It has been a rather tumultuous fortnight if you are a Bristol City fan. After a poor start to the season the Keith Millen regime finally came to end after a 5-0 defeat to Blackpool. His sacking came at a seemingly opportune time, with a two week international break upcoming, but still a new man has not been appointed and frustrations grow around Ashton Gate.
Due to events the game has become a little unpredictable. It is now common feature for teams that sack their manager to get an instant reaction and change their form – take Doncaster last weekend who were the beneficiaries of this so called “honeymoon period” – immediately. However, with the club sitting bottom of the league and seemingly having little direction about it currently, Bristol City fans will be concerned that the problems during the Millen era are still lingering.
The Bristol City View
Ahead of the game I caught up with Paul Binning (http://twitter.com/#!/cider1977) writer of the Bristol City blog – http://exiledrobin.blogspot.com/ - to get his thoughts on the current situation ‘The Robins’ find themselves in at the minute.
There’s only one obvious place to start. What is your view on the sacking of Keith Millen?
Unfortunately it was inevitable. Even if you put aside the results, the manner of capitulation in the defeat at home to Reading when we were 2-0 up with 20 minutes to play, and a similar avalanche of late goals at Blackpool in our 5-0 defeat, made it evident the spirit wasn’t there. Something wasn’t working, and wasn’t going to change around any time soon. A good honest, hard-working club man, he’s been with us 12 years on and off the pitch and everyone wishes him all the best, it’s a shame it didn’t work out.
The club is yet to hire a new manager. Are you worried that the board has wasted time that the manager could have used on the training pitch to implement his new ideas into the team?
In an ideal world of course you’d give the new man every opportunity possible but I’ve got a different view to many fans on thisone. Whilst I appreciate it’s a different level, can you imagine Tesco losing a CEO and appointing a new person within a week? You’d have first and second interviews, reviews, presentations and probably a further more casual meeting to establish whether the person you’re looking at was the right fit for your company. Just because they’ve got a good track-record elsewhere it doesn’t mean they’ll fit with the Board, the players or the overall culture of the club. As far as I’m concerned they can take a month – IF they then get the right man.
Who would be your first choice for the new manager of Bristol City?
I think Dave Jones is top of most people’s lists. He’s an experienced Championship campaigner, produces decent footballing sides and would have the instant know-how of opposition teams and potential signings to get us out of the mire.
Other than that I would be delighted to see Sean O’Driscoll at Ashton Gate. What he achieved at Doncaster was incredible, and they played delightful football getting themselves into that position. Derek McInnes is another name being talked about, and I wouldn’t be averse to taking more of a risk on a younger, high-potential manager, but it’s certainly the riskier option in our position. Of the others being strongly linked, I’m not sure about Mark Robins or John Hughes, not done enough for me to date.
One name that could end up in the mix is Nigel Worthington. Is his standing down as NI boss entirely linked to the end of the qualifying campaign I wonder?
Away from the managerial situation, how disappointing has your start to this campaign been? You obviously have some very good players for the level in Pitman and Maynard and most would have expected you to at least be in mid-table. What, or who, do you attribute this poor start to?
Yes, we finished last season quite strongly and I had us down for comfortable mid-table this time around. (Mind you, I also had the Posh down as dead certs to go down so proves what I know!). We got off to a dreadful start, and between the two keepers they’ve probably been directly responsible for at least 8 goals and 4 defeats. We then but recovered slowly without getting the breaks. We missed a penalty at a crucial moment at Leeds, could have beaten Brighton in a game we lost late on and should have won the Reading match. With some breaks we’d have been on 14 points, but it hasn’t happened.
We’re a bit light in midfield, with Cole Skuse out of form and Marvin Elliott being played out of position. We’ve needed extra defensive cover for two seasons now but for whatever reason our reinforcements were a touch light on the ground.
With regard the front pair then until the last couple of games when both strikers have looked sharp, Millen’s been relying on Maynard up-fronton his own, which is fine when it works (away at Leicester), but woefully inadequate if he’s not on form.
How important do you feel keeping Maynard over the summer was? And do you expect him to still be a Bristol City player after the January transfer window?
In the summer I thought it was crucial we kept him, even though it was a gamble with his contract up in June. A £6m bid and 6 mainly disappointing games on I believe we should have sold him and strengthened the spine of the team. I still think we need a centre-half and a centre-midfielder with some steel.
Whether he goes in January depends entirely on how desperate clubs at the bottom end of the Premier League are. If Blackburn or Wigan or similar come in with £3m then I can’t see us or him turning it down, unless he’s already got something else lined up next summer.
Finally, what is your prediction for Saturday’s result and do you believe you can maintain your Championship status for next season?
Even struggling teams win the occasional match so I’ll go for a “let’s do it for Keith” performance and a 3-2 win. We won’t keep a clean sheet against your attacking side.
Likely Line Ups
Bristol City – Nicky Maynard – The obvious choice but it is hard to look past the striker’s talents when writing about a danger-man. Maynard is the epitome of one. A clinical finisher who possesses lightning pace, he was linked with a big money move in the summer but The Robins managed to hold onto their man. His individual form, mirroring his teams, has been relatively poor so far but he will be hoping to change this at the weekend.
Peterborough United – Emile Sinclair – After a blistering start to his Posh career, with two goals on his full debut, the powerful striker has come under some criticism for his form in recent weeks. The former Macclesfield man has a lot of potential but is clearly very raw, when he is on his game he has the ability to hurt defences though. With the imminent return of Lee Tomlin from injury Sinclair will be hoping to add to his goal tally to ensure his place in the starting line-up for the next few games.