"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Bristol Post and THOSE Oh-so-annoying pop-up adverts!

A few weeks back, in one of my more frustrated moments of attempting to access the Bristol Post website through the jungle of adverts, I sent my second lot of tweets to the Local World address - the group that runs the paper.  When I looked back on what I had written, and saw the encouragement I received from others who felt exactly the same, I decided that a good old-fashioned letter to the editor - or Chief Executive - could be the order of the day.

I know that even for the best social-media focused companies, unfortunately tweets often get lost in the masses and don't reach the people they need to so I figured this was perhaps a more constructive way.

Below is my open letter, penned to the CEO of Local World, Mr David Montgomery. The reason I have decided to publish this online is because they have been good enough to send me not one, but two, positive and communicative responses, of which I give full credit to them for doing so. Even a written letter is so easy to ignore amongst the masses of communications senior business people receive on a daily basis.


Dear Mr. Montgomery,

As a hugely frustrated reader of, and contributor to, the Bristol Post online website, I hope you take this letter with the good intentions it is penned to achieve.

Everyone fully understands the need for media outlets to attain advertising income. The business model doesn’t work without it, of course, but every business must more importantly understand what its customers want and what annoys them so much they might not come back.

I’ll make an initial statement here to set the scene for the rest of the letter. The pop-up adverts and embedded video that bursts into life as you land on a page on your websites are, by some considerable distance, the most annoying, intrusive and un-customer focused I have seen across the entire internet. To quote one well-esteemed local reader, it is “simply the worst website I’ve ever used”.

Let me give you an analogy.

You open a shop, you have stuff in there people want to buy, but to maximise your income you rent out the front 2m sq to an advertiser. The key bit right by the front door.  Your potential customers then have to walk into the shop and have a fistful of leaflets shoved in their face by an obnoxious, loud, brash salesperson who refuses to let customers see any of the merchandise in YOUR shop before you have read what he’s got to show you.

Would you continue to shop in a shop like that? Would you go anywhere near it again? No, of course you wouldn’t.

The real pity is that if you can brave the intrusiveness of the adverts and manoeuvre your way around the minefields of clicks you must achieve just to read, there is some great content there and your hard-working journalists might actually get to see their articles read by the numbers of people they deserve.

Advertising online is a mixture between a numbers game and careful targeting. The numbers game bit you may feel like you’re winning, especially when you can point to ‘number of people served to’ statistics and claim success. If you genuinely believe this is the long-term model for growth and success though, surely you, as a person and a consumer, can see this is woefully inadequate thinking

One day, when your readership has diminished to such a level that even in the numbers game you’re not achieving what’s required, you’ll look back at these tactics as naïve, abrasive and totally, wholly unnecessary.

“I don't even attempt to look on there anymore. The adverts make my phone freeze”

This has annoyed me for a number of years, and as such I estimate I read once a week, rather than daily, or multiple times daily as I do other key websites of interest to me. This particularly came to light for me as I have recently started writing an online blog on Bristol City for the Bristol Post, something I’m proud to be doing, but I know of dozens of people who have said to me words along the lines of “Sorry but I can’t read it, all those bloody adverts get in the way”.

Scale up the dozens who have gone out of their way and written or spoken to me to express this and surely you must wonder what sort of volumes this relates to across the region?

In this modern age it’s not as if there are a lack of alternatives? Long gone are the days when a brand could continually ignore what its customers want and just plough on regardless. If you want readers to engage with you across the multiple platforms, you need to give them reason to do so. In fact, you’re doing the polar opposite – you’re actively turning them off in a way I’ve not seen any other business do.

Look after your customers (readers) and they’ll look after you.

Listen to their needs and their concerns, do something about it, and they’ll respond, as long as it’s not already too late.

To get better advertising revenues you need better adverts and you need people to WANT to click on them, not be forced to.

To get better advertising revenues you need more readers. I conservatively estimate you could double your readers of the sports section in particular on the Bristol Post if you didn’t shove those obnoxious flyers in their face the second they walk through the door. DOUBLE!

The day your group realises that and changes its strategy, could be the first day of the rest of your lives.

