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Friday, 13 December 2013

Get behind the manager! & The Inside Line: Rotherham United (14/12/2013)

The last time Bristol City hosted Rotherham United, more than 19,000 Robins fans packed into Ashton Gate on a gloriously warm, sunny early-May afternoon.  Needing a win to secure promotion to the Championship, Gary Johnson’s men swept aside the Millers with help from a David Noble double, before Alex Russell scored the goal which made sure City had accomplished their mission.

The rest, as is so often mooted, is very much history, http://exiledrobin.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/down-and-out-bristol-city-season-review.html 

Who would have thought on that sunny day that 6½ years on that we’d be approaching this game with our fifth different manager (or head coach) about to take charge of his first league match. Who could have predicted we’d be not only back in League One (OK, most of us might have forecast that!) but £50m worse off and facing a fight to stave off relegation to the basement?  Who would have thought we’d still be awaiting a decision on where we’ll be playing our home matches in years to come?!

But here we are and whilst around one-third of the time that has passed did so with much joy, excitement and anticipation, the balance has passed with an unerring drumbeat of misery, despair and significant chunks of dreadful football.

So here we are, with Steve Cotterill about to take charge of his first home match and facing probably the most underwhelmed set of fans for an external appointment since Tony Pulis’ ill-thought out period in charge more than a decade ago.  That’s not to say people aren’t going to be supportive of him – the majority of those feeling a little short-changed, myself included – have already taken to forums and social media to pledge support as we all, of course, want the same thing. 

Equally I don’t doubt that, initially at least, we will see an upturn in results and a few more ‘W’s against our name in the league table, a sight that would be welcome for everyone involved.  Whether or not Cotterill is the correct long-term appointment, or will play the ‘right’ style of football, or will stand by the pillar principle of bringing youth players through and so on and so on, are all valid points for discussion, but that is for another day, as is the Board’s approach to the whole situation and the questions many fans have for them.
For the here and now, we are in a pretty desperate position in the league and need a few victories to climb that table, so every fan must get behind Cotterill and whoever he picks, get behind the team and hope they can sow the results of the background work put in over the past year to keep our club looking like a sustainable, viable, long-term progressive outfit.

Meanwhile, our opponents arrive in Bristol in a more-than-reasonable shape, perhaps surprising many by being in the play-off positions.  Lewis Hancock spoke to Jonathan Veal, a Press Association reporter who follows The Millers, to find out why they’re doing so well and what City might face this weekend.

Are you relieved the club rejected the approach from Sheffield Wednesday for Steve Evans?
“No one would have liked to see a Rotherham manager leave for Sheffield Wednesday, but it was never really going to happen. The chairman is clear about where he wants the club to go and he has steered them into a position where he doesn't need to sell players or let another club poach the manager. In truth, it should be Steve Evans that is relieved as, although they are clearly a bigger club, it is not the job for him. As well as he has done at Rotherham and Crawley, he has been bankrolled and that wouldn't happen at Wednesday.”

Rotherham appear to be a surprise package this season. Can they maintain their current form and stay in the play-off mix or is it likely they’ll fall away into mid-table?
I think the play-offs are certainly an achievable target. The team have been playing well, Evans has recruited well and there's the chance of recruitment in January, which could be vital. That said, I expect them to just fall short and finish around eighth.”

Who should City fans look out for on Saturday?
“The team is full of quality players. Ben Pringle has been linked with Reading, Kari Arnason played for Iceland in the recent World Cup qualifiers and Nouha Dicko has looked very good since coming on loan from Wigan.”

The last time the two sides faced each other, City gained promotion on the last day of the season in 2007 whilst Rotherham were already relegated. What has changed at the club?
“Back then the club was just bottoming out, paying the price of four years in the Championship. Tony Stewart came in, rescued the club from extinction and has rebuilt it from top to bottom. The return to the town has been instrumental, the New York Stadium is a superb facility, and has increased the gate. Stewart's continual backing of the manager has meant that we have been able to build a really strong squad. The manager has obviously got to take some of the credit. While he is not universally liked his ability and getting the best of the team has been a key factor.”

Can I get a prediction for the match?
“3-1 Rotherham”

Ambitious perhaps, and I'm sure many a fan groaned when they realised their away trip would coincide with the first home match for a new manager - let's hope the anticipated fillip this usually gives a side starts with a bang this side of Christmas, it's a great time to go on a good run of form!


The Exiled Robin

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