May 19, 2024

It never rains but it pours. At least that is how it must feel for Exeter City manager Gary Caldwell right now after a week that saw the Grecians knocked out of two Cup competitions and losing arguably their best player so far this campaign for the rest of the season.

When Demetri Mitchell went down holding his knee in last Tuesday’s epic 3-2 Carabao Cup defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough, no one realised the severity of the injury he sustained. Mitchell even tried to carry on before he sat on the turf once again and indicated he needed to be replaced.

Helped off the pitch, the hugely popular 26-year-old had to endure the taunts of the away end before making it to the relative sanctuary of the Main Stand at St James Park, where he seemed capable of walking unaided. Even assistant manager Kevin Nicholson did not rule Mitchell out of playing in Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic in last week’s pre-match press conference. But when he went to have the issue checked out, scans revealed any footballer’s worst fears.

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The former Manchester United and Hibernian man had damaged his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season. To say it is a blow to Exeter, already shorn of several players in what is fast becoming a season ravaged and ruined by injuries, is a massive understatement.

“He’s going to be out for the rest of the season with a really bad injury which is a massive blow for him, first and foremost,” Caldwell said. “I really feel for him because he has had a fantastic time since he came here and made a great start to the season, so it’s a big frustration for him but, again, we have to support him through that. The medical staff I am sure will be there for him – and all the staff – and it is an opportunity for somebody else to come in.

“He did it during the Middlesbrough game when he cut inside and just rocked his knee as he landed and it is obviously a very serious injury. We didn’t think it was anything too serious at the time, it was very innocuous, but that is the way things have been going this year. Fingers crossed he can get back quickly for his career. He is having the surgery next week and hopefully that goes well and he can work on his rehab from there.”

Mitchell’s arrival in Devon certainly raised eyebrows, but he has become a firm favourite with his penetrating runs down the wings and his eye for a spectacular goal or two. He netted the winner in that memorable Carabao Cup third round win over Premier League Luton Town, while his character and charisma makes him popular with fans and team-mates too.

The concern for City fans is that they have seen the last of Mitchell as he is out of contract in the summer and given his form at the time of his injury, there are sure to be suitors higher up the food chain that would be waiting to pounce. However, Mitchell be looked after by the Grecians and Caldwell confirmed he is already planning on holding talks with Mitchell and his agent over extending his stay in Devon.

“We have actually been talking about that recently, getting a new contract for Demi and it’s something I will speak to Demi and his agent about,” the City boss said. However, while Mitchell’s injury is a massive blow, City could have one – or maybe even both of their two recognised right-sided players back from injury for Saturday’s trip to Fleetwood Town.

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