Former Exeter City duo aiming to help Exmouth Town to FA Vase success
A former Exeter City duo are aiming to help Exmouth Town to FA Vase glory.
The South West Peninsula League Premier Division side host Wessex League club Blackfield & Langley this weekend in the third round of the national competition.
Town are managed by Richard Pears, who made 60 league appearances for the Grecians over a three-year spell in the 1990s before a long playing career in the local football season, including four different spells at Tiverton Town.
He is now in his second stint as Exmouth boss, having taken over from ex-Torquay United defender Kevin Hill in early 2016.
Pears has overseen a bit of a squad revolution at the King George V Ground, recruiting, among others, former City striker Lee Phillips.
The manager has labelled this weekend's match against their higher-league opponents as one of the club's biggest in a decade as they seek to reach the fourth round.
He said: "It's going to be one of the biggest games in the last 10 years of the football club, to be honest.
"I don't think the club have been in the third round of the FA Vase for a number of years, certainly since they reformed in 2006.
"I'm massively looking forward to it and it's going to be a tough test – I went to watch Blackfield & Langley and they're going to be a tough side but we're going into the game absolutely full of confidence.
"The lads are playing really well at the moment and we're probably in the best form we've been in all season, so it's just about our application, really.
"If we can go out there and want it more than them, for a start, I've said to the players it's about how we mentally prepare for games because, ability wise, we've got a lot of ability but sometimes our application lets us down.
"If they really want it on Saturday then there's no reason why we can't get through to the next round."
It has been a mix of youth and experience that has helped Exmouth's success this season and Pears believes, having signed players from a lower level, reaching the third round of the Vase is a measure of how well they are playing this season.
He said: "I've got young Nathan Cooper and Aaron Denny in the middle of midfield at the moment and they're two young lads who were playing for Topsham Town and Budleigh Salterton last year, so the fact they're playing in the third round of the FA Vase shows how well they've been playing, really.
"But they'll need to do that on Saturday and, make no mistake, we'll be focussing on winning that game of football.
"I said to the players that we're the form team in our league, without a shadow of a doubt, at the moment.
"We've gone to tough places in both the league and the cup – Tavistock, Plymouth Argyle reserves, Plymouth Parkway and Gillingham from the league above – and we've had some really good wins against the so-called lower teams in our league, which can sometimes be the tougher games."
Striker Phillips, who became a fans' favourite in his three-year spell at St James's Park, scoring 21 goals in 87 league matches before leaving to join Torquay, has returned to fitness after a broken wrist in time to play in the match says he is really enjoying his spell playing under Pears.
"I've known Richard throughout my career," the 36-year-old said. "I'm obviously from the South West and then I moved away but then the opportunity to move back came up.
"I kept in touch with Richard and I know Kevin Hill as well and they said to come along, so I went along and got on well with all the lads. It's a fun place to be and I'm really, really enjoying it.
"I'm going to play for another couple of seasons and see what happens, whether I move into management or something along those lines.
"I'm going to go as long as I can – I've had a fair share of injuries in my career but I can't complain and I'll carry on for as long as I can."
Phillips will also be reunited with former Gulls strike partner Tim Sills in the match, with Sills currently plying his trade for Blackfield.
"Obviously me and Sillsy are good friends and we're coming up against each other in our later years," Phillips laughed. "I knew there was someone playing for Blackfield that I knew – I found out it was Sillsy so I gave him a call straight away and we had a good, long chat.
"That wasn't just to speak about football but to have a catch up as we got on really well off the field, which is good.
"He's doing well and he's really enjoying his football, just like I am, so it will be good to meet up with him as I've not seen him for a couple of years."
So, with Exeter City without a match this weekend, Phillips has encouraged Grecians fans to attend the game in order to see him get one over on a former Torquay player.
"All the Exeter lads should come down," he said. "Obviously I used to play for Exeter and not many of the fans like Sillsy, so hopefully they can come down and boo him!
"If there's nothing going on for the Exeter fans, then get down and support Exmouth Town, that would be great."