This is a blogging debut from one of my best friends and a life-long Bristol City fan looking at how the club has lurched from one crisis to another under the current Board.
Tuesday 3rd December 2013. City sit bottom-but-one of League One, 2 points adrift of safety, and without a manager. Hull City, the opponents 5 years earlier on that sunny afternoon at Wembley, have just beaten Liverpool 3-1, and lie in the top half of the Premier League.
In 5 and a half years, Bristol City have lurched from one crisis to another. They have fumbled their way through a farcical process in attempting to acquire a new stadium of their own at Ashton Vale and wasted millions of pounds on journeyman players and managerial sackings.
Steve Coppell lasted 2 games before walking out in 2009, being replaced by Keith Millen, a man deemed not ready for the manager’s job at the time of Coppell’s appointment 3 months earlier. City spent the next 3 years battling relegation, using 3 managers in the process; Millen, Derek McInnes, and the most recent incumbent Sean O’Driscoll, before being relegated in May with barely a whimper.
Lansdown Senior is still the owner, but no longer chairman, and now lives in Guernsey. The club is £40 million in debt to him, and he’s decided there is to be no more rash spending.
He has entrusted Keith Dawe and his son, Jon Lansdown, with running the club. Dawe, as chairman, hasn’t ever given a press interview and isn’t comfortable in front of a camera. Jon Lansdown, apart from being the owner’s son and now vice-chairman, has no experience in the football industry, but has been tasked with being the public face of the club.
In Steve Lansdown’s time at the club there has been one successful managerial appointment – Gary Johnson.
O’Driscoll, however, seemed a good fit for City on paper. However, his record over his 10 months in charge read 11 wins from 40 matches in charge before being dismissed last Thursday.
Supporters are split on O’Driscoll’s dismissal. I admit he had a very tough job on his hands and worked hard to implement his own philosophy, but his record on the pitch, where it really matters, was abysmal. Also, his downbeat, prickly demeanour didn’t endear himself to a large portion of the fanbase.
The real concern for me, and many City fans, is who we appoint next. The board HAS to get this one right. Dropping into the bottom division for the first time since 1984 seems unthinkable, but it’s a distinct possibility.
The favourite for the job is former Cheltenham Town, Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest boss, and friend of Dawe, Steve Cotterill. The same Steve Cotterill who sought O’Driscoll’s help as his number two at Forest midway through his tenure while Forest were on a 648-minute goal drought – you couldn’t make it up!
A support base that is desperately in need of some inspiration and something to get excited about could well end up being rewarded with a man who has achieved little since his success at Cheltenham and has a reputation for direct, dour football.
In a poll taken on the club’s main fans’ forum, the potential appointment of Cotterill gives the following results. ‘Yes please’: 5%; ‘I don’t have any strong feelings either way’: 26%; ‘No thanks!’: 68%. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
The Club’s Supporters’ Trust is so concerned about the next appointment it has today released a statement pleading with the board to “take time to ensure that the new head coach is the right choice”.
This really is last-chance saloon for Steve Lansdown and his band of merry men. Lifelong fans are staying away from games, home and away, worn out from years of struggle and lifeless performances on the pitch.
With a bit of fortune, we may stumble upon the right man – the law of averages says we are due some luck – but what the club needs to do now is bring in someone who will give the fans a bit of hope and inspiration.
Forget the stadium Steve and put a decent wedge towards attracting a manager of some calibre that can stabilise this sinking ship, because you won’t fill the ground in League Two.
My suggestion: get Neil Warnock signed on a short-term contract to keep us up, and tap into his knowledge to find the right man for the long-term in the summer.
If you can’t get this appointment right, then please put the club up for sale to the highest bidder and let someone else have a go.
Surely they couldn’t do much worse.
Editor adds: Bristol City have now announced a press conference for 11:00am this morning. Fans have reacted with varying degrees of dismay: