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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.

Brentford

Who will win the race for the Sky Bet Championship play-offs?

The Championship play-offs are just around the corner.

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Photo: Getty Images

The Championship is a league renowned for its unpredictability and twists and turns in what is a 46 game long season.

On any given weekend, any team can beat another which makes it one of the closest and exciting leagues in the world.

This season has proved no different, with six teams still competing for a play-off place with just six games to go.

In 5th place currently is Derby on 68 points, three points clear of 7th placed Millwall with a game in hand.

They are at the moment the favourites to secure a play-off spot, with the top three having already practically guaranteed their places if they do not gain automatic promotion.

Aston Villa look to set to join them, with a maximum of eight points needed from their last five games to be sure of making the play-offs.

Gary Rowett’s side have bounced back well from the loss of Johnny Russell in January to the MLS and a string of first-team injuries that have decimated the squad in recent months.

Most of their stars, including Tom Huddlestone and Joe Ledley, returned for their 1-0 away win over Preston on Easter Monday, a result that was desperately needed.

They followed that up with a 3-0 win over Bolton at the weekend, and the goals of Matej Vydra plus the defensive experience of Curtis Davies and Scott Carson should see them over the line.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Two points behind them in 6th is Tony Pulis’s Middlesbrough, who have seen an upturn in form since the former West Brom man took over in December.

Pulis is known for his defensive style of play but Middlesbrough have scored plenty since he came in, with Adama Traore in particular impressing.

A club like Boro will be expecting play-offs as a minimum, and you would expect them to achieve that goal given the quality of their squad, although even if they don’t get there this season, they will be one of the favourites to go up next season under Pulis.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

The surprise package of this season has been Millwall, with Neil Harris leading his side to an unexpected 7th place berth at this stage of the season.

The Lions have only lost one game all season, that being on New Years’ Day at Norwich.

They have relied on a mixture of youth and experience, with younger players like Jake Cooper, Jed Wallace and George Saville complemented by the likes of veteran Steve Morison, and an immense run of form has given them every chance of making the play-offs, which would be a remarkable achievement.

Most fans surely would have been happy with a mid-table finish on their return to the Championship, but they have defied expectations so far.

They face tricky trips to Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, and home games against Fulham and Aston Villa, but win at least a couple of those and the Lions could be roaring at the end of the league season.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Behind them on 62 points is Bristol City, who have had a mixed run of form since the turn of the year.

They briefly went 2nd in the table after a Boxing Day win against Reading, just a week after Lee Johnson’s side defeated Manchester United to reach the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

They eventually lost on aggregate to Manchester City after giving them a stern test, but have only won twice since then.

Like Millwall, they too face a trip to the Riverside to play Middlesbrough and host Sheffield United on the final day, but they are only four points off the top six and can still make it in.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Another side who had an excellent first half of the season is Sheffield United, Chris Wilder’s side briefly sitting in top spot after a 2-1 away win against Leeds in October.

They have fallen away since then, currently sitting 9th and behind Bristol City on goal difference, but regardless of whether they qualify for the play-offs or not, it has still been a good season for Wilder’s men.

They drew 1-1 with Cardiff last week, a game which they had the better chances in, showing the fine margins that exist in the Championship.

The Blades lost in the Yorkshire derby against Barnsley on Saturday, a result that puts them four points behind Middlesbrough.

They host Preston before the season is out, a game which could still prove crucial for both teams, and also play Bristol City and Millwall.

Brentford sit just one point behind them in 10th, having shown some resurgence in recent weeks.

Their transfer policy is a very effective one, using a stats model to sign players both from England and all around the world.

Some of their signings appear to be gelling together well, with summer signing Neal Maupay netting the winner in both of their previous two games.

Manager Dean Smith has been linked with Premier League jobs in the past, and has done an excellent job at the Bees, who will surely be challenging at the end of the season.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The final team that have a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs is Preston North End, Alex Neil’s side currently occupying 11th place on 60 points.

They have lost their last three league games, although they were unlucky to lose against Derby and had the fair share of possession and chances against Reading.

