"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Welcome to the Championship (3/6): Charlton Athletic

In this, the third of a series of six posts introducing you to the Championship’s newest members, The Exiled Robin visits South London and checks out last year's runaway League One Champions, Charlton Athletic.

Find other posts in the series here:
Welcome to the Championship (1/6): Blackburn Rovers
Welcome to the Championship (2/6): Sheffield Wednesday

About……Charlton Athletic
Nickname: ‘The Addicks’              Manager: Chris Powell
Play at: The Valley, 129 miles from Ashton Gate
Capacity: 27,111; Last Season Avg Attendance: 17,429

Interesting Facts:  In the late 1940’s The Valley was the largest football league ground in England >>> For financial reasons Charlton were forced to share Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace for nearly a decade before a restructure of finances led to an emotional return in late 1992 >>> in 1998 the Addicks participated in what remains probably the best-ever play-off final, winning promotion to the Premier League 7-6 on penalties after an amazing 4-4 draw with Sunderland

Notable match vs City: Charlton 2 City 0, F.A.Cup Fifth-round replay, 1994

2012-13 Fixtures: 10th Nov (H), 4th May (A) (Last day of the season)

Many thanks to Addicks fan Dan Webster (@ramblingaddick) for some excellently informative answers.  Following a few years in the League one wilderness Chris Powell masterminded a near flawless campaign to lead Charlton to the title in style, and with a strong fan-base and their excellent record of producing young, highly talented players, who is to say they aren’t here to stay – or perhaps progress even further…

How are you feeling about playing in the Championship, a few weeks following your promotion?
For a number of years the prospect of playing in the Championship was one dreaded by Charlton fans that had become accustomed to finishing mid-table in the Premier League. However, this season is one greeted with much excitement following the end of 3 torturous years in League One. It is a very tough division due to the intensity of the games, and the persistent threat of the larger clubs being caught off guard by small, spirited sides. We were certainly on the wrong end of a number of results during our stay. This season however is being greeted as a return of our Charlton, which has undergone a significant transformation over the last 18 months. Taken over on the eve of 2011, and Chris Powell soon installed as manager, ever since pre-season there has been a hugely positive vibe about the club, with fans finally having something to be proud of. The squad that's been built stands us in good stead to perform well this coming season and with a few additions I'm sure we can make a good fist of it in the Championship.

What does your club bring to a tight, competitive and entertaining division?
Immediately after the sacking of Phil Parkinson the long ball, hit-and-hope tactics were thrown out of the window. Chris Powell has encouraged a more patient, passing style that worked extremely well early in the season when teams played an open style themselves. However, this does not mean we are a one-dimensional side. The addition of Yann Kermorgant in mid-September brought a new threat to opposition defences. We developed an extremely useful ability of grinding out results with solid defending, as well as scoring a number of high quality goals. So what will we bring? A good defence, a passing style, a few cracking goals. And watch out for free-kicks around the box.

What style of football/formation do you play?
Standard 4-4-2 employed by Chris Powell. Some have said he's reliant on the ability of the players to win through as opposed to having the tactical edge. Though with different attacking options in the air and on the ground there is definitely not one way to play against us. Teams that started packing the midfield struggled to cope with the ball to Kermorgant, whereas others were passed of the pitch. It will be a strong test of the squad and any new additions as to whether this can be maintained at the Championship level.

Who are the star players we should all look out for?
Yann Kermorgant: Though not the tallest of strikers, he possesses a huge leap that will trouble the tallest of defenders. Only Brede Hangeland looked comfortable against him in our FA Cup fixture at Fulham. He not only performs well in the air but he is extremely gifted technically, shown on countless occasions. Dropping deep to offer a killer pass, releasing other players, or just using his brute strength and agility to out muscle defenders, he really is an adept all-round striker.
Rhoys Wiggins and Johnnie Jackson: Left-back and left midfield combination that works fantastically well. Wiggins has excellent pace and loves to get forward on the overlap. Jackson can also cover in behind in adept fashion. Rarely do the two not manage to hit a cross into the box.
Chris Solly at right back. Arsenal bought Carl Jenkinson, the other young up-and-coming full back, from us for £1million last summer. After the season just gone, it is evident Wenger picked the wrong one. We aren't complaining though.

