Bristol City fans need only revisit last season for a painful reminder of the well-worn mantra that a league campaign is a marathon not a sprint, though predictably that hasn’t stopped Robins’ diehards from believing they are on the cusp of something very special.
Forty years have passed since Ashton Gate last welcomed the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United for top-flight matches.
Now City find themselves atop the Championship after winning their opening four matches and while that’s probably too early to be thinking about open-top bus parades next May, their title odds have plunged to
And it won’t stop City fans from dreaming.
Wild Card Holden’s Got Talent
City supporters have good grounds to be cautiously optimistic – although the emphasis is on the word ‘cautiously’ given what unfolded in the last two seasons.
They proved in 2018-19 they were a top-six side, only to be pipped for a the playoff place on the final day. And they were in the hunt again last season before a shocking mid-season collapse cost manager Lee Johnson his job and the club any chance of promotion.
Fingers burned, the board appointed Dean Holden to succeed Johnson, hardly a universally popular choice at the time, but one that looks inspired now.
The Tweaks Which Have Turned City Into Contenders
When City won 2-1 at Nottingham Forest last weekend that made it six league wins out of nine under Holden, who has lost just once since taking the reins. The transformation is extraordinary.
The astute recruitment of England’s Under-20 World Cup-winning coach Paul Simpson was a defining moment, adding pedigree on the training ground, while clever forays into the transfer market have also added genuine class on the pitch.
Alfie Mawson, for example, has the talent to be one of the Championship’s best central defenders while target man Chris Martin, once prolific for Derby, is proving a pleasure to play alongside for Nakhi Wells and City’s other front men. Two-goal Wells is
18/1 to win the division’s Golden Boot.
The academy is working – centre-back Zak Vyner is proof of that – while keeper Dan Bentley has looked born to play at the top level ever since he made his debut for Southend almost a decade ago.
The players look comfortable in a 3-5-2 set-up where the ethos from management is win the ball back early and play with it when we’ve got it. And the early results are that it’s a style which is bearing fruit.
Robins Believe In Premier League Charge
While City’s historical rivals Bristol Rovers flounder – the neighbours haven’t actually met in a league game for 20 years – City are clearly on the up.
Now the big derby threat comes from across the Severn, in the form of Cardiff and Swansea, two clubs who, like Bristol City, have eyes on the prize of promotion.
They represent powerful opponents in a division packed with ex-Premier League clubs and some daunting challenges, but challenges that City look well-equipped to face down.
They were 14/1 for promotion just a few weeks back – now they are
4/1. After back-to-back blowouts is the unheralded Dean Holden the man to make it third time lucky?
*All odds correct at time of writing