Rough guide to
About this rough guide
How our predictions went
Rough guide to...Bristol City
10 June 2003
Relationship with Division Two
While doing the desultory research for this rough guide (sorry, about that, but I'm trying hard for official slacker status these days) I unearthed the rather startling fact that over the long 4000-game 1888-2003 season, Grimsby Town and Bristol City finished 22nd and 23rd respectively, separated by a mere 10 points. On reading this statistic, a City fan deduced that his club should be capable of almost making the bottom rung of the Premiership - but was archetypally aghast at GTFC's impressive position: "How the hell did Grimsby get there?" However, the cold light of reality shows that City have spent more time languishing lately even than the likes of Grimsby. They have escaped to Division One a few times, and only narrowly missed out on promotion in 2002-03, but I think they are where they belong. And I think Danny Wilson knows it too, deep down.
Many would say going in consecutive seasons from being an (old) Division One club to being temporarily bottom of the fourth division ranks as an impressive achievement in itself; but rabid Robins (or more properly Cidereds) fans will be much more likely to point you to their towering victory over the mighty Carlisle in this year's showpiece LDV Trophy final. The former incredible plummet happened in the early 80s, by the way, and saw the club teeter on the very brink of bankruptcy, only to be rescued by the selfless actions of the 'Ashton Gate Eight', who accepted voluntary redundancy to 'save' the club.
Along the way City have beaten Leeds (1974) and Liverpool (1993) in FA Cup giant-killer mode. They also won the Welsh Cup in 1934 - presumably in some kind of cross-border raid - and were losing FA Cup finalists in 1909.
Bristol Rovers, Swindon, and, I suspect, Tony Pulis.
Danny Wilson has recently declared that he needs a midfield playmaker - to finally replace Brian Tinnion? - and a striker (don't we all!) to replace the released Peter Beadle. The rumour mill points towards Bruce Dyer, but with 589 released players there are a few to choose from at the moment. Of course, he already has a midfield playmaker - 'teenage prodigy' Liam Rosenior who slipped through the fingers of both West Ham and Chelsea before returning home to Dad (Leroy, who was coaching at City at the time). A prodigy and a prodigal in fact. Rosenior scored one and made the other in a 'super-sub' cameo in their LDV Trophy win. Our very own Joe Cole, the Cidereds dream.
City have had a couple of players in the PFA Division Two Team of the Year every season lately - Mickey Bell and Scott Murray. Bell is an enterprising (read 'attacking') left-back, and Murray a converted full-back who scores goals - 20 last season. Murray, a 'steal' from Villa a few years ago, struggled under Pulis (who doesn't?), but has blossomed since being allowed to run forward very fast with the ball wide on the right. I bet he hopes Town keep Gallimore.
A couple of young 'uns to watch out for are Danny Coles - Young Player of the Season and tipped by Wilson as having Premiership potential - and Leroy Lita, which is hard to say fast.
To the writer, reading about Bristol City is uncannily like reading about Grimsby Town. Both have been around for ever, but only briefly tasting success with minor trophies and claiming the odd scalp in the cup. City have also played in black and white (their 'proper' away kit, in fact, although they have been seen also in a lime and purple ensemble that made the strongest stomach turn), fantasised about moving to a posh new stadium, flirted with bankruptcy, and so on.
But what nonsense, for Bristol City are yet another 'big' club that just never quite realises its 'massive' potential. A few years ago they tried slinging money at the problem - remember when they bought Akinbiyi and Tony Thorpe for a combined £3m or so, and immediately finished bottom of the table? The free-spending days are over now, though, and the great white hope is 'the academy', a sort of footballing allotment they've rented to grow their own youngsters.
The pre- and post-play-off headlines said it all: 'Wilson bullish on chances' and 'Wilson rues missed chances'.
On 18 September 1967 history was made at Ashton Gate. Halfway through a 3-1 tonking of Hull City the crowd began to sing 'Drink up thy zider' - the footballing debut of the scrumpy 'n' western musical genre. The song remains a favourite today. The Wurzels even made a record for City - the enigmatically titled 'One for the Bristol City'. This was a rewrite of the Worzels' 'Morning glory', and adopted by City as their theme song. Sadly, the link to get the lyrics no longer works, so we will have to make do with a general-purpose soundbite:
"Rump-der-de-ider-dider-rump-der-de-ider-dider-doh" - Adge Cutler, 1966
How will they do?
City will probably finish one position above Grimsby due to their superior home record.
Rivals has the depressingly titled Bristol City Independent Net centre. Then there is Bright Cider Life and a load of others, but the hottest link of all leads to local poet Gareth Calway. Calway has released a 75-minute CD Bristol City Ruined My Life...But Made My Day, which is an exploration of the club through poems, songs, sonnets, and comic monologues interspersed with crowd noise, songs and so on. He calls it "poetry for men"; Adrian Chiles called it "a little gem"; and I just want to hear his 'Seven reasons why I never played for England' (part of it to the tune of 'Space Oddity')...
And I never mentioned Mark Lever once.