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Dickie starring as pieces start to fall into place for Robins – Interview
Friday, 16th Feb 2024 10:12 by Clive Whittingham

Bristol City were our outside tip for the play-offs, and while it’s been more of a slow-burn under new manager Liam Manning a clever January transfer window looks to have set them up well for the summer and 24/25 according to @FevsFootball.

How's the season gone for Bristol City?

It’s been a usual mix of ups and downs, raised expectations and false dawns. We’ve hovered around mid-table all season, sometimes a few undefeated pushing us up towards the top-six, but never really looking like breaking into it, sometimes a few without a win making us look over our shoulders, albeit a pessimistic look. Following Tuesday night’s brilliant result and performance against Southampton, we find ourselves back in the top-half. Equal wins and losses, 12-apiece, the epitome of mid-table, but this year’s Championship means you’re never far away.

Bristol City in the league so far
Bristol City 1-1 Preston Bell 47 – Keane 86
Millwall 0-1 Bristol City James 90
Bristol City 0-2 Birmingham Miyoshi 45, Jutkiewicz 84
Hull 1-1 Bristol City Tufan 17 – Wells 62
Swansea 1-2 Bristol City Cullen 10 – Sykes 48, Bell 59
Bristol City 0-0 West Brom
Bristol City 4-1 Plymouth Bell 3, James 8, Sykes 33, Cornick 80
Leicester 1-0 Bristol City Vardy pen 67
Bristol City 2-3 Stoke Bell 5, Wells 15 – Leris 20, Haksabanovic 47, Lowe 89
Rotherham 1-2 Bristol City Blackett 86 – Conway 81, 90
Leeds 2-1 Bristol City James 37, Piroe 53 – Naismith 45
Bristol City 1-0 Coventry Dickie 45
Bristol City 0-1 Ipswich Broadhead 16
Cardiff 2-0 Bristol City Ng 33, Colwill 90
Bristol City 1-0 Sheff Wed Dickie 64
QPR 0-0 Bristol City
Bristol City 3-2 Middlesbrough Gardner-Hickman 37, Conway pen 45, Sykes 67 – Vyner og 50, Crooks 52
Southampton 1-0 Bristol City Walker-Peters 47
Bristol City 1-2 Norwich Knight 34 – Tanner og 59, Idah 90
Huddersfield 1-1 Bristol City Burgzorg 24 – Conway 46
Blackburn 2-1 Bristol City Sigurdsson 35, S Wharton 52 – Sykes 60
Bristol City 1-0 Sunderland Conway pen 20
Bristol City 3-2 Hull Conway pen 25, Mehmeti 76, Knight 84 – Connolly 33, Tufan pen 42
Watford 1-4 Bristol City Chakvetadze 49 – Pring 28, Hoedt og 45, Sykes 50, Weimann 83
Birmingham 0-0 Bristol City
Bristol City 0-1 Millwall Hutchinson 90
Preston 2-0 Bristol City Keane 65, 77
Bristol City 1-1 Watford Coventry 2-2 Bristol City Sakamoto 27, Simms 85 – Dickie 45, Wells 83
Bristol City 0-1 Leeds Gnonto 47
Boro 1-2 Bristol City Silvera 90 – Knight 16, James 17
Bristol City 3-1 Southampton Bell 52, Dickie 72, Cornick 82 – A Armstrong pen 90

Liam Manning could well have been our manager before Honest Mick got his PowerPoint presentation out and started waving it around - how's he done so far? The good and the bad?

As you’ll know I was a big fan of what Nigel Pearson achieved in his two and a half seasons here and I felt the sacking and especially the reasons given were unnecessary. Manning is of course the en-vogue “manager” type, but I do wince when I hear the club’s hierarchy coming out with “we want a modern, on-the-grass head-coach to play front-foot, high press, forward thinking, attacking football” soundbites. Especially when you do a bit of research, or think back to how his teams played when City have played against them, or they’ve been on the television and notice there are some contradictions with Manning. That’s not a negative either. Pearson was trying to evolve us from a counterattacking team into one that controls possession more. Manning was a good choice to continue that.

