By Ollie Heptinstall, Local Democracy reporter
Thousands of people have lined the centre of Exeter to congratulate the city’s football club on their promotion winning season.
The team finished as League Two runners-up to ensure promotion to League One – the third tier of English football – for the first time since 2012.
On Monday evening [9 May], an open top bus parade was greeted with a sea of red and white as the players and staff slowly made their way from their ground, St James Park, to the historic Guildhall on the High Street.
Players and staff took part in a civic reception hosted by former deputy lord mayor Cllr Yolanda Henson, who praised their achievements on behalf of the city.
Like football royalty, manager Matt Taylor and club’s players then appeared on the Guildhall’s balcony (in restricted numbers at a time to avoid damaging it) to greet the large number of spectators gathered outside.
City council leader Phil Bialyk said: “We are all very proud of what you have done this season. To gain automatic promotion into League One is absolutely fantastic.
“The club is owned by its supporters and this success means so much to so many people. I congratulate everyone at the club on this achievement and wish you continued success in League One next season.”
Speaking on a separate occasion last week, Cllr Bialyk said: “The football club also does a lot with their community trust which we mustn’t forget, helping a lot of people in Exeter. They helped people through the pandemic. They raise lots of money for good causes and concerns in Exeter.”
Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “We want to send our congratulations to the club on winning promotion and I’m sure fans will be particularly looking out for the dates of the Devon derby [against Plymouth Argyle] when the fixtures are announced.
“This promotion is a particularly striking achievement given the club is community-led and they’ve done it without a wealthy owner injecting funds.
“Congratulations to [manager] Matt Taylor and all the players and [club president] Julian Tagg and all the directors and support staff, as well as all the Grecians’ fans across Devon.”
The club, already promoted before last Saturday’s final match at home to Port Vale, had a chance to win the league title but lost 1-0, handing the trophy to Forest Green Rovers by virtue of goal difference after both teams finished on 84 points.
Nevertheless, the promotion is just the sixth in Exeter’s history and their first since back-to-back promotions in 2008 and 2009 under former boss Paul Tisdale, which were also celebrated with open top parades.
Fixtures for the club’s first season back in League One, featuring ties against Plymouth, Portsmouth and Derby County, will be released on Thursday 23 June.