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

Friday, 27 March 2015

Bobby Gould: “Stevie Cotterill a manager? Never, ever ever!"

Bobby Gould talks City, Rovers, the Steve’s Lansdown and Cotterill, Wimbledon and Gareth Bale

It’s not often one gets the chance to interview a footballing star, someone who has played at the highest level, won trophies as a manager and become a household name, so when I was offered the chance to interview ex-City player Bobby Gould, I jumped at the chance.

Bobby started his career at Coventry City alongside then assistant manager Alan Dicks, before a series of moves every couple of years. He was one of the first ‘nomadic’ footballers, quite uniquely playing for nine different clubs, never playing fewer than 34 games but never more than 82 in any one place.

Bobby’s Bristol City career never really got going, despite joining because of the influence of then-manager Alan Dicks who he had played with at Coventry City.
“I came down in 1972 from West Bromwich Albion who I thought were going to get relegated, and Alan had been assistant to Jimmy Hill but also played in the reserves, so had been a team mate of mine as well.  As a person, Alan had a huge influence in my junior career and he taught me a lot. But by the time I rejoined him, there had been quite a gap.  I thought they were an up and coming team so thought it was a good move but unfortunately we clashed and it didn’t work out.  I’d been to Arsenal, Wolves and West Brom, whilst Alan had become a manager.”

However, the move wasn’t all bad for Gould as it provided him the place to settle down and make his home after a bizarre glance in an estate agents window.
“I didn’t have any regrets at all about coming because one day I was walking up Park Street and saw this upside-down house for sale in a place called Portishead.  I went out there, and went to the Cabstand and just saw this special place. The view across the Severn Estuary, it was truly special.  I saw this upside-down house which backed onto the water and not long after I phoned my wife to tell her I’d bought a house. We moved in and have lived in the town ever since. I think I’ll be carried out of here.”

Gould played for City in a period where the nucleus of the team that would go on to reach the First Division was being built, and has fond memories of the dressing-room spirit.
“We had a giggle. They were a great set of lads. As soon as I joined the likes of Gerry Sweeney and Gerry Gow, who were the Scottish comedians, gave me the nickname ‘The Snip’. I had no idea what they were on about, but they explained it was nothing to do with a man’s operation but that they thought I was a snip at my transfer fee of around sixty grand. It stuck as well”

Gould has a past with current city boss Steve Cotterill and had quite a revelation about his former charge.
“I found him playing for Burton Albion and signed him for Wimbledon so yeah, I gave him his break as a professional. But never, ever, ever in a month of Sunday’s did I think he would be a manager! He must have learned something off me, good, bad or ugly!

“Seriously though, he’s similar to me in many ways. We both share that passion for football and the guts to go and be a manager. What he’s achieved this year has been phenomenal.  If they don’t go on to get promotion now they need their backsides kicking!”

It was impossible to interview Bobby without touching upon the moment he’s probably most famous for – guiding Wimbledon to a remarkable fairy-tale F.A. Cup triumph over the mighty Liverpool in 1988.
“Nobody can ever take it away from you. I recall Vinnie (Jones) was prancing about on the pitch with the cup and I got hold of him and just said ‘make this walk around the pitch the longest walk of your life. You might never come back here again but this is something you can tell your grandchildren about’. I went as a substitute with West Brom in 1975 but never got on.

“We had no chance in ’88. The best chance we’d have had is if we’d turned up and played cricket! We had that team spirit and the bonding that Stevie clearly has at Bristol City and Sunday was fantastic for them.”

Bobby was speaking ahead of the Bristol regional heat to find the 'People's Pundit' championed by Carlsberg, the official beer of the Premier League, and had this to say about the competition.
 “For everyone out there – if I can get where I’ve got in the media world, anyone can. My English teacher, Mr. Bennett wouldn’t believe it! It’s sacrilege really. If anyone thinks they want to do it and have got the ability, then come and give it a go and enter the competition. You never know.

During Gould’s time at City Harry Dolman ruled the roost and Gould drew parallels with those days and the current situation with owner Steve Lansdown and the new stadium being built.
“Harry was building the club and where would the club be now without Steve doing the same? He’s had difficult times but some good and great times. Enjoy the moments. The amount of money he’s put into the football club is incredible, but he’s never quite forgiven me for getting him out LBW when he was playing cricket!

“The new stadium is long overdue. The prospect has always been raised of City and Rovers playing the same stadium, but that was never going to happen.  What’s happening at the moment is phenomenal, but it’s great to see both Bristol sides top of their leagues.

"If City can get promotion and then go on again, it would be fantastic to see Premier League football down here. Look at Swansea, they’ve managed it.”

