Looking for loans

9 Sep

Thanks to recently enforced rule by the Premier League, there are a lot of talented Premiership players that are ineligible to play for their side in the league, and therefore will be hoping to secure moves away to either Football League clubs or ones overseas. It is now up to Millen and the board to take advantage of this rule and help bring in players to fill the positions they had hoped to find in the transfer window.

The rule means that Premiership teams can name a maximum of 25 players over the age of 21. There are a number of clubs that, like us, have more players than they know what to do with. Teams such as Stoke City have excluded a number of established Premier League players from their squad, and will be hoping to find them temporary clubs to reduce the wage bill now that the loan window has opened for lower league teams.

It is no secret that Millen will be on the look out for a new commanding centre-half to replace what Steven Caulker brought us last season. James Wilson is currently occupying the position, and although I would love it if he could step up make that position his own, with only a handful of appearances to his name, it is unlikely we will be able to rely on him for an entire campaign.

Possible candidates include Stoke’s Danny Collins. He is an experienced campaigner at both Championship level and the Premiership. He is only 6ft, but has the dominating presence about him that we have been searching for. Danny Shittu is also available after being snubbed by the QPR selectors.

And to round off the list of ‘Dannys’, Danny Pugh, who can play left-back, is available as well. Whether or not we are in the market for a left-back depends entirely on how Millen sees new recruit Ryan McGivern. If he views him as the second option at left-back then there is little need for another signing there. However, if Millen sees him as a centre-back, then a left-back should be top of the shopping list.

A creative midfielder may also be on Millen’s list. I believe that we have enough midfielders as it is, but I know many fans are hoping to see one more addition to the centre of the park. Michael Tonge is another player that Stoke have left out. The attacking midfielder has only a year left on his contract and will be hoping to fins a new club sooner rather than later.

As well as bringing in players in the loan market, we can also utilise the window to send out a few of the unwanted players from the squad. Damion Stewart was apparently close to agreeing a permanent move away from the club in the Summer window, and could be subject to a loan move if the buying club come back in for him. David Clarkson is another senior pro that doesn’t look like he will be getting a look in any time soon, and will have to go out on loan if he hopes to get some first team football.

All will be revealed in the coming days. The window reopened yesterday, and it will hopefully only be a matter of time before Millen brings in a couple more players to help balance our squad.

That’s all for now,

Dynamo Zzzzzzzzzagreb

3 Sep

Having just returned from a lovely holiday in Zagreb, Croatia, I am still picking my way through City related news and if the fans’ forum was anything to go by I would feel like turning around and leaving again. However, things are not all doom and gloom around our club, despite how some may feel, and it only took going to watch a game of football abroad that made me realise this.

The game I went to see was Dynamo Zagreb vs. NK Lucko. Dynamo Zagreb are the top team in Croatia having won the past six championships and are on course to win a seventh. They have also just qualified for this season’s Champions League group stage where they will face Real Madrid. Comparing that to our small club, we would appear to be miles apart. However, when you look closer at the figures you notice we are indeed miles apart, but not how you would have thought.

A worrying trend at City recently has been dwindling home attendances. With only around 12,000 attending the latest league fixture at Ashton Gate (2/3 of capacity) it does appear that there is a problem there. However, last season, Dynamo Zagreb’s lowest attendance for a league game was 350 (1/100 of the capacity!) and only 3,000 attended the match I was at against their local rivals, topping their previous total for this campaign.

Ticket prices could explain this if they were anything like the top teams in England, but they are not. The most expensive ticket available was around £8. And in a City three times the size of Bristol and a football mad community, there really is no explanation for those figures.

More important though than the attendance is the quality of the game. Most fans at Ashton Gate (myself included) have not been satisfied by the quality of entertainment we have been paying for in recent times. However, comparing it to the game in Zagreb, the Championship more resembles basketball than football. The lack of goalmouth action in the game I attended was staggering. Zagreb kept the ball for what seemed like 80 minutes of the game but rarely threatened to break down the opposition’s 4-6-0. No matter what teams face off in the Championship, never does one team set out just to keep out the opposition.

