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

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bristol City's Number 1: Fielding finally signs - what can we expect?

A well-planned, increasingly well-executed and intensive summer of player recruitment continued today with the signing of one-time England squad goalkeeper Frankie Fielding, from Derby County.  Fielding's signing is undoubtedly a huge relief for head coach Sean O'Driscoll, who having let understudy Dean Gerken and youngster Lewis Carey leave in May, was facing returning to pre-season and having Sam Baldock, Steven Davies and others slotting the ball into an empty net in training.  A number two must still follow, but Fielding will undoubtedly be SOD's first choice come August 3rd, assuming he is fit.

On the face of it Fielding is the headline capture of the summer.  It is hard to imagine Fabio Capello spent many minutes watching lower-league football, but saw enough in Fielding to pluck him from almost total obscuity, having only ever turned out for Wycombe Wanderers, Northampton Town and Rochdale whilst on loan from Blackburn.  Yes, he had Paul Robinson to oust at Ewood Park, but even so, it was totally out of the blue and thrust this young  man into the limelight.

Success has followed, to a degree.  Not at Blackburn, but at Pride Park where Fielding became a popular young 'keeper and 76 appearances, including 16 on loan, followed.  So what can we expect, and why have Derby let him go?

I'm delighted to say that Ollie from The Derby County Blog has once again provided some words on our latest signing from the East Midlands.

"Frankie Fielding came to us at a time when we were having major problems with our then first choice 'keeper, Stephen Bywater.  Bywater was seriously disaffected at Derby and had started to rock the boat, so it was something of a relief when an England U'21 international from Blackburn turned up to replace him.  

My favourite memory of Frank is his last-minute worldy save at the City Ground last season, when we were defending a 1-0 lead against Nottingham Forest in the final few minutes.  Simon Gillett latched onto a half-clearance and hit a screaming volley which was destined for the back of the net, but Frank saw it all the way and launched himself into a tremendous full-length, finger-tip save.  Spectacular saves of that standard aren't just achieved by reflexes, but also through laser-like concentration and agility.  

Frank is a good young keeper, but the key word there is 'young'.  Goalies seem to peak much later than outfield players and Nigel Clough has identified a need for more experience in our team.  Some fans have been calling for an older head in midfield, but we have a clutch of talented young midfielders already and Clough doesn't really want to displace any of them.  Goalkeeper was probably a much more logical position for us to bring in a seasoned pro and Lee Grant, a Derby academy product who has since matured nicely through spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley, fitted the bill perfectly.  Unfortunately, that spells the end for Fielding and our other young 'keeper, Adam Legzdins.  Both have come to a point in their development where they need to be number one for somebody - and I'm sure both will go on to have good careers.  

I hope Frank becomes a serious asset for you.  At 25, he still has plenty of time to improve.  For a time, I thought he would be our long-term number one and if the move goes through, I'm sure he will be more than capable of helping you push for an instant return to the Championship."

Thanks to Ollie for his words, most of which should certainly be comfort for those who may be wondering if anything's gone wrong for Fielding with his career, as on the face of it it's heading in the wrong direction.  At 25 Fielding fits perfectly in the club and O'Driscoll's strategy and brings the average age of squad down even further.

There is a danger here.  Potential hazards are present when you consider how such a young squad - especially at a club that has been in decline for four years - may manage in the event of a bad run or pressure piling on from ever-expectant fans.  But the foundation stones have been laid, and a core is starting to form.  In Fielding, Aden Flint and perhaps Derrick Williams, there is a triangle of youth forming at the heart of the team.  Time will tell how they cope, but let's fact it, they can hardly do worse than the most recent incumbents, can they?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Bristol City: A tough start, or the best possible way to begin?

Following today's announcement of the fixtures for next season, City fans will be charting their hopes and aspirations for the 2013/14 season as they plan their route around the country.  Stuart Radnedge follow up his preview article from last night with a view on what the fixtures may mean for the season ahead...

Well, the fixtures are out and the strong test I was hoping for has been realised. The opening game at home to last year's League Cup runners-up Bradford will certainly be a wake-up to life in League One, as will two trips in a few weeks to face Gillingham away – once in the cup, the other at the end of August, sandwiching trips to 'big' clubs, Coventry and Wolves.
Following the announcement a quick chat with my colleagues confirmed a 50/50 split as to whether playing a newly promoted side is a good or bad situation. Bradford, who clearly exceeded expectations last year in the cup, will arguably have momentum behind them after securing promotion from League Two comfortably with a 3–0 Wembley victory against Northampton. Alternatively, Ashton Gate, full  of noise and expectation on the opening day, could lead to shrinking violet syndrome.
Gillingham, as highlighted in part one yesterday, will be a test and Wolves early on could be a blessing or a curse – depending on their and our adjustments to life in League One. And then there’s Coventry…
They're a team we have a fairly good record against at their place, but where will "their place" be – with the club having all sorts of issues in securing where home will be for the team.
The following month could provide us with the opportunity of securing a foothold in the league positions with three out of the four league matches that month being home encounters.
The same is enjoyed in November (3 home, 2 away) and December (3 home, 1 away) – a key time in the Christmas calendar preparation. We also have three games at home in April – at the business end of the season.
But this is only relevant if we can bring back the fortress mentality in BS3.
Reflecting on last season’s start, things were looking really good at home until the wheels fell off – which occurred soon after we beat two of the three teams that were eventually promoted. This emphasises my next point.
Both Palace and Cardiff gained promotion after arguably poor starts to the season. So how important are the first six games?
There’s no right or wrong answer really, as any wrongs can be undone later in the following seven-and-a-half months. But a bad start will heap the pressure on everyone.
If it’s a simple mathematics game, then nine months cover all but the final fixture against Crawley.  Is nine points a month too much to ask for? We’d finish on 81 points which could be enough for a top two finish (Doncaster were promoted with 84, and Bournemouth 83 last year) and with some months containing 5 or more matches – we’d possibly secure more points than the 9 anyway.
There’s no way I’m going to write my predictions for wins & losses, but in this league I would be unhappy if at the end of the season we finished outside of the play-offs – let alone in the bottom half of the table.  
But how easy is it to predict? Who has the answers?
We’ll all have our opinions of how things may pan out at 5pm on August 3rd – but we’ll be better informed at Christmas and definitive on May 3rd.