Gould joined Bristol Rovers a few years after leaving City but again, has no regrets and faced little animosity from Rovers fans but doesn’t understand the rivalry which came to the fore last season.
“I couldn’t have given a monkeys. I’m a professional and had to pay the mortgage so I’ll sign for whoever I thought was the best option. Rovers fans welcomed me too because I scored a hat-trick in my first match for them and they thought they had the best signing they’d ever had! I just hope we never see scenes like we did last time there was a local derby again. Football’s about passion and competition but you have to walk away, shake hands and wish your opponent well.” 

Finally, Gould – an ex Wales manager – explained how this international break will be perfect timing for Gareth Bale following his recent trials and tribulations at Real Madrid.
“I watched that game on the artificial pitch in Andorra and believe me, they’re awful pitches to play on. I couldn’t believe they were playing international football on a pitch like that.

"Then suddenly, with Wales struggling, one fella got the game by the scruff of the neck and ever since then he’s become the leader of the pack. I never thought Gareth had it in him, to be that person. I tell you what, he’s grown up a lot.

"This period of time with the Welsh lads, speaking English, will do him the world of good. I went to Norway for two years and it’s not easy. He’ll enjoy being with them for a week and will go back to Real Madrid a lot happier.”

My thanks to Carlsberg and TalkSport who gave me this opportunity. Here are the details about the pundit competition Bobby mentioned earlier.

"The mission of the Carlsberg fan squad is to make football better for fans. That's why, If Carlsberg did Pundits…they'd probably be just like you.

Carlsberg and talkSPORT have joined forces to give one fan their big break on national radio and next Thursday sees the potential pundits face off in Bristol.

If you fancy watching our pundits take each other on, alongside Bobby, head to the V-Shed, The Waterfront, Canons Road, Bristol at 8pm.

Find out more at ThePeoplesPundit.co.uk #PeoplesPundit

The Inside Line: Bristol City v Barnsley (28/03/2015)

Well, what a week! Six days after 42,000 of us returned home from one of those special days at Wembley, City return to their ultimate target with a league match against Lee Johnson’s Barnsley. Little Lee just can’t keep away from Ashton Gate, can he. Perhaps a portent of times to come… 

This week Stu Radnedge spoke to Andy White, a Tykes fan who has renewed hope for their new regime.

“It's been a difficult season back in the third tier for we Barnsley supporters. The football on the whole has been poor/dull, results little better and we've had to say goodbye to yet another manager, the greatest we've ever had. First time around. Unfortunately, results and the failed product put paid to his second coming a couple of months ago now. Lots of us found it a harsh decision to remove Danny Wilson. We were mid table, anything could have happened. But the board sacked him after a 2-1 home defeat against Fleetwood Town. The caretaker managership then oversaw a 5-1 humiliation at Crawley Town (for which the travelling fans were reimbursed) before guiding us to two victories without conceding a goal. And then the very 'meh' appointment of Lee Johnson came about.

What has happened since then has revitalised the fanbase, the players and breathed new life into the dying embers of the league campaign. Two consecutive victories became six, with just one goal conceded and at last it appeared the quality players we knew we'd got had finally clicked as a team. Clicked so well that we now stand a fighting chance of making the end of season playoffs. Barmy game, football!

I have been very impressed with Johnson so far. The performances of his players haven't been standout to be honest, we've not all of a sudden looked world beaters. But the team now looks like a team. It's cohesive, it looks purposeful and well drilled. Not boring, but not thrilling either. He's basically come in and got them back to basics. We went a goal behind last weekend against form side PNE. A few months ago you'd have seen us lose that by three goals, surrendering I suppose. But we came out flying in the second half and got a well deserved and hard fought point. We weren't very good in the game prior to that, away at Orient, but our young keeper Adam Davies had a stormer and we fought for a precious point and goalless draw. Fight. We've now got some. And it's a trait that everyone supporting little old Barnsley expect from their side/players as a bare minimum.

Can we make the playoffs? I doubt it, deep down. I wouldn't rule it out, we've some exceptionally talented footballers for this division. But injuries are biting again. We've now lost Davies for a couple of weeks and had to emergency loan in a young kid keeper from neighbours Sheffield Wednesday. You might have heard of them? No? They're massive. No? Oh, ok then...

It appears you lot have had a far smoother ride this season. Stability, success, confidence, optimism. A trip to Wembley and what now looks a nailed on return to the second tier. I expected you to win the division, and you're going to do. With minimal fuss. Fantastic achievement, and momentum to take into a much harsher environment next season. I'll wish you all the best with that. And perhaps we'll see you there...?

