Monday, 31 October 2011

Exeter City - St James' Park


Exeter City FC
St James' Park
Stadium Way
Exeter
Devon
EX4 6PX

01302 411243






Ground Number: 144
Monday 13th April 2009
Exeter City 1-0 Wycombe Wanderers
Coca-Cola League 2





TEN FACTS ABOUT EXETER CITY

1: The club was formed in 1901 as St Sidwell's United. They changed their name to Exeter City in 1904 after merging with another local side, Exeter United.

2: Exeter City started out in the East Devon League, before progressing to the Plymouth & District League. In 1908, they joined the Southern League, replacing football league bound Tottenham Hotspur.

3: Though they never pulled up any trees during their time in the Southern League, they were invited to join the Football League in 1920 as founder members of Division 3 South. Exeter City have generally plied their trade in the basement division, though some time has been spent in the third tier since the Football League went nationwide in 1958. The best ever finish came in 1980, with an 8th place finish in Division 3, or as runners-up of Division 3 South in 1933 when the leagues were regionalised.

4: In 2003 the club were relegated to the Conference, becoming the first team to exit the league without finishing bottom, following the introduction of 2 promotion places from the Conference. They'd spend 5 years in non-league, after several good finishes they finally triumphed in the playoffs of 2008, beating Cambridge United 2-0 in the Wembley final.

5: Following their relegation to the Conference, the club was taken over by the supporters trust. A successful return to the Football League followed in 2009, with promotion to League 1 in their first season and a record-equalling 8th place finish in League 1 in 2011. Despite relegation back to League 2 the following season, they remain fan owned - along with AFC Wimbledon, Bury and Wycombe Wanderers in Football League terms.

6: Exeter City have twice reached the FA Cup Quarter Final. The most recent occasion came in 1981 where they beat Leatherhead, Millwall, Maidstone United, Leicester City and Newcastle United before a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.

7: The 4th Round of the League Cup has been reached three times, losing to Watford in 1978, Liverpool in 1979 and Sunderland in 1990.

8: In other cups Exeter City reached the FA Trophy Semi-Final in 2006, losing to Grays Athletic. The Southern Area final of the Football League Trophy has also been reached 3 times, lastly in 2011 with a defeat to Brentford over 2 legs.

9: Locally, Exeter City have won the Devon St Jukes Challenge Bowl on 12 occasions, lastly in 2009 and have been runners-up on a further 8 occasions.

10: Famous Exeter City fans include Coldplay's Chris Martin, actor Adrian Edmondson, TV host Noel Edmonds and singer Joss Stone. Former directors have also included Michael Jackson and Uri Geller.



VISIT 1: EXETER CITY 1-0 WYCOMBE W

On my first and only visit to Exeter City, I decided to stay down for the weekend with my Wycombe supporting mate Paul. But as it was Bank Holiday, everywhere was really busy and I had to stay in nearby Tiverton. So I had a fairly quiet night before the game. On the day, I parked up at the ground and walked into the town centre. I managed to pick up Ian Holloway's autobiography from Poundland, for would you guess it... £1

That was about as good as it got though. Despite having a bright start and a few good spells, Exeter deserved their 1-0 win, achieved by a goal from former Wycombe transfer target Matt Gill. This defeat saw Wycombe drop to 3rd place in the table, where they would finish at the end of the season and gain promotion. The game was a typical Peter Taylor one, with us withstanding a fair bit of pressure at the back, but not having much going forward.



VISIT 2: EXETER 1-1 WYCOMBE (L2, 10/2/18)

When the lineup for League 2 was finalised at the end of last season, Exeter City was the one standout ground that I wanted to visit. Though my blog needed updates on several of the entries, I'd visited most of the venues multiple times. That was apart from St James Park that I'd paid a sole visit to, back in 2009. Looking at Exeter, it had a number of great looking pubs, so I was hoping for a potential stay away - either in midweek or during the warm weather. Sadly for me, the fixtures didn't fall as I hoped and we were handed a Saturday at the start of February. I could have still taken in the pubs on the train, but with the ludicrous prices in full operation (£90 return) I decided to go on the Independent Supporters Club coach. This picked up from near my house and meant that I could go with my Dad. The pubs that the Indies pick vary wildly for a cider lover for me, but luckily their latest offering, the Pony and Trap in Cullumpton, did not live up to its cockney rhyming slang namesake as it had 4 real ciders on offer, according to my research. I knew the town of Cullompton for its football team - Cullompton Rangers - that's the one you can see from the M5 and indeed I had gone for a look at their ground on the way back from Plymouth one year. The ground was half a mile from the pub, so a revisit to get updated pictures was a real possibility, as was a look around the town, which had some decent looking shops, but no further pubs worthy of investigation. I decided that I'd play it by ear on the day, if I'd tried all the ciders on offer at our chosen pub, I'd see if I could do any better in a local shop or off license, what with it being right in the heart of cider producing country.



For once in the midweek leading up to the game, I'd not seen any midweek football. With both of my hopping pals declaring themselves unavailable, the poor weather and the fact that my nearest unticked ground was around 70 miles away. None of the revisits appealed, though I did miss a 6-4 between Hayes & Yeading and Marlow. The week dragged a bit without football, so I was glad when Friday rolled around. I had a few pints on the night before the game, though not much as I wanted a good night's sleep. I did my research for the days drinking tomorrow. As well as our pub stop, there was a decent bar at the ground which I might pop in if I had the time. After listening to TalkSPORT for a couple of hours before going to sleep at 11. I didn’t have the best night’s sleep, waking at around 5. I drifted off until my alarm went at 6.45 when I got up and got dressed. After a burger for breakfast, I went down the shops to get a paper, although my Daily Star wasn’t in yet. I went back to meet my Dad at the coach stop. The coach was 5 minutes early, but I was glad to learn there was only 14 of us, meaning we got a double seat each. We stopped at the train station, so I popped out to get a paper. After a pick up at the cinema, we left Wycombe at 8.15 and embarked on our long journey west.