Yours, a very frustrated and annoyed potential regular reader,
Paul Binning



I won't reprint their replies word for word, as they are not my words to do so with and they were sent via private correspondence so they may not wish them to be made public, but firstly I had a response from Sarah Pullen, Managing Director of the South West regions, thanking me for my thoughts and offering me the chance to give more detailed feedback to their technical team so they cam look at improving the experience.  I will be gladly taking her up on her offer.

This was then followed last week by a reply from the CEO himself, who thanked me for my "well-informed and insightful letter", stating he couldn't argue with my logic.

He promised imminent changes to content layout and an improved user experience.

So who knows, maybe letters such as mine do still have an impact and could lead to an easier read for all involved. There will undoubtedly still be adverts - and possibly some pop-ups - but hopefully they've learned some lessons and a less intrusive and obstructive approach will be implemented.


The Exiled Robin

Monday, 12 October 2015

Cotterill's Chicks and the Ashton Gate hoodoo

I'm dreading the sort of autobot tweets that might head my way calling this blog post that, but as I review Cotterill's policy of not picking a youth player to fill the bench, you'll understand the heading!

The bulk of the article looks at the nervousness and lack of confidence seeping through the club at a pace right now, whilst I finish on what is sure to be a topic to get you talking - Cotterill's lack of willingness to put a youngster on the bench when there's a spare spot, something I personally feel quite strongly about.

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/BRISTOL-CITY-BLOG/story-27966626-detail/story.html

Please let me know you thoughts, via the blog comments, the Post comments box or via more traditional channels such as Twitter/Facebook

Thanks all for reading!

The Exiled Robin

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ipswich Town v Bristol City: The Tractor Boys' view

With memories of a 6-0 drubbing, amongst other Portman Road defeats, still relatively fresh in the memory, as well as Ipswich’s pedigree at this level, then Suffolk is probably one of the last places City would choose to head towards to right the wrongs of a difficult start to the season.

Saying that, a win at Middlesbrough earlier in the season should give them confidence that, on their day, they can go anywhere in this division and get a result.

A game that at the start of the season where many might have thought “ah, we’ve got ‘x’ points, it’s not been a bad start and we never do well there. A loss may not be too hard to take” has suddenly into another critical test of City’s credentials at this level.

Given the start to the season and our inexperience at this level, many managers of many sides would head into this match considering a 4-5-1 formation to bolster the hitherto porous defensive record.

Get ten men behind the ball, keep it tight and if we can snatch a breakaway then fantastic. That sort of approach doesn’t seem to be in the mind of boss Steve Cotterill right now however, and it appears as if the 3-5-2 – and attacking philosophy – is here to stay. For now at least.

Ahead of this game (and Ipswich’s trip to Manchester United for a high-profile league cup-tie), I caught up with Tractor Boys fan Jordan Mitchell, who offered this view on Saturday’s opponents.

How has your start to the season been, are you pleased with your progress?
“At the time of writing, our game against City is a million miles away. The glitz and glamour of a trip to Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup is all that’s on the fans mind. The bright lights of the Theatre of Dreams are certainly dazzling in the fan’s eyes, but all hopes are that this doesn’t distract from the bread and butter of the Championship come Saturday when the Robins roll into Suffolk.

Like many a season following Town, it started with so much hope and saw us top of the table as we approached the end of the first month. Wins over Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, Preston along with cup wins over lower league opposition were somewhat soured with an eye opening defeat to Brighton at Portman Road. The 3-2 score line somewhat flattered us after an atrocious first half display where Brighton opened our defence at will. More alarmingly was the 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Reading, which again demonstrated our defensive frailties, live into the living rooms of all who wish to observe.

A typical Mick McCarthy response came at Leeds as we ground out a well-earned 1-0 win, and followed that up with a 1-1 draw at home to surprising high fliers Birmingham, a match we could and probably should have won.

All in all a successful start to the season which has left us sitting in a position which reflects our exciting start, and newly uncovered frailties defensively. Going forward, we need to win our home games, and pick up as many points of possible and ultimately reach the aim of the Premier League.”

Who have been your standout performers this season?
“Our success this season has really been down to the exciting additions to the strong side we had from last year on the wings. Ainsley Maitland Niles and possibly more so Ryan Fraser, coming in on loan from Arsenal and Bournemouth respectively adding some much needed width which top scorer Freddie Sears who has thrived on the service.

