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Exclusive: Bristol City’s Bobby Reid on his new role, Lee Johnson and Premier League aspirations

Jake Jackman

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Bobby Reid

The Championship is one of the tightest and most unpredictable leagues in Europe. It is becoming harder and harder for relegated Premier League clubs to bounce back at the first attempt, due to the competitiveness of the division.

The difficulty posed by the second tier is symbolised by the incredible start of Bristol City. The Robins have not been in the top flight since it was rebranded in 1992 and last season’s finish of 17th suggested they were a long way from achieving promotion.

However, they have started the new season in great form and are currently in fourth position, five points clear of seventh. They are the joint-third highest scorers in the division and one of the best teams for neutrals to watch.

There were fears that they would struggle in front of goal after the loss of successful loanee Tammy Abraham, but an academy graduate has stepped up to fill the void.

Bobby Reid has been one of the breakout stars of the Football League this season and established himself as the leader of the Bristol City attack. He has started all 16 of the club’s league matches and currently has nine goals, which ranks him second in the race for the division’s golden boot accolade.

It has taken the forward time to become a key player for the Robins and when speaking to The Boot Room, he admits that the loan spells away from the club helped him reach the level he is at now.

The Oldham loan was great for me. I was far away from home so had to stay up there. It was obviously under the gaffer’s management (Lee Johnson) and Korey (Smith) was there as well. I really enjoyed it.

“Then the Plymouth loan was brilliant; playing the whole season in the league and we were unfortunate not to go up, losing in the play-offs. I’d recommend it to any young player – you need to play games and play men’s football, it’s just so different to under-23 football.”

It is a common narrative in the media to criticise the state of youth and reserve football, with loans to a team lower down the football pyramid becoming the best option for young players.

These comments from Reid are particularly pertinent now after the success of the English age groups in 2017. There have been calls for the successful Young Lions to be given a chance in the Premier League, but the success of the Bristol City man suggests they will have more luck going out on loan.

Reid’s relationship with current Robins manager Lee Johnson, the seeds of which were sewn during his last few weeks at Oldham Athletic in the 2012/13 season, has played a huge role in his development, to date.

He played seven games in League One for the Latics, with Johnson clearly impressed with his somewhat raw talent. Naturally, this aided Reid when the 36-year-old coach eventually made the switch to Ashton Gate.

The confidence that his manager has in him has played a big role in his improvement during the last 12 months, as the player himself recognises:

He’s told me to be patient in the past. He always said he believes in me and now it’s showing. He’s kept that faith in me and I want to repay him for that with my performances on the pitch. As I said, he signed me on loan at Oldham years ago and has always said that he likes me as a footballer.”

Reid only played two matches during the successful promotion campaign in 2014-15 as Bristol City returned to the Championship after a two-year spell in League One. The 24-year-old spent the majority of that season on loan at Plymouth Argyle, but showed signs of maturity. This earned him a place in the Robins’ squad for the following season.

Although he has done okay during the last two seasons, scoring five goals and contributing four assists, there was a belief that he could achieve more. He featured in 58 Championship matches, but 24 of those were from the bench.

Nonetheless, this term, the exit of Abraham has allowed Reid to play in a more advanced role as a centre forward, and he believes that he where is long-term future lies:

“I’m more comfortable in the striker role and it’s allowed me to shine and play regularly. I’ve worked hard over the summer to make sure I was right and I’m reaping the benefits now. I do see it as my long-term position now. Having playing in midfield previously in my career, I feel it allows me to do a bit of everything to cause defenders confusion.”

The most noticeable impact of the move has been the increased confidence of Reid. He now looks like a player that believes he is one of the best in the division and that is resulting in goals and assists.

Currently, he is averaging 2.25 shots and 1.61 chances created per ninety minutes. That doesn’t represent a huge rise from last season, during which he averaged 3.19 shots and 1.22 chances created. In fact, he is now averaging fewer shots on goal per ninety minutes, but his shot accuracy has risen from 39% to 63%.

In addition to his position change, the improved form of the team will have helped improve the production of Reid, as he is now playing in a side that believes they can compete at the top of the division. Results have improved this season, but the 24-year-old isn’t surprised by City’s position in the league table:

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been surprised by anything. We’re staying in games longer and are getting draws or wins late in games, where maybe in the past we would have lost games. It’s going really well but no one is getting carried away.”

Last season, the Robins fell into a relegation battle after a bright start, but they were seen as a good team, especially in attack. However, negative momentum built, especially at the beginning of the calendar year, and they found it difficult to arrest the slide.

