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As Brentford look to extend their unbeaten league run to 17 league matches, Bristol City look to furrow themselves out of the relegation zone with some free-flowing passing football. BillytheBee caught up with Lewis Hancock (@L_Hancock6) contributor for The Exiled Robin blog (@theexiledrobin) and discussed combine harvesters, Karleigh Osborne and the skilful, full of flare but lazy Jay Emmanuel-Thomas

What was your first game?

My first City match seems so long ago! It was our promotion season in 1997/98 (Started off as a ‘glory supporting’ five-year-old so guess you could suggest ‘karma’ for our downfall!) against Northampton Town at Ashton Gate. My Dad tells me I was so eager to watch the match and get in the ground that we were in by 1pm, I’d eaten all my food before kick-off and became very bored. No doubt the 0-0 result didn’t help matters!

It’s fair to say, you’ve had a pretty ropey 18 months or so. First relegation from the championship. Then camped in the relegation zone for most of the season.

I think the ‘R’ word is one that has haunted City fans for a number of years! After the Steve Coppell debacle, it was evident that the club found itself on a slippery slope; one the club thought we could level by throwing a load of money at other clubs for needless loans and outrageously bad ‘footballers’ as they called themselves.

We did well to stay up as long as we did in all honesty. Some would say last season was a bit of a shock considering our decent start (beating promoted Cardiff and Crystal Palace at home) but we had a gutless bunch who seemed quite content with picking up their wage at the end of the week.

League One’s been a shock to the system. Many had delusional opinions that we would walk the league alongside Wolves and Peterborough but with the amount of players that departed and recruited in the summer, it was never going to be the case – I’d always said a top ten finish would be sufficient.

To be at the bottom and flirting with League Two is frightening. Sean O’Driscoll always talked about a ‘transitional period’ for the club and how it was always going to get worse before it got better. He just didn’t cut the mustard results wise and hopefully Steve Cotterill’s passionate stance can save us.

Interestingly, Brentford offered the manager’s job to McInnes before we got hold of Uwe Rosler. He turned us down with his chairman at the time, Geoff Brown, saying Brentford had bob hope and no hope of getting him as the move didn’t represent a step up in his managerial career. From what I can gather, we may have had a lucky let-off there whereas McInnes and Brown probably had a few ideas above their station

That’s news to me – you had a lucky escape! I think with McInnes his reputation of a young, upcoming Scottish manager who’d done well at St Johnstone may have fooled a lot of City fans into thinking he was the answer.

When he took over we were eight points adrift at the bottom of the table and despite keeping us up that season, I’m not sure he was what we needed. We needed someone with a lot of experience who was going to be ruthless and give our lads a motivational kick up the backside to become a sustainable Championship club again.

When he was sacked and O’Driscoll came in, I felt there was plenty of time for us to stay up. O’Driscoll stubbornly refused to look at the league table and where we were and as a result didn’t leave himself enough time to get us out of the mess we were in.

In the end we got Rosler and he set us up to play some decent passing football and signed (with the help of then sporting director Mark Warburton) some quality young under-the-radar players in Forshaw, Bidwell and Dean. What would McInnes have bought to our party do you think? He did well up at St Johnstone so he’s no chump.

It’s hard to say how he would have done at Brentford, League One may have been his level. He would’ve signed different players, had a different budget to deal with and a different group of personalities to deal with.

He brought in a lot of useless Scotsman so you got away with that!

I don’t think talents such as Forshaw, Trotta, Bidwell or Dean would be at your club if McInnes had taken over. He didn’t seem to think outside the box and look for young talent. He sold Bolasie for us (who very much divided fans opinion) and he’s now in the Premier League with Crystal Palace!

He attempted to play attractive football on the ground but we didn’t have the squad to play like that apart from Albert Adomah so we often played hit and hope.

After McInnes you had ex Forest manager Sean O’Driscoll. When we beat you 2-1 a few months back, he was on his final legs. You only won 2 games in 18 before he left. Was it like from the frying pan into the fire?

You could say that, but no one saw it coming.

Most had already consigned ourselves to relegation before SOD came in and we were all for the transitional period he was about to cement.