The Exiled Robin

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Fixtures Eve: Does day 1 set the tone for what lies ahead?

It's that time again.  With a lack of an international football tournament, fans only have the announcement of the coming season’s fixtures to look forward to. On the eve of their announcement, Stuart Radnedge talks about how the coming season could develop.

With the year ending in an odd number, I - like every other football fan in this far reaching world - was preparing for a football-free summer holiday.  The respite was probably a good thing seeing as a number of the City fans on Twitter, including myself, have been preparing weddings either this year or next… (congratulations to all who fall in this category).

But as soon as the season finished, and I returned to the country from honeymoon and a work trip to South Africa, I found myself counting down the days for the release of the 2013/14 fixtures.  Just days before, the League Cup first round draw would be announced and I was praying for the opportunity of joyous journey planning.  Living in Cornwall results in every home match at the hallowed Ashton Gate feeling more like an away trip – but unperturbed I made a hand-on-heart promise that this coming season, with the wedding out the way, I would get to more football – both home and away.

But at the end of last season my fantasy final positioning transformed into a nightmare. City relegated, Yeovil (now the best team in the South West) promoted along with Bournemouth, and Portsmouth relegated. My hopes of having some ‘local’ fixtures were dashed.

Nevertheless, plans have been made to do Brentford away this year, and I – like many others – are hoping for a big first fixture at home to set a standard with the right result.

But then the Capital One Cup draw was made and we’ll be playing Gillingham again in the first round – this time away.  And last season suddenly washed over me.  I attended the equivalent match at Ashton Gate last season and was gutted with what I saw, no more so than when returning to my just purchased home to discover a baby Robin had flown what I can only guess was full-pelt into my conservatory and had sadly killed itself (maybe this was an omen for what was to come).

This reflection on the season before made me ask myself, what would be a dream announcement in the shape of fixtures? And this got me thinking… would a big match be perfect start?  A big win?  Or both?

Playing a 'big' club at home would mean a larger crowd, but would we win? Would we rather play one of the newly promoted sides? If last season’s Capital One cup exit proved anything – there’s no such thing as a banker for a win.

Does a team, relegated into League One, have an advantage over a team formerly playing in League Two? If the first has been relegated and the latter promoted the argument could be they both were competing at the wrong standard in the league!

I’d rather have the first game at home, as previously stated, but against the likes of Tranmere, Sheffield United or Crawley.  Teams at the top end of the table last year that didn’t quite make it.  I’m not too sure why, probably because it’s a benchmark setter - and that’s something I think the club needs from the off - a clear indication of the standard of football we need to play this season.  It’s something I think most would agree that we were unable to achieve last year, a consistent level of performance that puts points on the board. With the departure of some of the squad from last season, and with further new arrivals to be secured, amongst transfer turmoil before the start of the new season, the new look City will need to be up for the challenge ahead.

New faces will need time to settle in, hence what pre-season games are for, games will provide the gaffer the time to pick a solid starting line up – something City fans hope to see on a regular basis when compared with last year!

With the right start, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the top eight from the off and stay there. I’d obviously be content with a top two finish, a statement of bouncebackability. Right the wrongs of last year and all that.

But does it all depend on one game? Is the first result pivotal to kick-start, or the demise of, a season long campaign?

No – but it’s just be nice to get three points on the board on the opening day! A luxury City fans haven’t enjoyed in a while! 

The Exiled Robin

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Cider Diaries Episode 2: Positive news week

The second episode of "The Cider Diaries" is now available to listen to or download.

Featuring chat on the signing of Aden Flint, the great news about the Academy attaining Category 2 status, our thoughts on the continued changes to the backroom staff & much more, it's well worth a listen.

You can find it (and subscribe) via iTunes by clicking on this link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-cider-diaries/id647752062

Or alternatively just listen here

Finally, don't forget "The Cider Diaries" now has its own Facebook page so why not head over there & give us a 'like':

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Exiled Robin: New Facebook Page! http://www.facebook.com/TheExiledRobin

I figured it was finally time to get around to doing a bit more with the blog and also my brand new podcast, The Cider Diaries, so have made a start and created two new Facebook pages.

These will feature news, info etc about City and other interesting football-related side stories, whilst also being the first to publish new posts when they become available.

You can find The Exiled Robin's page here: http://www.facebook.com/TheExiledRobin

Whilst The Cider Diaries page is here: http://www.facebook.com/TheCiderDiaries

You can also now subscribe to The Cider Diaries podcast via iTunes herehttps://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-cider-diaries/id647752062

This really is the best way to know you won't miss anything and will be the first to hear when we go to air, so get subscribing (it's FREE!!!)

Thanks all for your ongoing support, comments, feedback and in particular the praise.  It really does keep me doing this!

The Exiled Robin

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