After Johnson’s repeated failure, who next for Bristol City?


Lee Johnson’s four and a half years as Bristol City manager finally came to an end a couple of weeks ago, but the club are still thinking carefully about the right man to put them in the promotion picture next season.

Johnson boldly declared, back in 2016, that he saw the club playing Europa League football in five years. The redeveloped ground is taking shape, but the team is still no nearer.

In fact, The Robins avoided relegation to League One by just three points in 2017, then late collapses saw them miss out on a play-off place in the last two seasons.

This year Bristol City were again in the top six before the coronavirus lockdown, until a woeful run of just two points from a possible 27 finally saw owner Steve Lansdown call time on Johnson’s turgid and stale time in the dugout at Ashton Gate.

So, who could the City hierarchy turn to now, to finally get the club into serious contention for a place in the Premier League and beyond? Below we look at four men who are probably on the shortlist.

Chris Hughton

In four full seasons in the Championship, the Ex-Ireland international has never finished lower that 4th (image: Dan Istitene)

Of managers realistically within reach of the Robins, he is surely the obvious choice.

Hughton’s sides are known for direct wing-play, disciplined defence and grinding out unbeaten runs, which could be exactly what underperforming Bristol need after four toothless years under Johnson.

The unemployed 61-year-old has a fantastic pedigree too, with two automatic Championship promotions (1st – Newcastle 2010 and 2nd – Brighton 2017) on his CV, as well as two other top six finishes (4th – Birmingham 2012 and 3rd – Brighton 2016) and three successful battles against Premier League relegation (Norwich 2013, Brighton 2018, 2019).

Paul Cook

Cook patrols the touchline at the DW Stadium (image: Wigan Today)

Despite entering administration, the Latics’ remarkable rise up the Championship table in 2020 has continued.

Since mid-January, Wigan have picked up 35 points from just 17 matches (10-5-2) – that’s promotion form, which also included a run of seven consecutive clean sheets and that record-breaking 8-0 rout of Hull last week.

The form has seen Cook’s side move up from 23rd and five points from safety, to 13th and ten points clear of the relegation zone.

A post-season 12 deduction could still see Wigan demoted to League One though, which would further increase the financial pressure on the club and likely make their highly-rated manager available for the right compensation fee.

Aitor Karanka

The Spaniard has been out of work for 18 months since leaving the City Ground (image: Reuters)

Karanka is another proven Championship manager that’s currently without a club, and probably willing to discuss the Bristol City vacancy.

Middlesbrough lost 2-0 to Norwich in the play-off final after his first full season in the Riverside hot-seat, before clinching the runners-up spot and Premier League promotion the following year (2016).

The highly defensive head coach also spent a year at Nottingham Forest. He guided the Reds to safety in the second half of the 2017-18 season, before resigning in January 2019 – he fell out with the board, with the club in 7th.

John Terry

Terry will be a manager sooner or later – could he cut his teeth at Bristol City? (image: Birmingham Live)

If Steve Lansdown fancies a gamble on an untested boss, it’s hard to imagine Aston Villa’s current assistant manager would say no to the job.

The former England captain has more top level coaching experience than his long-time Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard did when he took the reins at Derby; he took the Rams to a surprise play-off final, which they lost to Villa, before taking over at Stamford Bridge last summer.

Terry is a natural leader who would certainly not stand for the collapses which came to define Lee Johnson’s time at Ashton Gate, but fans would not be sure what style of play to expect and Bristol City may first turn to someone more experienced.

There have also been whispers of Steven Gerrard, who has proved an instant hit at Rangers, and Sol Campbell, though he struggled at Southend this season after keeping Macclesfield in League Two.

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