YOU SPOKE A LOT AT THE START OF LAST SEASON ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF FINANCIAL FAIR PLAY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. HAS IT CHANGED THE WAY YOU OPERATE IN THE TRANSFER MARKET?
I think it’s sort of hit crunch point really because it looks like some guys don’t mind bending the rules to obviously chase the dream, which is the honeypot obviously of getting Premier League finance and football. I do believe in the way we’re trying to do it though. So, I mean it has to be relatively sustainable. Yes, we’ve got a very rich benefactor, but it feels like every decision is made for the benefit and the future of the club. And I think it’s the right way to go. Yes, listen, at times we’ve pushed it and at times you’ve got to rein it in.
But through hopefully making good decisions through developing young players and improving the team as a whole year on year, I believe that if we keep making the right decisions we will achieve our goals.
HAS FFP MADE THE MARKET DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE THOUGH?
Yeah, I think so because there’s a lot of inflated salaries for average players in around the Championship. The big deals are getting bigger and the small deals are difficult to shift because some players are overpaid.
PROS AND CONS THEN?
AND EVEN THOUGH THERE IS MONEY, YOU NEED TO CUT YOUR CLOTH ACCORDINGLY AND MANAGE THE FINANCES CORRECTLY.
The thing for me is the big picture in football is you to make sure we’re sensible, there’s a lot of money that goes out the game that should probably stay in it. And we’ve got to find that balance really between a fair wage for elite footballers – they’re obviously very marketable and very successful – but not so much that raises prices on fans, kills integrity of football as a whole.
I KNOW YOU WON’T GIVE ANY NAMES BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’LL NEED IN TERMS OF MORE NEW PLAYERS COMING IN?
Yeah, absolutely. Its evolution or revolution in terms of the transfers we are trying to work on – we’re happy with the squad that we’ve got and anything that we bring in now again we’re trying to make the right decision for the football club , not just short term but also long term.
And it’s not easy because we’re not one of the sides that can just throw everything at one position. We like to keep the stability and the range if you like, across the wages. Sometimes that can restrict you from signing the truly proven ones, if you like the almost guaranteed 20 goals at this level type of player. But that’s the fun bit really. And that’s the bit there and that we challenge our recruitment staff, myself and the coaching staff to try and come up with names that are going to make us better.
IS MARK ASHTON HERE NOW IN FLORIDA WITH YOU?
Yes Mark came out yesterday [Sunday]. Myself and Mark work very closely anyway and obviously it’s his job to see those transfers over the line. In terms of the identification of the talent it’s my say but inevitably the board will push the button depending on whether it’s affordable for the football club.
ADAM WEBSTER HAS BEEN LINKED WITH A MOVE AWAY. CONFIDENT YOU CAN KEEP HIM?
I think we’re in a strong position. Listen, every player naturally wants to play as high as he can, as long as he can and, and then sometimes media reports can be pretty wide of the mark. So it hasn’t always been that the stuff that’s been in the press has been the reality of the situation. But at the same time, he’s a fantastic player.
We want to keep our best players and if we can’t keep our best players, it’s because they go into top clubs in the Premier League and we’re getting fees that we believe we can make our squad better with those finances involved.
THINK HE WILL STAY?
Honestly, I think he’ll be here. I will never say never in football because anything could change particularly as things gets manic in the last week of the window. But the good thing this year, the windows is shut on August 8th and for a manager, I can tell you that’s an absolute dream because when you’re going three or four weeks into the season and a player’s head is all over the shop, that can be difficult.
IS HE A LEVEL HEADED KIND OF PERSON?
Yeah. He’s a good lad. He’s a very, very good lad. He’s very positive person and a good professional. And we’ve had no issues with . Fingers crossed.
BECAUSE CITY CERTAINLY HAVE A LOT TO OFFER RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF THE SET UP AND HOW THE CLUB IS LOOKING TO MOVE ONTO THE NEXT LEVEL.
Absolutely. And and they’ve got to believe it as well. They’ve got to believe it with the signings that we make, with the improvements in the cohesion and in the squad and they have got to believe that the club can do it.
YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF HIGHS AND LOWS DURING YOUR TIME AT THE CLUB. WINNING PROMOTION WOULD BE AMAZING WOULDN’T IT?
That’s the dream. We shouldn’t be frightened to, to talk about like, you know, because you’ve gotta we’ve gotta work extremely hard if, if we work hard on the training pitch and make good decisions off it as well as getting the mercy of the Gods on the pitch in terms of the swings that can go either way we can be successful.
We’ve grown year on year, but in terms of quality, gravitas and stature as a club, people respect us now, so it doesn’t mean an awful lot out of Bristol because it’s a competitive League and any one of 18, 19 clubs I think could get promoted in this forthcoming season, but we believe we are one of those. And I want to get off to a good start and challenge for as long as possible.
NICE TO SEE NEIL WARNOCK AND CARDIFF BACK IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
Yeah, there’s always some great games and you get the little rivalries.
I’ve probably got to know Neil Warnock a little bit better recently actually. He’s definitely a character but you have to respect the successful seasons of the past and I’m sure they will have another good season.
HAVE YOU PERSONALLY DEVELOPED AS A MANGER?
