ARCHIE Collins has set his sights on helping Exeter City to promotion as the talented young midfielder from Edington continues to impress in his breakthrough season in the Football League.

Collins, 19, has made 15 appearances for City this season including an accomplished display against Fulham at Craven Cottage in the Carabao Cup, which he describes as “one of the best moments of my life so far.”

His 2019 got off to a perfect start, too, as Collins opened his professional account with a 25-yard stunner in a 2-0 win at Swindon on New Year’s Day before putting pen to paper on a new long-term contract with the Grecians.

It is all a long way from Ashcott Youth, where Collins took the first steps on his footballing journey before being spotted at an Exeter development centre at Chilton Trinity School.

The midfielder, who grew up idolising Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, told the Mercury: “I was Under-8s at the time and City didn’t have an Under-8s team, so I trained with the Under-9s. I did a couple of sessions and it’s carried on from there every year.

“Mum and Dad kept driving me down and I fell in love with it – it was all I wanted to do in the end.”

The commitment required was a big one for the Collins family as the two-hour round trip up and down the M5 became a regular occurrence – though the midfielder admits “he got used to the travelling”.

“Along the way there was the odd night where I’d come home from school [Collins attended Catcott Primary and Crispin School] and think ‘I don’t really want to go, I’d rather stay in and play on the xbox’, but on the whole I’ve always loved coming down here and playing,” he said.

There are certainly few clubs at lower league level with a track record to match the Grecians of late when it comes to developing young players.

Collins played alongside Ethan Ampadu, now of Chelsea and Wales, and Brentford star Ollie Watkins at youth level as well as sharing travelling duties with fellow Somerset youngster Jordan Storey, the South Petherton-born centre-half who moved from Exeter to Preston North End in the summer.

“The style of play they teach us here is key, and they make us men off the pitch too,” Collins said.

“They encourage playing great football and give you opportunities in the first team, so if you keep working hard your opportunity will come.

“There’s a great feeling about Exeter. There always has been – that’s why I have never really looked back and just kept going. It’s always been really enjoyable, on and off the pitch.

“If you speak to anyone outside of Exeter they say how good a football club it is, with the players they bring through and the people they’ve got down here. I’m really happy to be a part of it.

“The fans have been amazing to me.

“At the games they are so loud and after the games they are so welcoming to me. I just want to reward them with my performances and play as many games as I can."

The ethos at the club remains strong despite a summer of upheaval which saw long-serving boss Paul Tisdale join MK Dons after 12 years in Devon.

He was replaced by former club captain Matt Taylor, who coached Collins as part of City’s under-23 side last season and has shown great faith in the midfielder during his tenure so far.

Collins describes Taylor as a “hard-working, hands-on manager and a great guy” and the admiration is mutual, with Taylor telling the Kellow’s Bootlaces podcast last week: “Archie will start getting attention.

“We talk about Jayden Stockley, Jordan Storey, Ollie Watkins, David Wheeler – Archie Collins will be the next one.

“We still think there’s a lot more to come from Archie, which is exciting for everyone.”

There could also be more to come from the Collins production line – Archie’s brothers, Eli and Zeph, are currently with Exeter’s Under-15s and the family still live in Edington.

“Our house is full on football,” Collins said.

“Mum and Dad finished bringing me down but now they are bringing the boys down all the time!

“My parents love it, which I am so thankful for. Family is everything to me.”

Collins’ parents travel across the country to see their son play and, fittingly, were at Swindon to see his superb goal which helped keep Exeter in the League Two play-off places.

“As soon as I hit it I thought ‘this has got a chance’ and when it hit the net it was an unbelievable feeling,” he said.

“I remember the ball sneaking inside the post and after that I can’t remember any of it, it’s a blur – but I’ve watched it back a fair few times!

“To do that when Mum and Dad were there and to see them at the end, for them to say well done to me, it meant a lot. They are really proud and I just want to keep paying them back for what they have done for me.”

Collins is set to play an important role as the Grecians, beaten play-off finalists in each of the past two seasons, look to go one better this time around.

“Players have come and gone but there has been no change to what we want by the end of the season,” he said.

“To be where we are is a credit to the players that are still here. It is very difficult when you get so far and then it crumbles at the last minute, especially two years on the trot.

“We just have to keep pushing until the end of the season to try and get that promotion – that is the main aim for the club and we’ve got a really good chance.”