Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Luke Ayling made the short journey up the M5 earlier this month, joining Steve Cotterill’s mini summer revolution at Ashton Gate and at the same time ending Brendan Moloney’s relatively short stay in BS3. Ayling was one of Yeovil’s better performers in their ultimately unsuccessful first season in the Championship, but he’s made the move in an apparent attempt to bounce back at the first attempt.
Yeovil fan and soon-to-be-married (to a ‘Dirty Leeds’ fan) Ben Barrett gave us this insight on a Huish Park hero who served his time well in Somerset.
“When Yeovil Town fans favourite Luke Ayling left to join Bristol City this week, to say I had mixed feelings would be an understatement.
Let’s get the rivalry bit out of the way, City are a rival, have been for a while, and for as long as the blue half of your city are pottering about in non-league always will be. Not just geographically, but also, both sides have ambitions to be at the top of League One this season, so yes, losing Luke to you stings, just a little bit.
However, there’s respect there, he deserves his chance to be at a – and I hate this term – “big” club, honestly, just about anyone is “bigger” than Yeovil.
Luke is a versatile defender comfortable at full back, centre half or in the middle of the park. He was our longest serving player and one of the fans’ favourites. As the song goes, he was the “love of our life”… we’d even let him “meet” (hey, this is a family blog) our wives and a part me of does “want long hair too”.
What we loved about was the fact that he cared, he cared more than most. Not always the most technically gifted player, can be found out aerially, can be a little bit flat footed against pace and has found himself out of position once or twice. But every time he pulled on the shirt he really cared, about his performance, about how we felt in the stands… about Yeovil.
An upbringing at Arsenal alongside Jack Wilshere probably does that to you.
Two years ago, when it seemed the whole side were ready to leave, he along with Ed Upson and a couple others signed up one more time, it was a signal of intent, a signal that Yeovil weren’t just a stepping stone, we were an option for success.
The result was the finest season in our club’s history, Luke was a massive part of that and that’s how I’ll remember him.
Don’t expect many goals; over 160 games and just the three goals, all of which scored in the last 12 months. One in an extraordinary cup tie against Birmingham, a last ditch equaliser against Wigan and a consolation against Middlesbrough on the final day of the season.
Bristol City have got themselves a Championship defender, one we didn’t want to lose, especially to a rival.
Luke goes with my biggest admiration; I’ll overlook the red and white… well, until Boxing Day at least!”
My thanks to Ben for this – you can follow him on Twitter here (https://twitter.com/benbarrett10) and he also has his own sports writing website which you can click through to here: http://barrettsportswriting.webs.com/
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Sunday, 29 June 2014
Just when you thought a manic week of signings was over, Bristol City pulled another surprise out of the bag with Friday evening's capture of Oldham Athletic captain Korey Smith, the 23-year old moving to Ashton Gate with Liam Kelly moving the other way.
Kelly was seen by many as a hot prospect at City but his injury last season clearly hampered both his progress and his chances of establishing himself. Much as he could turn out to be a huge loss, I find it personally difficult to reconcile a couple of decent performances in pre-season friendlies with the 'great white hope' some fans seemed to be associating. He may have made some difference last season, but I think it was certainly one of those cases where he was better off well away from the firing line and his stature only grew with inept performance after inept performance.
So he leaves with many well-wishers hoping he can put his injuries behind him and establish himself in English football's third tier, whilst City welcome a fourth new face to BS3 in just three days. For some, having a central midfielder who Lee Johnson clearly rates highly is testament enough, for others there will be plenty to prove, but what is clear is, that amongst the concerns many fans - including myself - had about the potential age and wage of our summer transfer recruits, it's fair to say only Freeman is likely to have demanded truly big bucks so far, whilst at 25, 22 and 23, the trio have more than compensated for Wade Elliott's necessary experience.
Smith is a player I admittedly knew little about, having just seen a couple of times, so I sought the views of Latics fan Joshua Bowker to find out more about our newest signing.
"Korey Smith is primarily a deep –lying midfielder, who can also cover at right-back (he played there for Norwich during their consecutive promotions up the Football League), who is very comfortable on the ball, and superb at keeping possession.
Towards the end of last season, during Oldham’s 10 match unbeaten run, he was used as the anchorman in a 4-1-4-1 formation, and shielded the defence extremely well, with only 6 goals conceded in that period.
Whilst excellent at recovering and recycling possession, many fans would criticise his attacking intent – he often chooses the easy sideways pass rather than pushing the team forward, and he only found the net once in the league last season (albeit an excellent finish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ1Cq1P90AA&t=1m28s ).
His technical ability is undoubted, as underlined by his solitary goal, and he is likely to flourish in a more positive, attacking team. His mandate in the final months of the season was to protect, but if given a license to push on, his attacking capabilities will come to the fore. As captain last year he played through niggling knee injuries for numerous months, underlining his mental strength.
Bristol City are getting a very gifted player, and his experiences last season will only have helped these talents develop. Lee Johnson did not want to sell him, however with his contract expiring in 2015, and Smith showing no signs of renewing, the club decided to cash in before losing him on a free. Hopefully Liam Kelly can help fill the void left by Smith’s departure."
Certainly a touch of Lee Johnson in that review, which will ignite old debates nicely! However, equally the sort of player we could probably do with to counter the natural attacking instinct many of our midfielders have got. It does seem that he might be a direct replacement for Marlon Pack in terms of style and it will be interesting to see how much action Pack gets this season, assuming he's still with us on September 1st.
The close season has ignited into life this, now we can only wonder who is next! It does seem clear that Cotterill seems keen on getting as many of his targets as possible in early, giving them the maximum time to get to know their new surroundings, teammates and club - which can only be a good thing. You suspect another one or two names aren't a million miles away from being announced.
The Exiled Robin
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