There were calls for Johnson to lose his job on social media, but those inside the club could see how close they were to achieving success and they are now being rewarded for that faith.

Reid’s comments above show that the squad remained with the manager, but more importantly, they aren’t getting carried away with their early success. The last few years of progression have been special for the 24-year-old, considering he came through the club’s academy.

“It’s special for the likes of myself and Joe (Bryan), coming through the youth system to play for your local club, and more recently Lloyd Kelly and Zak Vyner have also broken through. We want to help the club reach the Premier League; that’s our aim and the club’s aim.”

For a club like Bristol City in the Championship, it is important to bring players through to the first-team as they don’t have the finances of those clubs coming down from the Premier League. They need to find other ways to compete and the emergence of Reid as a leading player in the division shows that they are managing to do just that.

In addition to making headlines on the pitch, Bristol City have been the talk of social media for their goal GIFs on Twitter, posted every time a goal is scored. They have brought attention to the team and are an indicator of the excellent team spirit at the club.

“My favourite so far has been Flinty’s. He had the suit jacket one and then the DJ spinning plates. There are some other great ones yet to be seen; Marlon Pack’s is great so let’s hope he scores soon. If it’s a high-scoring game for us, it’s great to see all the GIFs getting coverage.”

The 24-year-old had an eye-catching one after his goal against Derby County in September, when he was videoed with a fire extinguisher, alluding to his hot streak on the pitch.

Few would have predicted Reid’s performances this season. He was hardly spoken about as a realistic option to replace Abraham, but he has done just that and he will have ambitions of passing the 20-goal mark like his predecessor did when leading the line at Ashton Gate.

Unsurprisingly, Reid’s form has caused media speculation regarding his future with his contract set to expire next summer. Bristol City have an option of another 12 months, but supporters will be hoping that he remains at Ashton Gate for longer than that.

When asked about his personal aims for the future, he simply said:

“Just to keep on playing and scoring for Bristol City. Who knows where this season could take us.”

As a player that has come through the ranks and been on the recent journey with Bristol City, it would be great for him to win another promotion with the club and do so as an important part of the team this time.

There is a long way to go and there are no guarantees that the Robins will finish in the top-six, but with Reid, they have one of the best players in the division. They have a great chance of becoming the 50th club to play in the Premier League.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Bristol City

Why Bristol City’s next three fixtures could be season defining

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Bristol City
Photo: Reuters

Bristol City have had a fantastic 2017/18 season so far, of that there can be little doubt.

Currently sitting fourth in the league, in the semi-finals of the League Cup, City have not only replaced the goals of Tammy Abraham “in-house”, they have gone viral with goal scoring gifs, and did this all playing for months with six long term injuries to first team players.

This is less a matter of months after staving off relegation and a toxic atmosphere at Ashton Gate as Lee Johnson lost eight Championship fixtures on the spin and ‘Johnson Out’ bedsheets were plastered over major highways in south Bristol.

For Bristol City to now be playing brave attacking football, beating four Premier League sides (including Manchester United) and going toe-to-toe with Manchester City at the Etihad, spearheaded by local academy midfield graduate turned striker Bobby Reid, Robins fans can have little complaints. Or so you would think.

City have somewhat under the radar lost five games on the bounce, most recently a 0-1 home versus against Norwich City (this rather cheeky tweet from the Canaries’ media team did not go unnoticed).

Admittedly two of the five aforementioned defeats were in cup competitions – one a 2-1 last minute loss courtesy of Sergio Aguero, the other a 3-0 reverse at Vicarage Road with a second string XI put out by Lee Johnson.

That said, late defeats against Wolves, Norwich and a thumping at Aston Villa, won’t exactly be good for morale. Media plaudits for performances in the League Cup will only go so far, and City fans will be wanting owner Steve Lansdown to seriously invest this January to get the promotion push back on track.

Liam Walsh and Ryan Kent have been added so far, and they will inject youthful energy – much needed for this paper thin squad. Alone these two exciting prospects will not be enough.

The return of the likes of record signing Famara Diedhiou, Eros Pisano, Callum O’Dowda and Milan Djuric will also help squad depth and stop the current norm for City of players playing out of position.

However, one or two marque signings are required if Lee Johnson is to stand any chance of an automatic promotion berth. After this run of losses, the next three fixtures could be season defining for Bristol City, and they are as follows:

Derby (A)

The toughest of the three fixtures is a Friday night trip under the lights at Pride Park. This County side is a different beast altogether than the one put to the sword 4-1 at Ashton Gate in September.