I know there are problems at our club, but things could be a lot worse. We still attract a lot of people every other Saturday despite the high ticket prices, and the majority of games are competitive no matter the opposition.

That’s all for now,

The boomerang kid…..

24 Aug

The most intriguing news from the latest ‘Behind-closed-Doors’ reserve match was that Australian winger, Robert Stambolziev, was back wearing a Bristol City shirt.

This is the lad who walked out of the club two summers ago despite being offered a professional contract, to join the top-flight Greek club Panathinaikos (for whom he made no impact, playing mainly for their feeder club).

Bristol City, understandably, felt a bit hacked off having invested in him for three years, but the official line was that he wanted to be nearer his family, although it was never explained whether that meant Greek relatives or the fact that Greece is about 2,000 miles nearer Oz.

The suspicion was, though, that he intended to spend a year or so abroad and if it did not work out, he could re-join an English club, get a hefty signing on fee and City would get no compensation. Cynical? Perhaps.

Anyway, just like a dodgy boomerang, Aussie Stam is back, having been given trials at both Stoke and Birmingham this summer without getting a contract. Are we going to accommodate him? This column hopes not, no matter how promising he might be.

We have enough left-sided attacking midfielders. Please, not another one. Particularly one who thought he was too good for us. Let’s keep our money in our pockets until a decent defender comes along.

Speaking of defenders, it seems it is official that Southampton have lodged a cheeky £400,000 offer for Liam Fontaine, who is in the last year of his contract. While the club’s accountants might be tempted, it is worth keeping Fonts for the season even if he leaves for nothing next summer.

Fontaine is now a dependable Championship defender and we would never adequately replace him for that amount of money. If he helps keep us up, he is worth much more the £400,000.

The reserve match ended in a 4-0 win for the City. Sounds encouraging although we have no idea of the quality of the opposition, or even if they managed to get through the doors before they were closed.

Good to see Clarkson netted a hat-trick (let’s hope some Scottish scouts sneaked in and were impressed) and that Riberio got through another 90 minutes. Louis Carey and Damion Stewart were back in action too, so the injuries are clearing up.

Finally we come full circle and end this column talking about attacking midfielders: Bolassie. He played and was subbed. That maybe because he was rubbish/injured/rested with a view to being part of the squad to face Swindon in the League Cup tonight. Let’s hope it was the latter.

C’Mon City.

Get your Wooly on…

22 Aug

So now we know: Martyn Woolford and Ryan Taylor will both be in the starting line-up for Wednesday’s Carling Cup first round tie against Swindon. Quite right, too.

Both were put up for interview on the club web-site on Monday to talk about the cup encounter and you would not do that on the back of two fleeting appearances as substitutes in Saturday’s goal-less draw against Pompey.

The media department at Ashton Gate must have been tipped the wink by the manager that they were both likely to play against Swindon. If not, they were not doing their job. It would be pointless interviewing someone who is going to spend another match warming their backside.

Wooly impressed in his cameo on Saturday. Found space, beat his man and lashed in a couple of shots. What he desperately needs is a decent 90 minutes and a goal to give him some confidence because he comes over in interviews as a diffident lad, almost a bit soppy (that would explain the ridiculous hairstyle and Alice band).

This column is, however, sure he can play a bit even though it has taken him time to settle at City. What he did reveal in yesterday’s interview was that he scored (something he did frequently at Scunthorpe) in the Carling Cup last season against Manchester United. More of the same, please Wooly.

As for Taylor, he sounded more than a bit frustrated that he has been such a fringe player since his move from Rotherham, who are doing very nicely without him and should be in League One next season. Taylor looks and sounds like a good old-fashioned English striker, something we have not had since Steve Brooker was charging and barging around opposition defences when he was fit enough to get his boots on.

Taylor may well be an astute acquisition by Millen. A full game on Wednesday will give us a better idea. His progress on the training pitch maybe the reason he is being preferred at the moment to Jon Stead – at least that is the only conclusion fans can reach amid the silence from the club over Stead’s situation.

