Danny Coles: "I'm delighted to be captaining City as 2012 comes to an end"
THE end of any year is a natural time to take stock and look back over what's gone on in the past 12 months.
All the more so if, like me, you find yourself with a column to fill and precious little else to talk about – Christmas print deadlines mean I'm writing this between Saturday's postponement against Torquay United and the Boxing Day visit of Oxford.
It's fair to say, 2012 isn't a year I'll forget in a hurry. The disappointment of being relegated from League One is something which is etched in my mind, but even that pales into insignificance next to the broken back which left me watching helplessly from the sidelines for the final few months of the season.
There was a time, immediately after my training ground collision with Artur (Krysiak), when it was by no means certain I would be able to play again so I thank my lucky stars that my fitness isn't an issue now and, what's more, I'm not only playing week in, week out but have had the honour of captaining Exeter City as well.
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Looking ahead, I think the club has a bright future. There's no doubt in my mind that, not only is it very well run, but it also boasts one of the best young managers in the country, as well as an exceptional youth setup and fantastic supporters.
Put all those elements together and I reckon you have some pretty solid foundations on which to build.
What's more, there are plenty of young players in or around the side – I'm thinking of the likes of Jordan Moore-Taylor, Jimmy Keohane and even Scot Bennett – who are only going to get better as they get more experience of first-team football and that must bode well for the future.
On top of which, I don't think anyone would dispute Tis has pulled off some real masterstrokes in the transfer market in 2012. I'm thinking in particular of the capture of Jamie Cureton, who is enjoying one of the most prolific campaigns of his long career. There's also Alan Gow who, in my opinion, is too good to be plying his trade in League Two.
Certainly, I'll be disappointed if we can't push on and make a real challenge for promotion in the second half of the season.
It goes without saying, our home form will have to improve – hopefully, by the time you read this, we will already have made some progress on that score by beating Oxford – but if we can realise that goal and avoid too many injuries to key personnel then I see no reason whatsoever why we shouldn't be in the shake-up come May.
Aside from getting back to full fitness, I suppose my own personal highlight of 2012 has to be that goal against AFC Wimbledon. I don't get too many and even fewer of them have turned out to be match-winners, so to grab the deciding goal with a Messi-esque backheel is something I intend to dine out on well into 2013.
Off the pitch, it's great that Stevie P has made such a good recovery from the heart problems which struck him down on the final day of last season and left him fighting for his life over the summer. His contribution at the Cat & Fiddle is massive and it's great to have him back.
Needless to say, we'd all been really looking forward to the Torquay game and were gutted when it was called off late on Saturday morning. Apparently the Plainmoor pitch had been perfectly playable the previous day but just couldn't cope with the battering it took overnight on Friday and early on Saturday. Fingers crossed the game can be rescheduled very soon.
We're at home again, weather permitting that is, on Saturday when we entertain Barnet.
The Bees might still be hovering around the bottom of the table but they've made significant improvement since Edgar Davids joined Mark Robins at the helm and we're under no illusions about the size of the task facing us.
At the same time, it will be a real thrill to play against a genuine footballing legend, who boasts 70-odd Dutch caps, as well as Champions League and Serie A winners' medals. As I mentioned earlier in the year, I once came up against Samuel Eto'o in a pre-season friendly against Real Mallorca in 2003 while I was at Bristol City but I don't think I've ever faced someone who's enjoyed quite such a distinguished career in a competitive fixture.
On New Year's Day we travel to Wycombe, who won't have any Champions League winners in their starting line-up but have, like Barnet, made giant strides since a change at the top.
The Chairboys have been in decent form since Gareth Ainsworth took over from Gary Waddock as manager and have won four of their last five games in League Two so, once again, we'll go into the game knowing we've go to be somewhere near our best if we're to stand a chance of taking all three points.
And finally... happy new year to Grecians supporters far and wide, thanks for your fantastic support throughout 2012 and all the very best for the coming year – let's hope 2013 sees us celebrating promotion to League One!