• Nathan Smith

COVID POSITIVE: HOW THE PANDEMIC TURNED THIS EXETER YOUTH FROM A FRINGE PLAYER TO A BREAKOUT STAR


Joel Randall was a name that many were not too familiar with a year or so ago, but he is now the talk of Exeter after a great start to the season.


The 21-year-old has spent a lot of time either out on loan or in and around the fringes of the first team, making the odd appearance off the bench.


2019/20 brought more opportunities for Randall in the way of the Leasing.com Trophy, where he made five appearances and got two goals in a game against West Ham U21’s.


A loan spell at Weymouth followed, in which he didn’t play much, but before COVID-19 halted the season, the Englishman made two substitute appearances in League Two, where he impressed and had many Exeter City fans excited for the future.


While many wanted Randall to have some involvement this season, it is safe to say many were surprised with the faith shown in the left-winger, including the man himself.


“I came into the season hoping I could be in and around the squad, hopefully coming off the bench, making an impact from there. I didn’t really expect to be thrown straight in and play a part in every league game so far, so I’m really happy with that.”


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to clubs having to cut costs and look to their youth academies to fill their squad, due to a lack of budget and the new wage cap placed on clubs by the EFL.


While this is something Exeter are used too, with one of the best academies in the lower leagues, Randall believes the circumstances have helped not just him, but the group of young players in the Exeter side.


“As unfortunate as it was, the pandemic definitely helped us young boys to come into the team and show what we’re about. Matty (Matt Taylor) didn’t have the sort of budget he’d have liked, so he’s put his faith in us young lads and hopefully we are repaying him so far.”


Randall is currently Exeter’s top scorer in all competitions, with his brace against Gillingham putting him on eight for the season and has made that left-wing spot his own.


However, Randall was not always a left-winger and it was not until one of the coaches pointed him in the direction of a left flank that he evolved into the player we see today.


“As a scholar, when I came in as a 16-year-old, I wanted to be centre mid. I played centre mid for a couple games but the coaches advised me I’d break-in on the left because I’m a bit small and it’s quite physical in League Two isn’t it, so they thought the best position would probably be out wide.”


He added, “I’ve played full back, number ten but I feel most comfortable on the left-wing.”


A lot of young players spend time out on loan, and the winger spent a lot of his early development out on loan, with five spells at five different clubs.


While these spells were not always the most successful, Randall felt that these helped him learn and grow into the player he is now.


“I definitely needed the experience of going into different dressing rooms with people you’ve never met before, I’ve been to 5 clubs on loan.”


“It’s tough and you need to get that experience playing against men, it’s not the best football quality but you need to see it from a different point of view I guess, to grow as a person and as a player as well,” Randall added.


There is no doubt Joel Randall will go far in his career, whether that be with Exeter or not, it is almost certain that the 21-year-old will be dazzling defences for years to come.

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