• Nathan Smith


Another Exeter City wonderkid could be set to depart to the Premier League, as Chelsea have taken young goalkeeper Harry Lee on trial.

The 16 year old has found himself a regular spot on Exeter’s first team bench, due to Jonny Maxted’s absence, and was very close to making his first team debut against Barrow last Tuesday.

Exeter City manager Matt Taylor believes that Lee would be better off staying with the club, noting that the goalkeeper has been close to playing on a few occasions this season.

“He’s had a great season because he’s been with us and been on the bench for a lot of first team games and he’s performing really well in recent weeks in our u23s/reserves fixtures.

“If he goes into the big pond with the bigger clubs, he’ll possibly about a dozen goalkeepers behind the first-choice goalkeeper at whatever club it is, whereas with ourselves he’s been second choice for most of the season.”

With academy graduates like Ollie Watkins and Ethan Ampadu playing regularly in the Premier League this season, more eyes have been drawn to the Devon club and their youth system.

The news of Harry Lee departing on trial arrives a week after news of Sonny Cox going on trial to Manchester United surfaced.

Taylor has stated that the club are expecting offers for the two players, but for him, their development is best served by staying with the Grecians.

“If Sonny Cox and Harry Lee sign their contracts with ourselves, they’ll train with the first team on a daily basis and they are one or two players behind getting an opportunity in the first team and that opportunity will come, it’s been proven time and time again in terms of what we do with our young players.”

Big clubs coming in for their academy players is a situation that the club are used too, having lost Jay Stansfield to Fulham, Ben Chrisene to Aston Villa and Ethan Ampadu to Chelsea.

While the Chirsene deal seemed to go smoothly, the club released statements off the back of the Stansfield and Ampadu transfers, stating that they felt hard done by and that they deserved more for those players.

Taylor believes that the structure in place does not benefit the smaller sides like Exeter and favours the bigger teams in England.

“It’s a battle we are continually fighting and it happens at the end of every season and it’s not a nice battle to fight because you’re up against an opponent in terms of big Premier League clubs who disrespect you in terms of what they offer, the way they value the players as compared to what we value the players.

“That valuation from ourselves is everything, it’s our income, it’s what keeps the club going.

“Whereas to a Premier League club it is absolutely nothing so it’s a difficult one to accept as a manager at the end of each and every season but unfortunately it’s the world we live in.

“It’s down to the Premier League, the EPPP, the FA everyone involved to improve the context and the structure in place to help clubs like ourselves and that’s not just clubs like Exeter City, I’m sure any other manager in the same situation throughout the land would be saying the same."