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Fan Focus: Bristol City fan Ben lifts the lid on Liam Manning’s side ahead of facing Sunderland

Ahead of Sunderland’s away trip today, we spoke to Bristol City fan Ben Mead, to discuss life under new manager Liam Manning - which players should we be wary of?

Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images

Back in October, Nigel Pearson lost his job as manager with the club 15th in the table - what were the key factors that led to his sacking?

The sacking came at a time that really shocked and surprised the majority of the fan base. I think the vast majority were really disappointed when the news broke, which isn’t usually what you see from a fanbase when a manager does lose his job.

There has been a lot of suggestions of why we chose to part ways with Pearson, personally, I think it was a case of our manager not completely agreeing with our board on certain situations and factors.

Plus, later on in his reign, Pearson seemed to face a few health issues which meant he was away from the dugout for a few games, which may not have been ideal if there was a little bit of pressure on his position from the board.

The man who replaced him was former MK Dons and Oxford manager Liam Manning, what has he brought to the table so far?

With the fanbase being disappointed with the sacking of Nigel Pearson, a few fans were reluctant to move on so quickly and I think it was a really hard job for a manager like Liam Manning, who was smashing it in League One with Oxford, to come into a club where the fans are very split on many things surrounding the club.

So far it has been tough for Manning, on one hand, the football we seem to be playing is more attractive and attacking than what we had under Pearson, however, I think it is taking time for the players to get to grips with this new style and exactly what Manning wants.

We’ve seen that with the results we have picked up under Manning, only one win so far and several very disappointing results. I think Manning could do with a transfer window or two to bring in players who are better suited to the style he wants to play.

At the moment the players we have, the majority that were brought in under Pearson are not exactly suited to the fast, attacking style of football it seems Manning wants to play.

Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - Loftus Road
Sam Bell is Bristol City’s top-scorer this season, with four goals in all competitions.
Photo by Rhianna Chadwick/PA Images via Getty Images

As an established Championship who had a spell fantastic spell of regularly battling for the playoffs, what do you think the club’s aspirations should be for the rest of the season?

This is a very tough question. The Championship this season is so tight, with only 13 points separating 6th & 22nd place.

I would like to see us push on from the mid-table Championship team we have become over the last few seasons, however with this change in style and manager, I do think it will take time and a few transfer windows to really see the best under Manning.

I do worry though we may not have that much time. We’ve already seen under Manning that we have dropped points in games we should be winning, and with being on six points off the bottom three with a very tough festive period ahead, I would definitely take a mid-table finish now, come the end of the season!

The club sold Alex Scott for £25m in the summer and bought the likes of Rob Dickie, Ross McCrorie and Jason Knight - did fans expect more money to be reinvested?

I think the signings we have made with the Alex Scott money have been fantastic. Rob Dickie and Jason Knight have arguably been some of our best players so far this season.

I think the fans hope we will back Manning in the transfer window, and I think a lot of fans hope for a big revamp in the squad over the next season or two.

I personally think we need some attacking flair that can score goals, in just a few weeks of football we have seen under Liam Manning, the main issue I have seen is not being able to finish chances in the final third.

We have created some incredible chances in many games, and not been able to score, we have then gone on to drop points in the majority of those games, so I do think we need to invest and back Manning in the upcoming transfer windows and hopefully he’ll be able to bring in players that fit his system perfectly!

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Back in 2018, Sunderland came from 3-0 down to rescue a point at Ashton Gate under Chris Coleman.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In terms of goals, Sam Bell is Bristol City’s top scorer, with former 20-goal-a-season man Andreas Weimann stuck on zero, has that been one of the key issues this season?

Yes definitely. I mentioned it a little in that last answer. There have been several chances created so far this season that should have led to goals but didn’t.

That is something I really think we need to fix heading into this busy festive period, or I do worry about the possibility of being dragged down into a situation where we need to score goals and win games to stay up as we head closer to the business end of the season.

Aside from the above-mentioned players, who do you think can cause Sunderland problems?

Taylor Gardner-Hickman will be the man to look out for. On loan from West Brom and has easily been one of the best and most influential players for us this season.

He has started on the bench for the last few games, which a lot of fans are surprised about, but completely changed the game when he came on in midweek at Blackburn. H

e’s contributed both goals and assists so far this season and has also helped out defensively when called upon as well. If anyone will step up to create some magic for the Reds on Saturday it will be this man!

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Ellis Simms scored a brace in Sunderland’s last trip to Ashton Gate.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

I remember Liam Manning’s approach at MK Dons being heavily possession-based, is this the tactical approach we can expect?

Yeah definitely, possession-based attacking football.

We just need to hope we can find that last pass inside the final third to cause the Sunderland backline some problems.

Which eleven players do you think will start the match?

It’s a difficult one with Liam Manning still trying to find his best/ preferred XI. This is the XI I would personally like to see on Saturday.

O'Leary, Tanner, Vyner, Dickie, Pring, James, Gardner-Hickman, Knight, Cornick, Conway, Mehmeti.

I expect Mehmeti or Cornick will start on the bench for Sam Bell, however I would like to see them given a chance from the off.

Sunderland have scored three times on both of their last visits to Ashton Gate - what is your prediction for the final score?

It will be tough there’s no doubting that. I never like predicting us to lose, so I will say a 2-2 draw.

However, I am not very confident at all and wouldn’t be surprised if Sunderland came away with all three points.


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