever comes down will be blessed with financial parachute payments that eases their transition, but with so many big budgets, the Grecians will again have to punch above their weight in order to survive.

“As hard as this season was, you look at the teams coming up and potentially coming down, next season, League One is going to be a fantastic league to be involved in, but a really difficult league,” Caldwell said. “The quicker we can get the players in, start working with the players, keep the core group together, that’s how we are going to make progress as a football team.”

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