Richard Gould has this evening come out to speak to the fans on the current situation of the club and rumours of Manager Nigel Pearson.
The CEO made an appearance on BBC Radio Bristol’s ‘Sound of the City’ to explain the impressions from higher up in the club and to answer a few of the fans questions.
There was a lot of rumours circulating earlier this afternoon, offering thoughts that Nigel Pearson may have walked away from the club due to his medical circumstances. Pearson had missed Saturday’s 3-2 loss away to Coventry and had missed matches against Millwall and Peterborough United earlier in the campaign.
Gould said on the rumours, “Just twitter speculation, we want Nigel to come back full strength”
On the managers health, “He’s not doing well, he’s missed three games, he’s spending more time away at the moment and are hoping for a quick recovery. No time scale for his comeback”
On the thoughts that he might leave the club, Gould was very tentative to answer committedly.
“I’m sure that that is the case- he wants to come back”
“I would very much hope so, were talking about a health issues here, he has such huge determination, he’s a spirited individual.”
Pearson has been suffering from ‘Long-Covid’, after suffering from the illness twice; first being heavily affected in 2020.
“Nigel is normally so full of enthusiasm, when you lose your energy its hard”
With Pearson out, Assistant Manager Curtis Fleming has taken charge for the foreseeable future. Earlier in the season, coaches Keith Downing and Paul Simpson left the club, making the club light in the coaching department.
“David Rennie and Alex Ball stepped up, as well as Kalifa Cisse”
The former City Midfielder joint the club less than a month ago with Gould explaining his role at the club. “Cisse is a coach for the first team, he works alongside the scouts, fulfils a variety of roles but spends most time with first team”
With Aston Villa sacking their manager Dean Smith in the past few days, the thought of brining in his assistant Craig Shakespeare, who has worked with
Gould is “under no illusions, the club is at the wrong end of the table”
“The manner of the defeats are so disappointing, often we’ve been in good positions, giving fan hopes…(they) lacked concentration at key times, (there’) a degree of nervousness, the supporters were outstanding, we could see the nervousness and apprehension”
The club have in the past season signed experienced players, who have played (and won) the Premier League, as well as having experience on international football.
Andy King, Matty James, Danny Simpson, Chris Martin to name just four.
For the past three years, many fans have raised their concerns about the clear lack of footballing identity. Anyone that has watched a Bristol City match in the past few seasons will note how many long balls from the goalkeeper or defence towards the forwards are played in a match. Interestingly Gould believes that the team have a different approach.
“You see the amount of work that goes into our fitness, we want to be a high fitness, pressing attacking team, that’s not always possible, cause of our form, it’s not good in the last 5/6 games”
Furthermore some reds fans have been noting the apparent lack of funding that goes into the club, Gould replied;
“The investment that goes in already is exceptional., the salary bills twice what we can afford with media and gate income”
But even with double wages of what the club earns, the CEO admits that we can not compete with the perceived bigger teams in the league.
“It’s one of the challenges you take on a team like AFC Bournemouth, with Parachute payments, they can pay extraordinary on players and wages, you see the gulf from teams from Premier League.”
Even though the team were embarrassed in the past three matches, and looking uncompetitive against the likes of Bournemouth and Fulham, Gould believes “with our squad we should be near the play-off places”
“Were 19th, but we have the opportunity of a successful season”
With January closing in, thoughts have turned to the possible reinforcements from the transfer market. There was confirmation of City’s willingness to use the transfer market. Sadly for many fans, the generic formulaic answers arose.
“We will be in the market actively, but we need to get the best out the players we got”
“We always want to bring in quality into the team, and they got to be better than what we have in the team, has to be a reasonable price”
There was no definitive answer to where the club will look to strengthen, with the CEO carrying on
“Identify players that will suit the needs, objective always, we know where the weakness’, are where we need to reinforce.” Using “a comprehensive process that’s been successful”
Successful enough to bring the likes of Danny Simpson and Henri Lansbury whilst going back on the decision to release Nathan Baker by giving him a contract 45 days after officially letting him go.
As mentioned already, the club have bought in players with experience to help the younger, inexperienced players that made up a core of the squad last season due to injuries. City will likely not be looking at many more of those signings.
“We don’t want short term fixes that ends with long term problems”
City will also be looking once again to rely on some of the younger members of the squad to step up
“Ayman Benarous forcing into the first team, we’ve got an excellent academy and were looking internally”
One fan asked about the contract situation of some players, mainly on Frenchman Han-Noah Massengo. Gould announced, “Han-Noah Massengo is one of the finest young men, he’s the type of players we want to retain” Also noting “that is very much the hope” when asking about if he will be receiving a new contract.
“We want to keep all our best players, if were playing at a level that doesn’t reach their ambition they’ll move on”
Gould has perfectly summed up the current situation at Bristol City. For the past few years, major income has come in from player sales. Adam Webster, Lloyd Kelly and Josh Brownhill have moved on for big money.
The fact that the club is kneeling to player demands rather than demanding from its players is quite a reality check. No longer does it seem players are interested in the vision of a growing club; mainly as the club has stagnated. Now seeing it as a steppingstone for pastures new.
Overall, there has been mixed reaction from the fans online and on the radio. Some are pointing out to the formulaic and weak answers given by Gould, whilst others are happy that there is communication from the club to the fans, especially during the current situation at the club.
For all any of us fans know, in a fortnights time when we play Blackburn Rovers at home, all this may be out of date news, with the club trying to edge into a new direction’ or frantically trying to salvage the sinking ship.
The world of football moves quickly, but the main sentiment from the fans is for Nigel Pearson to have a full and speedy recovery, and to lead Bristol City to a more positive position in both the League and in relationships with the fans.