Missing from the last two squads, this player who was one of our best last season was again not mentioned today when Millen was questioned about injuries on the official site. Carey? Fontaine? Stewart? Yes, they are all progressing nicely and trained yesterday but not a word about Stead.

Wednesday’s team-sheet will be fascinating – and surely any side City put out against a struggling Swindon and their theatrical manager (this column gives him until November) will make it into Round Two for a juicy home tie with the Saints?

C’mon City!

City 0-0 Portsmouth: Much ado about nothing-nothing….

21 Aug

THERE were plenty of reasons for City fans to go home reasonably optimistic after the goal-less draw with Portsmouth, the first clean-sheet of the season.

While it did feel like an away match at times – Portsmouth’s fans made more noise and City played a solid 4-5-1 looking to hit on the break – the honours were pretty even in an intriguing contest.

Portsmouth’s pensioners should have scored from a close range header that Gerken blocked well and Kilkenny probably did score, but the ref ruled it out after the little Aussie jumped in front of the keeper, who fumbled the ball into the net. Kilkenny is as keen on physical contact as a nun in a nudist colony and barely looked at the Ashdown, but refs always over-protect goalkeepers.

Millen unsurprisingly named the team that won at Leicester, but there was still no Jon Stead on the bench and no word from the club as to why he was again absent. If he is injured, the paying customer is entitled to know.

The formation does suit City with the pace and willingness of Adomah and Campbell-Ryce on the wings, and it allows the skilful Kilkenny to have a free role, which is the best fit for his strengths…but, there is always a but: it works with Maynard up front, but would not really suit any of our other strikers.

While we have the pace and runs of Maynard, we can play this way, but Stead, Pitman and Taylor would be less suited to playing the lone forager. Pitman is too useful a-poacher to be lost to the club. Let’s hope he plays in a more attacking formation against Swindon on Wednesday. We do not want him to become disillusioned as it is very likely Maynard will not be with us after January.

Here is Saturday’s assessment with marks out of 10.

Gerken. Failed to command his area early on and caused some jitters, but responded well after a rollicking from his defenders. One great save. 7

Spence. One or two naive lapses but had another good game. His heading is a big plus at the back and he looks good moving forward. 8

Wilson. Impressive. Mobile, unflappable, learning. Could be the answer to team’s centre half problems. 8

Nyatanga.  Had a strong game and looks much more comfortable beside a right-footer than he did with Fontaine. 7

McAllister. Despite his detractors (or, perhaps, because of them) McAllister is playing really well. He is a solid pro who put in another good shift. 8

Adomah. Good in patches and worked hard as normal but needs to add a goal threat to his game. 6

Skuse. Steady, hard-working and suited to the defensive role of three, but his distribution is haphazard. Is he better than Cisse? 5

Elliott. Marv was Kilkenny’s minder and made several powerful forward runs. He poses our most potent threat in the air up front, which is a concern. 6

Kilkenny. This was more like it from the chippy little Aussie who is good going forward and talks a good game, but will never get stuck into a tackle. 7

Campbell-Ryce. Our most potent out-let going forward. JCR has really kicked on in the last dozen games. Like Albert, his finishing leaves a bit to be desired. 8

Maynard. Was hurt early on a limped through the first half but worked hard and is clearly a class act who knows he is in the shop window. 7

Taylor. Came on when Millen went 4-4-2. Did not have much chance to make an impact but showed encouraging glimpses. 6

Woolford. Replaced Adomah for last 10 mins and found acres of room. Looked a real threat and with a bit of more confidence, could have won the game. 6

The other person to come off the bench this week-end is the substitute author of this blog as your regular Willianstand man is sunning himself in Croatia. No marks out of 10 please.


Road to redemption?

19 Aug

After a terrific result on Wednesday night, the team must now build on it and look to push higher up the table. On Saturday we host Portsmouth who have had a mixed start to the season. They have picked up four points so far, and with a strong core of players at their disposal, will prove a tough test for Millen’s side.

