My favourite game: Exeter City versus Plymouth Argyle, April 2, 2016, St James’ Park Exeter.

Date: 15th July 2016

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In 2009, we moved to Exeter, where my wife works. Exeter is not a great footballing town, though Exeter City was the first team ever to play Brazil. We have never been higher than the old Third Division – and yes, I do now say we.  We fell on hard times under the non-magical chairmanship of Uri Geller, who had Michael Jackson on the board.  But after the club fell deeper into despair when the Revenue got wind of the oldest scam in football – two Directors under-declaring crowds and walking off with the dosh – the club was taken over by a supporters’ trust. Like Barcelona, we are now in community ownership

My first match to see City was a League One relegation battle against Huddersfield Town, May 8, 2010. If we won, we stayed up.  An all ticket match and I had one.  I felt an intense sense of excitement going into St James’ Park for the first time, especially to see it packed.  The away supporters’ end, to be honest, is a national disgrace but it was full too, since Huddersfield held hopes of promotion.  They went 1-0 up. We equalised. We got the winner.  Great match, great result, I was practically walking on air going home.

It doesn’t get much better than that at Exeter City.  In fact, it is almost always absolutely bloody terrible to watch them.  But just occasionally, and usually when least expected, they do something. And so it was on April 2, 2016, Exeter City versus Plymouth Argyle.  Our rivalry with them is intense with a level of concentrated hatred at times that takes me back to Old Firm matches of old. However, the quality of football is normally dire and this game was mostly no exception.  They went ahead on a punt that was disastrously defended.  We had then to endure the joy of the Argyle supporters. Our play then got worse. I have long believed that our manager Paul Tisdale, under heavy tiki-taka influence, actually instructs his players not to shoot, preferring passing back to our goalkeeper to the risk of losing the ball, but somehow on 80 minutes Ollie Watkins forgot his instructions, had a poor shot fluffed by their keeper, and it was 1-1. From then on, it was all one way.  Please watch our winner on youtube because it is one of the greatest goals I have ever seen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B84gX8Q84aw

Ollie Watkins, again, beating three or four men (one of them twice), and then hitting an unstoppable left footed shot from outside the box. Ollie Watkins, a young graduate of our Academy. “Ollie Watkins”, as we sang, “he’s one of our own”.  So stunning was this goal that I think many of us even forgot that our first duty was to remind the Argyle supporters of their humiliation.  No, we just cheered at the wonder and wonderfulness of the moment.

Stephen Whitefield


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