MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) looks at the work Paul Tisdale has undergone at Exeter to lead the Devon side into a top-half position after a tumultuous summer at St James Park.
Cast your mind back to back to July. Cash-strapped Exeter had just returned from a historic trip to Brazil (exactly 100 years since the club played the Brazil national team in the country's first-ever match) and focus was firmly on a fight to stay in the Football League for the 2014/15 season.
The Grecians were under a transfer embargo, put in place after the club was forced to borrow money from the PFA to pay players. Manager Paul Tisdale’s hands were tied as he entered his ninth year in charge. But there were more problems…
Captain Danny Coles was embroiled in a social media controversy, chairman Edward Chorlton stepped down, chief executive Guy Wolfenden resigned and the likes of Alan Gow and John O’Flynn had moved on, leaving Tisdale to rely on an inexperienced crop of youngsters in their fight for survival. Having finished only five points above the relegation zone in May with just six home wins to their name, every pre-season prediction (including from this writer) had Exeter dropping out of the Football League.
But on the eve of their second League Two game of the season (at fierce rivals Plymouth), City finally received some good news. The transfer embargo had lifted, allowing the boss to finally set about to strengthening his troops.
Fast forward a month and the Grecians were, as expected, struggling to keep their heads above water. Three points were taken from the first 21 on offer and the club had managed just four goals.
However, the transformation since has been quite outstanding. Tisdale is well known in the Football League for his meticulous attention to detail, his tendency to chop, change and tweak his tactics, formation and personnel in a constant bid to outwit opponents and give his side an edge. Yet still, nobody expected such a turnaround.
On Sunday, Exeter finally kept their first clean sheet of the season in an utterly dominant display away to Morecambe whilst lining up in a fashionable 3-4-1-2. The visitors came away with a 2-0 win to make it six victories from their last eight outings and lifted the Grecians to within a point of a top-seven place. Form!
And punters who have shown faith in Tisdale’s side will have been well rewarded too. City were 19/10 to bag the three points yesterday, 12/5 when beating Wycombe at St James Park, 11/5 at Dagenham, 14/5 when hosting Bury, 3/1 at Tranmere and 4/1 when visiting Cambridge. Had you backed all six of those Exeter wins with a £10 stake, you’d have made a whopping £163! Of course, there were two matches in that eight-game streak which didn’t end in wins but you get the gist.
Tisdale and his merry men have made a habit of upsetting the odds. High-flying Bury and Wycombe have already been toppled on their own patch and next up is a visit from table-topping Luton, on a run of seven successive wins and a 25-point haul from a possible 27. It won’t be easy but would you bet against Exeter at 15/8 (Bet365)? I certainly wouldn’t.