Speculation has been building recently as to who the next 1931 player will be at Exeter City. Transfer business at SJP has been relatively modest this summer and normally at this stage in the window the Grecians have signed a player to wear the 31 shirt.
The 1931 fund is a group created primarily for Grecians fans who cannot make home games as often as they would like to but still want to help the club. Members pay £19 a month into the fund which either fully or partly contributes to the wages of the player who wears the number 31 in the squad for the season.
With the notable departures of Joel Grant, a former 1931 player himself, and perhaps more significantly Ollie Watkins this summer, many have guessed that it will be an attacker who will don the number 31 this year. With former Plymouth striker Tyler Harvey seemingly still training with the club, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he might be lined up as the 1931 player this season but recent developments suggest a slight twist in the tale.
According to the club website, the player wearing the number 31 for the new season which started with a win over Cambridge on Saturday, is youngster Jack Sparkes. This would take the 1931 fund in a slightly different direction as it has previously been used to recruit players from outside the club rather than to promote youth players.
However this could prove to be a very shrewd move for Exeter who will be keen to avoid a repeat situation to the one that took wonderkid Ethan Ampadu away from SJP and to Chelsea earlier this summer, with compensation to still be agreed between the two clubs. Giving Sparkes a contract would avoid this circumstance but also give the player the opportunity to prove himself with the first team squad, something he has no doubt earned with some eye-catching performances in preseason. Perhaps he will even make an appearance at SJP tomorrow night against Charlton in the Carabao cup?
It remains to be seen what this means for trialist Tyler Harvey but it would seem that Tisdale is more favourable to giving youth a chance this season rather than bringing more players in, as he has indicated in interviews ahead of the new season.
It is also a bold move for the club, Sparkes will have to shoulder great responsibility as the 1931 player, following in the footsteps of Pierce Sweeney and Joel Grant before him, both of whom played important roles in taking Exeter to Wembley last season. However it would seem that in placing their trust in Sparkes as the 1931 player for this season, Tisdale does indeed intend to use him as part of the first team squad.
All in all, this move should be welcomed, it signals significant investment in our youth system at City and shows the younger players that there are opportunities available at the club if they work hard to earn them. As the club of destination for young talent in the South West, it makes sense that we would promote players like Jack to the first team squad.
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