A lot will depend on the action in the north west on Wednesday, but City alike many others may struggle with last season’s top scorer Daryl Murphy and ever lively David McGoldrick should they start on Saturday. Ashton Gate hero (ER: That will provoke some debate!) Cole Skuse will run the game given the chance to and defensive duo Christophe Berra and Tommy Smith are always prone to a goal from a set piece.”

What are the views of the locals on the gaffer, Mick McCarthy?
“The Telegraph’s greatest ever Yorkshire-man (a vote possibly rigged by Town fans), Mick McCarthy has become one of the most loved men in Suffolk since taking over in November 2012. Taking us from the foot of the Championship to occasionally the summit on our now famous ‘shoestring budget’ just shows the skills and ability the man has. Ultimately last season was a disappointment, losing to ‘them lot’ in the play-offs, but one which saw us punch well above our weight and surprise many of the more spoken about sides.”

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Town squad?
“With a million and one combinations of squad that we’ll play at United, it’s hard to say who will face City come Saturday, but our defence has come under severe scrutiny in recent weeks. Communication between ex City keeper Dean Gerken and our back line is a huge weakness and is often exploited. Portman Road is not an easy place to come, and with 4 excellent strikers at our disposal it’s likely to be another tough test for Cotterill and his side. Our usual 4-4-2 has been chopped and changed often becoming a 4-3-3 away from home, with the wide men often linking up well with our full backs to great effect.”

Jordan is also in a relatively unusual position of having watched nearly as many City games as Ipswich in the past year or so as his girlfriend is a huge City fan. She has persuaded him to follow us around the country, in exchange for her catching up on the progress of the likes of Cole Skuse, Paul Anderson and Dean Gerken in Suffolk.

It’s always interesting to hear a fairly neutral view on the club, so first of all I asked him what his views were on City’s surprisingly stuttering start to the season. (He’s a bit of a fan of ours, really!)

“Having seen a lot of City last season with my better half being a lifelong City fan, I was honoured to share an incredible season and witness some of the clubs finest hours throughout the season. From JET’s last minute penalty at Notts County, through to Wembley in March and promotion come May, I was impressed with the side from front to back time and time again.

So far this season, however, there are some clear differences in how things have gone. From the outside, talking about City with those Ipswich fans without the inside view that I have, they’ve been written off already by many and are expected to be an easy three points on Saturday. Having been at St. Andrews a week ago, it’s clear to me that City are in need of a real confidence boost along with a couple of additions in the loan market.

As much as I praised him last season, Luke Ayling is not a wing back, and cannot do the job that Mark Little did so well last season. This along with not being Championship savvy again when it comes to playing the referee and some basic errors mean that City are struggling before their trip to Suffolk.”

From what you’ve seen, who are you most worried about facing?
“Immediately what worries me watching City is the ever increasing threat of Johnathan Kodjia, and the fantastic talent of Luke Freeman. Both started the season slowly, but with each passing game seem to be more and more of a threat as they adapt to Championship football.

My main worry however is City’s own Joe Bryan who rightly has been attracting attention from the higher reaches of the game. He will cause often shaky right back Luke Chambers several problems if he plays at his best.

No discussion about City’s top players would be complete without discussing Aden Flint. His ability at set pieces is sure to test our struggling defence and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him latch onto a second ball in the box and add to his goals tally.”

And how do you think City’s season will pan out?
“Despite their tough start and poor results, City haven’t been outplayed in any of their games, bar the opener against Sheffield Wednesday. With a possible loan addition and a little bit of luck will see City achieve a good mid-table finish without the worry and stress of a relegation fight. Steve Cotterill has worked wonders since arriving in BS3 and I expect him to be given the time and support needed from the board and more importantly, the fans, as the season goes on.

Saturday will be a tough game, regardless of City’s start to the season. Tiredness and the excitement of the glamour tie will undoubtedly have an effect on Ipswich and may work in City’s favour.

Regardless of this, I can see a 2-1 home win on Saturday, because of our ability to grind out a result when needed and City’s current woes when it comes to converting chances."

Massive thanks to Jordan for his time and for answering the questions. I know he wishes us well for the season (after Saturday) but let’s hope we aren’t the ‘easy game’ some Ipswich fans clearly perceive us to be.


COYR!