Just a quick note to end - When we nearly beat you in the Oakwell fixture, we followed up that point with a victory over Sheff Utd and another against Colchester. The fixture list throws all three of those games at us again now, and so I'd be over the bloody moon if we take another seven from nine.

Thanks for reading, and good luck going forwards.” 

My thanks to Andy and Stu for this great preview. After holding Preston for us last weekend, let’s hope they can do us another favour this week and roll over to a nice zero points!


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Captain. Leader. Legend. Can Aden Flint become Bristol City’s John Terry?

Amidst all the celebrations on the pitch at Wembley last Sunday, and as closely bonded a team as this bunch most evidently are, one player seemed to take a little bit of a lead, be the one who got the fans cheering the loudest. One man seemed to take on the mantle of being the leader of the pack.

It wasn’t club captain, Wade Elliott, or the vastly experienced Aaron Wilbraham. It wasn’t even boss Steve Cotterill, who generally allowed his players their well-deserved moment in the sun on their own.

No, this figure was a man maligned by many during his first year at the club. A still young player who suffered a torrid time full of own goals and gaffes that threatened to end his City career before it had really started with the blame of relegation ready to be heaped around his shoulders moreso than any other. Indeed, before the start of the season there were considerable question marks over whether he would even be in the first-team squad.

But on Sunday evening, Aden Flint marched around the pitch with a flag draped over his shoulders, Caeser-esque. He is the side’s biggest and most formidable figure and standing by the side of the goal, standing arms aloft in front of the noisiest bunch of fans, holding the giant trophy easily in just one hand. He looked every bit a natural leader.

When Sam Baldock left a couple of games into the season, some, buoyed by an impressive early couple of appearances, suggested Flint be made captain. I argued against this, suggesting the timing was wrong and he had to continue concentrating on improving his game. I stand by that – he wasn’t ready and needed the distraction like a hole in the head.

Now, the chances are that if old, tired legs get the better of Elliott and Wilbraham next season, Korey Smith will be given the armband as he has this year when both the elder statesmen have been the other side of the white line. But in Flint, City now has a good old-fashioned leader of a centre-half more than ready to take on the role of captain and the leader. He may, in time, even become a club legend. With bravery, strength, a goal scoring knack, commitment and sheer toughness, he certainly has all the attributes.

Whilst he may not be the captain, Flint has certainly been at the heart of the most significant run of results of the season, during February and March, where City have put clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack at the most critical stage of the season.

Six goals in ten games is a great record for any player – for a centre-half it’s immense! But it’s not even really a surprise, as in the preceding few months many balls had hit the woodwork or sailed just over. Flint has been winning balls in the opposition area all season but recently has managed to direct the ball a touch more accurately and is reaping the rewards, as are City.

The way he out-muscled the Walsall defence at Wembley was seized upon by Steve Claridge in the BBC highlights commentary and is beyond argument. This is what Flint has been doing for months now. That natural fire, his desire to do well, his willingness to put everything on the line for his club is what has marked John Terry out for a decade. Flint is showing considerable signs of being able to do the same.

But his defending has been equally impressive, marshalling the back line with an ever-growing maturity, organisational ability and game awareness. He’s equally as good at the defensive set-pieces as he is when on the attack.  I sense he’s dropping off further and further behind the back two in open play, reading the game with more astuteness and being able to time those runs to go and meet any aerial challenge with aplomb. And this is what has really made him what he is today.

He appeared almost mentally a little ill at ease when he first arrived, perhaps still feeling the effects of the barmy Paulo di Canio period at Swindon Town, or maybe just feeling the pressure of a big fee, and Cotterill seems to have recognised this and made his job immensely simple.

You can tell he’s been told to sit between Luke Ayling and Derrick Williams and go and win anything that comes in the air. Anyone who has played youth park football has had an earful for letting the ball bounce – a century-old error which causes carnage in many a good defence – and Flint simply makes sure it doesn’t.  Simple stuff, with excellent results.

Goals always skew opinions of players, even amongst top coaches. Goals get players in international squads even if the rest of their game might not be as strong as others in their position. But big centre-halves get put under immense pressure, especially away from home where City have spent much of last two months, and Flint has responded in totality. Heading away ball after ball, clearing set pieces, having confidence to drop a full ten yards behind his fellow centre-backs and sweep up anything that moves. His disciplinary records tells its own tale. A solitary yellow card in around 50 games shows phenomenal self-control and positional excellence for a six-and-a-half-foot tall defender. 

