Bristol Preview - Away, March 11th
Should Bristol City go up this season, they will create any number of posers that will come up in pub quizzes for years to come. 'How many teams have enjoyed consecutive promotions?`, 'Where did Gary Johnson start his managerial career?` [Latvian National Manager if you`re intrigued by the way…].
No-one; not even the most ardent, die-hard Robins fan could`ve expected his side to have been top of the league at any point, let-alone at such a crucial point in this 2007-2008 campaign. Nine games to go, four points ahead of Watford, three ahead of second-placed Stoke who snatched a late penalty leveller at Turf Moor on Saturday makes this game, crucially crucial. If Watford don`t win this, then a visit from Stoke and a trip to the Hawthorns are likely to be rendered pointless even if we do collect points; catch my drift?! In short, the Golden Boys must win, unfortunately, much like the Yellows, Bristol appear to have this tradition of playing well under the lights as early wins at Ashton Gate proved.
Watford`s last trip to the West Country and Ashton Gate in particular was a Carling Cup tie in 2003. City won 1-0 in extra time and things got so bad Sean Dyche was thrown on up top. How times have changed, now that`s Dan Shittu`s job!
Bristol play good football, then you cannot and could not deny after they snatched three points from the Vic at the back end of December. Watford were second best that day and hopefully lessons have been learnt. The strange thing is, for such an aesthetically pleasing side, Bristol have their fair share of hard-working sloggers. Perhaps it can be done then Mr Boothroyd?
Dele Adebola is the epitomy of the old-fashioned, hard-working, and occasionally lone, centre forward. Built more like a boxer than a professional footballer, Adebola left Coventry in January ending a five year affiliation with the Sky Blues for whom he scored 31 league goals. A modest total? Yes, but still an invaluable player whose overall game and hold-up player made him crucial in the success of the Mosquito, Michael Mifsud.
Let`s face it, all small strikers like to play with a big man alongside them. Think King-Henderson, Owen-Heskey, Crouch-Kuyt. [Ok, maybe not the latter!], but the point is Darren Byfield and Lee Trundle are hardly man mountains, more likely pocket rockets with pace and directness. Both have excellent scoring records, Byfield 85 league goals in 218 starts for 11 clubs.
Trundle has been more settled on the whole and especially at Swansea where he became something of a cult hero. It`s hard to find many of these in the modern game, especially when the player in question plays for a simple club, with simple values, however, despite his flash harry exterior, Trundle scores by the bundle. Six in five for his first club, Stalybridge Celtic was followed up by 27 in 73 for Wrexham before 78 in 135 for Swansea. In total that`s 111 in 213. That`s 0.5 goals a game, impressive stuff. Hence Gary Johnson parted with around a million pounds to bring the 30 year-old Scouser South. Although he enjoyed a good start, 3 goals in 28 appearances overall isn`t a great return. Underestimate him at your peril however.
In midfield, Marvin Elliott is our John Eustace. Some comparison for a fresh-faced 24 year-old but you wouldn`t want to cross either on a dark night. A strapping figure with the deadly combination of pace and power, Elliott is also a hugely creative influence. Elliott began his career at Millwall alongside player-manager, Dennis Wise - expect some of the old 'Wisey` tenacity in the boy in that case…
At the back, captain Jamie McCombe is a man bang in form, up front at least. Two goals in the last few weeks have come against Crystal Palace and Hull City have been point-savers on both occasions. The strike against Hull City, a splendid bicycle kick from 10 yards, worked from little or no space was majestic. At 6`5" the Pontefract-born centre half is also a main to be equally feared in his own area. Sounds something like our own Dan Shittu eh?
Although promotion for Bristol City to the Premiership would cap one of the most twist-and-turn filled seasons, ever, so let`s get the job done before we enjoy that particular novelty.
Bristol City XI?
Basso; Brian Wilson, McCombe, Fontaine, McAllister; Carle, Elliott, Johnson, McIndoe; Adebola and Byfield.
Lee (c); Mariappa, Shittu, Bromby, Sadler; Smith, Eustace, Bangura, McAnuff; Henderson and John.