The Exiled Robin

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

We deserve better! - Bristol Post blog

My latest blog for the Bristol Post is here, focusing on our start to the season, whether or not we are in a false position and examining whether wholesale changes are required to reverse results in our favour

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/BRISTOL-CITY-BLOG-Robins-doing-doing/story-27817156-detail/story.html


Thanks all for comments, shares, RTS etc - the reaction to these so far has been tremendous!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Five games in - season review so far

Last week an email popped into my inbox from my Dad, who had decided to pick up the virtual pen and key some thoughts on the start to City's season.  Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to upload this until now, so some comments (especially those on the transfer window) are a touch out of date, albeit, ultimately prophetic! 

Over to Mr Binning Snr...

"Gary Johnson always used to say that you have to wait for ten games to assess how you are doing in a new season, and then reassess in ten game blocks. Well as we are fans we don't need to wait ten games, do we? 

We now have an international break after five games and I am off to the sun (hopefully!) for a week, so that I don't miss a City match.

Having seen every minute of every League game so far, I think that four points from five games is harsh, when set against our performances so far. I suppose it could be a bit of a reality check that in this much tougher Division than League 1, you have to do a bit more than just play good football. 

It has been very refreshing that Cotts has stuck to our attacking football philosophy, but in order for that to be successful we now need a stronger and better defensive base.

Against Sheffield Wednesday I thought we were very naïve at times and whilst I don't very often disagree with what Cotts says after a game, I really didn't think we deserved anything out of that game. 

They got the first goal from a set piece, which was a rarity for us to concede from last season. This may be an indication of different qualities needed at the higher level as it has already become a recurring theme so far. Whenever we started playing fast passing football they slowed the game down, either by wasting time or players going down feigning injuries. It completely disrupted our rhythm. We nearly scored from a corner and they immediately broke away and scored a second goal. End of game.

First home game against Brentford, and wasn't it exciting to see the brilliant new stadium taking shape? Thank you Mr. Lansdown! Our football for the first 35 mins was breathtaking, but unfortunately we didn't make enough of our opportunities, and then Luke Freeman got sent off. However even in those first 35 mins we were still a bit loose defensively. It was always going to be a bit of an uphill struggle from then on, and sure enough Brentford won, but we still made mistakes to contribute to some of their goals.

Next to the home match against Leeds in midweek. Things are starting to get a bit repetitive now. Started strongly, played some good football, got caught out and gave a goal away. We gave away a poor second goal in the 2nd half and we were up against it again. We managed to stage a grandstand finish for those fans that hadn't already given up and grabbed a draw at the death. As Cotts said, it was the least we deserved.

Why do so many people leave early? It might only be half an hour of your life but if you have taken the time and effort to get there in the first place why go before it finishes?

On to Boro with no great expectations. We were brilliant in the first half, deservedly took the lead and should have been more than one up at half time. It was obvious they were going to come at us hard in the second half and they certainly did that. We dug in and defended well, had a bit of luck for probably the first time this season, and hung on for the win. 

Boy, that was well worth the long drive home through some of the worst thunderstorms I have ever driven in.

Was that the springboard for us to kick on? Well yes, and no really! Again we were brilliant against Burnley for the first 30 mins and should have scored a goal or two. But we didn't and they scored from 2 corners. We certainly don't lack anything in effort and team spirit, but at the moment what we do lack is a bit of guile and experience at this level. 

Writing before the transfer window closes what do we need? On the player front, I have not been convinced so far by Hamer, and I think the defenders in front of him are a bit nervous of his decisions. Flint has been outstanding, probably our best player so far. I'm not sure about Williams mainly because he gives the ball away too easily, and it has cost us goals. Ayling is a good footballer and a bit of a free spirit, but maybe more suited to wing back if we can get another defender in, or right back if we play a back four. 

It's too early to judge Mark Little yet as he's obviously not up to match fitness yet. On the other side Joe Bryan has done most of what you could expect up to now, and I'm sure he will improve just as he did last season. Not much wrong with Smith and Pack in the centre of midfield, although I hear the moaners are starting to get on Pack's back. 

