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Has Paul Tisdale stagnated Exeter City?

Exeter City

Has Paul Tisdale stagnated Exeter City?

Footballing giants Liverpool and superstar new boss Jurgen Klopp rock on down to the depths of the south west to face Devon side Exeter City in the FA Cup third round this Friday.

The match is to be broadcast live on BBC One, and you can expect the usual patronising clichés of David versus Goliath, plucky minnows and underdogs.

Ironically this kind of hyperbole was actually used against Exeter City in the first round when the professional League Two-ers travelled to Oxfordshire to play genuine part timers Didcot Town.

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The Grecians ran out 0-3 winners on that occasion, and regardless of the result against Klopp’s men, serious questions are beginning, tentatively, to be asked of long term Exeter manager Paul Tisdale.

For the first time in a long while, possibly even his entire tenure, there are voices (admittedly a minority at this moment in time) calling for the head of Tisdale.

But why?

Poor form is the main reason. The Grecians have lost their last four league games, and are without a win since mid-November. City have slumped to 16th in the league, with a squad that, on paper at least, should be seriously challenging in the top seven.

Since relegation from the third tier in 2012, Exeter have finished 10th and 16th on two occasions each. Tisdale has gone on record of stating his Championship ambitions for the club. As is often the case, it is hard to decipher whether this is his actual intention or simply media soundbites.

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However, in many respects Tisdale is delivering what should be considered a perfectly reasonable position for a club of the stature of Exeter City. Historically the Grecians have predominantly inhabited the fourth division (League Two) with flirtations a league above and below.

Indeed, since his appointment in 2006 “Tis” has overseen Exeter in all of the aforementioned three leagues. He was the man to lead Exeter back into the Football League in 2008 after a five year absence, and then the season after won another promotion to League One, with much of the original Conference side still in place.

Two years later he would steer the red half of Devon to a very credible 8th in League One, missing out on the play-offs by an agonising few points, and registered a famous victory over Leeds United. On what is frankly a shoe string budget, in a club boasting one of the worst stadium/facilities in the professional game this is no mean feat whatsoever.

The city of Exeter itself is also a tough nut to crack for a football side. Sure, there are a loyal core of a fan-base, but in an already traditional rugby union stronghold, over the last four to five years City have borne the brunt of the rise of the Exeter Chiefs rugby team – now an established Premiership side with home grown England internationals.

Now, all things considered, is a comfortable League Two side with the potential to have a crack at the play-offs such a bad position to be in? Who else remembers the dark days of the Conference and the financial crisis? It was of course only the 2005 FA Cup tie (and famously, replay) versus Manchester United that saved the club from probable extinction.

Now no one wants Exeter to become a micro, southern version of Leeds United and sack a manager every five minutes, but where does one draw the line and say, “thank you Mr.Tisdale but you’ve taken us far enough”?

Like the Manchester United tie, over a decade ago, cup heroics against Liverpool would be very much welcomed, but equally would not be sufficient to extend Tisdale’s tenure indefinitely. After all, there are a vocal and gradually expanding minority on social media calling for his head.

At this moment in time that seems a step too far. “Tis” has bought himself time, momentarily. However, if the winless league run is prolonged the board will be left with little option, especially if the club gets sucked into a relegation battle.

Give Tisdale until the summer, (assuming City are still in League Two, which by all accounts they should be) but then the time may be right to make a change to avoid stagnation in Devon’s capital.

Featured image: All rights reserved by dan.westwell

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