Sixer’s Bristol City Soapbox: another pointless exercise at the Stadium of Light

Malcolm Dawson writes………..I am not one of the multitude calling for Simon Grayson’s head for the simple reason that at the end of last season I decided that I would not renew my season card and would not return to the Stadium of Light until I felt the club was able to offer me something in return for what was (up until May) my loyalty.

There is only so far blind faith can take you and my eyes are open. So I’m not calling for Grayson’s head purely because I haven’t been able to judge personally how inept he really is. For that I’ll rely on Pete Sixsmith‘s first hand verdict, first in his report from yet another frustrating afternoon spent in Sunderland and then later in the flesh when I see him at the U23 game. You see I haven’t given up entirely …

Bristol City H

Every team, bar one that I have seen at the Stadium of Light this season has had a number of common characteristics, the common one being that they are well organised with their players appearing to know what their roles are within the team structure.

There is a goalkeeper who works with his defence and usually comes to claim any crosses that make it into the box and who uses various forms of distribution – long kick, short kick, throw to full back – that kind of thing.

There are four, sometimes five defenders who are aware of the tasks that they have been given and support each other as a unit, making sure that no attacking player is left standing on his own in the penalty area.

In midfield, there are usually at least two big, strong central players who cover huge amounts of ground and run for either the full 90 minutes or until the manager replaces them with a player of similar qualities. They might be backed up by a busy and effective wide player or a busy little bustler who will nick the ball from an opponent and use it sensibly.

Finally, up front, there is often a target man who can hold the ball up and/or put pressure on his markers. He often works in tandem with an out and out second striker who plays alongside him, or a forward midfield player who sits behind him in the No.10 role but who is always in contact.

That kind of line up offers no surprises. There is no Aguero or Kane who will destroy a defence or a Pogba or Kante who will control a midfield in an imperious manner.

Defenders are far less mobile than David Luiz or Virgil van Dijk and keepers rarely perform the miracles one sometimes sees from Hugo Lloris or Peter Cech. Derby County, Leeds United, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City, Queens Park Rangers and now Bristol City, all fall into the category described above; tidy, well organised, competent without being outstanding and aware of what their jobs are on the field of play.

Time to unscrew the nameplate on the manager’s office door again?

The only team that has not fulfilled this criteria (and you knew this was coming) is our own. Sunderland – winners of six league Championships, two FA Cups and a club that has had a long and glorious history and which is now hurtling like a runaway train to the nether regions of the EFL viz Division One (or Three in old money).

We appear to be utterly incapable of doing the things that that long (and likely to get longer) list of visiting teams can do and have a manager who no longer appears to have any idea of what to do when things are going wrong.

Our opponents have proactive managers, we have a reactive one. Lee Johnson withdrew a forward, sent on a tall replacement and he scored. Simon Grayson waited until we were 2-1 down before sending Vaughan on.

We have a goalkeeper who is unwilling to come for the ball. We have defenders who fail to act as a unit and never seem to speak to each other. The midfield is pedestrian. Some cannot last a full game while others run around a lot and achieve nothing. Up front, we have a goalscorer who plays alone and who likes the ball in front of him. Not in the air, where he is unwilling or unable to challenge and not in a vague direction of where he might be, but in channels that he can run into as he did at Norwich and Brentford.

So, here we are second from bottom of the table, just in touch with teams above us, conceding goals with all the ease and comfort of Noel Coward donning a dressing gown and lighting up a gasper and with a crowd that makes Fletcher Christian and his chums look like the epitome of obedience. All in all it’s a bit of a shambles.

I had to sit through this one on my own. Doug Forrest decided that an afternoon in Hawick pulling his teeth out with a pair of rusty pliers was more attractive proposition than this.

Richard Hearne, coaching the midfield?

Friends I offered the ticket to made it clear that watching a box set of Mr and Mrs was preferable to sitting in despair in a windswept Stadium of Light as highly paid footballers kick the ball out of play, fall over and generally look like Mr Pastry’s X1.

They were right because this was the worst so far (note so far) this season. After the customary 20 minutes whizzing around and looking as if we might score – Grabban was close with a chip that just cleared the bar – we reverted to type and conceded from a corner. That it was headed home by the smallest man on the field (apart from the ref who endorsed the theory that small men strive to be paid attention to when nobody is in the least bit interested in them) who was unmarked at the far post was bad enough. That our keeper once again failed to leave his line to come for the ball was even worse.

City had done their homework. I am sure that we had but the difference was that the City players, well marshalled and with a manager who they clearly believe in, took note of their lessons. Had we?

They had two big central defenders in Flint and Baker and we had one forward in Grabban who is not great in the air but can create spaces for himself. So what did we do? We lumped it up to the skies. Steele, Kone, Jones, Gibson all tried to kick it as far as they could. And Flint and Baker (until he went off) won every header with barely a challenge from an increasingly frustrated centre forward.

Williams, McGeady and Watmore ran around a lot and achieved precisely nothing. No telling passes, no hard and low crosses for Grabban to get on to, no running at the heart of the City defence to put them on the back foot. Nothing.

In the centre of midfield Gibson started in front of the back four and Ndong pushed forward – or sideways. Gibson, who is starting to make Rodwell look a decent acquisition did OK at first and then faded. In the 73rd minute he lost possession, failed to make a tackle or keep up with the City player and it led to O’Dowda putting over an accurate cross which sub Djuric headed into the net, beating O’Shea with consummate ease. Poor old John is really creaking now and is clearly in his last season.