During this time he has developed almost a cult following amongst the fan base. His tattoos and general huge size add to mix and help to make him a favourite with some of the female supporters, whilst the “Aden Flint’s having a party” chant has grown and grown in popularity over the past couple of months, culminating in assistant boss John Pemberton tweeting it from the team bus after the Wembley success!

Heading into February the Bristol Post ran a poll on City’s player of the season so far. Three players were clear, but Luke Freeman and Korey Smith had the edge over their giant team-mate. One suspects if the same poll were run right now, Flint may well have done a City, and gone clear of the chasing pack. That’s despite Freeman being arguably the league’s best player (yes, that includes you, Dele Alli!) but Flint’s popularity has never been higher, his form never better, and he could just be leading City back to the Championship from the back and the front.

Further tests lie ahead, of course. The Championship - should we get there - will offer tests far tougher than Flint has faced this season. Pacier strikers in particular who will attempt to get in behind him and get him running back towards his own goal.  But for now, he reigns supreme.

When I posted a photo of him on Facebook after the Wembley win and suggested the leadership mantle might be heading his way, someone likened him to being the new Louis Carey.  I countered by suggesting he could be the new Shaun Taylor, before a further respondent nailed it.

He said simply, “he’s the first Aden Flint.”

The Exiled Robin

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Bristol City win at Wembley! We Are Going Up Podcast

The main feature on this week's 'We Are Going Up' podcast is Bristol City.

I discuss our JPT win, the success of Steve Cotterill, Aden Flint, Joe Bryan and the rest of the squad, Steve Lansdown, Bristol Sport and Premier League B teams, as well as a special mention for Swindon Town's November title celebrations...

It starts 3:30mins in and last about 15 minutes.


Would be great to know your thoughts - and please share so others listen too!

The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Does playing at Wembley still matter? It does for Bristol City

Wembley Stadium.

The White Horse, Stanley Matthews, Wimbledon, Pearce’s redemption, Live Aid, Broken goalposts, Gazza’s knee, Coventry, Gazza’s flick over the Scots, Ricky Villa, Queen, Liverpool’s white suits, Di Matteo, Gazza’s screamer, 4-1 v Holland, Moran’s red card and, of course, some people who were on the pitch.

If anyone tries to tell you Wembley has lost some of its old magic, that the multitude of club level games now played there means the mystique has somewhat disappeared, then try telling that to the 40,000 Bristolians who will be on the march up the M4 this weekend to watch our fifth appearance at the stadium. Let alone the nearly 30,000 Walsall fans who are delighted and overwhelmed to be making their Wembley bow.

And yes, it’s ‘only’ the JPT, isn’t it? Well maybe, but to become the first team to win this competition three times would be a great achievement, albeit one soured by the evidence it offers that we have spent far too many recent seasons playing in the bottom half of English football’s professional structure.

Yes, the twin towers may have gone and a Hot Dog now costs £8.50. And true, in 1986, when we first got there, it was far more of a rare event. There were no play-offs, Villa Park and Old Trafford amongst others regularly played host to FA Cup semi-finals and the lower leagues cup competition had only just commenced.  But the magical bounce in every City fans’ step since that first leg of the area final when Matt Smith almost single-handedly got us booking up the coaches and trains, proves that Wembley – and indeed the JPT – still has a huge amount to offer.

Our debut in 1986 was a special day, made even more remarkable by a slightly surprisingly comfortable 3-0 Freight Rover Trophy win against Phil Neal’s Bolton Wanderers. Then, remarkably, we made a reappearance a year later. That old London buses saying springs to mind! This time, however, we lost out to Mansfield Town as the first instance of our penalty shoot-out phobia hit hard.

Since then of course we’ve lost to Stoke City in the final of the Auto Windscreens (as it was then) and suffered that heartbreak at the foot of Dean Windass.

So does it still matter? Those who earlier in the season were advocating a lack of interest in the tournament and almost hoping we’d get knocked out so we could concentrate on promotion are all going to Wembley, I bet? My view on this – and other cup competitions – is that it can never be a bad thing to keep winning. Cup games create excitement, interest and memories like no individual league game can, especially for youngsters who get wrapped up in the big occasion.

Think back to our one truly great team in living memory. There’s a long history of teams having cup success just prior to achieving top flight status, and our run came just a couple of years earlier when the bulk of the side who went on to get us promoted, defeated star-studded Leeds United at Elland Road, before running the great Liverpool team close in the quarter-finals. Ask any 6-12 year old who was at Elland Road whether they remember that match more or an important league game from that season and I’m pretty certain what their response would be.

Think of Hereford and Bolton in '86, of Robbie Turner beating Chelsea, of Jacki’s starring role on Match of the Day and, of course, of Anfield in ’94. 

