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Can City maintain promotion push post cup run? Interview
Thursday, 25th Jan 2018 16:45 by Clive Whittingham

For the seocnd time this season we sit down with the Exiled Robin to talk about Bristol City's remarkable season to date and whether it will have a happy ending come May.

This is basically a continuation of our chat with Exiled Robin from the first meeting between the sides this season which you can read here.

Great first half to the season, can it be maintained? What might derail you?

ER: Last week's draw at Derby felt like a big result. We'd lost five in a row before that - albeit all with very explainable excuses as standalone matches, but it was starting to hurt. The cup run has had a massive impact, emotionally and physically. We've had six first-team squad members out injured for a long time now, and have played pretty much the same 11 or 12 players every week. Those players have all now played 270 minutes more football in the last 35 days than any other Championship player and they were three high intensity games against the two Manchester giants. It's very hard to manage rest and recovery around that and try to get the players back 'up' for the league games around those massive occasions.

Lee Johnson said he’d rather win promotion than the League Cup final at Wembley (with the European qualification that would have brought). Did you agree?

ER: I think so, the Premier League has to be the aim with all its fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, but we want it all. I wouldn't swap the cup-run and the highs of beating Man United and such a special night at the Etihad now though, it's memories like that which fuels fans for years, creates an entire new generation of supporters and is something we can really build on. I am quite glad we didn't have extra-time on Tuesday night though...

Any January business done so far? Any still to come?

ER: We've signed midfielder Liam Walsh from Everton for around £1m (he was on loan at Birmingham but Steve Cotterill doesn't play youngsters) and he comes very highly-regarded, whilst Liverpool's Ryan Kent - who starred for Barnsley last season on loan, has joined until the end of the season. We also look set to announce St Etienne's French striker Lois Diony, who has done well previously for Dijon but hasn't impressed for his new club after a fairly big summer transfer.

Six without a win in recent weeks, albeit two Premier League teams and two of the form Championship teams in there. Anything more to it than that?

ER: As mentioned above, a culmination of mental and physical exhaustion I think, which we've now got to snap out of. But as you say, seven now without a win but that's Man City x 2, Watford where we made nine changes and they made few, and then arguably the three best teams in the Championship with Wolves (in the last minute), Villa after a ridiculous run of games and we hit the wall, and Derby on Friday night. Only losing at home to Norwich in that run could be said as being genuinely unexpected, the others were all always going to be difficult. Reasons and excuses for all, it just doesn't help when they're all in that sort of run so close together.

Short, medium and long term aims for the club?

ER: Short-term it has to be to get a minimum of seven points from the next three games as we face yourselves, Sunderland and Bolton. It's not a case of "we should be beating teams like that" which I know is a phrase which winds people up, but if we're to have any hope of automatic promotion, let alone solidify our top six position, we've got to be picking up wins against teams in & around the bottom third of the table.

Medium term I've got to say I think automatic promotion is beyond us. It would probably take 14 wins in 18 games which, at this stage, having had the cup run and injuries and with Derby and Villa on form, looks beyond us. It would be disappointing to not make the play-offs now given where we have been all season, but whatever happens now we've made significant progress and I hope that's remembered at the end of it all.

Long-term there is only one aim and that's the Premier League. We've received lots of lovely plaudits in the last month from across the media and football world about our team, our manager, our stadium and everything about the club. But now we've got to convert and actually make it. If we don't go up this season we'll lose long-standing players Joe Bryan and Aden Flint, and have to do a mini-rebuild again.

When Lee Johnson joined he made some throwaway, jokey/crass comment about taking us to Europe inside five years. It was laughable this time last year in the middle of an eight-game losing streak and fighting relegation. but on Tuesday we were a lucky deflection or a single bit of skill away from taking Man City to extra-time and possibly ending up 90 minutes away from exactly that. He's got three years left.

The Twitter @loftforwords, @theexiledrobin

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Myke added 23:43 - Jan 25
No better team than Charity Park Rangers (Registered Trademark) to snap a losing streak

TacticalR added 13:04 - Jan 27
Thanks to the Exiled Robin.

Your description of the toll a cup run can take explains why so many clubs are wary of the cups. However, if Bristol City can stay in the play-off places until the end of the season that cup experience might come in handy.

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