Bobby Reid has been a revelation since he came on against Leeds, although when he starts a game he seems less effective in the second half. With Luke Freeman coming back next game we should certainly have no problem in that area. Wilbraham has worked his socks off every game, but he can't keep doing that for another 41 games. Kodjia has looked better with every game, I do hope he is settling in ok as he could be a real prospect.

So what do we need? I would say two central defenders, one on each side of Flint, and another striker. Easy isn't it? Get on with it Cotts!

All joking aside, I like most City fans think that Cotts has done a great job for us so far, and I'm sure with Steve's backing we can establish ourselves in this League, even if some of the big names don't want to come down to Cider country. 

They don't know what they are missing!"


The Exiled Robin

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Why City haven't missed the boat on big money signings

My latest blog is now up on the Bristol Post website, the link is here: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/BRISTOL-CITY-BLOG-Robins-speculate-accumulate/story-27673657-detail/story.html

In it I offer my views on the recent big money bids, and reflect upon many of the fans reactions to those huge offers and look at some of the reasons the bids were made when they were, and not earlier.

Views, comments and shares as welcome as ever!


The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 14 August 2015

NEW Bristol Post blog: Who knew the Championship would be tougher?!

"So there you have it. 

After wins galore, unbeaten runs, two trophies and 99 points, the Championship is going to be just a little bit tougher....."


Wes Burns, Frankie Fielding and defending set-pieces all a part of my Bristol Post contribution to this week's blog, following the first league game of the season.


http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Heady/story-27594151-detail/story.html


*Please note this was written before the Dwight Gayle news broke and before the Luton game!



The Exiled Robin

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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Let's be excited, not concerned!

Ahead of the new season, Lee Molland www.twitter.com/Molls28 has written a short-pre-season opinion and issues a rallying call, reminding us all of why we should be so excited about this new season and new adventure


"We’re now hours away from the start of the Championship season, and for the first time since his perhaps slightly controversial arrival, Steve Cotterill has City fans split.

Not because of results (nobody could doubt that incredible record he has) but due to the lack of transfer activity. Although, let's not forget that we have spent £2.1 million on Jonathan Kodjia. I broke my own rule of getting excited over a YouTube clip! It looks like the boy can get behind defences, but more importantly, finish.

Pre-season has been full of speculation over incomings to Ashton Gate, but as time has ticked on, only Kodjia has arrived. Some fans are nervous, some relaxed, some even angry. 

Me? I’m backing whatever Mr Cotterill perceives as the right decision for our club.

I mean, I don’t know how you couldn’t? The way he has transformed our club is something I am hugely thankful for. With results clearly speaking for themselves, I’m proud to have a manager at the helm who will trust the winning squad he got promoted with and not risk the financial backdrop of our club for somebody who doesn’t fit the clubs philosophy.

Let’s be excited!

On the pitch, let’s be excited about our goal threat……Aden Flint!! Let’s look forward to seeing Korey Smith dictate the pace of games and Luke Freeman terrorise opposing defences. Let’s see Joe ‘one of our own’ Bryan make a name for himself in the big league. To keep those players is a real coup for Bristol City Football Club.

Let’s see the camaraderie and work rate that has been the back bone of our success continue to be at the heart of our club. 

Winning is a habit, after all"


Lee Molland
@molls28



The Exiled Robin

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A new direction for a new season

As the regular readers may have noticed, blog posts have become significantly less frequent over the past year or so and non-existent over the summer.

For a number of reasons, I've been unable to commit the time to producing the materials I love writing and, from the feedback, I know many of you enjoy reading. Family commitments, my wife's wedding planning business and a new role for myself at work which involves more travelling have all contributed to this and when given an opportunity to try something new this summer, I decided it was the right time for me to try and re-invigorate myself and my faithful quill!

Also, as you may have noticed from social media if you're on it, it's actually far harder to generate interest and comment when everything is going quite so bloody well on the pitch! I struggled to come up with a decent end of season review because actually I knew pretty much everyone would just agree with what I said and other than "wasn't that amazing?!", there was actually very little to say! 

Undoubtedly this season will prove more challenging and arguments will recommence on team selection, the 4-4-2 advocates will come back out in force I'm sure, we'll be slating Cotterill for not finding us a 25-goal a season striker or a back up centre-half early enough and normal service will be resumed.