And is there an up-and-coming future star in your midst?
Chris Solly won the Player of the Season vote after his first full year in the team. A lot were questioning how dependable he would be at right back at the beginning of the season, but with every game he's got better and better. Despite being a rather short bloke Solly is almost the perfect right back. Defensively excellent, skilled going forward, and an extremely industrious player means he has firmly become a fans' favourite at the tender age of 21. And according to our chant, he's better than John Terry, too.

Danny Haynes split opinions a little during his time at Ashton Gate, what do you make of him & is he likely to play a big part this season?
Haynes arrived in January but didn't really break into the first team until towards the end of the season. Despite that, he made a significant impact coming off the bench on a few occasions. He scored twice in our final two games of the season to cap off an excellent spell. His pace seems to be a huge asset, and his ball-striking has looked fearsome in the warm-ups. Powell used him as a third striker to come on towards the end of games, with defences troubled by having to deal with the extra speed. Its likely he'll be used in the same sort of role this season, as well as on the right wing. Kermorgant threading balls in behind defences for Haynes seems like an extremely dangerous eventuality for the opposition, as the combination of skill and speed will cause all sorts of trouble. But that depends on integration into the team over pre-season, and again, whether Powell prefers Bradley Wright-Phillips at this level or dips into the transfer market for another quality striker.

What are your views of your manager?
Chris Powell has almost achieved legendary status already. Three spells at the club made him a fans' favourite, and many were worried his perfect reputation would be tarnished by a stint as manager, as it could prove unsuccessful. A lot of the doubters made huge noises as 2010/11 petered out with just 2 wins in 11 games, and the club finishing a dismal 13th. However, many of us kept the faith - if Chris was allowed to overhaul the squad and bring his own players in, capable of playing his style of football then we'd be able to judge him on his achievements. I think following his first full season in charge, there aren't any who don't support him in his job. He really has turned himself into a hero, overseeing the rebirth of the club. When asked about the possiblity of tarnishing his reputation, he was he came back in order to enhance it. Promotion is the first step in what could prove to be an incredible journey. Its important fans don't get impatient or overly expectant, and ensure they aren't too quick to forget the phenomenal success Powell had in getting us out of League One.

….and of your owner/board/Chairman?
There is still a certain amount of confusion as to who actually owns the club. New Chairman Michael Slater (not the ex-Aussie opener...) has done a good job in giving Powell financial backing. It was announced that long-standing board member Peter Varney would be leaving his post at the end of this season, which has rightly been greeted with sadness as it sees a true Charlton fan leaving the hierarchy, and potentially opens up discussion as to the motives of the new owners and board, still all relatively unknown individuals. Despite that, so far the main decision Slater made was to sack Parkinson and appoint Powell. 18 months on, things haven't turned out too badly. It'll be interesting to see what goes on this summer in terms of transfer dealings - whether there is an ability to purchase thanks to board funding, or consolidation with a handful of good value signings. I suspect it will be the latter.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
The lack of movement in the transfer market thus far, combined with the plea from Chris Powell not to get our hopes up, means most will just be happy with a solid mid-table finish, or a season comparable to Brighton's. Its unhelpful that the two clubs we were relegated with into League One - Norwich and Southampton - both made it back-to-back promotions, leading some to suggest that it is 'fate' that we are the third club in three seasons to manage it. There is optimism that something like this could happen, with a squad well settled. Any signings made between now and September will dictate the extent of that optimism, but many would say a play-off push would be the most to ask for. The risk of relegation is always there, but there would be a lot of surprise if we found ourselves towards the base of the table. A year to consolidate would do us nicely.