These are the games, the occasions, that bring on a generation of new fans. These are the games that might just persuade a few dozen kids to support their local side rather than go off and buy a Chelsea shirt.  The club have cottoned onto that superbly following a successful season with the billboard adverts for season-tickets currently showing around town, and as far afield as Newport. Launching them this week was perfect timing; grab everyone now whilst they’re caught up in the excitement of a Wembley trip.  That’s future thinking. That’s smart as they know full well that sort of investment for life is invaluable to the club, worth tens of thousands of pounds per child.


There is no doubt in my mind that part of my devotion to City over the years has come about from that Wembley appearance in 1986. I’d been going to games, on and off, for a couple of years prior, and much of my family were big City fans, but they were the first moments I remember vividly.

The coach journey up. The sea of red and white. Flags, scarves and those silly 80’s bobble hats everywhere, even on a sunny day in May. Being lost in the vast concourses at Wembley, a stadium of the like I’d never seen before, seeing Glyn Riley pull his hamstring in celebrating the third, wonderful goal and the pictures afterwards of 12 men sat celebrating in a tiny bath together, as the way those days!

With one win in four appearances to date (and none in the last three) one might be forgiven a bit of dread heading into this weekend’s match-up, but that underlying sentiment would be to belie the form and sheer belief this remarkable team seems to have in abundance.

There was never any doubt Cotterill wouldn’t take this competition seriously, and the teams he’s selected throughout have proven that he just loves to win games of football, whatever competition they’re a part of. In a week where tiredness has been blamed in some quarters for our ailing, star-studded top flight clubs’ exit from European competition and the dreaded winter break has again reared its ugly head, it’s worth noting that many of City’s players have already played well in excess of 40 games this season. It’ll be nearly 60 by the time May comes around.

And with Cotterill’s mantra to keep the pressure on throughout each game, very few have been substituted for any length of time or allowed to ease off. Despite all this, I haven’t seen many signs of tiredness, indeed, almost the opposite. On Tuesday night against Crewe, the oldest member of our team, Aaron Wilbraham, was piling pressure on one fullback, and moments later running their opposite full back into touch on the other side of the pitch. This was in the last ten minutes.

With the undoubted stamina comes some genuine class. The end of season review will outline what’s made for such a productive season in more detail, but solid and virtually ever-present defending, flanked by two jet-quick wing backs and protected by the awesome Korey Smith have allowed Luke Freeman to become the league’s most creative player in terms of assists, whilst all four main strikers have contributed a number of goals, whichever partnership is preferred or available.

The danger with being so successful is that the hawks start circling, and we can but hope that this Wembley appearance, and the much hoped-for subsequent promotion, isn’t the crowning glory of this team before its diamonds are snatched away.

It would be dangerous to overlook Cotterill’s admirers, too. Only a couple of years ago he was seen as top Championship material. No manager at any level gets to have the sort of success he has had, especially in such a short time, without attracting some covetous glances. The fact he’s English should keep him off most Premier League clubs’ radars given the tendency to appoint unheard of foreign coaches, but a trophy win on Sunday would add significant shine to a cv which would already state the building of the Burnley team that got to the promised land.

These concerns are for another day, however. For now we’ve got the red and white (and purple and lime) convoy up the M4 to enjoy, the walk up Wembley way and the sight of 40,000 fans cheering the team on. It may only be the JPT, and Wembley may have lost a tiny bit of its aura for some, but Sunday is a day to look forward to and enjoy to its maximum.

A win – and a trophy to take home – would make it all the sweeter.


The Exiled Robin

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Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Inside Line: Bristol City v Crewe Alexandra (17/03/2015)

It says it all about the season we’re having that there was such an empty feeling of disappointment following Saturday’s final whistle. Not the kind of let-down from the past few seasons that lead to booing and hours of vitriol on social media, just the nagging, frustrating whiff of a chance gone begging, this potentially record-breaking season just taking the most minor of knocks against an improved Gillingham side.

It’s hardly surprising in some ways. The quality of delivery has been so perfect, so often this season, we’re always going to have the odd game where that quality dips by 5-10%. Perhaps that was the difference, or just one of those days where things don’t quite fall. On the positive note, we’ve got a chance to get it out of our system straight away, with Tuesday’s visit of Crewe Alexandra a decent Hors d’oeuvre ahead of Sunday’s super sweet dessert – the real icing on the cake of what is – hopefully – a sublime fillet steak of a season. To have achieved 80 points, sometimes not far off the promotion mark, by March 14th is some feat and considerable leverage for the fans to shrug off a failure to win.

