OPINION – Exeter City has to sell more of their academy products such as Josh Key to remain a sustainable football league club

With just hours remaining in the 2022 January transfer window, Exeter City received a sizeable bid for one of their star players. For many clubs accepting a bid that late into the window would be unthinkable as there would be no adequate time to replace the individual.

However, for the Grecians it is the formula they have to follow if they want to continue producing products from their academy year after year.

The club have historically produced excellent academy products with Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea, on loan at Venezia) and Matt Grimes (Swansea) all having developed and honed their game in Devon before moving on to play at a higher level.

After enduring a mostly quiet January with only one enquiry at the start of the window, Exeter City manager Matt Taylor revealed with hours remaining of the trading period, the Grecians received a healthy offer for one of their players; a deal they were intending to see through.

“We had an offer early on in the window,” Taylor told BBC Radio Devon. “But then an offer came in at 6:30pm on Monday.

“There was some back and forth between both clubs trying to get the deal done because it would have been in our best interests, but we couldn’t quite match each other’s valuation, so it didn’t happen, simple as that.”

No names have been confirmed but Devon Live and Lancashire Live both reported that Blackburn Rovers were the interested club with Josh Key the recipient of the offer.

Despite just four and a half hours of the transfer window remaining, Matt Taylor believed accepting the offer was in the clubs “best interests” and he was right.

Watkins is the best example of how the club have profited financially from players of which they’ve developed when he joined Brentford from Exeter in 2017 for £1.8m and after several successful goal-scoring seasons in the Championship he signed for Premier League club Aston Villa in 2020 for £28m.

Due to a sell on clause agreed with his move to Brentford, the Grecians received £4m from the deal and a further £450,000 in add-ons have been pocketed as of October 15, 2021.

Exeter have continued to receive funds as a result of the Watkins deal, most recently earning £75,000 after his first England goal and a further £75,000 for him starting in last Tuesday’s win over Ivory Coast.

The deal in January may not have gone through but Exeter are fully aware of the position they are in as a club and while selling their best players would indicate the club are not progressing, the Grecians are on the cusp of earning promotion to League One after Saturday’s win over Newport County where six players in the squad were graduates of the academy.

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