Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Thursday, March 18, 2010

City give Johnson the Gate

After Bristol City part company with manager Gary Johnson, Nobes criticises the Westcountry club for letting their ambition obscure their perspective.

Gary Johnson had been in charge at Ashton Gate since September 2005

They've big ambitions down by the Severn. Bristol is one of the cities that could stage World Cup matches should England's 2018 bid be successful.

A new 30,000 stadium is in the pipeline and, for Bristol City's chairman Steve Lansdown, bringing Premier League football to the country's sixth largest city is the next goal.

That's why just two wins in their last 12 games - a run that's seen the Robins slip from play-off challengers to lower mid-table obscurity - has been deemed unacceptable. Manager Gary Johnson has paid with his job.

However, has chasing the glory of being part of football's biggest showpiece event, and jumping aboard the gravy train that is the Premier League, clouded any sense of realism?

The answer, I believe, is yes. City are by no means one of the big fish of the Championship. They currently lie 15th
in the division and appropriately attract the 15th highest attendances too.

Average crowds at Ashton Gate are around the 13,000 mark - less than sides like Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, and less than half the size of Derby's. All three teams are below the Robins in the league table.

City are also one of only nine sides in the Championship never to played in the Premier League and only ended eight consecutive seasons in League One as recently as 2007.

That promotion back to the second tier was completed in Johnson's first full season as manager. He had initially taken over with the club struggling towards the bottom, eventually leading them to 9th.

The next year he fashioned a young side playing attractive football who entertained fans on their way to promotion.

Their first season back in the Championship was a resounding success too - Johnson leading his side all the way to the play-off final where they narrowly lost out to Hull.

Their 4th place finish was also the club's highest since they were relegated from the top flight in 1980. For a side who had spent the past 20 years yo-yoing between the second and third tiers, Johnson had revitalised Bristol's fortunes.

Perhaps too much though. The club had come so close to a place in the promised land that expectations were at an all time high.

Bristol City's new Ashton Vale stadium hopes to stage World Cup matches in 2018

Suddenly last season's 10th place finish was disappointing. People had already begun to forget where they had come from.

Now, Johnson's departure has added further credence to the theory that any manager is only a bad run of results away from the sack. However, it is a desperately harsh decision.

City are seven points above the drop zone and, in all reality, only require a couple of wins from their remaining games to ensure survival. Reality seems to be in short supply down in the Westcountry though.

It raises this simple question too - how bad does a run of form need to be for chairmen to completely disregard a manager's track record and make a knee-jerk decision?

How can you justify sacking a manager who, on a modest budget, has established City back in the country's top-44 clubs, and taken them to within 90 minutes of the Premier League?

How can you condone parting ways with a manager who, was once so highly rated by the club, he signed a five-year contract extension less than two years ago?

Also, is a mid-table finish really unacceptable for a club of their size? After all, there is a very thin line between finishing in the top six and not in the Championship.

Indeed, had Johnson's side been able to convert some of their 15 draws this season into wins, then they could still be in with an outside shout of the play-offs.

Are they really that far away from being a top six team? No. Is replacing Johnson the solution to their current problems? Unlikely. Are expectation levels unrealistically high? Certainly.

When you're head is in the clouds though, as Mr Lansdown's appears to be, you lose all sense of perspective.

City have dispensed of the services of a manager who tries to play the game the right way and who has transformed the club during his time there.

Not only did he deserve more time to turn things around - he had earned it.

No comments:

Post a Comment