However, results are key in football as the old cliché goes and he just wasn’t what the club needed in the end. Apart from bringing in top scorer Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, there was very little excitement or stylish football for City fans to watch in his 10 months at the club.

You are currently work in progress under your new manager. You seem to love your Forest connections as in came Steve Cottrell. He says he refuses to compromise his footballing principals in search of a quick-fix. Is this a good thing?

Is it a good thing? I’m not so sure. Personally, I was against Cotterill’s appointment as the board had promised they would take their time to interview candidates but offered him the job the day after SOD’s sacking!

The club has a long-term plan but to be successful in the long-term we need a successful short-term as our friend Mr Cotterill keeps saying.

Saying that you have some decent players who should be able to play the passing game. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is a decent striker and teams would queue up around the block to nab him off you.

Emmanuel-Thomas is the most frustrating delight that I’ve ever seen play for City. He’s scored some absolute crackers this season and SOD made him the focal point of the side giving him a ‘free role’. It’s just disappointing for someone with so much skill and flair to be so bloody lazy!

Cotterill hasn’t made JET the main man since he took over and would prefer him to chase the ball for the team rather than have the ‘free role’, which is perhaps why his goals have lessened.

You just picked up Karleigh Osborne from Millwall. He came through our youth system but left a couple of seasons ago to play in a higher division much to the disappointment of many fans who felt he should have stayed and stuck it out as we were confident we would be pushing for promotion. How’s he getting on?

I like Karleigh a lot, but only when he’s played in the right position! Cotterill played him at right wing back in the absence of Scott Wagstaff on Saturday at Wolves and I hear looked very uncomfortable there.

He has the ability to play the ball out of the defence whilst supporting our wing back when on the right side of three central defenders. He’s strong too and possesses a bit of pace which is what we’ve lacked for a while with exception to Derrick Williams.

Brentford signed Alan Judge from Blackburn and highly rated England U19 striker Chuba Akpom from Arsenal on loan recently. We also signed England U19 right back cum midfielder Nico Yennaris on a permanent today. Are you looking at getting anyone else in the window to strengthen or looking to get rid?

We’ve signed Osborne and also Adam El-Abd to strengthen the defence but I personally think El-Abd was a needless signing due to other positions on the pitch being more of a priority.

There doesn’t seem to be much more going on for us really. Cotterill is keen to get a controlling defensive midfielder with some fans suggesting Gillingham’s Amine Linganzi as a possible target – whether that’s from watching him have a decent game against Brentford on Friday or Football Manager I don’t know!

A winger and another goal scorer should also be looked at. Cotterill says two bids for a winger were turned down (likely to be Stevenage’s Luke Freeman but also rumoured to be Wolves’ new signing Nouha Dicko) and that we wouldn’t be paying over the odds for him and held to ransom.

What sides have looked decent that you have played?

From what I’ve seen this season, Wolves and Swindon were very good going forward but that could coincide with how awful we were at the back in those games!

I was impressed with Shrewsbury on the counter attack but after they scored against us they turned into ultra defensive mode and tried to close the game out – difficult when there’s another 50 or so minutes to play!

And woeful?

I have to say Stevenage. Apart from Luke Freeman they have absolutely nothing about them and if they manage to stay up at our expense, it would be an absolute tragedy.

Do you subscribe to the #SaveDarrenFerguson campaign? We are working overtime in West London to ensure that he keeps his job at Posh

I must say I haven’t seen this but I definitely will! I think Darren Ferguson is a horrible bloke and a horrendous manager and Peterborough are just as bad as a club.

Needless to say, if you were relegated to Division 2 it would be a catastrophe. Most of your decent players would probably leave and you would have to get a manager in who was able to work the division well with financial constraints.

It’s nice of you to think we have decent players – plural too!!

I think similarly to this, we’d struggle once again. I don’t think too many of our players are out of contract in the summer so we could keep the same squad as with a major shareholder like ours we do have the money to pay the wages the players are currently on – only just!

The City of Bristol is a fairly fickle one as I’m sure Rovers fans would also say. Our crowds would no doubt drop to 10,000 if not below and it would be an extremely low point of my life supporting City.

The Bristol Derby would be the only benefit of dropping down to the basement league but that’s only if they don’t go down too!

