Image: Wikimedia Commons / Tom Shorey
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Tom Shorey

After Lee Johnson’s departure, Bristol City must make the correct hire

After four and a half years, Bristol City are on the lookout for a new manager. This comes after many years where people questioned Lee Johnson, who was notorious for only ever being able to lead his team through massive winning streaks or massive losing streaks.

Johnson was known for his use of data and video analysis to improve his team, as well as preparing for matches. The former City manager favoured pragmatic football and trying to cancel out the strengths of the opposition. This, of course, led City to the highs of the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, having beaten many top-flight teams along the way.

Was it time for a change? Yes. I have nothing but respect for Lee Johnson, he was very nice to me when I once served the first team breakfast. Even while the players were eating, I could see that he’d instructed them to watch how their next opponents play in order to try and give them a tactical advantage. Due to the youth of him and his team, Johnson himself being only 39 years old, it was clear that he was intent on modernising how Bristol City should prepare for games and be coached.

There were no more excuses for poor form since the Championship’s restart

It is clear, however, that due to the amount of changes Johnson seemed to make to the team week-in-week-out that they were never able to settle into a specific style. Previously, this could be put down to the numerous injuries that Bristol City seemed to suffer. However, after the Championship’s restart, Bristol City have lost all four of their games, with most key players eligible to play. There were no more excuses for the poor form.

He leaves behind a club prepared to reach the highest level of football using all the modern techniques to its advantage. He also leaves behind a very strong squad which could challenge for promotion in the Championship next season, given the correct appointment.

The question becomes, then, who should take over? Should Bristol City risk a young prospect, as they did with Lee Johnson in the first place, or should they get a proven manager with a track record of getting teams into the premier league instead?

Taking a brief look at what the fans think on Bristol City forum “One Team in Bristol”, it is clear that most who post on It want a proven manager with a track record for getting teams promoted. Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock and Chris Hughton are three managers who are all out of work come summer and proven to be able to consistently get teams to the big time.

Pulis’ Middlesbrough side were playing boring football and frequently lost

Warnock has had numerous clashes with Bristol City, having a fierce rivalry with City manager Gary Johnson after a goal that went in for his Crystal Palace was not counted. He also managed Bristol City’s Severn-side rivals, Cardiff City. Some fans are willing to put this aside for potential glory, yet Warnock is just a short-term fix.

He’s also 71 years of age and would not necessarily integrate well with the more modern outlook on football that the rest of City’s setup is predicated on. Pulis is also someone who has lost his magic, his Middlesbrough side were playing boring football and frequently lost – a combination that never pleases any fan. Hughton is the most preferable of these three options, having done a brilliant job with Brighton, yet the same question arises as to whether he would suit City’s blueprint.

As up-and-coming EFL managers go, Plymouth Argyle manager Ryan Lowe and Coventry City manager Mark Robins are among the favourites with the bookies to get the job. These two are managers who have both achieved promotion in the EFL, Lowe getting Plymouth Argyle promoted from League 2 to League 1 and Robins getting Coventry City promoted from League 1 to the Championship.

Lowe plays with an attacking philosophy, citing Guardiola and Klopp as influences on his style of play. Seeing Bristol City playing with an attack philosophy would be very enjoyable, considering I’ve had to watch this team struggle to create changes against 9-man Rotherham United before. City certainly have the players to implement such a style, especially considering Chelsea academy graduates Palmer, Kalas and Da Silva will be used to playing such football.

Both managers come with the caveat that they are unproven at the top level

Robins, on the other hand, has had a fantastic run with Coventry City and is unbeaten through all of 2020. He clearly is more defensively minded than Lowe however, as his team have the best defensive record in League 1 yet they have also only scored 48 goals in the 34 games they played this season. His style seems not too different from Johnson, who was also known for having a far better defensive record than attacking record.

Both managers come with the caveat that they are unproven at the top level. Lowe has managed Bury before Argyle; the highest finish Robins has gotten in the past is an eighteenth-place Championship finish with Barnsley. Yet both would be more adaptable to City’s current structure than any of the three proven managers above.

Bristol City have a clear choice here between short-term success or taking a risk on a long-term option. Personally, I would rather take a risk on Lowe out of all of these options. He could install a winning mentality with exciting football and with the quality of the squad, I think he has every chance, given patience from fans, to take Bristol City to the Premier League.

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