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.
Saturday 24 May 2008. My beloved football team and lifelong passion, Bristol City, are 90 minutes away from the Premier League after an incredible debut season in the Championship under Gary Johnson.
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:
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“The long slog through the desert of pre-season football will soon be over and at last the rains of competitive football will once again fall”
This article was first published on Tattooed Football.
On 1st August, at exactly 19:45 British Summer Time something truly remarkable will happen.
Football fans up and down the country will breathe a collective sigh of relief, for the long slog through the desert of pre-season football will be over and at last the rains of competitive football will once again fall.
The cruelty of crushing defeats, the deafening roars of previous victories, and the inevitable inaction of the transfer window can, at long last, be put behind us. Now, as the summer heats disappear almost as quickly as they came, so to can the suspense, the anticipation and anxiety of pre-season.
The time for reflection is over, now is the time to look ahead.
This annual cleansing, the leaving behind of the past, is an essential ritual for football fans. It allows us to be simultaneously enticed by the possibility of the up-coming season whilst also, holding on to a near eternal pessimism that borders on fatalism.
Take my team, the Robbins as an example. No not Bristol City and defiantly not (spits on the floor in pre-historic ritual) Swindon, but Cheltenham Town.
The last two seasons have been stained by the enticing near success of play-off failure. So close, and yet so far away.
The present, the now, the days before the new season however build on this turbulent past. The players who battled to last season’s triumphant failure have now been joined by fresh talent and some tested experience.
The present allows us to reach out to the future in anticipation. It entices, it allows all who habitually take to the stands to start dreaming of the coming season.
Yet, despite these fresh winds of possibility that surround us, despite sitting at work and toying with the ‘what ifs’ that rest somewhere in the back of all of our minds, we are all also confident in the certain failure of our team.
There is a part of us that is certain we will slip up against [insert local rival here].
This cocktail of aimless optimism combined with pessimism bordering on fatalism allows us, the football fan, to exist in a reality entirely devoid of reality. Both simultaneously imagining a cup run alongside battling for draws away against the (spit on the floor) [local rvials].
This safety net of pessimism allows us to dream of the impossible, to escape the traps of the possible.
Some might read this and think that this level of self-delusion is a worrying trait. For me, someone who has been through this ritual one too many times, it is a sign of the eternal beauty of this so aptly named beautiful game.
Every year we are born again in our collective hope, our collective dreams, and our collective ‘what ifs’. Past failures matter not, we are levelled, equal and looking ahead.
If you are reading this and worrying about me, about us, football fans, don’t.
We – the football fan – are not so different. Think of the obese that plod the pavements sweating in the winter sun of New Year’s Day dressed in lycra convinced that this year will be different to all the rest, that this year will yield results.
We are all delusional – football fans are just better at embracing it and having more fun.
Here’s to 2013/14 season. Remember, anything is possible!
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