Crewe’s visit completes a run of what on paper looked like winnable fixtures and boy, have the lads in red and purple delivered? To win three consecutive games away from home, inside seven days, is a remarkable achievement whoever you are and whichever league you’re playing in. It’s a run that has put us almost out of sight of everyone but Preston, and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ahead of the Railwaymen’s visit, Stu Radnedge caught up with a now regular on these pages, Nat Holland, to find out how Crewe’s second half mini-revival has been been achieved, helped in no small way by their season-changing victory against us just before Christmas!

My thanks to Nat and to Stu for this insight into a team fast becoming a bit of a bogey-side.

“After a quick read over the last blog post I helped out with leading up to the game in December, I quickly remembered how bad our first half of the season actually was. The win against an in form Bristol City has to be the main turning point in our season and, although we are still in a relegation fight, things are looking a lot better since our last encounter.

One major concern in the goal difference, in this league a good goal difference can be as valuable as a point when positions are tight, especially down the bottom. The defence has improved though with the introduction of loanee Alan Tate from Swansea.

Our Christmas period, starting with the game against the Robins was a much needed boost for everyone connected with the club, a big win against Oldham with ten men on Boxing Day really inspired the boys into some good results. However slip ups against the likes of MK Dons and Preston in recent weeks have been quick reminders that there are still some issues with the team.

The one main turning point in our season was the loan signing of Nicky Ajose from Leeds. The striker has bagged himself eight goals in 18 games since November and become our top scorer in the process. Ajose’s impressive form in front of goal has come hand in hand with the form of another loan player, Jamie Ness. The Stoke midfielder arrived at Gresty Road having played 13 games in two years and needed time to get match fit. Now we are at the business end of the season, the former Rangers player is instrumental to our relegation fight.

The season was one to forget before December but things have slowly started to improve under our manager Steve Davis and most of the fans have realised now that he is the right man to lead our team. Although he sometimes makes mistakes, our league position is so much better than most would have predicted before Christmas.

Davis has a knack for bringing in good loan players, but don’t get me wrong, there have been some that haven’t worked out but the likes of Tate, Ajose and Ness have made up the core of the side in recent weeks.

Davis has also managed to bring back Uche Ikpeazu for a third time from Watford and he will give us an extra option in attack when Marcus Haber goes away for international duty with Canada.

Although things are looking up for the Alex, injury to our goalkeeper Ben Garratt has left us with one recognised ‘keeper in the squad in the form of Paul Rachubka. The former Leeds and Blackpool stopper is an experienced replacement and he will need to be on top form, as we have no back up on the bench.

My hope for the rest of the season is of course to clinch survival with a few games to go and a draw or win against the Robins will give us the confidence to go and get some more points before May 3rd.”

Despite Crewe’s upturn, given the position we are in the only thing that should stop us scooping up all three points at home is a miraculous and heroic defensive performance or a performance from the leaders with more than half an eye on Sunday’s visit to the famous Wem-ber-lee.

Somehow I can’t see this particular manager allowing the latter, so let’s take another huge step towards promotion and the title.


The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 13 March 2015

The Inside Line: Bristol City v Gillingham (14/03/2015)

A long overdue return to Ashton Gate for Bristol City this weekend sees them host Gillingham – yes, yet again! – although given the recent run of results on the road, perhaps we’d be just as well off playing away once more.

Ahead of our FIFTH match of the season against Kent's number one side , Stu Radnedge caught up with Gills fan Rob Baker https://twitter.com/RobBaker292 for a fresh look at our weekend opponents.

“It may well be a cliché, but "a season of two halves" is the perfect description of our 2014/15 campaign. Up until the New Year, Gillingham were barely keeping themselves above water; relegation was a real possibility and the football being played was boring, defensive, negative and not successful (including 2 defeats to Bristol City).

On New Year's Eve the previous manager, Peter Taylor was sacked after a bust-up with the chairman and our fortunes changed. The four members coaching staff were all appointed equal co-caretaker managers and, despite losing two more (plus another to Bristol City!) our season was different. 

The "gang of 4" changed our system to four at the back, playing Bradley Dack in his best position behind the strikers, encouraging a more positive gameplan, and signing a new striker (while releasing a club legend in Danny Kedwell). Five games undefeated (including a draw this time vs Bristol City) meant Gillingham rocketed up the table. 

We had been searching for a manager for a relegation scrap - we now needed one for a playoff push. Newport County's Justin Edinburgh was appointed and kept the run going, with another couple of wins and a draw, before defeat finally occurred at the end of February. 

