Ahead of tomorrow tea-time’s clash with Bristol City, I’ve been chatting with Joe Tanner – a Bristol City-supporting journo and producer who works for, amongst others, LBC and talkSPORT. Here’s what he had to say about his beloved Robins…
So, first of all, a bit about you and your Bristol City supporting journey, Joe. Does your work (@ LBC and talkSPORT) and your love of the Robins ever cross over or collide?
I was a season ticket holder at Ashton Gate from ages 7 – 17, my first game being a 3-0 win against Wycombe in the old Nationwide Division 2 back in 2002/03 under Danny Wilson’s tenure. It’s in the blood, my family are South Bristol born and bred, grandparents went down every week for around 60 years. Through my time at Uni in Nottingham I’ve followed them away across the Midlands a fair bit. With work now it’s a struggle to get to games as much but I’ve covered a few pressers when working in the West Country.
So, because of work you don’t get to watch them live regularly?
Not as much as I’d like, I mainly go to away games as and when. Our last few trips to Fulham in the past few years have been pretty memorable for me. 3-0 away against QPR in August was great as well, pity Ian Holloway wasn’t still in charge at that point or it would’ve been even better. It would be nice to get down the Gate sometime soon. The pain is still fresh from missing arguably the best win in our history against Man Utd in the League Cup last Christmas.
The Robins are the very epitome of mid-table right now. How does this fit in with pre-season expectations? Being only seven points off the play-offs leaves you nicely placed for a tilt at the top six, right?
I think expectations were always relatively low given that our three best players all left in the summer and we haven’t quite replaced their quality yet in my opinion – apart from maybe Lloyd Kelly at left back who’s definitely one to watch out for.
The injury to Korey Smith has been key too, his role in the team is very understated and was crucial when we were on a good run last season. Lee Johnson also can’t work out what his best side is at the moment, and players like Paterson haven’t been on form. We need to be patient, it’s always competitive but there are a lot of teams with bigger budgets and more ex-Prem players in the division this season.
If we end the campaign in mid-table then that would be a good season for me. But if Eliasson keeps firing on all cylinders and our strikers convert a few more then who knows!
You’re certainly in the mix. This division is crazy and we all know what a string of wins can do in the Championship!
So how did the Ashton Gate faithful react to losing Bobby Reid and Aden Flint over the summer? Not happy with how Lee Johnson spent the money? Thoughts on that Marley Watkins geezer?
Mixed. Many were labelling Reid as a one-season wonder with his prolific goalscoring last year. £10m was a good fee for him. But his off the ball work and interplay, as well as his pace up top, was such a handful for defenders and we miss that. Selling him to rivals Cardiff was a tough one to take as well, but good luck to him.
Marley Watkins and Andreas Weimann have shown flashes of potential on occasions but could link up better with Famara Diedhiou and be more consistent. I think with Joe Bryan everyone knew someone would come in for him, £6m wasn’t nearly enough though and the board should’ve negotiated that deal better. I think most fans were just happy he went to Fulham and fobbed off Villa the day before deadline day!
As I mentioned, Lloyd Kelly could be really special, shows a maturity far beyond his years and is doing well for England at youth level, another local boy as well so credit to the academy. Nicolas Eliasson as well also feels like a new signing even though he was bought last summer.
I really miss Flinty. Some think we got the best out of him but he’s been terrific for Boro’ so far. His goals are a bonus and he soaks everything up at the back. Adam Webster we bought from your rivals, he’s great on the ball and fits our style of play but needs to be stronger in my book – promising though.
You were doing nicely there until you mentioned Webster 🙂 , although to be honest, I know very little about him.
Changing the subject, your owner Stephen Lansdown appears to have done just about everything right. Fair to say he is in the minority of owners who are respected and admired by the fans? He helped finance the rebuild of Ashton Gate – do his deep pockets also extend into investing in the playing side (as much as FFP allows)?
If it wasn’t for Lansdown we’d be bankrupt, simple as that. Every fan is absolutely in awe and grateful for everything he’s put into the club. What he’s now doing with Bristol Sport in general and the new basketball arena as well is going to brilliant for the city.
He’s investing in infrastructure and the academy with the aim of building long-term success. Johnson mainly buys up and coming talent rather than having a focus on marquee signings with a view to getting out of the division quickly, which is maybe what a team like Forest or Villa have done.
While you could argue selling academy graduates like Reid and Bryan undermines that, I think that’s an indicator as to the kind of future player we can produce. Johnson drives me mad at times with his selections and failure to make subs at the right times but it’s right that Lansdown’s given him time when many chairmen might’ve sacked him.
Sounds like a top bloke to have in charge of your club, and a patient one too.
How close (or realistic) is his dream of Bristol City becoming an established top-end Premier League club?
Last season we showed that we can compete with the best in this division and against some of the Premier League’s best too. We’d beaten more top-flight sides than Swansea had at one point last year.
Generally speaking, I think we need some more experienced players to balance the youth in our squad and we need to be a bit more stoic when things get tough in games, which will come with time. We could do with an attacking centre-mid that can link play too. A few more seasons and I reckon we’ll be in the hunt.
You mentioned that Johnson drives you mad at times. Has he got the team playing in a specific style? If so, how would you describe it?
I feel like our strengths are on the counter-attack and in closing teams down early on with the high press as has become fashionable these days. We’re not particularly ‘up and at ‘em, Johnson likes the ball on the deck as well.
Will be an interesting game then as we like to try and dominate possession. Are you up to speed on our Germanic revolution? Your thoughts?
It’s looking very good at the moment. Coming from behind has been your biggest strength this season, which is something that can take you a long way in a league like the Championship. Daniel Farke’s got the side playing with an unbelievable spirit and a tireless work ethic, Klose and Rhodes have been bang in form and Farke’s bought so well without spending millions.
Finally – standard – a score prediction for tomorrow?
Norwich are on a good run and flying high, we’ve won 2 in the last 3 and drawn the other and are probably due a loss, therefore, to fit in with mid-table inconsistency. 2-1 Norwich.
Cheers to Joe for his time – appreciated.
A tale of two cities; one sitting proudly top of the league and unbeaten in nine, the other firmly in mid-table but unbeaten in three (although one was a victory against Ipswich which barely counts at the moment). These are the fixtures that test promotion credentials and could be as close as the four-way tie at the top of our tipster panel.
Penney predicts: It’s all about that bubble (possibly) waiting to burst as we all know. But with my belief in Team Farke, I’m not that pessimistic so I’ll go for a well-deserved 1-1.
Andy assumes: Bristol City are a decent side on their day and we can’t keep whacking everyone so I’ll go for an entertaining Desmond. 2-2.
Gaz guesses: If Mo is fit again I think we could sneak a narrow win, but as I write I’m unsure if he’s going to make it, so I’ll go conservative (small c) and go 1-1.
Cookie concludes: Could Marley Watkins prove his Norwich doubters wrong and burst our bubble? I don’t think so. City 0 – City 1
Stew suspects: We’re strong away, especially if Leitner’s back. Still building up the points bank. 2-0 Norwich
The oppo’s opinion: 2-1 Norwich
Siri says: The answer is Bristol 1 – City 2