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

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bristol City Season Preview: Mark Fry

A few weeks ago I invited members of the #bristolcitytwitterfamily to send me a season preview if they fancied writing for The Exiled Robin this season.  Work and family commitments mean I’m unable to write as often as I’d like, so I thought a freshen up with some additional contributors would at least maintain interest and hopefully prove variety is the spice of life!
First up is Mark Fry, who is 28 and originally from Bath and I’ll let him take up the story from here:
“I first started following City scores when I moved to Gibraltar in 1991 as my Dad has been crazy about them since the 60s. My first game was City 3 Swindon 1 in 1997 and I fell in love. I currently reside in Glasgow and try to get to 10-15 City games a season depending on funds. Outside of football I enjoy heavy metal, cycling, snowboarding and golf. I also have what I believe are the biggest Bristol City tattoos and flags.
The 18th of August.
It's the one date in the football league calendar where there really is no form book. You will always be able to look at a team on paper and give an opinion, but until the 11 men wearing your team's colours step out onto that 8,414 square yards of turf to do battle for the badge, there is always going to be a large element of conjecture.
I must admit to feeling quite optimistic about the forthcoming campaign. Not the giddy hype that surrounded the ill-fated appointment of Steve Coppell; the unfettered expectation that followed the 2007 playoff final defeat or the slight dread and apprehension that seemed to hang over Ashton Gate like a Thunderstorm waiting to break last season. Just an excitement that Derek McInnes is starting to build a squad that looks like it could compete in a division that has in recent times become somewhat of a free-for-all.
The Championship itself is still in rude health, and if anything growing stronger with every passing year. Still the 4th best attended division in Europe and with a plethora of large and famous old clubs, there is no doubt that the "anyone can beat anyone" ethos will continue to prevail. The additions of clubs such as Charlton, Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton only serves to add to the confusion over who the three teams to claim the priceless promotion spots will be. The Premier League this is not.  Eight more league games a season, added to the additional cup rounds and opposition that are fighting tooth and nail for every point makes the Championship far more of a strength based, war of attrition than anything and overall quality of squad as well as good football and a hefty slice are required in order to do well as we're all very acutely aware.
So how are Bristol City shaping up? Unlike in previous seasons, it has given me great pleasure to see a manager weed out the dead wood. The squad at Ashton Gate has been far too large, for far too long, and it was refreshing to see McInnes thin it out. Some of the additions have raised eyebrows and some have come completely out of the blue but the proof of the pudding will be to see if the manager can get them to play as a team. City's best season in the Championship to date came when they played as a tight unit that defended strongly - and at times desperately - and caught teams on the counter. It was a season of 1-0 victories and certainly won't be remembered for exciting football. It was however, barring the fall at the last hurdle, a success. My earlier memories of Bristol City were of sitting in the Atyeo watching Scott Murray bombing down the right and Mickey Bell on the left, of strikers like Thorpe, Torpey and Akinbiyi providing the targets, the roar of Ashton Gate as City would pile into teams with 10 minutes to go... Football is a different game now. Unless you can afford to put together a team with the likes of Vaz Te, Nicky Maynard and Kevin Nolan, you are not going to be challenging for a top six place unless you can create a team strong at the back who convert a high percentage of their chances.
To the squad and firstly the Goalkeepers.  I personally had great respect for David James. He came to the club as a bit of an enigma, with a reputation as a great shot stopper but one who had probably committed more than his fair share of gaffes. I thought he had a largely excellent couple of seasons for us but that his greatest legacy was bringing Dean Gerken out of his shell. Gerken looked rather unsteady when he first joined but his performances at the end of last season when we needed him most were outstanding. I hope he goes from strength to strength this year. The main question will be over his understudy. (ER – Tom Heaton signed after this was written).
In terms of defence I think we are heading in the right direction.  Greg Cunningham and Richard Foster as wing-backs look exciting, though I do feel we could do with another central defender. Louis Carey whilst still a fantastic organiser and tackler is coming to the end of his career and I think Liam Fontaine still looks a bit wet behind the ears and lost when the experience of Louis is missing.
The midfield as always at City is the most frustrating part. We have had several very good players at the club in recent years who have, for whatever reason, failed to reach their potential. The overall factor linking them all is the inability to play a final ball into the box. I am hoping that Paul Anderson and Jody Morris will provide the creativity that has been so lacking in the midfield since the days of Scott Murray and Tommy Docherty.
Akos Buzsaky rumours are still floating around the Internet as well and I personally believe he would be an excellent addition to the squad if we could lure him to the West Country. As for the incumbent squad members, Albert Adomah especially has a make or break year on his hand. He is clearly an extremely talented player but unless he learns to use the ball better after beating his man then his future may not be as bright as many predict.
I will admit to being a bit pessimistic on the striker front at City. Our lack of creativity in the midfield in recent years has seen many good centre forwards arrive at the club and fail due to a lack of service. Maynard was perfect for us in this sense because he could create something from nothing. Jon Stead is a typical City striker, a fan favourite because he works his socks off - I hope he has another good season. Brett Pitman is frustrating because at a club with a more creative midfield he would be a 20 goal a season player. His laziness and attitude in this side does not bode well for him. Ryan Taylor could be an exciting prospect if McInnes fails to land someone with more experience.  We can only hope he steps up the plate.
Despite the sober tone of parts of this blog, I am very excited for the coming season. Living in Glasgow, the Scottish pre-season tour brought a very welcome return to see my team in several grounds I used to frequent before I could afford to travel to see my beloved City. The addition of more Northern games such as Bolton, Blackburn and Huddersfield will mean additional cider-fuelled train journeys to lose my voice singing and shouting for the team I love.
The 18th of August is the day and I for one, cannot wait.
I'll update you from the road. Look out for my flag, Cider Army Glasgow Division
Many thanks to Mark, who you can follow on Twitter here:

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