As for the blog, well, things may change but the good news (I hope you'll agree!) is that I'm not closing shop.  However, I won't be committing to weekly posts and reviews as has been the case for most of the last few years, and posts will be - in theory at least - more lengthy, considered, editorial type pieces rather than the recent, often shorter efforts.

I will continue to invite good quality guest bloggers from time to time, when they or I feel there's something worth adding, but my main venture - which I'll continue to promote via these pages so you don't miss anything, is an exciting one for me personally.


Because....drum roll please...as of today, I am trialling as the new guest Bristol City blogger for the Bristol Post. Hopefully some of you who I know boycott/refuse to read anything "that Rovers rag" prints will give a concession for the purposes of reading my new blog! :-)

As a youngster I always wanted to be a sports journalist, and whilst this isn't quite achieving the boyhood ambition, having my words published online by the regional paper I've grown up with is both exciting and a little daunting.

The reason this will put a stop to many of my blog posts is that I'm just not sure I'll have enough time or variation of content to come up with something for the paper and for the blog on a regular basis, so for now I'll be prioritising the Post and coming back here to promote those posts and perhaps for the very occasional, lengthier, more opinionated piece.

This may last a few weeks, it may be years, but I'll enjoy writing it and I hope you - my fabulous readers/fans/supporters - will enjoy reading it as much as you have my blog over the last few years.


For those happy to follow me on my journey, my first piece - on City's summer transfer dealings (or lack of!!), is in it's new home, here: 

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/BRISTOL-CITY-BLOG-time-pressing-panic-button/story-27498141-detail/story.html 


Thanks you all - as ever I'd appreciate all comments, likes, shares, RTs and whatever else you youngsters do these days on social media. It always makes the writing more worthwhile when I know people are reading and appreciating the effort - even if opinions may differ!

Not long to go now - this is our chance to do the Championship properly.

All that's left to say is, COYR!


The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 1 May 2015

My lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet

It wasn’t Luke Freeman’s skill, Joe Bryan’s crosses, or Aden Flint’s heading. It wasn’t the goals of Aaron Wilbraham or Matt Smith and it wasn’t the agility of Frankie Fielding. It wasn’t even the astute summer purchases, tactical nous and tremendous man management from the gaffer, Steve Cotterill. Hell, it wasn’t even Steve Lansdown’s millions.

Nope, the reason Bristol City have had such an incredible season, such success, is down to my lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet!

Football people are funny folk, “queer as”, they might have said in the olden days, before it became so politically incorrect.

Tales of superstition amongst sportspeople are commonplace, not least with Bristol City’s own manager. Steve Cotterill revealed more than a shade of belief in old gypsy tale style stories in this tremendous Guardian blog http://www.theguardian.com/football/football-league-blog/2014/oct/30/bristol-city-chelsea-steve-cotterill-jose-mourinho-unbeaten and it is clear he is the type to hold great store by these matters.

I grew up in a household where matchday rituals were commonplace. From having to have the same, specific cereal and toast/jam combination on a Saturday morning, to not washing my shirt/jumper/jeans between matches after a win. 

These most essential of actions last for me to this day. Why? Because this is the part I play. How else would your team win if you weren’t playing some part? Indeed, I must apologise to anyone I saw at the title-sealing Coventry home game, for my purple shirt was into its third outing in a warm, excitable, jumping-up-and-down kinda week!

So let me tell you the story of the real reason City have stormed through the season. Why they won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, strolled to promotion and have now won their first title in sixty years.
It goes back all the way to the first day of the season…

Long before the release of the fixture list, with a mouth-watering opening tie away at the biggest club in the league and the bookies favourites, I had committed to a weekend family camping trip in mid-Wales, with seven other households from our street.

Damnit, I thought, that would be a cracker of an opening game, but never mind, family commitments and all that. Plus, we never win at Bramall Lane.

Then Sky, perhaps unsurprisingly, announced they wanted us to kick off the season live on TV. Hmm, we always do quite well live on Sky, perhaps all is not lost…ah well, at least now I’ll be able to catch it somewhere on TV.

The summer had been exciting, if methodical. The summer purchasing strategy will be reviewed elsewhere once the weekend’s celebrations have died down, but City’s season was bubbling before it had started and the prospect of a possible title decider (for the glass half-full brigade) on day one had done little to dampen the excitement.