Who will be your big rivals in this division?
It is the first time Charlton, Palace and Millwall have been in the same division for a while now, so the three-way battle between the three of us will be of great importance to a lot of the fans. I reckon the rivalry with Sheffield Wednesday, who's fans seem to do a good job making the club unpopular, will continue as they came up with us (well, behind us, but still.) A win in a couple of those fixtures would certainly go down very well here.

And finally, do you have any specific favourite memory of playing against Bristol City?
I feel bad for saying this, but not really. In my period of watching Charlton the two never seemed to be in the same division - our spell in the Championship was so brief and diabolical that almost all of it has been wiped from our collective memories (or at least attempted to.) I suppose the one game would be the pre-season friendly that took place between the two sides last summer in Spain. Though not present, that Charlton won 2-1 suggested that we really did mean business that season. It can be viewed as the first step in our epic journey towards promotion and the racking up of 101 magnificent points. Hopefully this season will see two keenly, fairly contested games. And, of course, with Charlton victorious in both. Afford me this small amount of optimism. After the year we've just had, it is coursing through the club. Chrissy Powell's Red Army are well and truly on the up!

Many thanks again to Dan for these answers, you can follow him on Twitter here and check out his Charlton ramblings at http://ramblingfan44.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Welcome to the Championship (2/6): Sheffield Wednesday

The second in a series of six posts to be released over the next couple of weeks, introducing you to the Championship’s newest members, reflects on Sheffield Wednesday's return to the (relative) big time.

Find other posts in the series here:
Welcome to the Championship (1/6): Blackburn Rovers

About……Sheffield Wednesday

Nickname: ‘The Owls’    Manager: Dave Jones

Play at: Hillsborough, 186 miles from Ashton Gate

Capacity: 39,732; Last Season Avg Attendance: 21,336

Interesting Facts:  Former Goalkeeper Kevin Pressman holds the record for the fastest ever British league sending-off, just 13 seconds into a match with Wolves in 2000 >>> Future City boss Danny Wilson’s tenure as manager caused four MP’s, including future Home Secretary David Blunkett, to publicly call for his sacking >>> Wednesday finished third in the last season before the creation of the Premier League >>> They reached both FA Cup and League Cup finals in 1993, coincidentally losing 2-1 to Arsenal on each occasion

Notable match vs City: City 0 Sheffield Wednesday 3, FA Cup 3rd Round 2011-12

2012-13 Fixtures: 8th Dec (A), 1st Apr (Easter Monday) (H)

Many thanks to Wednesday fan Chris Ledger (@christophledger) for his detailed and informative responses to my questions.  With the colourful and enigmatic Milan Mandaric owning his latest toy…sorry, club, and ex-Cardiff boss Dave Jones thrust into the hot-seat midway through last season – quite incredibly he is still to lose a match as manager! – Wednesday are sure to be one to keep an eye on this season

How are you feeling about playing in the Championship, a few weeks following your promotion?
Getting automatic promotion was fantastic and this definitely adds excitement to the pre-season preparations. But, unlike the last time they got promoted to this division, the Owls are not there to make up the numbers.

The squad already has solid foundations and, even for a club that has struggled in this division since their relegation from the Premier League, there is genuine cause for optimism.

What does your club bring to a tight, competitive and entertaining division?
I am not going to lie: this is not a team with many obvious stars. What it does have, though, is a strong team spirit, as the squad works hard for each other and the fans. Gary Megson influenced the bulk of this mentality and Dave Jones has since developed it further.

Sheffield Wednesday won’t be the most fashionable side in the Championship, but they will be hard to beat. One thing is for certain: the players will never give up.

What style of football/formation do you play?
Under Jones, opposing Championship sides should expect a rigid 4-4-2 formation. The players have been more relaxed and played with greater freedom, since Jones’ arrival, but there has not been a significant departure from Megson’s tactics.

