Bees sting City once again
Bristol City should look at Brentford and aspire to be in their position, by doing what they’re doing. The London side have played some of the best football in the second tier again this term and have a great chance of promotion still, though Thomas Frank spoke like a man preparing for the worst as the play-offs loom following another chastening loss for Bristol City in BS3.
Frank admits that anything can happen in a one-off game especially between two close sides. You need that bit of luck and the Bees will be hoping things fall their way over the next weeks.
As for Bristol City, the home side lost for the ninth time in 10 home games with just the draw against Nottingham Forest spoiling their recent downhill run.
It’s well documented how the West Country men have a dispirited squad short on numbers, fitness and confidence, mentally battered by a run of just one victory in the last 13 games. Does Steve Lansdown really put his millions in to see this?
Of late the club has become a youth talent factory with Louis Britton the latest to take to the stage and grab the plaudits. City finished the game here with an U23s side, with just Nathan Baker and Dan Bentley as the last senior men standing following a wretched league campaign disrupted by injury and mis-management.
City need to look at how Brentford have overtaken them on and off the pitch over the last five years – and copy them.
Even if Brentford don’t go up they’ll be well in the mix again next season and will only get better and better.
Frank explained after the match that his side are very unlucky to have not been automatically promoted: “We’ve averaged two points a game, we have 87 points – normally enough to be automatically promoted. We have the fewest losses with Norwich, we scored the most goals and we have the top goal scorer. It comes down to the finest, finest margins.”
Not bad for a side without Premier League parachute payments. Take note, Bristol City. With the right, modern recruitment and coaching, the Robins could and should follow the same path.
Terrific Toney is another who got away
Even if the Bees fail in the playoffs, stay in the Championship and are forced to sell their best assets, they would receive a fee in the region of £35m for star man Ivan Toney. The livewire forward not only set the record for the most goals ever scored in the Championship this campaign, but he has grabbed a healthy 10 assists too: 41 goal involvements in 45 appearances, one from the bench.
Worst case scenario for the Bees and they sell Toney? That would allow the Londoners to rebuild and bring in more quality to remain in contention to compete for the play-offs. Brentford are in an enviable position.
Bristol City were interested in Toney 18 months ago but could not afford the forward, as they looked to bring in a quality no.9 (Nahki Wells eventually arriving late in the January 2020 window instead). And Brentford outbid everybody last summer to then capture the coveted 25-year-old from Peterborough United, armed with the money they knew they were to receive from the sale of Ollie Watkins to a Premier League side.
Two players, there, in a long, long list that Bristol City have missed out on. When we look back on the five years of Mark Ashton and the four of Lee Johnson, we see hits and misses regarding the vital area of recruitment. But it’s the missing out of quality players who have developed into top class players elsewhere that really sticks in the craw.
Bryan Mbeumo was another player tracked by City two years ago, but again the Robins lost out to the Bees in the transfer market: the France U21 player instead headed to Griffin Park (as their home ground then). And it was the 21-year-old winger who poked home an incisive Sergi Canos pass in the 78th minute to effectively wrap the game up on Saturday.
All that after Toney had grabbed his 31st goal of the season, latching on to the impressive Marcus Forss’ deflected shot, before Dan Bentley could reach the ball. A goal-scoring record set by Toney then, who was under pressure to score when he did as Frank explained afterwards that their star man was always going to come off the pitch after 65 minutes.
Until City get their incomings right – and grab the next Toney for themselves – they won’t achieve their ambitions. A big summer arrives.
Great Britton finally comes on
Louis Britton is a player who has been clamoured for by the Bristol City fans over the last months, in stark contrast to Famara Diedhiou who looks certain to depart BS3 next week.
The Senegal forward took to the pitch after the game for some pictures to be taken with his son, while Britton came off the bench in the 72nd minute and had a good impact that may point to a bright future.
A walloping aerial challenge saw Mads Bech Sorensen dumped to the ground before a late tackle on German anchorman Vitaly Janelt saw a yellow come, before Britton became the first Bristolian to net in his debut since centre-back Richard Bryant in the mid-80s (credit Graham Clapp).
Britton has netted plenty for the U23s this season. His 13 strikes have helped the Development Side to win their Professional Development League, and he finished Nathan Baker’s knockdown on Saturday with aplomb.
Yet another youngster from the academy who has stepped up this season to show heart and promise, even if City finished with another inexperienced side on the grass, short of nous and losing once more to Championship opposition.
“The youngsters that we had out there today probably wouldn’t have a sniff of a performance in a usual circumstance,” said Pearson afterwards.
“They’ve been exposed at times where they wouldn’t be. They’ve coped admirably. We can’t put ourselves in that situation again.”
Mark Ashton celebrated by the City fans
The much-maligned CEO who leaves for Ipswich Town in a few weeks was remembered by the Supporters Club and Trust following Saturday’s loss, whose open vote heralds the Bristol City player of the year and other player awards: Bentley, for 2020/21.
But the club conveniently forgot to announce the fan-chosen Champagne Moment of the Year, with almost 3,000 votes registered. A majority cited Ashton heading to Portman Road this summer as their pick. Kasey Palmer’s goal direct from a corner came second.
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Whatever your view on the outgoing chief executive, he does leave with the circle complete: arriving in January 2016 Bristol City eventually finished 18th that campaign. Five years on the Robins finish 19th, having moved forward not one jot on the pitch, though having made some strides off it.
Indeed, it’s been four years since Brentford have done the double over Saturday’s hosts, but they have done so once more this campaign. The Robins finish the season with an appalling 25 defeats from their 46 games, not far off their worst record of 27 in 2012/13.
Investment at Bristol City has been consistent from the Lansdown family and now a new cycle begins that must see surefire improvement on that Ashton Gate pitch.