Exeter City ready to get going as pre-season friendlies start

After nearly three weeks of intensive fitness training, the Exeter City players can look forward to getting back out and playing a match this evening. The Grecians begin their pre-season schedule with the traditional pre-season friendly at Tiverton Town.

It will be the first chance for City fans to see some of the new signings in Ed Francis, Jack McMillan, Josh Magennis and Jay Bird – as well as the returning Ryan Woods. But City will be missing young defender Cheick Diabate – while some other members of the squad might not be risked with niggles.

The 22-year-old centre half picked up an ankle injury during a game of head tennis and is expected to miss the next four weeks of pre-season action. It is a blow to the London-born defender, who has had more than his fair share of injuries in recent seasons and struggled to get a prolonged spell where he is fit and playing regular football.

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Ahead of tonight’s first friendly at Southern League side Tiverton Town, Exeter boss Gary Caldwell said: “We will put the teams together tomorrow afternoon nd start working on specific shapes and things we want from the game. Some players will be missing out, who have picked up a couple of niggly little injuries because of the surfaces being extremely hard, so they have missed some days which means they may have to miss the game.

“Cheick has picked up a more serious injury where he rocked his ankle when we were playing head tennis and he is going to be out for probably three-to-four weeks, which is frustrating, but we will put a team out and there will be some younger players again.”

Last summer, Jake Richards was rewarded with some impressive displays in pre-season training with some minutes in friendly games, but many of the Player Development Pathway (PDP) youngsters failed to catch the eye of Caldwell. This summer, he has seen a marked improvement and they too should get some game time at Ladysmead.

“We did that with Jake Richards last year at Mousehole and look at what happened to him in the season,” Caldwell said. “There are opportunities for everyone to go and show what they are all about and see how that affects them and their season moving forward.

“Liam Oakes is someone that has jumped out and I must mention the PDP players, they have all been much better than they were last year, they are much fitter and much more prepared for the challenges of pre-season and challenges to get in the team, so that is credit to them.

“They still have a long way to go and have to do a lot more to get in the team regularly, but Oaksy trained with the team and he had Yannick (Wildschut) running at him a couple of times and he did fantastically well.

“I asked him after the third game how he was as he looked like he was going to die at that point and he said he was really struggling and it was really hard. I said: ‘no, what you meant to say is I am fine, I am cruising!’

“He’s been brilliant, he got through the full session and to go from where he was at to the level we (the first team) are training at is a big jump physically, but he coped with it well and every time someone has that opportunity to train with us, or play a game, you have to show what you are all about, show your personality and quality. Jake did that last year and hopefully, someone else will this year.”

While it is a pre-season friendly, it is a game that City will be looking to win. Caldwell added: “We want to see fitness which we have worked on and we have worked on some things tactically.

“Winning always matters so it matters if it is a friendly or a league game, we have to instil that culture. There are lots of things we want to tick off in these games, but we expect a performance and work on the winning mentality.”

Caldwell also added on possible new arrivals if they were close: “Define close!” He continued: “There will be potentially one later this week. We are working on a number of targets, one potentially for later this week, hopefully some next week. But I don’t know the timescale as we are dealing with agents and different things, but we know the quality we want to bring in.”