Some of the players’ attributes – particularly the movement of central midfielder Chris Lines – are very subtle, and readers should expect the mixture of direct and counter-attacking football to continue.

But this does not mean that the style of play is poor. Last season, the Owls played some of their best football in years and, at long last, their tactics had a purpose and end product.

Unlike Megson, though, Jones does not like fitting square pegs in round holes, so the Owls’ usual starting eleven should not raise too many eyebrows.

Who are the star players we should all look out for?
Considering the Owls’ tactics, no one should be surprised to learn that their best player is a defensive midfielder: José Semedo. He won many plaudits for last season’s performances and every single one was merited.

His disciplinary record improved and, while he is an excellent tackler and marker, his range of passing ensures that he is the engine room of Sheffield Wednesday’s midfield and more than just a water carrier. He rarely put a foot wrong last season and, as the chant goes, “you’ll never get past Semedo”.

He does not score many goals, but Semedo is likely to become one of the Championship’s most consistent midfielders.

And is there an up-and-coming future star in your midst?
Alongside the right players, and with a bit of luck, 21-year-old striker Gary Madine could become one of the Championship’s hottest prospects.

His strengths include excellent movement, vision and link-up play; as well as having an admirable work-rate and being a strong header of the ball. And, most importantly, he scores plenty of goals. When you take these factors into account, Sheffield Wednesday currently possess their most complete striker in years.

However, if the Owls want to get the most out of this talented forward, the team needs to be built around him. He needs proper service to score goals, as he rarely creates chances out of nothing, and Madine also needs to be partnered with a powerful target man, as he tends to track back deep a little too easily.

Madine has the potential to play in the Premier League one day, but Jones needs to get the formula right.

What are your views of your manager and, although it ultimately bore fruit, were you surprised by the mid-season departure of Gary Megson?
Although there were rumours that Megson was going to leave the club, his abrupt dismissal surprised many supporters. The Owls were third in the table and had just won the Steel City derby, but you would also struggle to find a manager who was more passionate about the club.

As a life-long fan, Megson was able to sell the club’s vision to prospective players and he also had Sheffield Wednesday’s best interests at heart; everyone knows that it is rare to find a manager like this.

He brought a lot of positives to the club, but Jones has since improved the performances and results. A lot of fans were underwhelmed when Jones was appointed, but he has won them over and he is the right manager to take this club forward.

You get the feeling that, with his “[it is impossible to win] a Formula 1 race with a Skoda” analogy, Megson could have only taken them so far. Jones, however, has a more positive vibe about him and his managerial pedigree will be crucial. Milan Mandarić’s decision to replace Megson with Jones was a brave and inspired decision.

It is also important to mention Terry Burton, Sheffield Wednesday’s assistant manager, who is indispensable to the club. Not only is he heavily involved in coaching sessions, but he also has an excellent track record of developing youngsters.

The Owls have a young and enthusiastic squad that is of an unknown quality in the Championship, so Burton’s experience will be invaluable.

….and of your owner/Chairman?
As for Mandarić, everyone at the club respects him; they are grateful for everything that he has done for Sheffield Wednesday.

Although Sheffield Wednesday never went into administration, the club could have been liquidated if it was not for Mandarić’s intervention. After all, the club didn’t even have a scouting system in place when he became their chairman.

Since then, the club’s progress has been remarkable; the commercial department, in particular, has become more forward thinking.

Mandarić’s most impressive attribute, though, is his vision of sustainability. It is refreshing to see an owner who wants a football club to become successful via prudent spending and intelligent coaching.

The supporters realise that Mandarić will probably sell the club within the next few years and make a decent profit. Hopefully, he won’t sell Sheffield Wednesday to an Alexandre Gaydamak-esque figure because, after the past 15 years, it is the last thing that this club needs.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
This season will probably depend on Sheffield Wednesday’s summer recruitment policy. Two wingers and one or two extra players are needed if the Owls are to have any chance of avoiding a relegation scrap and, subsequently, being able to compete in this division.

