City's hat-trick hero Jamie Cureton had just one word of warning ahead of this weekend's trip to his old Bristol haunts: You ain't seen anything yet…
For if anyone thought the 32-year-old's relationship with Colchester United fans had become a little fractious of late, it may well pale into comparison to the 'reception' the cheeky lad from Eastville gets when he rolls into Ashton Gate on Saturday.
“Whenever I play against them, they know I'm in town,” said Cureton, with more than a hint of a wry smile. Fresh from sending Colchester to meet their League One maker with last weekend's three-goal haul, his arrival in the red half of Bristol this weekend will have one or two Robins fans shifting uneasily in their seats as their hopes of an automatic promotion berth suddenly start to wobble.
For if the 2-1 home defeat by West Country neighbours Plymouth Argyle weren't bad enough, last weekend's 2-1 defeat against them across the Severn will have really put the doubting cat among the pigeons. Now is not the time for Cureton to roll into view. Not when he's on a little mission.
“As soon as they lost against Cardiff, they'd be looking at this game and they'd know,” said Cureton, whose four-year playing spell with Rovers hardly helps his cause. Nor the fact that he was brought up a few hundred yards away from Rovers' old Eastville Stadium; he's a blue. End of.
“I've been down there before and mates who don't really know too much about it all, don't believe it.
“It's crazy – and I don't think people realise how crazy it is. The city is literally split down the middle – one half red, one half blue,” said the City favourite. “And whenever I go there, it literally never stops. From the moment that I step off the bus, to the moment that I step back on it. It never stops.”
There is one difference between the whole ColU thing and this weekend's trip into the red zone – Cureton has never scored against the Robins. Not yet. He's bagged four against the U's this season as he gives them stick back – with interest. Thus far, however, he's drawn a big, fat blank against Bristol City.
One final irony. As a kid, he did play a couple of trial games for Bristol City. But as the Robins pondered, so City's then Youth chief Gordon Bennett pounced and hauled the likes of Cureton, Andy Johnson and Darren Eadie out of the West Country and into his flourishing Trowse set-up. When Cureton did head home it was in 1996 – and it was back home to Rovers.
“I've never scored against Bristol City – and I've played against them quite a few times now,” said Cureton, as his career along the length of the M4 corridor – be it first for Rovers, then Reading, QPR and Swindon – saw him return to Ashton Gate on a reasonably regular basis.
“And I think that's why they quite like seeing me – because they give me stick and they don't expect me to score against them. I've beaten them a few times, but I've never scored against them.”
Cue a little wish. “That's one of the little things that I'd like to achieve before I retire; one aim that I've still got – to score a goal against them. One goal against them would be very, very precious. If we can win, I can chip in with just one goal – and it doesn't have to be the winner – then I can roll out of Bristol on Saturday very, very happy.”
That all said, the Canary striker is more than happy to give credit where credit is due – Gary Johnson's side have performed wonders already this season and few outside the east end of Bristol would begrudge the Robins a second successive promotion if only for the manner in which they approach the game. They are not a Watford or a Stoke.
“They're up there on merit,” said Cureton. “And fair play to them. They get the ball down and play the game in the right manner.
“The manager's stuck with his philosophy and they've been consistent; they've been in and around the top two for much of the season. But now the pressure starts to get on them – now we'll see how good they really are.”
Wihtout a win in their last five games and with Hull, in particular, charging through that play-off pack like a train and having come so, so far this season, the Robins know that they could all too easily see that automatic ticket to the Premiership slip through their fingers as the finishing line nears.
“That defeat to Plymouth would have hurt – there's a lot of rivalry down there. And then to get beat by Cardiff – that's even worse,” said Cureton, well-versed in West Country tribal rivalries.
“So there not going to be happy. It's going to be a tense atmosphere – and me going back there is only going to enhance it. Because they're so close to achieving something that they'd have never dreamed of and there's going to be big, big pressure on them.”
Johnson could certainly have done without the Canaries winning by such a comfortable margin last weekend. And while the fight against relegation is still far from done, there is definitely a lighter mood around the place on the back of that 5-1 success and Maceo Rigters' arrival on loan.
The Robins chief, says Cureton, would probably have preferred Norwich to arrive intent on little more than shutting up shop and letting the hosts play all the football. From the outset, however, and Canary boss Glenn Roeder has insisted that they will play their game in Bristol's half; play their football as if they were the home team. Suits me, says Cureton.
“I think Gary Johnson will be quite wary of us,” said the City striker, who took his haul to 14 for the season on the back of last weekend's timely heroics.
“He knows that we're a good side; that our position in the table is possibly a bit false; that we've just gone out and shown what we can do.
“And he'll probably want us to go there and be very cautious. But we'll be going there to have a go. And if they come at us and leave any sort of gaps then he knows that we've got the ability to hurt teams. So, no, he'll be quite wary of us.”