Monsieur Salut writes: I think we’d rather like to keep the Stadium of Light. Answers on a postcard, please, re the unexpected interest in Billy Jones. We met Phil Clarke before the home game, another of those best forgotten afternoons at the Stadium of Light. Phil naturally had a great day out, checking his family’s solid Wearside roots – he is the nephew of our own Pete Lynn (Wrinkly Pete). No other Bristol City fan responded to our feelers for the return game, so Phil updates us with thoughts on the Robins’ excellent cup run and what continues to be a good, promotion-chasing season in the league … but does he realise just how much our Billy might cost his club? …
Salut! Sunderland: your season seemed to dip a little but overall gets better and better. It must feel pretty magical to be a Robins fans just now …
Phil: Best season for many a year, so far! Us realists are still waiting for the bubble to burst, but long may it continue. The togetherness in the squad is what impresses me most.
Describe the Man City semis as you saw them and tell us what that run meant to you
Manchester City were quite simply the best team I’ve ever seen us play. For spells is was like watching a school match when the 15-year-olds steal the 11-year-old’s ball! We gave them two close games over two legs, but you always felt that they had a bit more in the locker if they needed it. They reminded me of Brazil’s 1970 team. If you score four, they’ll score five. Seeing our ground full up was amazing, as well.
Lee Johnson says you’re a club on the rise, a “Premier League club in training”. Do you feel it in your bones that this is a promotion season?
Still too early to say if we will win promotion. That is the eventual goal, of course, but one game at a time is the best way to play it now. No cup distractions left now, so why not?
What do you remember of the last time City were in the top flight and, if not old enough, what handed-down anecdotes have you. And could you stay up this time?
I was only seven! I can only remember bits and pieces of it. I went with my dad and we saw nearly every home game and about 15 away games. It was 50p for me to get in, we had a boys’ enclosure in front of the main stand – only the wealthy sat down in those days! We stayed up for four seasons. One crazy fact from those years was that an English club won the European Cup every year that we were in the top division (Liverpool in 77 & 78 and Forest in 79 & 80) so if we DO go up, get your money on an English team to win it again in 2019! There are at least three teams in the Premier League smaller than us so there is no reason now why a well run club can’t compete with the big boys.
Who would you then fear losing in the summer (whether or not promoted)?
Transfer window is closed (YEEEESSSS!!!). Flint and Bryan have been pursued by four or five teams and they’re both staying (for now!), which is great news. It would have shown a real lack of ambition had we sold any of them.
Hand on heart, you final position will be …
Fifth (with a playoff defeat), only because we have the perfect playoff record – seven failures out of seven. Watching City for so many years has got us all used to narrow failure!
And ours …
15th or 16th. Coleman will keep you up, plenty of points left to win.
Tell us about your day out in Sunderland earlier this season, meeting up with Wearside family etc but try not to gloat about the result
We had a fabulous time. the result was a bonus, seeing my gran’s house was a great experience. The banter between the fans was excellent. Your fans are a credit to you, compared to Leeds, Preston and Millwall – the banter seemed OK with those lot, provided we didn’t give them any back!! I thought Sunderland were poor that day, Grayson was relieved of his job soon after, which is never nice to see, but most Sunderland fans we spoke to seemed to think his time was up.
VAR: is this the beginning of the end for cheats or will players (coached by managers) just get better at it?
VAR will take some time to work well, but I am a fan. Anything that eradicates cheats has my support 100 per cent.
Best and worst ref at this level?
Best: Andrew Madley. Worst: Keith Stroud. Keith Stroud, wow….. but as my gran taught me, f you’ve got nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all!
Who would take from our squad if anyone?
Billy Jones. We tried to sign him from West Brom a few years back. Quality in my opinion. And your stadium as well. It really is top class.
Will you be at the game and what will be the score?
I’ll be at the game, 2-1 to City.
* Phil on himself (adapted from his previous interview): My visit to the Stadium of Light was the time I had seen City at Sunderland. It’s not too long ago that the best we got was Walsall or Bury away, during our long spell in the 3rd tier. Going to Sunderland brought back treasured memories of my gran & grandad – they worked at this shop on the corner of North Bridge Street and Dundas Street, just a goal kick away from the Stadium of Light, before moving to Bristol in the 1930s.
Interview: Colin Randall