City are now Bristol’s only football team in the Football League after local rivals Bristol Rovers were relegated from League Two last season.The Ashton Gate faithful haven’t had too much to shout about either, in recent years, after seeing their club relegated from the Championship in 2013.
They famously came within touching distance of the Premier League as they reached the Championship play-off final at Wembley in 2008, as Hull beat them 1-0.
The Robins were formed 120 years ago as ‘Bristol South End’ and they have played across all four tiers in the English league system.
City play their games at Ashton Gate, a ground selected as part of England’s 2018 World Cup bid. It can hold up to 21,500 fans and it has been the home of the club since 1904.
Swindon and Yeovil’s presence in the division provides Bristol with minor rivalries for the south western club’s forthcoming season.
They are two times winners of the FL Trophy, have been semi-finalists in the League Cup and finalists in the FA Cup. Their highest ever finish was in the 1906/07 season, when they were runners up in the top division.
Manager: Steve Cotterill
After a few seasons of managerial changes and uncertainty, Steve Cotterill is the latest man to take the reigns at Ashton Gate, having replaced Sean O’Driscoll last December.
Since arriving at the club, Cotterill has promised fans an exciting brand of football and he has certainly delivered since, showcasing an exciting and entertaining brand of football to endear himself to his club’s support.
Cotterill’s playing career yielded little more than 100 appearances and it was hampered, and eventually ended, by injuries.
He went into management with his hometown side Cheltenham, where he won the FL trophy once and promotion three times in five years. He left his role with Town to take over at Stoke, which lasted less than five months after he resigned to become Howard Wilkinson’s assistant at Sunderland.
He later spent three years at Burnley, Notts County (one promotion), Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest and now with the Ashton Gate outfit. If he can continue to get his side playing attractive football in the new season, we could well see Bristol close to the league’s summit come May.
Key Player- Sam Baldock
Their captain, their leading scorer and Player of the Year last season, Baldock is by far City’s most important player, especially in their bid to return to the Championship.
The 25 year old scored 26 times in 54 appearances last season, across the FA Cup, League Cup, FL Trophy and League One.
At just 5ft 7in, Baldock isn’t the tallest of strikers and he uses it to his advantage to weave and wind around League One defences, which is why he won last season’s golden boot ahead of Peterborough’s Britt Assombalonga.
Baldock came through the ranks at MK Dons, where he fired 43 goals in 118 appearances as an apprentice at Stadium MK before West Ham, after being relegated from the Premier League, won the race for the then-22 year old’s signature.
His Hammers record includes five goals in six starts, but his career never really got under way at Upton Park, due to injury and team selections. His playing style didn’t suit that of manager Sam Allardyce’s and he was sold to the Reds 12 months later.
A total of 88 appearances since his arrival at Ashton Gate two years ago has produced 36 goals, 26 this season. Baldock will be keen to test himself in the Championship and with time on his side, he may be able to fire Cotterill’s City to promotion.
After a mid-season managerial change, City finished 12th in League One, winning 13 games and drawing the most times in their division- 19.
Their end of season form showed what the side are capable of under Cotterill- they lost just one of their last ten fixtures.
Without Sam Baldock and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ goals, they may have been looking nervously at a relegation scrap and they were key to a steady finish. Emmanuel-Thomas, a former Arsenal trainee, scored 20 times to help steer his club up the table.
Sean O’Driscoll was relieved of his duties in November after a disappointing start to their first season in the division, after relegation from the Championship the year before. At the time of his exit, they were languishing in 22nd, after collecting just 15 points from a total of 54.
Cotterill’s arrival saw an improvement in the playing style as well as their league position but in total, they only did the double over three teams- Carlisle, Stevenage and Walsall- something they will be looking to improve in 2014/15.
It was a season of transition as O’Driscoll signed ten players to try put his own stamp on his side, spending £600,000 and don’t be surprised to see Cotterill doing the same, with new faces arriving at Ashton Gate and some leaving.