620: NATIONWIDE: All eyes on Ashton
by : Chris Nee
I’ll be blunt. Bristol City will be in the Premiership in the next five years. Don’t laugh, it could happen. I say this not as a supporter of the club, but rather as a columnist making an educated guess at who will make the next big push through the leagues. Sitting in the East Stand at Bournemouth on September 6th 2003, I was incredibly impressed by Bristol City’s away support. An hour before kick off their allocated section was full and it looked from my vantage point like every City fan was singing. One, according to the matchday programme, had cycled to the game, along with every other game this season. Quite simply, City’s support put Cherries fans to shame – and this was only 2pm. I remember thinking to myself that considering the lack of glamour of that particular fixture, these supporters were some of the loudest, most persistent, and yet most sporting fans I’d seen. Supporters worthy of Premiership football. And that got me thinking…
Just what are the chances of Bristol City reaching the top flight? In my opinion, there is no reason why not. We have seen Manchester City charge up from Division Two into the Premiership. Granted, the situation may be different with Man City having suffered an horrific downfall in the previous years, but Bristol City, if anything, are sitting prettier in Division Two as I write than the boys at Maine Road were in their promotion season. Man City made a push for the top flight via the Division Two playoffs. Why should Bristol City not push on from the position in which they stand today?
Currently sitting in third spot in the Second Division, it is by no means out of the question that City should grab an automatic promotion place. At the time of writing, they lay 2 points short of QPR in second, with a game in hand. Encouragingly they also have a game in hand on neighbours Swindon Town who appear to be dropping off the pace of the top three, occupying fourth place, seven points behind the West Country side, who are in fact only five points adrift of leaders Plymouth. So at this point in the season, it could be said that City are perhaps more likely to gain promotion than Man City were as they entered the playoffs a few years back. I repeat: why not?
As well as world-class support and a good chance of progressing into Division One at the end of this season, I believe that Ashton Gate boasts a few of the players it needs to host a team able to reach the top six of that division in the next couple of years. After all, it only takes a few stars and a bit of team building, and a good slice of luck, and a team can greatly improve. First Division status would surely help this re-building, and I firmly believe there are a few stars already at the Gate who will form a good basis.
Manager Danny Wilson is at present lucky enough to have the services of a man who, I believe, is potentially one of the best strikers outside the Premiership, namely Lee Peacock. Peacock is a big, strong forward with skills to boot, and with the right service and support could be the man to lead City through the divisions. Midfielder Clayton Fortune would certainly be plenty good enough to aid a push up through Division One, and with 19 year old striker Leroy Lita knocking in a few alongside Peacock and engaging in some crazy acrobatics in celebration, City should be able to attract a few names to Ashton Gate. All of which could see them aiming for the playoffs in the next few years.
And if they were to make the playoffs, it’d all be a bit of a lottery. And in that situation could Bristol City make the Premiership? Why not?