Joel Randall: Exeter City youngster taking chance presented to him by pandemic

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Joel Randall
Joel Randall had played less than 30 minutes of EFL football before the start of the current season

Exeter City midfielder Joel Randall is relishing the opportunity presented to him by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on football.

With tighter budgets Exeter have relied on their academy players to step up.

It has seen the 21-year-old establish himself in Matt Taylor's side, scoring six goals in his first full season.

"As unfortunate as the pandemic was it definitely helped us young boys to come into the team and show what we're about," Randall told BBC Sport.

"Matt didn't have the budget he would have liked so he's put his faith in us as young lads and hopefully we're repaying him."

Exeter's much-admired academy - which has produced Ollie Watkins and Ethan Ampadu in recent years - provided five of the side that started the 6-1 win over Colchester United on Tuesday - the first time City had scored six goals in a game for 27 years.

Players such as Randall, Archie Collins, Matt Jay and Josh Key have featured in most of City's League Two games, and for a club which is fan-owned with no wealthy benefactor to bail them out during the pandemic it has proved vital.

"In terms of our recruitment we wanted to leave that position open for Joel. He's exceeded our expectations, but I'm sure he'll keep on moving forward," said Exeter boss Taylor of his latest young player.

"He's had talent and potential in him since a young age.

"His running stats are phenomenal, but he's added an extra dimension to his game in terms of the end product.

"He's been a constant threat down that left side, he's worked tirelessly for the team and he's contributed at all times this season, he's been a standout player."

Joel Randall
Randall celebrates scoring against Southend last month - the third of his six goals so far this season

While Covid-19 rules have forbidden fans from watching games in person, Randall says those quiet grounds have proved an advantage for him as he learns his trade.

"Knowing the fans weren't going to be there I wanted to get the games in to feel comfortable in the league and play my way into the team and feel comfortable in the environment," he added.

"I'm really happy that I've been able to get all those appearances and hopefully things will get even better when the fans come in."

Randall has played nine games with fans - although seven came in the less well-supported EFL Trophy.

And now he has established himself in the team he is looking forward to showing Grecians supporters his skills in the flesh. Exeter is under tier two Covid-19 restrictions meaning the club will be able to have 2,000 supporters when they next play at home in the Papa John's Trophy against Northampton on 8 December.

"It's the news we all wanted," he said.

"Our levels will go up a notch I think with fans, especially in the Big Bank cheering us on, I think that'll definitely help us going forward as a team."

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