A few days before the start of the season, rumours began growing of the prospect of a return to the (in)famous purple and lime outfit we wore so successfully 21 seasons earlier, the most striking moment of which was that famous win at Anfield in the F.A. Cup.  A lucky strip for a lucky season? Maybe…

So when it was formally announced that those colours would indeed be chosen as our third strip, to be worn in the couple of necessary matches, the lad who had been 16 years old on that famous night in Liverpool started to wonder if this feelgood factor might help our team out over the next few months.

So it was that on the Friday preceding that season opener, that I travelled with my family, via delightful South Welsh places such as Abercynon and Merthyr Tydfil, en route to the picturesque market town of Builth Wells in the middle of the Principality, thinking little more of it.

For those with children aged between 3 and 13, you may recall this was the summer of the loom band. Where they came from, who knows. Why they became such a hit – I haven’t got a clue. But for 36 hours on this quiet campsite, the half-a-dozen girls from our street developed their own little cottage industry; producing loom band bracelets, necklaces, bag tags and all sorts – for a price of course, with all money donated to a Dog’s Protection charity. The thoughtful little things….either that or savvy, as they realised after the first few that the adults were growing bored of being pestered for money for their output, so they came up with a more enticing angle. Lord Sugar, eat your heart out!

Anyway, to get to the point, after the first one or two I’d been persuaded to part with my fifty pence for, I suggested that they make to order and I’d pay them an extra premium. So for the princely sum of £2, I asked them to make me a purple and lime loom band bracelet, to be worn for luck that lunchtime as I parked myself in a nearby hostelry for the live match and watched my boys wear the purple and lime strip to kick off their season.

So they made it for me.

And I wore it.

And we only went and bloody won at Bramall Lane for the first time in six decades!

The lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet. My faithful companion

That was it. I was hooked. No such happening could have possibly occurred without some sort of outside influence, some supernatural phenomenon, so it must have been because of my lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet.

For the first few weeks I wore it constantly. It felt a bit like the weeks following Glastonbury, where people would look at your tatty, dirty, sweaty access wristband and know where you’d been. It was a bit like a badge of honour, except nobody else really had a clue what significance this bracelet held.

And we kept winning. And winning. And winning. And the team kept wearing purple and lime even when our original away white strip would have been perfectly adequate. And it was all down to my lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet.

As the season moved into October and City went to the top of the league, the importance of this lucky omen became such that I realised the need to nurture and care for it. For those that don’t know, loom bands are like a mini elastic band, that via lessons on YouTube the kids learned to weave together to make larger, wearable bands.  The strain of taking it on and off my wrist was beginning to tell and some of the elastic was starting to look frayed, so I started to only wear it on matchdays.

We went through October without losing a game and had remarkably gone three months into the season without having to deal with a defeat. This was virtually unprecedented; truly incredible – the stuff of dreams…..and lucky loom band bracelets. After all, I had worn it every time City had played. What other factors had possibly coincided to such a degree?

Now the second (of three) truly unfortunate missed games for me came in mid-November. I had a work trip to Cape Town (aaah, tough life I hear you say!), and unfortunately this meant I would miss the increasing crucial top-of-the-table clash at local rivals Swindon.

I arrived in Cape Town on the Saturday morning and started to unpack. The shirts and suits – carefully folded so as to hopefully avoid the inconvenience of ironing – came out. The washbag, the work materials, the flip flops and shorts (it was their early summer).

But where was my lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet?? Mayhem ensued! The case was upturned onto the bed. Pockets were checked and every item of clothing unfolded and checked.

I HAD LEFT MY LUCKY PURPLE AND LIME LOOM BAND BRACELET AT HOME!!!!!

This was it. The end of the season. The joyous outpouring of fun we’d all had would end right here, right now. I was distraught.

There were a few hours between that moment and kick off and, as the time passed, I realised there was little I could do about it. I started to reassure myself it didn’t matter. Of course it didn’t.  It couldn’t, could it?

So I stuck on the afore-mentioned shorts and flip flops and wandered down to the gorgeous V&A Waterfront in South Africa’s second city. I had some lunch, had my first Castle lager of the trip and settled into a seat to watch the Springboks take on England at Twickenham – having pre-paid for 24 hours of data roaming on my phone to watch the goals flow in at the County Ground via Twitter.