Gary Rowett is showing his credentials as one of the most talented young English managers in the game, and has guided The Rams up to second in the division, with the Whites unbeaten in the Championship since November 28th.

Impressive stuff from Derby, and it is fair to say an out of sorts Bristol City will have their work cut out. If City were to win, not only would it send a statement to the rest of league but it would also get the automatic promotion push well back on track – a massive six pointer to look forward to in the coming days.

QPR (H)

Whenever Ian Holloway visits Ashton Gate, it is an occasion. The City faithful will never forget his Gas roots – playing, captaining and managing Bristol Rovers as well as an infamous speech from the top of a bus when Rovers pipped City to the third division title in 1990.

Holloway brings a QPR side to Ashton Gate with some familiar faces in the form of Luke Freeman and Matt Smith. The London oufit started the season poorly but are beginning to turn things around. That said, if City are serious about their promotion aspirations this needs to be three points won.

This will be the first game after the second leg home tie versus Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Let’s hope that win, lose or draw, City do not suffer a hangover going back in the brutal rhythm of the Championship.

Bolton (A)

More familiar faces for City fans with Mark Little and Aaron Wilbraham now plying their trade for Bolton Wanderers, and another three points should be the target, one feels.

Bolton, like QPR, have had a mini resurgence in recent weeks but, despite this being an away fixture, Lee Johnson will need a win to keep up the pressure on the other promotion hopefuls (especially if he loses the six pointer versus Derby).

By the time this game rolls around the Robins may have a couple of new signings, and maybe even a few of the long term injuries back in the fold.

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Manchester City 2-1 Bristol City: Three talking points from the Etihad Stadium

Jake Jackman

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Manchester City

Manchester City scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Bristol City in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final. The visitors have been the feel-good story of the competition, as they have knocked out Premier League opposition in four successive rounds. In the previous round, they knocked out Manchester United and they came to the Etihad Stadium with no fear. They pressed well and gave the hosts a fierce contest, which can’t be said of many teams this season.

Although the difference in quality was reflected in the final result thanks to a late Sergio Aguero winner, the tie is delicately poised and Bristol City will be confident that they can spring a shock result at home. Manchester City found it difficult tonight and the second leg is already shaping up to be a must-see contest, as both sides have a great chance of reaching the final. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium:

John Stones is making costly errors

Manchester City have had a near-perfect season up to now and this win over Bristol City has put them in pole position to make the final next month. The victory may not have been as comfortable as many were expecting, but they got the job done and their winning mentality is difficult for opposition teams to overcome. There always seems an inevitability that they will find a way to win.

However, Pep Guardiola will be concerned at the lack of concentration shown by John Stones in recent matches. The centre-back has developed a lot since making the move to Manchester City and was heavily praised during the first half of the season for his consistency at the back. Since his return from injury, he hasn’t been as reliable and he has now made an error that has led to a goal in successive matches.

This was a hallmark of Stones’ game during his time at Everton and early City career, but it had improved during the opening few months of the season. Guardiola needs to address it quickly before it becomes ingrained in his game once again. The challenge to concede the penalty on Tuesday was lazy and if he makes a similar error in a bigger game, it could be even more costly.

Bristol City have a great team spirit

After a poor end to last season when they were dragged into relegation trouble in the Championship, few people expected Bristol City to be challenging this campaign. Lee Johnson was among the favourites to be the first manager to lose his job and few supporters had complete faith in him when the first ball was kicked.

The young manager showed early on that he had learned from the mistakes that he had made last season and the decision to keep faith in him has been rewarded. They play an entertaining brand of attacking football and their goal gifs on Twitter have become viral sensations. As the season has progressed, the bond between the squad and supporters has become stronger.

Most Championship teams would have gone to the Etihad Stadium and looked to play a defensive style to keep the score down. Bristol City didn’t do that. They played brave, attacking football and were good value for their one-goal lead at half-time. Although they lost the match, they came out of the game with a lot of credit and remain in the tie for the second leg.

Manchester City remain in the hunt for the quadruple

The quadruple has often been a topic of speculation for the top teams in England. Jose Mourinho talked about it as a target during his first spell at Chelsea and others have since, but no team have managed to do it. It is difficult to win every trophy in England due to the competitiveness of the division. There is a top six and that isn’t the case in any other top league, which makes it near impossible for one club to win everything.

That said, this Manchester City team is special. They have dropped points on only two occasions in the Premier League and they remain in all three cup competitions. It may not have been a great display on Tuesday, but Pep Guardiola picked a strong team and set out his intentions to respect the Championship team. He knew it wouldn’t easy, despite playing a lower division side and it proved to be the case.

