Tisdale not afraid to give youth its chance with Jay latest to impress
Exeter City youngster Matt Jay will travel with the squad for today's trip to Dagenham & Redbridge, with manager Paul Tisdale admitting he has earned his opportunity.
The Grecians will be without hamstring victim John O'Flynn and young striker Jamie Reid, who is away with Northern Ireland's Under-21 squad on international duty this week, so the need for an extra attacker to travel has arisen.
Jay impressed during a 20-minute cameo as a substitute in Tuesday's 2-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, and such is his progress that the City chief is keen to involve him again at Victoria Road.
"His standard of play and execution of the simple things in a game – and sometimes the simple things are difficult to do – was very good," Tisdale said. "They are the things that players at the very top do so well and make the game look easy.
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"He is one for the future, but he is good enough for the group and there's a need for another attacking player. He scored a hat-trick for the youth team last Saturday and I'm not afraid to play him.
"When they are our own player and they have come through the youth system, I'm not taking a gamble on a personality, or a character or an attitude. I know it's first-class.
"Every minute he plays and is involved or travels with the first team, I'm adding value to one of our own. But he has only been in the first-team squad for three days and he won't be there for ever, he will go back to the youth team at a point. But he has earned his current selection."
Jay is not the first to be thrust straight into first-team contention from the youth ranks this season. Matt Grimes is a year older than Jay and is signed as a first year professional, but such is the progress he has made this campaign that he too is knocking on the first-team door.
To many, such rapid rise is something of a surprise, but not to Tisdale, who says the seeds of a well-structured Academy were planted several years ago.
"Every year we are getting better," he said. "It is not the transition from the Under-18s to professional ranks – the improvement is at the very bottom of the ladder when they come into the centres and the improvement in coaching, the intensity in their play and the reputation we have.
"The reputation we have encourages players and their parents to commit to Exeter, rather than other clubs, and it has taken ten years to gain that reputation.
"Every year, there is a chance we are beginning that process earlier and we are getting better players and better coaching so, when they come out at 18, 19, they continue to get better.
"We have more young players in the squad of our own than we have had for a long time, who are all going to be good enough to play for the first team at some point in the season."
Unfortunately for City, there is no natural right-back ready for first-team exposure just yet. That position has been a problem to Tisdale, who may decide to try Pat Baldwin there, after an encouraging display against Wycombe.
"Pat looks very assured there and is a thinker of the game who can execute what you ask him to do," Tisdale said. "Although we don't have much continuity there at the moment, Pat, Scot Bennett, Aaron Dawson and Jordan Moore-Taylor are all capable of playing there and, with everyone fit, we do have enough players that can play there.
"Ultimately, it boils down to how many clean-sheets we keep, how well we play and what our results are."
Exeter City (from): Krysiak, Pym; Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Gow, Davies, Doherty, Moore-Taylor, Dawson, Reid, Nichols, Gosling, Keohane, Wannell, Jagger-Cane, Parkin, Tillson, Grimes, Jay, Chamberlain, Wheeler.
Unavailable: O'Flynn (injured), Reid (international duty).