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Tisdale upbeat about City’s future despite recent slump

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Paul Tisdale has remained faithful to Exeter City despite interest from Portsmouth. Photo: wearegoingup.co.uk

Will Brookes was present at Exeter City’s recent fan’s forum at St. James Park, where manager Paul Tisdale was defiant over his team’s poor recent run of results.

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale was in fine form as he, along with senior club officials, answered the questions of around 50 City supporters during a fans’ forum at St. James Park last Thursday evening.

Tisdale used his opening statement to back the club’s policy of bringing through young players, alluding to their success in recent Premier League Under 21 Cup games against such opposition as Southampton and Blackburn. Both budgetary constraints and a belief in home-grown players have seen Tisdale place faith in his young squad this season, with six of the starters against their recent match Bristol City aged 23 or younger.

This is something which fans have become used to seeing over recent weeks, as was ultimately ending up on the wrong side of a tight result – this time going down 2-1 at Bristol Rovers thanks to an injury time strike from John-Joe O’Toole. Tisdale, The English league’s second-longest serving manager after Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, also spoke publicly for the first time about his link with the vacant Portsmouth job in December.

“[Portsmouth] approached the club and asked to speak to me. I didn’t apply for the job. There have been times when I’ve spoken to another club. I see no harm in it. I often learn more about our league and other clubs in the process,” said Tisdale, who continued by re-iterating his desire to add to his seven and a half years at St James Park as well as his belief that his current crop of youngsters can go on to produce great things for the club.

Despite his optimism of things to come on the pitch, Tisdale did admit to fans that City’s financial constraints could force his hand during the transfer window. “It would be heart-breaking if one of our players who will be a starter for us over the next 18 months leaves, but if he leaves at a very good price then we have to say that it’s worth doing. We’d be foolish not to talk to any club [about a potential transfer].”

Chairman and CEO, Julian Tagg, gave more insight to reasons behind the club’s yearly budget tightening. “The first year we were in League 1, our average attendance was 5,700; it is now less than 2,000. The average profit per head is about a tenner, meaning that the difference is about half a million per year [in gate receipts],” explained Tagg.

What has also added to City’s problems this season is the high proportion of home games played mid-week, which notoriously attract fewer fans than a Saturday afternoon fixture. Three of the next six home games will be played on a Tuesday night, with the late cancellation of last Saturday’s game against Morecambe means a fourth will almost certainly be added to that list.

Overall, Tisdale was both professional and thorough in his answering of questions, with both he and the board clearly understanding that a fan-owned club has to have a certain level of openness with supporters whilst still keeping the ins and outs of club life behind closed doors.

He was however quick to go toe-to-toe with a fan who challenged his policies without the knowledge to back his point up. He accused the supporter, who attacked him for having “wasted a lot of money on loan players who didn’t need to be signed”, of “commenting on money you don’t understand”, claiming that he had not paid a penny in fees or wages for three players mentioned.

Despite a bright start, City currently lie 15th in League Two, 10 points off the playoffs following four defeats in their last five games. Whilst first team results have been poor, the St. James Park faithful have been thrilled by the performances of their youngsters who have set up a quarter-final clash with Burnley in the Premier League Under 21 Cup in the inaugural year of the competition, with a potential semi-final meeting with Chelsea or Arsenal to dream of beyond that.

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