I think you learn every day. Even today I’m learning lessons about myself. Parts of the session I did well, other parts I could have done better. We’re a very open staff. We try and improve each other and everybody’s got a right – from the tea lady to the kit man – to pull me on something and try and improve me and I think that’s important for the culture. I’m by no means the finished article, but I’m extremely passionate about the project and hopefully that stands us in good stead and the leadership becomes quite clear on how I want to move forward.
DID YOU WATCH THE CRICKET THE OTHER DAY?
I’m a big tennis fan so I was watching that but some of the lads were watching the cricket. It was a bit of a dilemma which one to watch.
WHAT’S THE LATEST ON NIKKI MAENPAA’S INJURY?
It’s difficult to say and that’s not me sitting on the fence. It’s an injury that it’s very important that it doesn’t recur. So we’ve had scans every 10 days really just to check the injury is progressing in the manner that we want it to. There was a pocket of fluid that was causing a big problem, which is now gone but there is the sheaf of the muscle which has some scar tissue on it, which needs to be helped and aided on its way in terms of the healing process and dispersed.
And at that point, probably with a couple more scans he’ll be able to do some light handling and then build up from there. But if you held a gun to my head and said, when’s he going to be fit, I would probably say week two / three into the season.
SO FOR NOW IT’S BETWEEN DAN BENTLEY AND RENE GILMARTIN FOR THE STARTING ROLE ?
Yeah. We have young JoJo Wollacott as well, but it’s important that we get him some football , Max O’Leary has gone out on loan to Shrewsbury, he’s another goalkeeper that we really rate so yeah, we’re very strong in that department this year. Unfortunately, Nikki is injured but hopefully he will be back soon.
DID KALAS NEED A SCAN ON HIS LEG AFTER GETTING INJURED ON SATURDAY NIGHT?
No he didn’t need it, it was a bog standard dead leg. They take the weight off the area, it’s more about the hip because you end up with a problem there if you are limping and walking funny.
ANTOINE SEMENYO ALSO PICKED UP A KNOCK THE OTHER NIGHT. IS HE OK?
I think so. Yeah, he got a bit of a jolt to the knee – it was like a knee nudge into his knee and a bit swelling occurred. But I think he will be ok and when we get back to England he will be fine.
THAT’S ALL PART AND PARCEL OF PRE-SEASON ISN’T IT?
Of course, we were playing a Championship side in Derby who finished in the top six. He’s got to learn to take those hits, you don’t always get it your own way in men’s football. But he’s a strong boy and he holds onto the ball for a long time. Naturally he’s going to take those bumps and bruises. He’s got to learn about his body and exactly what you can play on with with and what he can’t and these little niggles aren’t a bad thing for a young player because they get to learn a lot by themselves.
YOU’VE JUST TAKEN PART IN A LENGTHY Q&A WITH THE FANS WHO HAVE COME OUT HERE TO SEE YOU TRAIN. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ENJOY ENGAGING WITH THEM
It’s always interesting listening to the fans and their point of view and hopefully it’s interesting for them to understand the way that we like to work, obviously the training that we do and how everything has a purpose, that it’s not just written on the back of a fag packet if you like.
THEY WOULD LOVE TO SEE THE CLUB GO OUT AND SPEND MILLIONS BUT IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THAT IS IT?
No it’s not and I don’t think it should be because I think it becomes soulless. Look at the Bobby Reid example – he was a no8, I moved him to a no9 , he had only scored six goals in his career and everybody said you’re mad man. Then he ends up scoring 21 goals and we sell him for £10.5 million.
I think sometimes you can promote from within and sometimes often players are pigeon holed in a certain position and and sometimes they can move about and be successful in other positions.
THE COSTS OF STRIKERS IN PARTICULAR HAVE BECOME SO INFLATED…
That’s why we go to work sometimes with what we’ve got because there’s no point in bringing somebody in at that level that hasn’t got a unique attribute to compliment the others. If you just go like for like and bring somebody in with exactly the same attributes, then you won’t be successful. So each player needs to feel like they’ve got a genuine and attribute that can enhance the team.
BUT THE PRICES HAVE BECOME DISTORTED HAVEN’T THEY?
Yeah because everyone’s chasing that golden honeypot.
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO GET BRISTOL CITY INTO THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
It would mean everything, especially for the fans, for the people who spend all that money to come and support every week. Our stadium is ready for it, we will have a training ground in 18 months which is ready for it [The Premier League]. so we have to make sure that we give our best. That’s all we can do.
And if we don’t make it in my tenure, then hopefully somebody else comes in and makes it. But certainly we’re pushing in the right direction. And I think, I wouldn’t say we are a team to be feared, but we’re certainly a team to be respected in the Championship.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE LEAGUE THIS SEASON WITH THE THREE TEAMS WHICH HAVE COME DOWN FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
Listen, it’s tough because they’ve all got parachute payments – Fulham have a strong squad and made some good signings. So you look at those big clubs who have come down – Fulham , Cardiff – everything depends on how they spend.
Huddersfield – they have two years of Premier League money plus the parachute money.
I am sure they will use it and inevitably in the end , the money comes through in terms of the 46 games, they might not get a start or it might be slow to start. But often when the injuries and the suspension strike, clubs like that can bring on players that are just as good as the ones that have come out of the XI.
IT’S NOT EASY IS IT?
No but we’re in it to fight and we’ll give it our very best shot, I can assure you of that.
We’d like to thank Bristol City for the interview.
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