Exeter City fans will get a glimpse of the future tonight, with their highly regarded Under-18 side facing their Manchester City counterparts in a friendly at St James’ Park.
Under the guidance of new coach Lee Skyrme, who succeeded Kevin Nicholson as coach of the Under-18 squad recently, the young Grecians have impressed many, with several of the squad tipped as future first-team players.
Sean Goss was one of the players in that age group before he was snapped up by Manchester United, while full-back Connor Riley-Lowe had a trial with the Premier League giants.
In strikers Matt Jay, who made his first-team debut against Wycombe Wanderers last week, and Ollie Watkins, the Grecians have two young strikers who really caught the eye during City’s pre-season campaign.
“They work very hard, they’re very grounded, and very talented,” Skyrme said.
“When I arrived, one of the conversations I had with Simon Hayward was about trying to test our players against the top sides in the Premier League. So we’ve tried to arrange a few of these games over the course of the season.
“Hopefully we’ll get two or three where the boys get to play against a good side like Man City, and play at St James’ Park as well – I felt that it is really important that they get used to playing in the stadium where hopefully they will play regularly someday.
“It’s a different challenge to what they face every week – they will face technically better players, and more than likely players that will be very good athletes as well and from different parts of the world.
“It’ll be a very good test – we will certainly be going in with the right attitude and not treating it as a friendly.”
Skyrme joined the Grecians from Cardiff City as a replacement for Nicholson, who went in the opposite direction by accepting the Bluebirds’ offer to coach their Under-17 to Under-21 players, as well as manage the Under-18 team that Skyrme formerly took care of.
“I’m loving it – I’m really enjoying it,” Skyrme said. “The people have been absolutely fantastic; the players have been a real joy to work with, and the staff right through the Academy, the first-team and throughout the club have been very welcoming and helpful.
“I worked with the youth team at Cardiff for seven years before I came here, working initially as an assistant to the youth team and with some of the younger ages and then working my way to being the professional development coach there.
“Prior to that, I was working with the FA of Wales in coaching education and football development, and have played for teams in the Welsh Premier League and in Germany – so for the last 20 years of my life I’ve been involved in football, by playing semi-professionally and coaching.”
Admission for tonight’s game against the Citizens is through the FlyBe stand and costs £4 for adults and £1 for under-18s. The game kicks off at 7.15pm and the club reception will be open late for fans to purchase tickets for the League Two derby with Plymouth Argyle on October 5.
Purchasers must be ‘Community members’ (which means being named on the club’s database) and are limited to three per person.
Meanwhile, a City development side are in action tonight (Monday) when they travel to Cornwall to take on Camelford.
The game is to mark the official opening of Camelford's new floodlights and kicks-off at 7pm.