Manning was in the rare position to take over a team on the up (albeit a slow incline), with a good group of players built on a culture where the players set the standards. So, for me it was about evolution of the playing style / group of players, not revolution. And it’s that which I’ve focussed much of my analysis on.

The tangible good has been the “press / block”. It certainly isn’t a high press (see above), we prefer to block passing lanes and drop off. But when we do decide to trigger the press, we are bloody good at it. I won’t bore you wish the numbers, but we are good.

Defensively Manning has continued the solidity that had been built under Pearson. More on Rob Dickie in a bit, but the rest of the back-four of (mainly) George Tanner, Zak Vyner and Cam Pring have given us an excellent foundation. Tanner is much improved from the lad signed from Carlisle who made his debut at your place two years ago. Pring is as good a two-way full-back in the division outside of the monied teams, whilst home-grown Vyner is just very dependable.

Attacking-wise, dreams of pretty passing patterns and beautiful attacking football as a result hasn’t really materialised yet. We are still a threat on the counterattack (and from winning the ball from our press), but although overall we keep the ball better it’s not resulted in any upside. I think what we have seen until very recently is matches becomes very structured and some have been a bit dull as a result. However there have been glimpses, and the league games either side of Leeds (0-1) - Coventry (2-2), Middlesbrough (2-1) showed spells of things coming together but not a 90-minute performance. That 90-minute performance was finally achieved in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over 25-game unbeaten Southampton. A deserved win where we played high-tempo football, predominantly on the counter, but you’ll rarely win the possession battle with a Russell Martin team.

And I think that might be a bit of a realisation for Manning. You can play high-possession football if you’ve got the best players, but if you haven’t you’ve got to “mix it” a bit.

Overall, he’s kept things going (six wins, five draws, six losses), even if he’s not really set the place alight. That’s no bad thing when you look at other appointments in this division, this season. Maybe seven points from the last four matches, a tough set too, are the up-trend I’ve been looking for. My worry – this is Bristol City!

I do find him a likeable character too - some of his little mannerisms, his belief in what he is doing and ability to talk passionately (in a dull tone) is quite endearing.

How's Rob Dickie gone for you? We've been hearing good things...

You don’t need an ear trumpet either!!! He is many fans’ Player of the Season so far, mine included. He has been very good at both ends of the pitch and has built an excellent partnership with Zak Vyner. He speaks ever so well in press-interviews, and it shows him to be a good thinker about the game too. Worries (coming out of London) about him playing in a back four have proved unfounded. Plus, he’s played predominantly on the left too showing his versatility and understanding of the position. His early season double-yellow versus Birmingham was his only blemish. Another goal on Tuesday, another header, takes him to four for the season. Two of those secured 1-0 wins too, so a double of goal and clean sheet. We’ve yet to see a 30-yard “thunderbastard” – Saturday? (Dear God haven’t we suffered enough – ed).

What was done in January? What was left undone?

It was a funny window. We missed out on Finn Azaz at the start and signed Adam Murphy (18) from St. Patricks in Ireland and Josh Stokes (19) from Aldershot as ones for the future. In Murphy’s case, he is undertaking a pre-season to get him ready as the Irish leagues finished in November, whilst Stokes has been loaned back to The Shots. We let Andi Weimann go on loan to West Brom and with some financial chicanery we brought forward the option to buy loanee Taylor Gardner-Hickman in return. We then went after Burnley’s Scott Twine who was at Hull on loan. A permanent deal wasn’t forthcoming, but we did get him on loan (no agreement to buy). One game, one goal, a header not a set-piece, but then injured. He is likely to be back fit for Saturday. (Ah piss – ed, again).

