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Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Focus: Bristol City fan Patrick says ex-Sunderland forward Antoine Semenyo will be a miss!

Ahead of Sunderland’s first away trip of the season, we spoke to Bristol City fan Patrick to get the lowdown on Nigel Pearson’s side.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Bristol City enjoyed a fairly steady season it seems like under Nigel Pearson - how is he viewed amongst your fanbase?

Patrick Connolly: Last season was pretty disappointing and uninspiring. We weren’t helped by lots of injuries and conceding so many goals in injury time – something we managed to do again last Saturday away to Hull.

However, the fans have stuck behind Nigel Pearson and they can see what he is trying to do including bringing a number of youngsters into the team.

Pearson has a good track record in the Championship and many fans are prepared to give him more time because if he can’t bring us success in this league then realistically who can we get who would give us a better chance?

MC: In terms of league aspirations this season, where do you think your team should be looking to finish?

PC: We should definitely be aiming for the top half this season.

In my optimistic mind, we could make a push for the playoffs, but the fact the bookies have us at 8/1 to finish in the playoffs probably gives a fair reflection of our chances.

Hull City v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - MKM Stadium
Nigel Pearson has previously managed the likes of Leicester, Watford and Hull.
Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Prior to his time with Sunderland, Lee Johnson enjoyed a long-term spell with Bristol City, in hindsight are you glad that the club decided to go in a different direction?

PC: There is still a lot of affection for Lee at Ashton Gate. His dad managed the club, he played for us and (I think) is a City supporter.

We had some good times with him and played some good football, but there were also long losing streaks. It was probably time that he moved on, both for the club and for him. I hope he does well at Hibernian.

MC: In terms of Johnson and Sunderland, were you surprised to see that his time on Wearside was so short?

PC: I was very surprised. You seemed to be still up there fighting for promotion.

He had a little bad period, which he did often for us, but he started the job and it seemed logical that he would be given at least until the end of the season.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light
Lee Johnson guided Sunderland to their first victory at Wembley since 1973, winning the EFL Trophy.
Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Having only scored double league figures once in his career before, Andreas Weimann scored 22 goals for The Robins last season - what are the factors behind his improved form?

PC: Andi Weimann always works really hard for the team but never really seemed to be a natural goal scorer.

Last season was a revelation. He scored some very good goals, but mostly seems to have acquired the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

MC: Antoine Semenyo was with Sunderland for a short loan spell back in 2020, how has he performed since returning to Ashton Gate?

PC: Antoine Semenyo missed the start of last season through injury, as he has done this season. In his absence, we had little creativity and our tactics often seemed to involve kicking the ball up to Chris Martin and hoping he could flick it on or hold it up. It was often pretty dull stuff.

When Semenyo came into the team he changed everything. He is strong and powerful, works hard and has a rocket of a shot. We started scoring the types of goals that Bristol City don’t ever score, where we force defenders to make mistakes and capitalise on them.

He also made Weimann better as somebody was winning the ball and creating chances for him and he made Martin better because he was no longer just getting the ball kicked up to him.

If we are going to have a successful season, we HAVE to keep Semenyo. Luckily for you, while he is getting fitter, it looks like the Sunderland game will come too soon for him. Your defenders should be very relieved. I just hope he is still a City player in September.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League One
Antoine Semenyo made 7 appearances for Sunderland during a loan spell that was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

MC: Aside from the above-mentioned players, which Bristol City players will Sunderland have to be wary of?

PC: We have very little creativity. We struggle to break down well organised teams.

Semenyo solves that for us but is unlikely to play. We’re therefore going to be relying on Alex Scott, our 18-year-old wonder kid, or Mark Sykes, who we’ve recently signed from Oxford, but we don’t yet know what he can do.

Failing that we could have lots of possession and score from corners or free kicks.

MC: Former Bristol City captain Bailey Wright has worked up his way back up to the Championship with Sunderland, did you expect to see him play at this level again?

PC: Bailey Wright was hugely respected by the City fans. However, I think that the central defenders we have now are better.

Manchester City v Bristol City - Carabao Cup Semi-Final: First Leg
Bailey Wright was captain of the Bristol City side that made it to the League Cup semi-final back in 2018.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

MC: What style of play can Alex Neil’s side expect to come up against?

PC: With City it could be anything. If you’re well-organised, then we may have a lot of possession but not create much. I’m optimistic but am not expecting a game with too many goals.

MC: Which eleven players do you think Pearson will select?

PC: (3-4-2-1) Bentley (GK), Vyner, Naismith, Atkinson, Wilson, James, Williams, Da-Silva, Scott, Weimann, Martin.

MC: Sunderland’s last visit to Ashton Gate ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw, what is your score prediction this time around?

PC: A tight game. 1-0 or 2-1 to Bristol City, but if there are more than 3 minutes of injury time, you’ll probably score an equaliser.


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