A fortnight ago, Lee Johnson told this very newspaper that the break in league competition due to the coronavirus pandemic had left Bristol City better placed to challenge for Championship promotion, writes Gareth Davies.
Now, after three 1-0 defeats in six days, those comments look misconceived at absolute best.
City’s play-off dreams, which looked so healthy during the early part of 2020, are in tatters. Johnson, the man many felt could lead the Robins into English football’s top tier, has paid for these short-term failures with his job.
Sacked barely an hour after yesterday’s home defeat to fierce Welsh rivals Cardiff, the timing of Johnson’s dismissal, on all fronts, seems curious, but the club have taken swift and decisive action.
The City chief was not put forward for media duties this week with just defender Zak Vyner facing the camera glare. It seemed inconsequential at the time, but perhaps this was the first sign that all wasn’t well.
Had Johnson been given an ultimatum by the Ashton Gate hierarchy that his time was over if Cardiff weren’t beaten? And therefore, with his BS3 future riding on 90 minutes of football, kept away from awkward lines of questioning?
It’s plausible, but if that was the case, Johnson would not have performed his post-match media duties after the Cardiff loss, knowing he was, in effect, a dead man walking.
Pressure is nothing new when it comes to Johnson and Bristol City as on previous occasions, he has staved off calls for his head. Record losing streaks were then cancelled out almost by equally positive runs.
The one thing above all else that Johnson has lacked is consistency, but perhaps that is something that the club have architected themselves by constantly selling their best players.
He made reference to this when talking prior to the Sheffield Wednesday match and said ‘we have chopped our legs off at times’ in terms of those sold.
However, Johnson countered this by saying the club had always managed to rejuvenate itself by filling the shoes of those that have left.
Although very much a reason why promotion was never quite attainable, Johnson would have always been fully aware that City were still a selling club, especially when the vultures started to circle from the Premier League.
He will be fondly remembered for the 2017-18 League Cup win over Manchester United which many hoped would be the kick-starting of bigger and better things for a sleeping giant of English football.
Sadly, it proved to be a false dawn and after what now appears to be a third successive failure to reach the play-offs, City will start their next Championship campaign with a new man at the helm.