A 3-0 away win at rivals Swindon did Edinburgh's reputation no harm while a hard fought 1-1 draw vs Doncaster has seen us lose once since 10th January. I now firmly expect us to finish in midtable; it is so tight that we could easily end up 18th/19th or even just outside the playoffs. My hope for the rest of the season is that we beat our best finish since Gillingham were relegated from the Championship in 2005 and finish 13th or higher.

Throughout the season, it has been very obvious of John Egan's talents. The defender has been a star signing, with his tackling, heading, superb positioning and excellent distribution. Signed from Sunderland in the summer, Egan enjoys playing the ball out of defence along the floor, or coming forward himself (resulted in a long range goal earlier in the season). With his defensive partner Max Ehmer allowing the 22-year-old Egan to play on his natural right side he has shone and Gillingham will be lucky to hold on to him through the summer.

Another player Gillingham will be eager to keep is youth product Bradley Dack. He has been on the fringes for the first team for a few seasons now, often playing out wide rather than centrally. However, since the four-man managerial team took over, Dack has been played behind the strikers, in a "number 10 " role and has flourished. His preferred position from his youth team days, where he was a frequent scorer, Dack seems to relish playing in this position for the seniors. Capable of finding a pass, willing to have a shot (and score as he did vs Bristol in the JPT 1st leg), and also contribute to pressing high up the pitch, the 21-year-old is in good form and will undoubtedly attract attention from bigger clubs.

Despite this being the fifth meeting of the two clubs, I feel that Saturday's game will be a lot closer than the others. Bristol City may well practically have the title wrapped up, but Gillingham have more confidence that in previous meetings and the JPT draw at Ashton Gate showed that City aren't invincible. With my confident hat on, I feel that another score-draw may be on the cards.”

Thanks to Stu and to Rob.

It’s within our grasp now.

The Exiled Robin

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Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Inside Line: Yeovil Town v Bristol City (10/03/2015)

A fair bit has happened to Yeovil since we last played them. A national television appearance and certainly little shame in their huge FA Cup tie with Manchester United, followed just a few weeks later by Gary Johnson paying the price for their season-long flirtation with the relegation zone.

Meanwhile City have gone on and on, with our visit to Wembley later this month the reason for this re-arranged fixture. Stu Radnedge caught up with Leeds-based Glover Ben Barrett for his typically humourous take on the situation at Huish Park ahead of the final match in our mini-series against the bottom four.

“Last time I did this, I said that 500 words wouldn't be quite enough to describe the goings on at Huish Park this season, the truth is, that three months down the line, this email could turn into a dissertation-length ramble if I'm not careful.

Right, let's keep this simple, I'm a positive bloke, I love being a Yeovil fan, but my word - this season sucks.

We're still in the relegation zone and the performances and results are just as frustrating as before.

Of course, the big news is that Gary Johnson has left at the request of his employers. As the transfer window slammed shut the murmurs and the rumours started, a short 48 hours later, he’d gone.

A bona fide legend, let’s not get that wrong, but the time had come – it was a decision that I agreed with. This might be the first time I’ve admitted that, at least in public.

Terry Skiverton has taken over and, to put it bluntly, it hasn’t got much better.

Some battling draws, a decent win over Crawley and some decent signings are good, but with just over a dozen games to go… it is just not enough.
Skivo is a ‘avoid defeat’ type of manager, we need a ‘win at all costs’ kind of man right now.

At Scunthorpe, at 1-1, he decided to hold his central defenders from going up for a last minute free kick. It was sending out the wrong message. It turned out to be an away point we’d have taken gladly sat in 15th, not in 24th.

At home, we are at least more positive and that has to be a good thing going through the run in.

The truth is, we need play off form from now on in to stay up. We’ve done it before and done it under Skiverton, so we’re not ruling anything out but it looks tough.

You have to hope, and I know I do, that behind the scenes, the plans are long term rather than short.

Are we going to stick with Skiverton or look elsewhere? Are we going to provide the supporters with a pricing structure to try and lure back the disgruntled fans, regardless of which division we’re in?

But those decisions are going to be made while Skiverton tries to get us out of this mess.

I stand by some of the things I’ve said before about how unlucky we’ve been with injuries and that the likes of Joe Edwards, Sam Foley and Joel Grant are arguably as good as any midfielders in the division. But it’s just not clicked.

Looking back at the blog I did for this site for the Boxing Day fixture it seems that nothing has really changed; you’re cracking on towards promotion and let’s just say…we’re not.
The only real difference is that it’s now March.

One thing I’m proud of is that people keep coming, there are still a few thousand of core home fans and the same faces keep coming to every away game, I personally couldn’t blame anyone for walking away.

