I hope that Barnsley manage to make their way back from the beach sometime soon due to the season already starting. I saw them at Ashton Gate at the end of April and, although City won, they impressed me greatly. Yesterday, Bristol City just bulldozed them in the first half. I don’t know what excuse the Barnsley manager came out with post-match. Many bosses will play the ‘rusty’ and ‘have to get back into the swing of things’ and ‘have to wait for things to gel’ cards for the next few weeks but isn’t that what pre-season games are for? So that you can hit the ground running from the off?
Way back when City favourite Brian Tinnion was made City manager, he would do stuff like play two pre-season friendlies simultaneously , with Bristol City at one ground and “Bristol City” at another ground (almost like Bucks Fizz and Bucks Fizz) but the season was coming quickly around the corner. Defenders of Tinnion would come out with ‘the team needs the time to gel’ as points were slipping away but you have those games in the pre-season so that, come the first day, you’re ready; you’re cohesive and you come straight out of the traps.
It always puts me on edge to get off to a good start as that can tend to imply that trouble’s down the road but Bristol City were just so dominant that the scroll from ’13 Assassins‘ came to mind if things were to carry on in the same fashion. Barnsley getting a weak header on target in the second half led to some derisive cheering from the travelling fans. They got a goal with a minute to go but it wasn’t deserved. Still, supposedly Barnsley always start off rubbish and have lost their last five openers while nothing really means anything until about mid-October at the earliest. That’s when, to use a middle-distance athletics term, the ‘stagger unwinds’ and you start to see where you truly are.
Supposedly, it used to be accepted practice that the league tables weren’t published until a certain number of games had gone by. Now, it gets published straight away (we’re top! Promotion’s in the bag!) and pressure’s now allowed to build on managers straight away. Although, table or no table, Yeovil Town being hammered 8-2 will have their manager Darren Way doing that index-finger-pulling-his-collar-from-his-throat gesture (the team and staff are going to refund those who traveled to Kenilworth Road, thankfully).
I try to turn-off and turn away from football during the summer so I always start off a little ‘out of the loop’. My friend texted at 2.45 to say that he was putting money on Bobby Reid getting some goals and, sure enough, he got two of the three. Manager, Lee Johnson has evidently put Bobby further up for the pre-season games and he’s scored quite a few. He’s partnered with new striker Famara Diédhiou, who also scored. I would say that they played well together but everyone played well, everyone, especially in the first half. Johnson says that Famara and Bobby are good mates off of the pitch as well, which might auger well.
1970s football coverage tried to once prove that Kevin Keegan and John Toshack, the part-time poet, played so well together for Liverpool that there had to be a psychic connection. They did an experiment where Keegan looked at a few over-sized playing cards and Toshack, with his back to Keegan, had to pick up on the vibes, and identify the card in question. Toshack got a few right….because, he later said, he could see the card in the reflection of the camera. Then again, Andrew Cole and Teddy Sheringham famously found each other to be toxic, and would barely even speak to each other yet, playing at Manchester United, they’d regularly cut open opposition teams’ defences, like hot knifes through butter.
Another thing I’d not been keeping across was that ‘Arry and Birmingham City had wanted to buy both Bristol City’s Joe Bryan and Aden Flint but got their first offer turned down for being “derisory” yet I heard a radio interview with the chairman after the game and he was seemingly smoke-signaling like crazy that he wants to deal with Birmingham.
The interviewer, ex-Bristol Rovers stalwart, Geoff Twentyman, asked how much was the club looking for, for Flint, and the chairman said that “I’m not going to tip my hand”….before going on to tip his hand and say that Flint only would cost £5 million at least. Sounded to me like he’s ready to deal and Flint was on the bench yesterday because his head’s been turned. So it seems like he’s eager to go to Birmingham and my guess is that something will be hashed out.
Both Flint (who got a great reception when he came on with 10 minutes to go) and Bristol born-and-bred Joe Bryan are very popular but they ain’t all that great. Flint scored a ludicrous 15 goals in League One as a non-penalty taking centre-back in 2014 – 2015 but his form’s a little in and out in the Championship. Bryan will do something admirable every once in a while (like everyone else, he was extremely good yesterday) but sometimes he’ll go missing for a half or both halves and his end product from the wing can be painfully poor. He’s gets a get-out-of-jail free card, though, because “he’s one of our own”. I’d sell both of them.
Bristol City doesn’t tap-dance and negotiate very well. When Jonathan Kodjia wanted to leave, the club said they wouldn’t sell him to our “promotion rivals” in the Championship…..and they didn’t…..they sold him to our relegation rivals, Aston Villa.
It’s fine that Kodjia wanted to go and fine that he was sold to Villa but the point is more the yawnsome phoney-baloneyness that is City’s public stances. With Jonathan Kodjia, they gave it the big I am, saying that they’d only sell to someone in the Premier League but it was obvious that they’d sell to anyone else so why the public pretense? And Villa didn’t outbid a Premier League side, I don’t think. Hull City showed interest but they were toast from the first day of last season and were only a Premier League club in name. When we played Villa away last season, we were still looking down the barrel of relegation and, as football lore dictates, of course Jonathan scored against us.
The same with Flint. The club publicly saying that it’ll be at least £5 million means that they’ll sell him for just over three, I’m guessing. He evidently wants to go and Birmingham are interested so it all makes sense to get it done but, again, it’s more hollow, phoney-baloney, public proclamations from the club. Do it private. Spare us the rubbish haggling.
Anyway, the main point from the first day’s performance was that the team of Bristol City could barely have started any better. They looked extremely confident, utterly organised and played with an attractive fluidity. Even Barnsley ruining the more-than-deserved clean sheet will only increase City’s desire to not let another team, so completely outplayed, get to apply a fake shine to a final score.