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

Friday, 17 August 2012

Bristol City Season Preview: Will Jones

The final season preview comes from a writer I've much-admired since I saw a series of well-written, well-thought out and ever-so-slightly quirky posts on his own website last year. Since then we've collaborated (albeit over a long period of time which meant a slightly flaky end product) on a review of how City play the so-called beautiful game in an early incarnation of The 72 Football's Tactics Bible.

Thus I'm delighted to abe able to introduce Will Jones to the pages of The Exiled Robin - if you don't enjoy this then I'll eat my hat!

"There’s a phrase you hear around the pubs and bars of BS3 most Saturday evenings, spreading across the city as the night draws on, uttered in homes at 5pm as the scores come in, and at workplaces the following Monday as bragging rights are conceded for a week.  It’s viral.  The more it’s said the more it spreads.  You’ve probably used it yourself, maybe often.  You’ll certainly have heard it.

“Typical City”.

It accompanies every late goal conceded, every shoot-yourself-in-the-foot red card, every opposition breakaway, after ten minutes of concerted pressure, that leads to a defeat.  Every three-point performance with a single-point return.  Every time we score with 5% of our shots on target and they score with 100% of theirs.

There’s irritation in the phrase, and frustration, but there’s resignation too.  Maybe even a touch of long-suffering amusement, as though the club were a cross-eyed and deeply stupid old terrier who walks into walls and gets chased by ducks.  It’s a sense befitting fans of a club who’ve spent most of their existence bouncing aimlessly around the middle of the football league.  When we get promoted, we do it in second place; when we get relegated, we do it dead last.

We’re all used to this, and we get briefly wound-up but mainly we get exasperated.  We can’t be cross long. We’ll still be back.  16,000 turned up to watch Birmingham beat us easily last season, eight days after Peterborough had done exactly the same.  We weren’t expecting anything different.  How could we have been?

But not that long ago we got something different.  We got our second-place promotion, and that felt good enough, but then we got something else.  We got a team to care about.  A team that won, didn’t win emphatically but won again, and again, and again.  That didn’t lose at home as an article of faith.  That was limited (of course it was; it was still City) but got the maximum possible return out of its inaugural Championship campaign, and knocked on the door of the top flight.

You know the rest of the story.  Bad signings, bad decisions and bad tempers.  Slowly slipping down the league table, season after season, like thick gravy sliding down a wall.  The only question being whether it congeals before it reaches the bottom.  The last few seasons have been our apotheosis; essence of City.

And I think a lot of us have been hoping that we might get something different this season.  A bit more fun, maybe.  Some younger players pushing some of the older, over-established ones out.  After all the changes of manager that did nothing but increase our losses, we’d finally snagged a good young boss with a bit of vision about him.  That was exciting and we had every right to expect a different, less typical, City.

We still do, of course.  But that’s why starting the season by going out of the League Cup at home to lower-league opposition was potentially so damaging.  Because that is, unequivocally, typical City.  It’s the fifth season in a row it’s happened.  Third in a row that it’s happened in round one.  Our cup record in recent years is shocking – five wins in our last twenty-two games, three in sixteen since promotion (all against lower-league opposition in the first round of the league cup, and since 2009 we’ve failed even to do that).  We haven’t won a knockout tie since August 11 that year.  We haven’t beaten Championship-level or higher opposition since January 16 2007, when we knocked Coventry out of the FA Cup.  We ourselves were a League One outfit at that stage.  We haven’t won an FA Cup tie since we got promoted.

Derek’s first League Cup game would have been a good opportunity to show that things were changing, but it went as badly as his first FA Cup game earlier in the year.  It feels like a chance missed.  I think that’s why it’s dispirited fans more than such a result normally might.  We’re all concerned now that we’ll lost 3-0 in our first league fixture for a third year running, giving us two portents that nothing whatsoever has changed.

That might happen; I hope it doesn’t, but it might.  But it doesn’t automatically follow that we’ll suffer  the same football again.  I do think McInnes knows what he’s doing and I do think things won’t quite be the same.  I think it’ll be difficult.  I think there will  be bad days at the office, probably quite a few.  But I’ve already seen signs in our transfer dealings and the way we ended last season that things can be different.  Like most fans, I’m really hoping to be proved right.

Derek McInnes.  Over to you."

There, told you! so My hats are safe for now. 

You can follow Will on Twitter here: and don't forget to check out his simply superb website To the Left of Ross

That concludes this mini-series of previews - I hope you enjoyed them and agree the three writers are all welcome additions to the roster - I for one certainly hope they'll be back on these pages soon.

So now to Saturday.  Day one.
Let's all forget Tuesday night's cup exit, let's forget talk about stands being shut and membership schemes being closed, vouchers that aren't as expected and sponsor flags that have replaced fans flags. No-one's trying to do a bad job, no-one's attempting to sabotage our chances on the pitch, or the enjoyment of fans off the pitch. Everyone's trying to make a positive difference so let's stop in-fighting and arguing over every little thing and make this club one to proud of again, on and off the pitch.

Get behind the boys, sun, rain or snow; win lose or draw and you never know - we might just be alright.

Come on you Reds!

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