BRISTOL City don’t have fond memories of Blackpool. They were hammered 5-0 at Bloomfield Road on October 1 and the manager lost his job the next day.
Pool were inspired that day, when Liverpool lad Jonjo Shelvey gave City a torrid afternoon with a wonderclass on his loan debut.
Robins manager Keith Mullen, already under pressure, got his marching orders and was replaced at Ashton Gate by Derek McInnes, a former Rangers midfielder who impressed in his first managerial post at St Johnstone, securing promotion to the SPL.
The 40-year-old Scot guided the troubled Robins out of the relegation zone by winning five games out of six in November and December. However, things have gone a bit pear-shaped.
City have taken just one point from their last five matches and haven’t even managed a goal in four of those. Saturday’s 3-0 reverse at Peterborough was the poorest display of McInnes’ four-month reign – so bad the manager apologised to supporters who made the 500-mile round trip.
The boss said: “You have to feel for the fans because they have come a long way on a cold and wet day. They deserve more than they got and I’d like to apologise to them. I am still confident we have the strength to get out of trouble without having to rely on other results going our way.”
To make matters worse, centre-back Stephen McManus, signed on loan from Middlesbrough last week, has joined a mounting casualty list after he limped off with a thigh strain.
City are already without the influential Louis Carey, Cole Skuse and Lewin Nyatanga, while things took another turn for the worse yesterday when influential midfielder Marvin Elliot was ruled out for the season after snapping an Achilles tendon in a freak training ground accident.
McInnes said: “I am devastated and this is a major blow for both Marvin and the team.” It gives the manager a huge headache going into tomorrow’s encounter, though at least he has a decent front pair in Chris Woods (a 20-year-old on loan from West Brom) and Brett Pitman.
Pitman is a figure familiar to Pool fans. On his way to sign for the then Premier League Seasiders from Bournemouth in summer 2010, he famously did a U-turn on the M6 and headed for Bristol instead. “It just didn’t feel the right move for me,” he said at the time.
Eighteen months on, the 24-year-old may be questioning the wisdom of that decision, struggling to establish himself in the Robins set-up.
This season he has made 26 appearances but 20 of them have been from the bench. However, the departure of main frontman Nicky Maynard to (as if you needed telling after Tuesday!) West Ham means Pitman now belatedly has a chance to prove himself.
He’s scored five goals this term and McInnes, perhaps aware he’ll have to play Pitman more often now, is doing his best to give the lad a boost.
“Brett is probably the best finisher we have,” said the boss. “He has had to be patient in awaiting his opportunities and could do no more than he’s done in the last few games.
“I know how frustrating it can be to be left out. Brett has responded in the perfect manner.”
Bristol City have an odd habit of ‘stealing’ players Blackpool want. Also in their starting line-up tomorrow will be winger and main threat Albert Adomah and centre-half Liam Fontaine. Both turned down the Tangerines and headed to Bristol from Barnet and Fulham respectively.
Off the pitch, City are steaming ahead with plans to build a new 30,000-seater stadium. They plan to sell Ashton Gate to Sainsbury’s.
“We are delighted with how things are progressing,” said chairman Colin Sexstone, who has something to smile about in a tricky season.