Neil’s side face only one team out of the top 11 in the remaining fixtures – Sheffield United – which could work in their favour.

They have missed the firepower of top scorer Sean Maguire, who missed four months of the season due to injury, but his return has boosted the team, who have seen some outstanding performances already this season from the likes of Ben Davies, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne.

If Neil’s side can get substantial points out of their remaining games, they still have a chance of qualifying for the play-offs, although like the teams above them up to 7th, will need to rely on Derby and Middlesbrough dropping points.

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Bristol City

Three ambitious signings Bristol City should make this January

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Photo: Reuters

One month ago Bristol City looked to be in a much stronger position than they are now. Three league defeats in a row to runaway leaders Wolves, Aston Villa and Norwich City put a series of large dents in Lee Johnson’s automatic promotion hopes.

All is not lost for the side from the West Country, however, with a hard earned point away at Derby County stopping the rot, so to speak. The fact remains, though, that City have a number of injuries to key players.

The Robins were boosted by the return of Famara Diedhiou on Friday night versus The Rams, but took two steps back with one step forward, as Frank Fielding and Nathan Baker left the field of play at half-time, with respective groin and ankle injuries.

An already thread bare squad suddenly might have got even lighter.

With a gruelling 90 minutes (at very least), versus arguably the best side in Europe, to occupy Bristol City on Tuesday, before the brutal rhythm of the Championship season snares them again on Saturday with a home tie against Ian Holloway’s QPR, the club really do need some reinforcements.

Ryan Kent (loan) and Liam Walsh (permanent) have been brought in already and, while inexperienced, their youthful energy, bravery and intuition going forward will certainly help the overall team effort.

In some respects, literally *any* players will do – just more bodies to soak up some critical minutes from the first XI regulars.

That said, if City are going to mount a serious promotion/top six push they require more than just *any* signings, the BS3 outfit require players who will really improve and strengthen key positions – taking the workload off of the current players who have (on average) played 300 minutes more than their Championship opponents in 2018 alone.

Here are three players that would strengthen Bristol City as we get stuck into the second half of the 2017/2018 Championship season…

Alfredo Morelos – Rangers

Rangers’ Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos is the most recent name to be linked with a move to Bristol City, although the latest from the Bristol Post suggest these reports were wide of the mark.

The 21-year-old boasts a very impressive goal scoring track record, roughly once every two games, across his time playing top flight football in Colombia, Lithuania and Scotland.

Rangers are unlikely to want to sell one of their prized assets, but every player has his price.

Bristol City broke their transfer record this summer on Famara Diedhiou for a fee confirmed as £5.3 million.

Steve Lansdown could well break this record again within a season if he feels, or is convinced by the scouting network, that Morelos could be the difference between promotion and mid-table mediocrity.

At 21, he certainly has room to improve and could be a useful investment.

Sam Byram – West Ham

Bristol City’s first choice right-back, Eros Pisano, is not returning to training for a few more weeks and, with Zak Vyner now joined Plymouth on loan, the club need a right-sided full-back to take some pressure off of club captain Bailey Wright.

Sam Byram is certainly at the ambitious end of the spectrum, but as the old adage goes, if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle.

The youngster has not had as much game time as he would have liked at West Ham and with former Bristol City player David Moyes in the east London hot seat, coupled with City’s recent track record with Premier League loanees, this may not be as implausible a loan deal as some naysayers may suggest.

Lukas Nmecha – Manchester City

With Bristol City being linked, by the Daily Mail, with Manchester City potential loanees after Pep Guardiola’s alleged satisfaction with Lee Johnson’s style of football, a few Citizen academy players have been linked with a temporary loan south.

Lukas Nmecha is one of those names. The German born forward has represented England at age groups from Under-16 to Under-19 with a fair degree of success.

The 19-year-old, who stands at six foot tall, as a striker, does not represent a position of real need for Lee Johnson. However, one could argue that City are so desperate for players that anyone who could help out with 20 minutes here and there is useful.

Especially as the likes of Matty Taylor and Gustav Engvall have not proved themselves at this level, and Milan Djuric remains sidelined for the time being.

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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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