The quadruple remains a long shot. It would be an extraordinary achievement and mark them as one of the greatest teams in recent history. Considering this is their first season of high achievement, that underlines how good they have been. It usually takes a period of sustained success to enter those discussions, but City are already in the argument. Guardiola was brought in to take the club on that extra step to be one of the best in Europe. The Carabao Cup may not be the most respected competition, but it would provide the manager with his first trophy in England. That is an important first step.

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Bristol City

How Famara Diédhiou and Matt Taylor’s secured a cupset for Bristol City against Stoke

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Championship outfit Bristol City took another notable scalp in their Carabao Cup campaign this season, goals from strike duo Famara Diédhiou and Matt Taylor sealing a 2-0 third-round victory over a Stoke side that looked strong on paper at Ashton Gate, despite Robins boss Lee Johnson making nine changes to the starting line-up from the side that saw off Derby County in the league over the weekend.

Goalscorer Diédhiou was one of the players to whom Johnson handed a recall, alongside fellow goalscorer and strike partner Matt Taylor, and the duo repaid their manager’s faith by leading the line in fine fashion, capping their respective performances with a goal and assist a piece, and proving a menace to Mark Hughes’ defence throughout the night.

In fact, the former Angers man almost brought the majority of the 13,826 crowd inside Ashton Gate to their feet as early as the second minute, when he pounced on Kevin Wimmer’s short back-pass but saw his right-footed effort thwarted by goalkeeper Lee Grant who’d rushed from his line to intervene.

That set the tone for a strong start from the hosts against their top-flight opponents, with a host of chances falling the way of the Robins before Stoke began to creep into the contest as the half wore on.  Amongst these Taylor almost bagged himself a first-half assist after his pass played in Niclas Eliasson down the right, who cut inside and saw his effort go inches wide of the upright.

After Stoke’s Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting saw his angled effort saved by City goalkeeper Luke Steele, the home side looked to hit the Potters on the counter-attack, Diédhiou this time almost providing the killer pass with a beautifully weighted pass into strike partner Taylor, who could only divert his effort into the side netting when put under pressure by Glen Johnson.

Stoke would miss the last big chance before the interval, however, Kurt Zouma crashing a header off the bar from a Charlie Adam corner, Bristol City defender Aden Flint being forced to clear off the line twice in the subsequent scramble. And the Premier League side would be made to rue their wastefulness just five minutes after half-time, and it was Diédhiou again at the heart of their torment.

It all started from Stoke City’s own goal-kick. Bristol City’s Aden Flint was allowed to leap unchallenged and head the ball clear in the centre of his own half, inadvertently sending Matt Taylor racing clear of Bruno Martins Indi and Josh Tymon.

Diédhiou made a clever run inside Kurt Zouma to support his fellow forward, and when Taylor’s right-footed effort across goal came back off the underside of Lee Grant’s right-hand post, Diédhiou was well placed to bundle home with a headed effort from close range to put the Robins a goal to the good and steamrolling towards a cup upset.

And the duo weren’t done there, as they would combine once more for the killer goal just ten minutes later. Steele’s long punt up-field looked to be dropping in the centre of the Stoke half, with Kurt Zouma in position to intervene.

Diédhiou, however, was in pursuit, and timed his jump perfectly to beat Zouma to the ball and play a perfectly weighted headed flick on through to Taylor.

The former Bristol Rovers man did the rest, racing clear of the retreating Wimmer and firing a left-footed shot low across Lee Grant and into the bottom right corner to hand the Robins a two-goal cushion. A goal and an assist a piece now for both strikers.

Diédhiou almost helped the hosts do more damage later in the second half, as his low cross along the six-yard box was just a little too quick for the onrushing Aden Flint to direct towards goal.

Diédhiou was then withdrawn for leading scorer Bobby Reid, before Taylor was given a standing ovation with two minutes remaining as Korey Smith was thrown into the fray to see out the closing stages of the game.

Overall, a fine performance from both attacking players and a strong message about the strength in depth that this Bristol City team has; a welcome conundrum for manager Lee Johnson which will surely provide food for thought ahead of the weekend’s trip to Norwich.

With two Premier League teams now put to the sword this season, Bristol City will surely be a team to look out for in the Carabao Cup’s Fourth Round (Round of 16) draw, to be held following the conclusion of Manchester United’s Third Round match-up with Burton on Wednesday 20th September.

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