Selling Wheeler and Watkins could prove a blessing in disguise if City gain promotion


It might sound like twisted logic bordering on the insane, but Exeter City’s decision to cash in on last season’s top two goalscorers might prove a blessing in disguise.

Ollie Watkins had been at the centre of 12 months of transfer speculation when he eventually signed for Sky Bet Championship side Brentford in a deal believed to be worth something in the region of £1.8-million.

Watkins scored 16 goals in all competitions last season and has proved he is capable of the step-up to the second tier of English football having scored five goals for the Bees already this term.

Meanwhile David Wheeler, who bagged 21 goals last season, secured a move to QPR before the transfer window closed.

Fans feared the loss of two influential players might rob the Grecians of crucial firepower as they aimed to banish last season’s play-off heartbreak at Wembley.

On the surface any decision to sell your top goal-getters would weaken a side and put a serious dent in any aspirations to launch a promotion push. But the last few matches have suggested Exeter have been extremely shrewd in their business dealings this summer.

Shrewd Business

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Having kept the nucleus of the side which narrowly missed out on promotion in the play-off final, manager Paul Tisdale knew the club could afford to sell two of his prized assets if they could find adequate replacements.

And the two pieces of business was always going to allow the Devon club to strengthen the squad with more bodies.

Jayden Stockley was lured from Aberdeen for a fee of around £100,000, while the permanent capture of Hiram Boateng from Crystal Palace appears to have been a wise move. And the loan deals to bring in right-back Kane Wilson and striker Kyle Edwards from West Brom gives Tisdale more options.

Sources close to the club have suggested that the money generated from the sale of Wheeler was enough to bankroll the four signings and still left a small amount of profit in the club’s coffers.

Of course, only at the end of the season will fans be able to assess whether the deals prove crucial or not. But the signs look promising.

New strike partnership?

Stockley really announced his arrival to St James’ Park last weekend as he scored a brace in the 4-1 demolition of Morecambe.

The striker, 23, bagged his first goal with a smart finish before conjuring a touch of the sublime to strike on the stroke of half-time.

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Reuben Reid is the current top scorer for Exeter City. Photo Lynne Cameron/Getty Images Europe

But it was his all-action performance that really caught the eye and the way he teamed up with strike partner Reuben Reid.

Morecambe manager Jim Bentley admitted Stockley and Reid “battered” his back four and could see why Exeter were battling it out at the top.

With Reid on seven goals and Stockley now on four heading into yesterday’s trip to Carlisle United, Tisdale has a fresh attacking dimension and a real goal threat up top.

With Exeter boasting plenty of competition in the striker ranks, they have also got strength in depth in the central midfield areas following the arrival of Boateng from Selhurst Park.

Midfield depth

The 21-year-old offers a powerful presence driving forward and is different to any of Exeter’s other midfield players.

With Jordan Tillson and Lloyd James currently preferred in the holding midfield roles, Boateng is another new recruit who will have to be patient in his pursuit of a regular starting place. Yet his muscle and direct approach will have an important part to play in certain games and he could be another crucial asset to the team.

Elsewhere West Brom winger Edwards has demonstrated his attacking prowess with a series of successful substitute appearances in the League.

And he crowned his first start in an Exeter shirt with a stunning strike against Plymouth Argyle in the Checkatrade Trophy at Home Park on Tuesday.

Edwards boasts the type of pace and trickery to cause League Two defenders real problems. So in short the four players brought in have improved Exeter’s squad.

Experience has taught Tisdale that a deep squad is necessary to succeed in a gruelling League Two campaign.

Last season they were stretched to breaking point by injuries and they plummeted to the foot of the table in November.

Now the squad have got options in every position and that cover will inevitably be called upon when injuries or a dip in form means changes are necessary.

Previous years have demonstrated that teams losing in the play-off final can suffer something of a hangover at the start of the next season. But Exeter are certainly bucking that trend right now.

Next weekend sees the Grecians travel to Wycombe Wanderers to take on a Gareth Ainsworth side currently in a rich vein of form. The Chairboys went into yesterday’s trip to Cambridge United on the back of three straight wins.

Paul Tisdale’s side have lost on their last three visits to Adams Park but Wycombe have been inconsistent on home soil so far this season.

They have won three, drawn one and lost two – their two defeats com- ing against high-flying Notts County and promotion hopefuls Luton Town.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.