Then very late on deadline day we made the permanent signing of Max Bird from Derby, and like Stokes, loaned him back. We also signed ex-Manchester City u21 starlet Dire Mebude from KVC Westerlo on loan with an option to buy. He gave us a 10-minute cameo against Saints, but way too early to judge.

Essentially, we are well sorted for the summer window.

Summer Ins >>> Jason Knight, 22, CM, Derby, £2m >>> Ross McCrorie, 25, DM, Aberdeen, £2m >>> Rob Dickie, 27, CB, QPR, £700k >>> Haydon Roberts, 21, LB, Brighton, Free >>> Taylor Gardner-Hickman, 21, RB, West Brom, Loan

Summer Outs >>> Alex Scott, 20, CM, Bournemouth, £20m >>> Jay Dasilva, 25, LB, Coventry, Free >>> Taylor Moore, 26, CB, Valenciennes, Free >>> Kane Wilson, 23, RB, Derby, Undisclosed >>> Han-Noah Massengo, 22, DM, Burnley, Free >>> Tomas Kalas, 30, CB, Schalke, Free

Winter Ins >>> Max Bird, 23, DM, Derby, Undisclosed >>> Taylor Gardner-Hickman, 21, RB, West Brom, £1m p/x >>> Josh Stokes, 19, AM, Aldershot, £200k >>> Adam Murphy, 18, AM, St Pat’s, £200k >>> Scott Twine, 23, AM, Burnley, Loan >>> Adedire Mebude, 19, RW, Westerlo, Loan

Winter Outs >>> Max Bird, 23, DM, Derby, Loan >>> Andi Weimann, 32, AM, West Brom, Loan p/x >>> Duncan Idehen, 21, CB, Yeovil, Loan >>> Josh Stokes, 19, AM, Aldershot, Loan

Stand out players in this team?

We are a team of fairly similar ability players, so no real stars. But I’d say Dickie, Pring, Knight, Conway and Sykes have been the key players, I could easily add Vyner and O’Leary too. They are all 7/10 players pretty much every week, but we don’t have any real “difference makers” now that Scott and Semenyo have gone to Bournemouth.

Weak links?

As above, no real weak links, but depth (lack of it) has impacted us, certainly Pearson. Manning is close to getting the full squad available and I’m hoping this will bring a consistent end to the season. No surprise for me that recent improved performances have coincided with having a deeper squad available and options to keep the levels when subs have been made.

Properly midtable, not going up or down, what do you want to see from your remaining games?

I want to see us finish the season strongly, tenth or better. That won’t be easy, but I will be disappointed if we stay around 13/14th. I also want to see a bit more evidence of cohesion to our attacking play. I’m starting to get a good-feel for what Manning the head-coach and Manning’s philosophy and style is all about. It’s not exactly what the hierarchy promised, but I wasn’t sucked in by their soundbites anyway. Summer recruitment, dare I look that far ahead, ought to be about quality not quantity.

Links >>> Bristol City official website >>> The Exiled Robin — Blog >>> One Team In Bristol — Message Board >>> Bristol Post — Local Paper >>> One Stream In Bristol — Podcast >>> Fevs Football Analytics - Contributor's page

The Twitter @loftforwords, @fevsfootball

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TacticalR added 16:21 - Feb 16
Thanks to @FevsFootball.

I have a sense of déjà vu reading this, as it reminds me of QPR prior to the last couple of seasons when we didn't have to worry about relegation battles.

God knows what happened to Dickie in his final season at QPR, but his form completely collapsed. At the time it looked like he could only play well under Warburton, but his improvement at Bristol City shows that this is not the case.

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Bristol City's season has been a rollercoaster, with moments of promise and setbacks. Despite hovering around mid-table, recent performances like Tuesday night's against Southampton have propelled us back into the top half. With equal wins and losses epitomizing our mid-table status, the unpredictability of this year's Championship keeps us on our toes, much like the enticing offers found on sites like, such as the opportunity for 50 free spins with no deposit required.

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