RR: Lee Johnson has appeared as a leading contender for the Sunderland job. Can you give us a rundown of his four years in charge of Bristol City?
The One Robin: When Lee Johnson arrived at the club we were struggling towards the bottom of the Championship, and he kept us up, playing some quite entertaining football in the process.
He switched to a four at the back as opposed to previous manager Steve Cotterill, who often opted for a 5 at the back as it had served us so well the previous season. His second season in charge was another season of struggle, and it took until the penultimate game of the season (if I recall correctly) to ensure to survival in the second tier.
From then on, we were competing at the right end of the table, often in the mix until after Christmas, which usually happened because of our annual capitulation, something we hope doesn’t happen under our new head coach.
Johnson earned the nickname “Streaky”, often because we would go on runs of winning, then losing, then winning again, and it became frustrating to watch.
It ended on a quite sour note, and whilst we had some good times with him, like the cup runs, the fans never really took to him.
RR: Sunderland appear to be heading towards a more modern approach on the footballing side of the club, and it’s expected that the incoming manager will work with a Sporting Director. Do you think this is a role that would suit Lee Johnson?
The One Robin: I think this role would suit Johnson perfectly. He worked quite closely with Mark Ashton at Bristol City, and he was the one who oversaw a lot of the transfer activity. Some of our fans may argue that Johnson took the fall for Ashton’s failings in previous transfer markets.
RR: There’s also an expectancy that going forward there will be a need for our manager to place a heavy focus on developing players in the first team that have come through the academy. What was his record of developing youngsters like at Bristol?
The One Robin: One word, fantastic. We have had so many players from the academy that now play for top, top clubs. One example is Lloyd Kelly, who was with us for a very long time, under Johnson, he blossomed and found himself the subject of premier league interest, leaving for AFC Bournemouth for a reported fee of £13m.
Bobby Reid is one example that I like to use as when Johnson came in, Bobby was seen as a bit part player, but Johnson saw something in him, converting him into a forward, and he would go on to score 19 goals in the league that season, earning a move to arch rivals Cardiff City for a rumoured fee of £10m.
He isn’t afraid to give youth a chance either, playing Max O’Leary on many occasions when our other keepers have been injured.
RR: Do Johnson’s sides play good football?
The One Robin: When Johnson first came in, it was fantastic. It was free flowing, quick, brilliant to watch. Towards the end of his time here though, it had got stale, often playing very negatively, even at home, to the frustrations of many fans.
He does have a habit of switching systems mid game, often going from a 2 in midfield to a three, then to a 3 at the back, then back to a four, and it appeared to confuse the players.
RR: Do you feel like Lee Johnson left Bristol City in a good place when he departed in the summer?
The One Robin: He stabilised us in the Championship, and had got us to a point where we were seen as play off contenders, which is better than when he came in, as no one had given us a chance, seeing us as relegation candidates. He just couldn’t take us any further, even with the amount of money he had spent the previous summer. We are in a better place than when he arrived, and thats all you can really ask for.
RR: What would you say his biggest strengths as a manager are?
The One Robin: Developing players and selling them on for a profit is one of his biggest strengths. One example is that we brought in Adam Webster from Ipswich for a rumoured fee of £3m, and after one fantastic season with us - in which he was seen as one of, if not the best central defender in the league - he was sold to Brighton for a fee that could rise to £20m. If there is a player that he see’s something special in, he’ll try to get the best out of him in order to make the club sustainable.
RR: And weaknesses - what would you say his biggest weaknesses as a manager are?
The One Robin: Inconsistency with team selection was a huge weakeness of his.
He often had Knee jerk reactions after a defeat, making multiple changes every game, with our fans often making jokes, comparing Johnson’s selections to simply drawing names at random, kind of like a raffle.
He also often has favourites, picking players that he knows are not playing well, leaving out players who quite frankly deserved a chance.
RR: Do you think that Johnson will be a good fit for Sunderland?
The One Robin: I think it’s a challenge he’ll grasp with both hands.
Sunderland are a sleeping giant in the sense that they are a huge club with a large fanbase, and they are just waiting for the right coach to get them back to where they want to be, and that is something that will appeal to Johnson.
If he is given time, you will start to see a change, and he may go on streaky runs, but at League One level, he is probably one of the best names you could bring in.
RR: Overall, then... what would you say to Sunderland supporters who aren’t sure what to make of Johnson potentially coming to our club?
The One Robin: Give him a chance. That’s something some members of our fan base never did, calling him for him to be sacked after the slightest hiccup.
Don’t get me wrong, he deserved to be sacked from us, leaving at the right time, but he will get you results and hopefully back into the championship within two years. Patience is the key with him. All the best for the rest of the season!