But the early signs are promising. Jones has bought an interesting blend of players in the form of bargain bucket starlets (Kieran Lee and the potential signing of Diogo Amado), declining ex-internationals (Chris Kirkland) and those who have underachieved for various reasons (Joe Mattock and Jones’ continued pursuit of Chris Maguire).

This is not a surprise, as Jones has been noted for purchasing these kinds of players in the past, especially at Cardiff City, and it is no secret that Mandarić likes to oversee transfers on a modest budget.

The Owls are a club on the up but, despite some bold predictions from some journalists and pundits, it is unlikely that they will make a push for the play-offs. It will take time, patience and a bit more money before that happens.

If everything goes according to plan, though, there will be few pre-season relegation worries and the Jones-stroke-Burton partnership should be too strong for those fears to be realised.

A lower mid-table finish, via a season of consolidation, is a realistic target.

Who will be your big rivals in this division?
For geographical and historical reasons, Sheffield Wednesday’s main rivals in this division are Barnsley and Leeds United.

But I suspect that the Owls’ recently-found rivalry with Huddersfield Town will continue, particularly as both clubs could end up having similar seasons, and some fans may also see Crystal Palace as rivals.

It would be very disappointing if there was to be a rivalry with the Eagles, though, as the Owls got relegated in 2010 due to their incompetent and gutless performances. No one else was to blame.

Some fans on certain message boards also gained few admirers from Charlton Athletic and Blackpool fans last season, due to the “MASSIVE” nickname that has been bandied around, so it will be interesting to see whether or not a small-scale rivalry develops.

And finally, do you have any specific favourite memory of playing against Bristol City?
There have not been too many encounters between the two clubs, while I have been supporting Sheffield Wednesday, but the 3-0 victory in the FA Cup will stay long in the memory.

An away win against a team in a higher division was great, but the feeling of reaching the fourth round for the first time in a decade was even sweeter.

Many thanks again to Chris for these answers, you can follow him on Twitter here:

Monday, 18 June 2012

Welcome to the Championship (1/6): Blackburn Rovers

To coincide with the release of the fixtures today, The Exiled Robin begins a series of posts introducing the six new members of the Championship.  With three relegated clubs from the M6 corridor joining three ambitious promoted clubs, including recent Premier League residents Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday, mean an already tight and difficult league just got a whole lot tougher.

Here is the first in a series of six posts to be released over the next couple of weeks, introducing you to the Championship’s new clubs, hopefully informing you along the way.  We kick off with troubled Lancastrians Blackburn Rovers, a club with a proud history but with well-publicised issues surrounding the ownership and management of the club.  Will all of this distract from on-the-pitch events and prevent Rovers from having an attempt at going straight back up?
About……Blackburn Rovers
Nickname: ‘Rovers’         Manager: Steve Kean
Play at: Ewood Park, 198 miles from Ashton Gate
Capacity: 31,154; Last Season Avg Attendance: 22,551
Interesting Facts:  Blackburn’s record transfer fee paid was £8m to take former City striker Andrew Cole from Manchester United >>> Blackburn are one of only three teams to be founding members of both the Football League and the Premier League >>> Tommy Briggs once scored seven in one match – a record for Rovers – against our friends the Gas >>> Harry Dennison is the youngest player ever to appear for Rovers – 111 years ago against then top side Bristol City
Notable match vs City: Bristol City 4 Blackburn 2 – Opening day 1990/91 season
2012-13 Fixtures: 15th Sep (H), 2nd Feb (A)

These fantastic and detailed responses have come via @St_Jimmy_77, a clearly passionate and loyal supporter desperate for the good times to return to Ewood Park.