The pub menu was handed round as per usual. I was glad to see that butchers faggots, chips and peas were on offer for just a fiver. I’d only really had them before at a pub near Chasetown FC a few years back and it was nice to try something that I don’t usually get near home. The coach fare was a very reasonable £24, far cheaper and more convenient than driving and although it didn’t have the freedom of the train, it was a fraction of the cost. Of course, the weather was a disgrace again, drizzle all day in the seemingly never-ending winter. It wouldn’t be match affecting for us, but there were plenty of games being called off in non-league all over the country. There was a brief holdup on the M4 near Bradley Stoke while the police retrieved some debris from the road, but it didn’t last too long. After a 15 minute stop at services near Bristol, we got to the pub at 11.50. There was still about 10 minutes before it was scheduled to open so I went to Home Bargains just across the road from where our coach parked. I picked up some aftershave that I needed, plus some beans for my breakfast, as well as Irn Bru and crisps for later. Once we got to the pub, I still had 2 hours to spare. Two pints preceded my dinner - Sandford Orchards Shaky Bridge and Devon Red. The former was the better, but the highlight of the stop was the faggots, chips and peas which were by far the best meal I’ve had on the Indies in over 20 trips. I went for a wander to see if I could find something new, but I drew a blank. The farmers market was packing up and although the Co-Op had interesting stuff, it was nothing I’d not tried before. Instead, I went back to the pub, having a pint of Bee Sting before we left at 2.



The journey to the ground was a simple one, with us getting there just after 2.30. I went for an explore to get some outside pictures of the ground. But there was a kind of magnetic pull that attracted me to the real ale and cider bar where I had a pint of Thatchers ‘Big Apple’. I’d have preferred something more obscure and local to Exeter, as it was, this was made 65 miles away in Herefordshire, but it was still decent. They had the option of returning the glass and getting a quid back, but I decided to keep it. It was one of those plastic type ones that you get in Germany and as it had club and bar logos all over it, I kept it as a souvenir. After that, I bought an Exeter fanzine for a quid and made my way to the turnstile. Ten minutes before kick off, entry was gained with minimal hassle and I rejoined my Dad for the game.



On the pitch, Exeter enjoyed the lions share of the first half, they took the lead around 15 minutes and really, the Wycombe defence should have done better. But the second half was a different story, Wycombe equalised though Marcus Bean and looked the more likely to score. But 1-1 was a fair result and Exeter City had been good hosts. I put out a tweet saying as much, the club shared it and it got lots of coverage. We had to wait about 10 minutes for our coach to arrive, as soon as we were on it, my Dad was out for the count. I was wide awake though, catching up with my blog and other things, well before the football phone-ins came on. I had to listen to TalkSPORT 2 at first due to TalkSPORT covering the Man City v Leicester game and Radio 5 covering the rugby. We stopped at Leigh Delamere services for 15 minutes just after 7, so when I got back on I returned to the Danny Kelly phone in on TalkSPORT. We got home at 9, then it was then the standard Saturday night ritual of watching the League 2 goals and Match Of The Day before going to sleep around midnight.



THE GROUND

ST JAMES' PARK is a ground currently in transition, with just 2 of the 4 sides surviving from my first visit some 9 years previously. The two stands that remain are impressive. The MAIN STAND is all seated and offers great views and decent legroom. It has a capacity of around 2,500. Far more impressive is the BIG BANK TERRACE. This is the largest terrace still left in the Football League with a capacity of 4,000. It looks very smart and is the source of the main vocal support for the Grecians stand. The two sides that are no longer there were a mixed bag. The GRANDSTAND was a great looking classic looking stand, however, it was showing its age. In its place will be a 2,800 seated stand. The ST JAMES PARK END was a shallow terrace open to the elements. This will be replaced by a metal terrace that once stood at Barnet's Hive stadium and offered decent views.

I don't recall a huge amount about the food on offer, although I do remember being taken aback that they did pizza. Also at the ground is the Centre Spot bar which allows away fans. This also includes the 'Famous Exeter City Real Ale And Cider Emporium' This lives up to its name, though it concentrates on the former rather than the latter. Otherwise, the excellent town centre is a short walk away, this offers a good range of excellent pubs to suit all tastes. plus no doubt some takeaways too. Note some of the pictures are from their non-league days, taken on the way to Plymouth in 2006.

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)

Half a ground at present, but what there is, is good (6)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Right close to the town, with options a few minutes walk away (8)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Nice people and a friendly welcome (8)

4: Value for money
About £4 too expensive at £22, but in line with other L2 clubs (5)

5: Social Media & Website
Decent and interactive Twitter (8)

6: Programme

Didn't buy (-)

7: Game entertainment
Fairly average (6)

8: Tea Bar
Selection was fairly standard, but good prices for the league (7)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
The real cider and ale emporium is good, though would prefer the cider to be more local (8)

10: Club Shop
The usual football league stuff (5)

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF 90: 61
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.77


GROUND PHOTOS


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