It is well documented they have a serious shortage of playing staff, with just 18 senior players to choose from. They are just an injury or two away from having to include kids on the bench, a problem that we are unlikely to face any time soon.

One player that will be on the bench on Saturday is Stephen Henderson. He left City in the Summer as he felt his first team opportunities would be limited here with David James established as the club’s number ‘1’. In a strange turn of events, James is likely to start on the bench along with Henderson on Saturday, and had Henderson stayed, he could well be starting this match.

Jon Stead was excluded completely from the mid-week match with no mention of an injury. It was a strange exclusion, but Millen may have felt he had to give Taylor some game time. However, if that was the case, why did he not play in the reserve match earlier that day rather than a two minute cameo at the end? I rate Stead highly, and I hope Millen is not giving him the cold shoulder as I believe that in the likelihood of Maynard leaving, Stead is going to be a key player for us this season.

Something that was pleasing to see however, was Kalifa Cisse being given some game time. I know he was mainly selected as defensive cover, but hopefully he can now start to force his way back into Millen’s plans as I believe he was a major part of our turn-around last season.

Damion Stewart could also return to the match day squad. With very little cover in defence, Stewart could well have an important role to play over the next few weeks even if he had thought he would have left the club by now. Both Wilson and Nyatanga are prone to injuries and with both Fonatine and Carey sidelined, Stewart may find himself having to fill in at any point.

With seemingly out-of-favour players beginning to feature more prominently lately, it makes me wonder if Hunt’s door is well and truly shut. Carey is unlikely to be ready for action any time soon, Ribeiro can’t get through a game of FIFA without pulling his hamstring, and Joe Edwards doesn’t appear to be quite ready yet. So if Spence were to suffer any kind of lay-off, Hunt may be given a second third chance.

This will be my last blog for a while as I am going on holiday for two weeks. But if you are lucky, you may get one or two while I’m away from a special guest.

That’s all for now,

Leicester City 1-2 City: We didn’t pay the penalty

18 Aug

What a relief! I don’t think I was the only one that was fearing the worst last night. Especially when Nicky missed a penalty, which was shortly followed by a Leicester equaliser, I saw nothing other than a third straight defeat. However, we dug in and managed to find another goal out of nothing. From then on it was nil-biting time, but after an age of injury time the ref blew the final whistle to move us out of the relegation zone.

I said in yesterday’s blog that if we were able to get an early goal, the home fans would start to let their frustrations known and it would have a negative impact on the home side. That proved true in the end, with Maynard’s early strike unsettling Leicester and their supporters. We built on the goal and controlled the rest of the half. So much so that we had a golden opportunity to make it 0-2 on the stroke of half time, but Maynard’s penalty cannoned back off the bar. At that point there were some expletives sounded by another family member:

He’s going to miss this. You’ll see. (Maynard missed the pen) ******* Maynard! He’s ****** it up for us now. It will all be his fault when Leicester come back and win this.”

And when Leicester pulled a goal back it looked like he was going to be right. But despite that set-back, we still had control of the game, and we got what we deserved when Maynard stole the ball off of the Leicester defender on the half-way line and strode down to the goal slotting his shot home. From then on we managed to hold out quite comfortably, despite a late error by Gerken presenting the opposition with a golden chance to equalise which the blasted wide.

The big shock before the game was the exclusion of David James. After a couple of poor performances so far this season, he was dropped and replaced by Dean Gerken. It was a brave decision by Millen, but one which ultimately paid off. Gerken could have done better with their equaliser, but the defence as a unit looked much more solid and composed than they did in the previous two performances. Whether or not that has something to do with James is hard to tell, but it should not go unrecognised how the same defence that looked like they could have shipped 4-5 against Cardiff, managed to reduce Leicester City to very few chances with Gerken behind them.

We are now off and running for the season. If we can get another positive result on Saturday, things will look a lot rosier and could see us push into the top half of the table…… we can dream.

That’s all for now,


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