City have got a decent pre-season under their belts and got off to a flyer against Barnsley on the opening day – do you think the squad can retain this form throughout the season?
I was really, really impressed with some of the football they played in pre-season but it’s been largely against lower league opposition and an out-of-sorts FC Twente side. The results will have improved their confidence though, especially as they only conceded once during the summer. The result at Barnsley should set them up for a fairly good start to the season.
What measures are in place to prevent a repeat of the nightmare spell the Club endured from October to January last season?
That spell was actually a club-record run of league defeats so it doesn’t get much worse than that! There were plenty of calls for Lee Johnson to lose his job, but the Club stuck with him and he managed to turn it around. The Championship is such a crazy league that, by the end of the season, they were beating Brighton away and smashing Huddersfield at home. I’ve asked Lee what he’d do to avoid another horrible run and he’s said that it’s all about recognising the signs early that you’re heading towards a downward spiral. I think a lot of Robins fans would agree that it took him months to recognise what his best side was. Now he’s got it, I don’t anticipate many changes.
The Robins have replaced Tammy Abraham with record signing Famara Diedhou – do you think he can fill the void up front?
He’s very good at holding the ball up, he’s hard-working and he’s probably stronger than Tammy. He doesn’t look to be as instinctive at this stage and I’m not expecting him to score as many goals as Tammy, but he’s got a good record in France and possesses certain attributes that will benefit him – he’ll score goals, it’s just a question of how many.
Are you expecting Lee Johnson to set up any differently to last season?
Apart from possibly fielding Jens Hegeler at the back, no. He’s a German defensive midfielder who signed early this year; he’s very adept at bringing the ball out from the back, he’s good in possession and has an eye for a pass, too. Certainly at home against weaker teams, I’m sure he’ll be given a chance alongside the new skipper, Bailey Wright. They’ve not signed many players this summer so the team will be set up in a similar manner to begin with, with Bobby Reid – who excelled in pre-season – just behind Diedhou.
Who would you say is Bristol City’s most dangerous player?
That would be Jamie Paterson. He was outstanding at the end of last season and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he hit form around March/April just as City began to turn things around. He’s a really quality player; a two-footed forward who can score or set up goals. He’s a small guy who plays on the left wing for City, he’s very creative and you could say that he’s the magician in the side.
What is your impression of Brentford and what are you expecting to face at Griffin Park?
I haven’t seen a lot of Brentford so I don’t have much of an idea of what to expect, but I’ve seen the business they’ve done in the transfer market and it doesn’t look bad at all. I think the whole new approach from Matthew Benham is fascinating and I wish them luck. I’ve seen a few people tipping them for a relegation battle, but from what I’ve read I don’t think that’ll be the case. I think they’ll be solidly mid-table and I’m not expecting them to drop at all.
If there was one Brentford player you could bring to Ashton Gate, who would it be?
City were linked with Ollie Watkins this summer so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with the step up. Based on what I saw last season, however, I’d take Sergi Canos. The Club is looking for a winger at the moment and he’d be a contender for sure.
Can I push you for a score prediction?
I’ll go for 2-1 to Brentford.
Read the full preview piece with Gregor on pp. 28-29 of this evening’s Matchday Programme, on sale around Griffin Park for just £3.50.
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