The JPT match against Rovers was brilliant. To have that on a regular basis again would be great but it’s a difficult one as I obviously don’t want us to be relegated again and I wouldn’t want to give the blue few the satisfaction of promotion!

You are bringing around 600 or so fans to Griffin Park on Tuesday. You took around 1000 to Wolves. I know you’re struggling on the pitch but you still get crowds of over 10k despite your position which is well decent in this day and age. Saying that, of the 72 teams in the football league, last season Bristol City came in at 68th with the fourth lowest travelling support to home gate ratio of 5.3% – just above Hartlepool, Ipswich and Franchise FC (aka MK Dons). That means in effect only an average of around 5% of people who go to your home games travel away. The previous two seasons when you were in the championship it was around the same figure so it’s not a one-off.

The top 10 contains teams like Port Vale, AFC Wimbledon, Rochdale, Peterborough and Leeds (all over 13%). Brentford were 14th at 11.1%. Bristol always struck me as one of the big players in the travelling sense. Is there a reason why your fans as a proportion don’t seem to like travelling?

You mention Rochdale as a comparison but when you get 4,000 a week, 14% to away games isn’t a lot! Especially when a high number of teams in League Two are based in the North.

I think our away following has dropped due to the expectation of getting slaughtered on the road every week! We’ve played most of the teams in the Championship for years and who wants to go to Middlesbrough again if you’ve already been there!? It really is a sh*thole!

I see John Cleese and Jensen Button are fans. Bet they don’t go. But I bet that guy from The Wurzels does … What’s his name … Peter Budd … Not in his combine harvester by any chance?

I’m afraid The Wurzels, Mr Cleese and Mr Button are otherwise occupied!

Saying that we always like going down to Bristol City. Other than when you relegated us from a Division 1 (now the Championship) in 1992, we’ve always had a good time down there. Those playoff games of 1997 were well exciting. I remember fans in the infamous Hate Corner (RIP) in a Griffin Park were quite literally hanging from the rafters for the 2nd leg match that saw us victorious and off to Wembley for yet another playoff heart wrenching defeat.

Those days were a year out of my City life I’m afraid but I think, like yourselves this season, play-off disappointment stood us in good stead and gave us a platform to work on for the following season and following relegation from Division One after only a season, it took us nine years to bloody go back up again!

And they’ve scrubbed up the area around Ashton Gate somewhat too. We went drinking up Raleigh Road in the Tobacco House before our game with you this season. Quality. Blimey it’s changed up there since the last time we were up there.

Well, we try to keep with the times – living in Brentford I’m sure you can understand!

Isn’t this the catchiest football record punch line since Ossie Ardiles sang “In the cup for Totting-ham” 2 mins into this Chaz n Dave video all those years ago?

It’s actually surprisingly catchy!! I like it.

I love a bit of cheese!

So how are you going to set up against the Bees?

I’d imagine he’ll stick with 3-5-2. Osborne certainly didn’t work at wing back so I pray Waggy (Scott Wagstaff) is fit or Moloney starts. From the highlights it looks as though Derrick Williams had a nightmare at Molineux so perhaps he’ll be dropped.

We’ll look to play the ball on the floor with the occasional lob from Flint up to the helpless Baldock.

I can see the line up being: Parish; Osborne, Flint, El-Abd; Wagstaff, Reid, Gillett, Pack Cunningham; JET, Baldock.

Head to head, it’s tight. City are just shading it winning 27 games to the Bees’ 26 with 16 games drawn. Will you pull away or will we even it up do you think??

I’d love to say we’ll pull away but with how you guys are playing at the moment… you might get a draw!

Give us a score prediction

1-1. A Jay Emmanuel-Thomas screamer to level things up after a Clayton Donaldson tap in.

And a 1st, 2nd, playoffs prediction as well as a relegation quartet guess.

1st Wolves, 2nd Orient, play offs Brentford

Relegation – Stevenage, Crewe, Shrewsbury, Carlisle

Thanks to Lewis for taking time out to chat to Beesotted. You can follow him on twitter (@L_Hancock6). You can also follow The Exiled Robin (@theexiledrobin) and check out their ‘Inside Line’ preview for the match here