England ace an inspiration as former City prospect earns EFL move
- Credit: Exeter City FC
Former Norwich City academy prospect Josh Coley is hoping to follow in the footsteps of England international Ollie Watkins, after signing for League Two side Exeter City.
The speedy winger joined Norwich in 2018 and had a loan spell in the Scottish Championship with Dunfermline but his contract was cancelled by mutual consent in February 2020.
He joined Maidenhead United later in the year and was a regular as the Berkshire side finished in mid-table in the National League this season, with five goals and seven assists from 37 games.
That has prompted Exeter to hand him a two-year deal after agreeing an undisclosed fee for his services - where Villa forward Watkins started his career before moving to Brentford, as well as Chelsea and Wales defender Ethan Ampadu, who was playing in the Premier League for Sheffield United this season.
“I think the way the club is going, looking for the play-offs, looking for promotion, it’s a great club to come into and you’ve obviously got the background of the boys that moved on who came before, Ollie Watkins being the main one,” said Coley.
“So it’s a great club to come to and express myself and then see what happens after.”
The 22-year-old added: “There’s a stage set, there’s a pathway, and I’d like to follow it.”
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Watkins has won three England caps this season and was in Gareth Southgate’s initial squad for the Euros but didn’t make the final 26-man squad, after 14 goals in the Premier League for Villa having joined from Brentford last summer in a deal reportedly worth an initial £28million.
That reportedly earned Exeter an extra £3.5m thanks to a sell-on fee after selling him to the Bees in 2017 for an initial £1.8m.
Ampadu broke through at 16 and a tribunal ruled that Chelsea had to pay the Devon club an initial £1.3m, potentially rising to £2.5m in add-on fees and reportedly with a 20pc sell-on fee.
Coley still has a long way to go before such a move could emerge but he feels ready for his chance at St James Park, with Matt Taylor's team finishing ninth and three points short of the League Two play-offs this season.
“I think I started 22 or 23 games, so this year was just sort of breaking through for myself and getting comfortable within men’s football,” he added, speaking to his new club’s website.
“I hadn’t played week in, week out, until this year, so five goals and seven assists is good for me for a stepping stone.”