How are you now feeling about playing in the Championship, a few weeks following your relegation?
Relegation was always on the cards with Steve Kean as manager and with Venkys being owners. Rovers survived the season before on the very last day and that should've been a warning sign to Venkys that Steve Kean wasn't the man for the job. But still they persist with him which shows they have no knowledge of what they have entered into.
Even with relegation being expected, it still upsets me and many other Rovers fans that we've gone down. But I'm looking forward to visiting new grounds and the East Lancs derby will be coming around again so that's something to look forward to.

What does your club bring to a tight, competitive and entertaining division?
Well; under "normal circumstances" I would say a well-run family orientated club. But what we will bring is an unstable club with fans discontent at an all-time high. These are unsettling times for many people associated with the club and it’s a far cry from just a few years ago.
Hopefully our players will play to their potential and we can get promotion back into the Premier League but with the club on its knees, even that is a big uncertainty at the present moment in time.

What style of football/formation do you play?
No fan can really be sure what formation we play. On a regular occurrence we play 4-4-1-1 with Hoilett just behind Yakubu.  However Hoilett is out of contract in the Summer so he will be off. Yakubu has a relegation clause of £1m and is interesting West Ham so looks like he will be off too.
As for the style of football, again no one really knows from one game to the next. Steve Kean's lack of tactical knowledge and his subs were mind boggling at times. He would change the entire system from one game to the next, much to the bemusement of many Rovers fans.

Who are the star players we should all look out for and do you anticipate a big exodus prior to September 1st?
If they stay, I would say Martin Olsson and Rochina. Olsson is a young Swedish international and is very pacy. However Kean plays him at left back when his better position is on left wing. Rochina was signed from Barcelona and the minute he gets hold of the ball he oozes confidence and class. He rarely gives the ball away and you can tell he's had a good footballing education at Barcelona. Another player worth a mention is Simon Vukcevic the Montenegro international. He barely played last year for whatever reason but those who watched Montenegro's game against England a while back will agree he is a class act.
I don't expect there to be a mass exodus, however I do expect players to leave. That's the case with any team that has been relegated. There has been one player who has publically said he will stay and that is Morten Gamst Pedersen. Pedersen is a pretty handy player for us when he is on form but he's never quite hit the heights of the 2004/2005 season in which he scored a brace against Man Utd at Old Trafford. But what you cannot question is his loyalty and commitment to Rovers.

And is there an up-and-coming future star in your midst?
With Hoilett's contract expiring soon, nobody really sticks out apart from Rochina as mentioned previously. One player who came on leaps and bounds last season is Grant Hanley. Initially he struggled when called upon but since his winning goal at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve, his confidence rose and subsequently showed his potential. We have been quite lucky at Rovers with young players with the Academy at Brockhall churning out players such as Damien Duff, David Dunn, Phil Jones, Martin Olsson amongst others. I just hope that continues for many years to come thus preserving the late Jack Walker's legacy at the club.

Dare I ask for your views of your manager....?
Where do I start with Steve Kean. Well to begin with, I didn't know who he was but when Sam was sacked and Steve was appointed as caretaker, I was more than willing to give him a chance. His first result was a great 3-1 away win at West Brom and we played very well. Then he was given the job until the end of the season - my initial thoughts: let’s just give the guy a chance. Our 3-1 home win against Liverpool further gave me reason to want to give him a chance.
However things on and off the pitch were sliding down a very slippery path and we were flirting with relegation. That coupled with the announcement that Kean had signed a two year deal started to make fans wonder what was going on at the club.
His first full season in charge saw him charged and prosecuted for drink driving. Many Rovers fans thought he would be dismissed for this but the silence from the owners was deafening. Protests, sit-ins, marches to the stadium and static protests have all been made, both against Steve and the Venkys, and the season eventually culminated in our relegation from the Premier League, 11 years after coming back up.
A few weeks ago a video was released in which Steve Kean is shown referring to Sam Allardyce as a "f*cking crook" This made a lot of fans (myself included) very angry. He has been subject to a petition on which more than 5,000 fans have their names on for his immediate removal as manager. This was sent to our owners the day before he was due to arrive over in India for talks. All this has seemingly been ignored and he still remains as manager. The silence from our owners and Kean is causing a lot of rumours and that's no good for fans and anyone else associated with the club. My opinion on Steve Kean is that he doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near Blackburn Rovers. His lies, his arrogance and just him makes my skin crawl as I'm sure many fans would agree.

