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It was all going so well - Interview
Wednesday, 12th Apr 2017 15:56 by Clive Whittingham

The Exiled Robin was reasonably optimistic about Bristol City’s chances prior to the meeting at Loftus Road, so where did it all go so wrong? LFW went looking for answers…

Why has Bristol City's season gone so badly wrong after such a bright start?

TER: Where to start! Going right back we were probably punching a little above our weight when in the play-off spots in October. We were on a roll, five unbeaten, when we came across a Neil Warnock’s debut inspired Cardiff who bullied us out of the game and seemed to knock the confidence of head coach Lee Johnson in the style and team that had served us well until that point. Multiple changes in formation, players, style and approach have left players, management and players alike confused. Ultimately, we’re poorly organised off-the-ball and concede too many soft goals. Plus we don’t score enough (apart from Tammy Abraham).

Is Lee Johnson lucky to still have his job? Why has the chairman stuck with him?

TER: Incredibly so. He survived eight straight losses in December/January and although things have picked up a little since, the long-term record is still poor. There can’t be many clubs in the 92 that would have stuck with him through all this. Worryingly, the last two defeats have been proper surrender stuff from the players – no fight, passion, desire or commitment – the first time I believe we’ve really seen that although they bounced back well on Saturday to beat Wolves with a great, united, pacy performance so hopefully there’s enough of a glimmer there to work with going forward.

Who are the fans blaming for this, on the whole?

TER: Anyone and everyone. Johnson, obviously; owner Steve Lansdown for being too stubborn to admit he’s made a mistake; CEO Mark Ashton; new assistant Dean Holden who came in when we were in the top half; the players; Bristol Sport as a whole – pretty much anyone but mainly Johnson and Lansdown.

Confident of surviving with five games left?

TER: Yes. Funnily enough despite everything I’ve written I’ve never really thought we’d go down. I’ve been worried, but always felt we’d be fine. I think we’ve got a bit too much quality and we show it from time to time. Our wins are rarely lucky – they’re fully deserved and we’ve stuck seven past in form teams Huddersfield and Wolves in our last two home games. One more of those might just be enough.

If you do, what has to change next season to avoid a repeat?

TER: Apart from the manager….we need a more commanding goalkeeper, a pair of Championship full-backs, a strong central midfielder to protect the back four and at least two strikers – one who’ll score 15-20 goals to replace Tammy and another as back-up/support as it’s a position we’re light on.

Taylor was a high profile, controversial acquisition in January, how's that worked out?

TER: Yes he was, and it was a hilarious day giving us great opportunity to have fun with our neighbours. If you forget the hype, we signed a guy who’s scored 20+ goals in each of the past few seasons, and had looked decent at League One level, for £300,000. That’s a risk worth taking on anyone.

Stand out players and weak links in the side?

TER: Tammy Abraham has obviously stolen all the headlines and rightly so. He’s impressed more and more as the season’s gone on despite often looking like he’s fighting a lone battle. Lee Tomlin is our enigma – at times unplayable, at times unbearable but he can click on his day. Aside from that we’re a mix of players who can perform brilliantly one week and bang average the next, so tricky to pick out anyone else.

Luke Freeman is absolutely tearing it up for us, did he do this for you? Why was his contract running down? City fans sorry to see him go?

TER: Well, another long story. Him and Dele Alli were the standout players in League On two seasons ago and many had Luke ahead of the England superstar and alleged Real Madrid target, but he never seemed to really adapt to the pace of the Championship. Many felt he never found his true position or had the right support, so there was a mix of feelings when he left and it will be interesting to see how he fits into your side. What we do know is his combination with then on-loan striker Matt Smith was deadly at League One level and they appear to link up brilliantly together.

The Twitter @loftforwords, @theexiledrobin

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Myke added 22:27 - Apr 12
Thanks Clive - hopefully lots more of the Freeman/Smith combo to come

francisbowles added 10:39 - Apr 13
Interesting interview, didn't realise Smith and Freeman had played together before.


TacticalR added 14:20 - Apr 14
Thanks to The Exiled Robin.

What a strange up and down season. It's funny how one loss can puncture a team's confidence. We also had a bad run of losses when Holloway first came in (six losses), but the club would have looked ridiculous if they had got rid of him.

The Luke Freeman story is also strange - so far he doesn't seem to have had a problem with the pace of the Championship for us.

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