Opposition View: Ned Holmes
After last Saturday's disappointing defeat at Bramall Lane, the Hatters hope to get back to winning ways in the first of two home games in five days. First up is Bristol City, and we spoke to Ned Holmes of Football League World to get his view from the Robins' camp...
Tell us a bit about you and your Robins supporting background… My family are actually Manchester United fans but I was born and bred in Bristol, so when I started going to City games with friends I felt a much closer connection to the club. It's through going to home and away games with those friends that a passion for the club has really grown.
There have been some highlights – the 2-1 derby win over Bristol Rovers in 2013 & the EFL Trophy final at Wembley to name two – but there has been plenty of frustration as well. I've been lucky enough to be able to cover them for work through my role at Football League World for a few years now but sadly they've not managed anything of note since I joined the site.
It’s been an indifferent season for Bristol City, with no real threat of relegation but also no real chance of the playoffs. What’s the general feeling amongst the fans on the season so far? I think everyone accepted that this season was likely to be fairly difficult and a bit of a transition period as Nigel Pearson started to shape the squad. But earlier in the season, it felt a little bit like one step forward and two steps back. We were throwing games away late on and struggling for any sort of consistency in terms of results or performances.
There feels a lot more positivity surrounding the club right now – particularly surrounding the progression of some of the younger players. Alex Scott, Antoine Semenyo, Cam Pring, and Han-Noah Massengo have all been bright spots this term, which certainly makes a season of mid-table mediocrity much more manageable.
Nigel Pearson is approaching his first full year in charge of the Robins, having replaced Dean Holden last February. How has that first year gone from your perspective? It's been up and down. I was expecting much more of an instant impact but it's been a slow burner. Progress does seem to be being made at the moment but it's really important we continue to see that moving forward. The squad is simply not where Pearson would want it to be but changing that will take time and require lots of patience. There is certainly some quality and a fair bit to be excited about but it's difficult to really judge Pearson yet.
From the outside, it seems like this Bristol City side has a good mix of youth, like Scott and Massengo, and experience, in King and Weimann. Who would you say has been your “One to Watch” in recent months? Alex Scott's breakthrough has been really special to watch over the past year. I spoke to his former manager at Guernsey FC, Tony Vance, earlier in the season for a feature that's coming out this week to gain a deeper understanding of how he's become the player he has. He's definitely one to watch but it's hard to ignore Antoine Semenyo, who has always had the raw attributes to be a top player but seems to be playing to his potential at the moment.
Han-Noah Massengo has the potential to be a very special player and it would be unfair not to shout him out as well. Sorry, that's three!
Luton visited Ashton Gate back in September in what was a memorable finish for the Hatters! What do you think of this current Luton side? I love what Nathan Jones has done in his second spell at Luton and I've got a huge amount of respect for the heart and determination the Hatters play with. I don't mean that to sound condescending because there is plenty of quality in the team as well but the way they go about their football is fantastic to watch. Harry Cornick has always been a player I've really rated but Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu is a player I'd love to have at Ashton Gate.
Time for some predictions - who do you think (i) will get automatic promotion, (ii) make the playoffs, and (iii) get relegated? Fulham are going to win the Championship, that much has become clear recently, and I think they'll be joined by West Brom in the automatics.
QPR, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, and Bournemouth will be the other sides that make the top six, with Boro winning the play-off final.
Peterborough, Barnsley, and Cardiff City are going down. Perhaps that's heart over head but I'd love to see Wayne Rooney keep Derby County up. Finally, give us your score prediction for Tuesday’s game…
I think there will be goals. You guys have been a real bogey team for us in recent years but I fancy us to get a point.
2-2 for me with more Semenyo magic.
With thanks to Ned Holmes (@NedHolmes_). You can check out more of his work at Football League World (@FootballLeagueW).