As for Tuesday specifically, we have to win, it’s that simple. The quality of opponent has ceased to be of any importance, all that matters is three points.

I’m writing this before the Saturday fixture against Oldham, if that’s gone well, then we’re going to have a better chance on Tuesday.

If that hasn’t gone well then our fixture is ‘win or bust’/’now or never’/’crunch time’ for us. Choose your own cliché, we don’t mind.

As for what happens if, if we do… you know… for the second season in a row…

Oh, would you look at that, I’ve run out of word count … *buries head in the sand*

I guess this is farewell, have fun in the Championship… we’ll see you soon.

I hope.”

My thanks to Ben and Stu for squeezing this one in amongst all the other fixtures. 


The Exiled Robin

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Monday, 2 March 2015

The Inside Line: Leyton Orient v Bristol City (03/03/15)

It was the moment many, including myself, truly started to believe.

I’m not talking about the win on Saturday that put us an incredible 8 (EIGHT) points clear at the top, albeit with new likeliest challengers Preston have a game in hand.

No, I’m talking the win at the Matchroom Stadium last season when we actually looked like – and got the result that – a side who could do something in this division should be getting. Remember at that time we were still battling relegation, whilst Orient were flying high and aiming for an ultimately unattainable promotion, which made the result and the performance even more noteworthy.

A year on and the tables have very much turned. As mentioned before, City have bought exceptionally well and brought in a manager who is getting the very best from his bunch of players, whilst Orient have lost last year’s supremo and, whilst they have attracted some decent looking players, for one reason or another they’re clearly not gelling as the club would have hoped.

Having gone eight points clear at the weekend, this is an opportunity for City to strengthen their position whilst their three main promotional rivals all use up a valuable home game.

Stu Radnedge caught up with James from the Orient blog, Total Orient to find out what has been going on in East London this time around.

“When the O's travelled to Ashton Gate in August there was still optimism that Orient could have another good season. A point and a clean sheet against a strong Bristol City suggested that, despite the change in ownership over the summer, we could compete with the better teams in the league and perhaps challenge for promotion again.

However, since then the club has suffered more upheaval as the new regime have struggled to get to grips with running a League One football club and on the pitch the team have suffered a play-off final hangover. Instability, injuries and a lack of confidence have all contributed to our regression.

After a poor start, Russell Slade left the club to join Cardiff in September but his departure wasn't handled well by either party. Orient had already slipped towards the wrong end of the table and Slade's assistant Kevin Nugent and sporting director Mauro Milanese were not able to arrest the slide during their short stints in the dugout.

Being 19th in the league in December and already on our fourth manager of the season didn't look good. Former Italy international Fabio Liverani was appointed as manager. Despite a career in Serie A as a player, one win in seven games with Genoa was his only real previous experience as a manager, which hardly inspired confidence. He lost his first two games in charge but comfortable wins over fellow strugglers Crawley and Yeovil suggested that he could be the man to get the team out of trouble.

Any new found optimism was swiftly dampened, as Orient gained just one point in January. The situation was made even worse by media reports of turmoil behind the scenes.

It was beginning to look like Orient were destined for the drop. Performances were lacklustre and Liverani's ability to organise, motivate and communicate with his players was in doubt (in part due to the language barrier).

There are still some negative stories from time to time, but overall the mood around the club has become more positive over the last month. Three wins from five in February and consecutive clean sheets is an obvious improvement. Orient's recent performances have shown some of the same determination that characterised last season. If the O's can maintain the same spirit they stand a good chance of survival. The squad has the ability to stay up.

However, there's still a long way to go. Relegation would be a massive step backwards after coming so close to promotion last year and Francesco Becchetti's continued financial support would be vital. A club our size couldn't support wages reported to be in excess of £7,500 a week on our own and we would likely lose some key players and would therefore need to rebuild.

The O's have conceded first all too often this season. When chasing games, we often resort to playing more direct which doesn't really suit us. If we can get the opening goal and stick to our passing game on Tuesday we will stand a much better chance.

The use of two wingers has also played a key part in our last few victories. Swansea loanee Ryan Hedges scored his first senior goal at the weekend and has provided two assists in two, while Jobi McAnuff is finally playing to a standard that more closely resembles his ability. Dean Cox has been on the bench recently due to injury, but his goals and assists record in League One speaks for itself.

Orient's upturn in form makes defeat seem less certain than it would've looked a month ago. However Bristol City are top of the league for good reason and they are favourites for Tuesday's game, particularly given our poor home record.”

Huge thanks to James and to Stu for the report. Let’s hope there’s not another shock win in East London this time around.


The Exiled Robin

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