Is Billy Jones being lined up to dance the waltz on the next series of “Strictly”?

Playing alongside a man who doesn’t appear to care a jot can’t help and with Billy Jones turning in a performance that “The Celebrated Mr Kite’s Henry the Horse” would have been ashamed of, retirement may have just come a few months closer. Oviedo had a decent game. He’s a good player. We’ll probably sell him in the January window.

On Tuesday we play Bolton Wanderers, two points and one place behind us. They came away from Craven Cottage with a point on Saturday and are on a mini-run of three games undefeated. They have no away wins while we, as we are constantly being reminded, have no home wins. You don’t have to be a mystical Viking holy man to read those runes….

Should we lose on Tuesday, I would expect Simon Grayson to do the decent thing and come to a settlement with Martin Bain before his reputation is tarnished even more. What he can do in the two days he has to prepare for it is debatable. Some advice from me;

  • Drop Steele and replace him with Ruiter who can’t be any worse and who might even come for a cross.
  • Restore Browning to the middle of the back four or failing that, bring in Thomas Beadling. Or even play both of them.
  • Leave out Billy Jones, who is one of the poorest players I have seen at Sunderland.
  • Play two forwards in a home game – Grabban and whoever else is available: Watmore, Vaughan, Craig Russell, John Cooke – but put pressure on defenders. The accomplished Aiden Flint strolled through Saturday’s game.

In the event of another defeat, the pearl handled revolver will be waiting for you in the library.

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9 thoughts on “Sixer’s Bristol City Soapbox: another pointless exercise at the Stadium of Light”

  1. I’m taking the spare ticket for the Bolton game. I’ve been to several SAFC wakes with Pete. I’m his mate, he needs my support, I will keep him away from the pearl handled revolver.

  2. Bob: because you’re shamelessly angling for Sixer’s job once he, before you, decides enough is enough. What he may not have mentioned is that it’s unpaid, except on rare and miserly occasions.

    But crikey! We’re going to depend a lot on you as Santa season sets in …

  3. Can anybody explain to me why I am going to drive almost another 1000 miles in the next 7 days to put up with this dross.

    • Bob, it must be time, even for you, to give up for a while. Your reputation as one of (if not “the”) the club’s most loyal fans will remain intact. But travelling hundreds of miles to watch that crap just means you’re football’s number one masochist.

      You can always listen to the website commentary, with a drink in your hand, whilst at the same time updating your stamp album ….. it still means you’re tortured for a couple of hours but at least you don’t have the drive home.

  4. Can’ t see how any tinkering wil help teh results. We probably had our best payers out there. O Shea is still the best defender we have and should be playing.Kone should not. What on earth he was doing playing midfield as we chased the game is beyond belief,school boy stuff and smacked of sheer despeartion for me.

    The dye is caste for the rest of this season,we will be lucky to avoid relegation. Something has to give and a win may start a little confidence but you just know it will be very fragile. A new manager will make no difference and spend the next 3 months going through the same squad hoping one of them will be better than the first delicate soul. We may as well stick with a manager who at least knows which players are marginally better than the others.
    We will have to up the effort shown though,these players need to learn how to put a real hard shift in as all. It s not going to pretty but its all that can save us. As to the future I guess as long as Short is here its the best we can hope for.

  5. The worse we get, the better your reports are (if that’s possible- our own Harry Pearson). We love a bit of black humour, it is our default survival mode.
    I’m at the Bolton game for some unconnected reason (anniversary of Dad’s death, so taking my mother to the crematorium. Also serves as a practice run).
    There is a potential joke linking ashes to both events but anyone good with Ikea furniture can assemble their own.
    I really thought we would turn it round after 3 draws. As usual, optimism based on no evidence whatsoever and blindly ignoring years of experience.
    So, sack Grayson and get some other poor soul in to have his reputation trashed?

  6. Cracking article, most of which I’d wholeheartedly agree with although there are a couple of points I’d like to pick up on. Simon Grayson had the chance to use Tom Beadling in the QPR game but chose to play Billy Jones at centre back instead so as long as he’s manager(which may not be much longer) the lad has more chance of appearing behind the counter of one of the concourse bars than taking to the field. I haven’t been Brownings greatest fan either but I think that’s more a case of me not realising that apart from one major error he’s been pretty steady so it’s a shame he’s injured.

    The goalkeeping issue is a real problem and I’m convinced Jason Steele is playing because Larry paid a fee for him. Mind you it’s a bit of a catch 22 because it must be a nightmare playing behind our defence and he can’t exactly fill them with confidence either. Maybe we’ve been spoilt over the years with keepers.

    One thing I will mention though is the widespread criticism of John O’Shea over Bristol City’s second goal. I keep reading how he let the opposition player outmuscle him and have to say it’s a bit harsh. The ball across was perfect for the forward to run onto and as that particular player was a six foot six galoot running in at full pelt I’m guessing that our skipper hadn’t a clue what hit him never mind being able to deal with it. The truth is the ball should have been stopped well before then so as I said the pelters JOS is getting might be a bit over the top. Who knows he could be player manager by the time the Bolton game kicks off.

    • Totally agree with this point about O’Shea. I was 50 yards away from the build up and could not believe that Kone did not attempt to close the player down and stop him putting the cross in.

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