The game kicked off. Seemed like a feisty start which you’d expect in a big local derby that appeared like it was going to really matter but City sounded well up for it….

DISASTER! RED CARD FOR WADE ELLIOTT.

I couldn’t believe it, did the curse of the loom band really take less than 200 seconds to strike?! The feeling of desperation came flooding back as I realised that this simply wouldn’t have happened if I’d only remembered my lucky charm. Well that’s it, I thought. That’s the unbeaten run gone and we’ll inevitably slide down the table now. The lucky streak had been broken all because of my stupidity.

But then we got to half time and it was still 0-0. Good battling, I thought, but a long 45 minutes to go. Then there was an hour gone, then there was just quarter of an hour to go.  At this point I was chuckling to myself again – the adrenalin was pumping and I was hopping about in my chair as I realised that of course it was nothing to do with my loom band. Actually, we were going to snatch a draw from the most unlikely of circumstances and actually strengthen our position. The relief, the joy I felt as I realised that me forgetting my loom band had nothing to do with……

Bugger.


I didn’t get back until the following Saturday so the loom band was also missing for defeat at home to Preston.  From thereon in that lucky purple and lime loomband has been wrapped in cotton-wool!

Of course, going back to wearing the lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet meant City returned to form after this minor blip, most noticeably the win at Peterborough with our double lucky omen of Sky TV also present again. That combination right there seems to be gold dust!

Although a defeat or two followed through the season, generally success followed success as I preserved my now slightly tatty, well-worn lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet, moving down from wearing it all day on a Saturday to removing it once the result was known. With bands fraying and one or two coming loose, being damaged by the heavy sleeves of winter, I took to just putting it on at lunchtime and wearing it for those crucial few hours.

It was on the night we won at Gillingham, it came to Milton Keynes and Orient with me and it most certainly enjoyed its first visit to Wembley as it notched up its first trophy of a glorious season.
And that was nearly that. We were nearly up and I headed to Preston in optimistic mood, although I noticed that morning the old bracelet was looking particularly unwell. Two of the bands near the s-shaped plastic join (you parents will know what I mean) had frayed to the extent they were hanging off.



Defeat at Preston would have left our opponents within touching distance of us with their game in hand. Surely, having been top for so long we couldn’t miss out on our first title for sixty years? I was really worried that right at the end, just when it really mattered, the chain would be broken and we’d fall away. Promotion was probably safe, but I willed my lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet through for just another few days.

A great game followed, with their keeper in top form before we found ourselves a goal down. I looked down at my wrist for hope and salvation and couldn’t see it. It had gone. Broken. I couldn’t believe it.

I started scrabbling around in my clothing, my pockets and eventually looked to the floor below where I had been sitting and there it was. Finally it had had its day. It was now just one long chain of bands – a bracelet no more. I hastily retrieved it and stuffed it into my pocket. At least I still had it and we salvaged the game. A draw meant that the title was now very much within our grasp, but I wasn’t prepared to take any risk whatsoever!

Normally in the mornings when the family stirs, I take the two kids down for a cup of milk. Pretty ritualistic in itself, but on this Sunday morning there was a far greater priority. As soon as my daughter was up I asked her to repair it for me, to add a couple more purple and lime coloured bands in to the join to make sure it was able to live another day. What on earth might happen at Bradford if I didn’t, I wondered?

She didn’t even question it. The repair was complete within seconds. She gets it already! She even drew a picture for me with the words ‘Come on City’ written on it “to give them luck and make them win, Daddy”.  She’s five years old. My work here is done!

So all was well and we headed together to Bradford on that now-famous Tuesday evening. The rest, as they say, is history.

And do you know what? As much as I wanted to win, I made a very deliberate, conscious choice not to wear it last Saturday for the trip to Chesterfield. I just wanted to test the theory and see what happened. I felt nervous, and a bit worried.

Clearly, the lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet has done its job. The inevitable, fateful unlucky streak simply didn’t materialise as the champions put on a truly befitting display.

It can now be retired. Put away as a memento of this fantastic, incredible season. But I, for one, will never forget the crucial part it played since that very first day of the season.

My lucky purple and lime loom band bracelet. The best £2 I have ever spent.

You can all thank me later.


The Exiled Robin

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