There are a number of words I would use to describe how I felt after last Saturday’s home win to Barnsley. Relieved would have to be the number one emotion. Joy too, of course. A little pride in what the relatively young group had managed to achieve over the last month or so. And, I have to admit, frustration at those same players and management team for what they put us all through this season.
The game itself was a typical Championship affair. Goals, mistakes, good finishing and some questionable defending. I felt City deserved the 3-2 victory, and, as the players accepted the adulation of the fans once the final whistle had gone, I saw something we have not seen too much of late: a smiling Lee Johnson.
Our manager no doubt still splits opinion. I am guessing that the fury and indignation reserved for Gary’s son has died down a little across the forums and social media sites given our recent impressive form. This will no doubt remain short lived if, heaven forbid, we start next season in anything other than half-decent form.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I have had my doubts over Johnson, as have most. I stand by what I said five or six weeks ago when I thought the time was right for a change. Now, with hindsight, it’s impossible to know if we would have done any better, had we made the change. Does that mean Lansdown got it right not to pull the trigger?
It is, of course, impossible to answer that question, and only time will tell. As alluded to, Johnson remains unpopular among the Ashton Gate faithful despite our recent resurgence. For me, this could be our biggest issue issue going into next season. Johnson seems to now be blamed for whatever goes wrong, and is not given credit for things that go right.
Some will say that that is just football. You could argue that Wenger at Arsenal is in the same situation for many Gunner fans, despite the fact that their side has just reached the F.A. Cup final.
So, I will put my head above the precipice and thank Johnson, Holden and McAllister for stewarding us to this all-but-certain salvaging of our season. The team selection, albeit potentially from a tombola, seemed to be the right one in the end, and our home form has been nothing short of phenomenal. Well done guys.
Like all City fans, I am now praying to whoever might listen for us to start where we left off next season. My concern now, given our somewhat tumultuous season, is what will happen if we start badly, or start well then lose a few games. The fans that voiced their concerns so vocally just a month or so ago will no doubt not be shy about letting their voices be heard again.
There is no chance, in my view, that Lansdown will make a change, so it would make sense for us City fans to try and wipe the slate clean with Johnson and start again. I for one will try to give Johnson a fresh start next season and will not jump on his back, should things not quite go as we might hope they might.
I do also think it would be prudent to bring in another experienced voice to assist with the current management team. John Pemberton was fired, rightly or wrongly, earlier this year, and whether it was due to luck or good judgement, results started to improve soon after his departure. But, to me, the trio of Johnson, McAllister and Holden seems pretty inexperienced.
Of course, a vital part of what happens between now and the first day of next season will be down to recruitment. Including loan signings and free transfers, as well as players we paid fees for, City signed no less than 18 players this season by my calculations. Needless to say, that is far too many.
Recruitment should be focused on positions of need and, as mentioned before in this blog, we are not short of young players with bags of potential, so let’s not buy any more. I would like to see one or two experienced Championship players – like David Cotterill – added to the side, to give us more balance across the squad.
We will need, though, to replace Mr Tammy Abraham – mine and many others’ player of the season. Replacing like-for-like will be nigh on impossible, as the likelihood of finding another young 20-plus-goal striker on loan from a Premier side is minimal, although there’s no harm in trying.
More likely will be that we have to spend a bit of cash and get a striker who can potentially take over goal scoring duties and assist the attacking players we already have in the squad. Djuric and Taylor have looked decent, but neither have quite yet found their shooting boots. Wilbraham should go and run a pub or whatever retired footballers do nowadays, and Engvall…well, who knows what is going on there.
City face Brighton on TV this Saturday dinner time, and I for one will be very happy to sit back in my armchair with a beer knowing that defeat will matter very little for the outcome of our season.