As the play-offs unfold around the country this week, fans of neutral clubs sit glued to TV sets enjoying the drama unfold. If you’re a fan of a club involved it can, and will, throw up every single emotion possible to human being throughout 90 minutes of 100mph football. Which leads me to this question, can Bristol City being back in League One and potentially playing a part in the Play-Off lottery next season be just what the struggling South West side need?
It’s clear that momentum plays at integral part of any clubs potential success. When players are confident they suddenly produce moments of brilliance and match winning performances on a more regular basis, and winning matches breeds this confidence. So my argument is this:
Despite dropping a division, the thought of winning more games than you lose should be some appeal to any City fan. Add a promotion push and talk of Swansea, Norwich and Stokes successes will start becoming the topic of conversation in the pubs around Ashton Gate. The before mentioned clubs certainly used their promotion from League One to mount their promotion to the Premier League. City fans will be hoping the same applies to them.
If this is to happen though, a lot has to change. Firstly, the appointment of Sean O’Driscoll and his philosophy on the game will help the clubs growing debt concerns. With owner Steve Lansdown looking to go a different route with the well-publicised recruitment plan, it is vital to have a manager (or Head Coach in O’Driscolls case) who agrees with that mantra.
The appointment of Keith Burt in the Director of Football role is also crucial to the clubs new recruitment plan. With wages thought to be amongst the highest in League One, and agents fees through the roof, the need for an experienced man to steady this outlay is as big a signing as any the club will make on the pitch. It will also allow the Head Coach to work more intensely with his players on the training ground.
There is a big mess to clear up however. Two inexperienced managers have come and gone and when you add the turmoil in which Steve Coppell brought to the club, and then it’s pretty obvious to see why this club has struggled so much over the past three seasons.
For a club that has been down on its knees for the past three seasons, they have now come to a crossroads which could make or break their coming seasons. Indeed, the direction they turn won’t be decided on the pitch, it will be decided off the pitch over the most crucial summer in years in BS3.
The current crop of players is assembled from five different managers and for this reason alone the squad is far too unbalanced. With twelve players out of contract, and big earners on the books, there will undoubtedly be an immense volume of traffic going through the doors at Ashton Gate. Fans and media will speculate until the cows come home, but the fact remains that very few will be retained. Only Tom Heaton, Jon Stead and the evergreen Louis Carey are likely to be wanted by the fans, whilst clubs will pay big fees for the likes of Albert Adomah, Steven Davies and Sam Baldock. These are all quality players who could potentially tear League One defences apart, but money talks when offered in difficult times. I’d expect the club to keep hold of the hard working Baldock, whilst bringing in much needed revenue from the sales of the others. It’s likely these two big earners won’t be the only players out the door however.
Players who have served the club relatively well may find that O’Driscoll is ready to put his own stamp on the squad. This may see the likes of Liam Fontaine, Lewin Nyatanga, Marvin Elliott, Neil Kilkenny and Stephen Pearson moved on to pastures new, with the core of Heaton, Brendan Maloney, Greg Cunningham, Liam Kelly and Paul Anderson likely to be the platform for the potential promotion push, along with academy starlets Joe Bryan and Bobby Reid. With Burt probably being briefed to bring in some natural leaders too, proper men of the game and tough boys for League One, you can suddenly start seeing a decent squad assemble.
It’s worth noting that this month sees the ten year anniversary of Swansea City surviving relegation out of the football league all together. I wonder where Bristol City fans think they will be in ten years time? For their sake, Id be careful what I wish for. After relegation last time saw the Robins take eight years to bounce back, it’s clear that things are being run differently this time with everything being pre thought and pro active responses happening rather than the previous reactive panics. In O’Driscoll, Burt and the Lansdowns, the future may be about to get a whole lot brighter.
Written by Lee Molland, We Are Going Up’s Bristol City blogger
Lee tweets at @molls28