….and of your owner/board/Chairman?
Owners: Plain and simple, they are clueless in how to run a football club. They are very naive and seemingly don't want to invest any time or money into the club. It is hurting a lot of people associated with the club because we were so astutely run before they came along. They promised to continue in the same vein, but what has happened since has been so far removed from what I perceive as the "good old days".
Board: The only person I know on the board is our "General Manager" Paul Agnew. He has recently been promoted into this role. Nobody knows what his official duties but local press have likened it to a Chief Executive role. Paul Agnew before promotion was Rovers' PR person and you only have to look at the "PR" from the last 20-22 months to see he's not at all capable of fulfilling the role he has been promoted into effectively. The other two I know of, but don't know anything about, are Simon Hunt (Sporting Director) and Karen Silk (Finance Director). They are rumoured to be leaving the club soon, which will further plunge the club into meltdown.
Chairman: Well we don't have a chairman per se, we have a chairlady - Mrs Desai, or as she likes to be called Madame Desai. She doesn't have a clue about football and is Steve Kean's biggest fan. I think that in itself gives you my and MANY others opinion on her.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
My expectations for the upcoming season? Well under normal circumstances it would be automatic promotion with winning the league a bonus. However these aren't normal circumstances so the best I can really hope for at this moment is to stay in the league because the instability off the pitch will only emanate onto match days and the players and staff will inevitably suffer as a result. To put it into a bit of perspective, Bolton have sold 11,000+ season tickets. That's more than at this stage last season. We have sold 5000+ on an early bird deal and they are currently off sale. At the time of writing it is two days before the fixtures are released. It is nothing more than a sham that fans cannot purchase their season tickets ready for the new season. What is even more alarming is that the staff who work at the ticket office don't know when they'll be on sale. So as you can imagine we aren't exactly prepared to go into battle come August when the season starts.

You touched upon the renewal of the East Lancs derby earlier, are you at least looking forward to renewing rivalries with Burnley, and do you have any other big rivals in this division?
I am absolutely looking forward to renewing rivalries with Burnley. It has been 33 years since they last beat us and just extending that would be great. The atmosphere at the game is electric and the games always are feisty affairs. It has an extra bite to it with Rovers player David Dunn being a lifelong Rovers fan and him having mates that are Burnley fans. There should be a great set of matches on offer which hopefully will pass without much trouble.
We do have a bit of a rivalry with Bolton but nowhere near on the scale as Burnley. I actually live in Bolton and there are a few Rovers fans over this way which is pleasantly surprising. Other than that, no we don't have any rivalries. Though I am looking forward to visiting a few grounds and hopefully meet up with people off Twitter I regularly chat to.

And finally, Bradley Orr is a bit of a legend at Ashton Gate but caused mini-controversy at the end of last season with his interview after the final home match. Has that feeling settled down, how has he generally performed for you and does he have a future at the club do you think?
Bradley Orr has given us more stability on the right side of defence. Initially I wondered why we were signing someone who couldn’t even get into a relegation rivals team. Over the course of time, he proved me wrong and would like to think he will be a key player for us this coming season. His comments regarding Kean, though very stupid, seemed rehearsed. And with him being a Kean signing, naturally you would expect him to back the man who has given him the chance to play more first team football.
Fans are still angry at his comments but the abuse he's been getting has been intolerable at times. I personally think he should let his football do the talking next season and maybe the people who are abusing him will think differently. The fans are rightly angry and frustrated at what is happening to the club but I feel they are directing their anger at the wrong person in Orr.
Many thanks again to @St_Jimmy_77 for these answers, you can follow him on Twitter here:

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