Matt Taylor’s second season in charge of Exeter is going superbly so far, but as he told the Totally Football League Show this week, his route to management was not like many others…
They tend to do things differently at Exeter City.
After 12 years with Paul Tisdale at the helm – a manager who by any standard was unusual in the grit and grime of the Football League’s lower reaches – last year they appointed Matt Taylor as his successor, Tisdale’s first-team coach but a man who didn’t take the standard route into football.
Before embarking on a decade-long professional career as a centre-back, Taylor was a part-time goalkeeper who interrupted his career to attend Sheffield Hallam University, eventually moving to play for Team Bath and study at the University of Bath.
“I didn’t do a YTS or get a young professional contract as a footballer,” Taylor exclusively told the Totally Football League Show this week.
“I combined playing as a goalkeeper for a semi-pro team locally and then as centre-half for my university. But then I got an opportunity full time down at Exeter when we were in the National League. So it was a strange first few years to my career, I suppose.
“It’s all good experience. I’d like to think the education side of has helped me out in terms of my own aspirations as a coach and a manager, and probably understanding the game to a certain level as well.
“When you play your career, you get caught up in the bubble, just playing week in, week out and you don’t think too far ahead. Then injuries and age start to take their toll and then you do start thinking about your future.
“I’ve worked for some really good managers and played with some decent players as well, and then the same when I got into the coaching structure.
“But I do appreciate how lucky we are to work in football – those times before university and around college as well, when I was doing labouring jobs, really make you understand how lucky we are to sort of do a couple of hours of physical fitness and work in a day and then you got the free afternoon.”
Last season felt like a transitional year for Exeter as they managed the switch from Tisdale’s long tenure to Taylor, even though they did only just miss out on the playoffs. And Taylor was cautious about embarking on a stringent revolution.
“Certainly to start we didn’t want to change too much,” Taylor says. “On the back of Paul being there for 12 years, Exeter City was a certain type of club, run a certain type of way. So any change you have made we’ve tried to gradually feed into the club.
“The environment is still the same and that’s us credit to Paul and his staff. It’s a fantastic environment to work in. The ethos of the club is still to promote the young boys and get them out of the academy and into the first team. Not too much has changed in that respect.
“Obviously, I’m a different character to Paul, but like I said we’ve still got a lot of traits from Paul’s time and we’re hopefully a club moving in the right direction. Only time will tell in terms of what success looks like for Exeter City.”
At the moment success looks like being top of League Two: Exeter have suffered just one defeat from their opening seven games, sitting ahead of Crewe on goal difference. And this weekend sees arguably the fourth tier’s game of the season so far, as those top two sides meet at Gresty Road.
“We just need to keep on picking up points,” Taylor says. “There’s been times we’ve been disappointed…when we’ve not picked maximum points when we’ve been on top. It’s about getting the balance right.
“The tighter games against the likes of Newport and Swindon, they’re high class opposition at this level. I expect the same from Crewe this weekend. If we keep on picking up points we won’t be too far away.
“We know the league’s not really settled down as yet in terms of some big clubs below us. Certainly the ones relegated from League One – they’ll come strong at some stage. Hopefully we can pick up more points against Crewe this weekend.”
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