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James Crawley

writes

Posted Monday, May 6th 2019

'We have an exciting future' - Steve Lansdown

From the first team’s achievements to developing young players, setting new attendance records and taking the Robins into a new era, these are promising times says Bristol City owner Steve Lansdown.

With the Sky Bet Championship over for another season, the club and can reflect on what has been another encouraging campaign.

One of the highs on the pitch was that incredible 15-game unbeaten run which saw City push for the play-offs and secure their highest league finish since 2008.

“The main aim was to finish higher than last season and we’ve done that well with some really good football,” Lansdown said, in an exclusive interview with BCTV.

“We’ve seen our younger players come into the first team again; Lloyd Kelly has stepped up, Max O’Leary has made his mark and Joe Morrell has played his part, Antoine (Semenyo) as well, so we’ve seen the development side of the club, which is so important to us going forward.

“Our recruitment has been good after we lost a number of players last summer and people thought that would end any chances we had - but that happens in football. Players want to move on and we traded well, we got good prices for them, we reinvested back into the squad and it has done well this year.

“What we’re trying to do is create that sustainable build, keep progressing and build on what we have done before.”

Weimann hit double figures in his first season with City, summer signing Jack Hunt pictured in background

It’s been a long-term project at City, with Lansdown explaining the plan to be competing with the best was at his forefront even after the club suffered relegation in 2013.

Of course the club spent only two seasons in the third tier, winning their first league title for six decades as part of the double-winning campaign in 2014/15.

From then on it has been progress with City climbing the ranks and Lansdown wants the club to build a proud history of success.

He said: “We won the Johnstone Paint Trophy at Wembley so we took silverware home and since then we have established ourselves in the Championship and are pushing at the top end of the it. We’ve made progress, we have good players, we’ve invested well and we have a very valuable squad of players.”

City had 16 players out on loan towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign too, but there’s a plan for all of them with the pathway clear in the mind of the club’s owner.

The likes of Tyreeq Bakinson, Newport County’s Young Player of the Season, and Saikou Janneh, who won the National League South title with Torquay United, are just two of the development group who have been turning heads.

As Lansdown explained, the likes of Morrell, O’Leary and Semenyo have all experienced loan spells and gone on to play their part in the first team squad.

Max O'Leary kept a clean sheet on his league debut away at Brentford

“You have to be able to bring them back in and have that pathway,” he said.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure we have a very competitive first-team squad and young players with the ability to come in and take their place.

“It’s why sport is so fascinating, problems change, they don’t ever go away but you have to adapt and we have some very exciting young players coming through.”

But it’s about what’s happening off the pitch which is also important.

Ashton Gate has seen growing crowd numbers since the redevelopment, offering a first-class stadium in the South West, from which to play football and entertain crowds.

As an average across the 2018/19 season City’s home attendance was 21,000, the highest it has been for 40 years, with the 25,556 crowd the largest league attendance since the redevelopment.

“The stadium is fantastic with a full house, lots of noise and the support has been very good this year,” Lansdown continued.

Ashton Gate welcomed Nottingham Forest on the first day of the season

“The aim was to get 20,000+ here when we rebuilt the stadium. We’ve done that and now we have to keep doing that. It would be nice to keep it close to the capacity figure because the more people we have coming in, of course it helps to invest in the club, but it creates an atmosphere and an occasion.

“Coming to a Bristol City game now is a real event, it’s great for all fans and it’s great to see everyone coming in and enjoying themselves. The stadium lends itself now with plenty of food, drink and entertainment so it’s a great day out.”

Away from the stadium, the training ground is the next section of the club to be upgraded, with new facilities planned at Failand.

This is an important project for the club as it is the players’ and coaching staffs’ daily hub aside from matchday and can only help the players’ development.

Lansdown said: “We have to give them the best facilities to work in and to hone their skills, which they can then bring to the stadium on a matchday. The most important part of our jigsaw is to get the training ground done and once we do that it will give us a top-class facility and players will realise we are a top-class club in England.”

The robin makes its permanent return this summer

Then of course is the new crest coming ahead of the 2019/20 season, with the much-loved robin making its permanent return. A long time planning, the City crest was unveiled to supporters in March and quickly popped up all over the city of Bristol.

“Something you can see and immediately recognise as being Bristol City is the robin,” Lansdown said.

“The new crest is absolutely fantastic with a great design and the marketing of the launch was brilliant. Too see it on buildings was a great idea and it captured everybody’s imagination. It’s exciting, it brings a new freshness to the club and is something to build on.”

The work of the Bristol City Community Trust is also another part of the club which should be celebrated. With its many projects and education programmes, the Trust has helped take football into the community to help people of all ages.

Lansdown said: “Every time I look at the social media and the reports I see what we’re doing in the community. If I invested into Bristol City for any reason at all it was for that reason, to bring the community and the club as close together as possible and the people involved are doing just that.”

But Lansdown says this is a club which will never stand still in its strive for continued success.

In summary he said: “Recruitment is good, of course we can improve on everything we do, the point is that we never stand still. The Academy is showing its worth, we have stability around the first team which is emanating through the club. We’re looking to build and build and there’s an exciting future out there.”