July 2014
Regular visitors who have followed our recent blog series will have discovered an insight to life in League One, from the success stories we have gleaned from a Wolverhampton Wanderers and Rotherham United perspective.

But what are the real pitfalls awaiting Barnsley FC in the third tier?

To discover more, we spoke to Paul Binning from the excellent Bristol City blog, The Exiled Robin to learn about their experience, having dropped from the Championship in 2012/13 and failing to bounce back. Are there any lessons to be learned and how might things shape up this season?

Prior to the start of the 2013/14 season, how was the playing squad enhanced to cope with football in League One?

Enhanced wasn’t really the word, rebuilt is much more appropriate. We lost a dozen players from our first team squad, many of whom stayed in the Championship and proved themselves, which says a lot about our previous season, so it was a case of many new faces on day one. We were promised a fresh approach after five years of losses totalling around £50m; young, hungry players desperate to prove themselves and bond as group was the order of the day and that’s generally what we got, with one or two ‘big’ names like Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (himself only 23) and Aden Flint, signed for £300,000 from local rivals Swindon, peppered amongst the free transfers and small fee transfers.

What was the general mood and expectation amongst Bristol City supporters at the beginning of the 2013/14 season?

It was very much a feeling of resetting the bar, a grudging acceptance that to move forward and build more sustainably we had to go down this different route and results might not be immediately forthcoming. Having said that, if I had to try and average out many expectations it would’ve been to be around mid-table most of the season, with a potential late push for the play-offs/top eight once the side settled in and got some experience under their belt, so hardly too forgiving

In your opinion, are there any dramatic differences amongst the mix of opposition that Barnsley FC are likely to face next season. If so, what assumptions can we make?

I think in Wolves and Brentford you had two of the ‘obvious’ outstanding teams getting promoted, so unless yourselves, Yeovil or Doncaster turn yourselves around quickly, the suspicion this year is that it’s a slightly more forgiving division. Having said that, Sheffield United had a terrific run and will be formidable if they can maintain that momentum, whilst Simon Grayson at Preston has had a look around the outside and has a track record in getting teams up.

From an outsiders perspective, it appeared that Bristol City took two or three months to acclimatise to life in League One. What could the club have done differently to ensure that faster progress was made?

This answer could take all night!! In a nutshell the afore-mentioned policy – widely supported in August – split fans down the middle come October, when we were bottom of the league. We  couldn’t keep a clean sheet, couldn’t win a game and were facing the dreadful prospect of a second successive relegation. Half the fans wanted Sean O’Driscoll sacked, half thought that a ridiculous notion as we’d been told it would take a while for this young team to gel and they’d only had a dozen weeks together.

What could have been done differently? A higher-quality centre-half than Aden Flint could have undoubtedly been bought for £300k – he looked nervous from the off which hardly helped the younger partners alongside him, whilst in midfield for all the promise and running of our keen youngsters, we missed the know how and experience an older head brings, someone to sit and dictate the pace of the game. Wade Elliott came in on loan in January and instantly showed what we’d been missing, whilst the loan signings of Karleigh Osbourne and in particular Nyron Nosworthy shored up the back line for the first time in over two years.

We also had a bit of a nightmare in goal, with Frankie Fielding at fault for a couple of goals in his first match – a home game on the opening day – and his confidence never seemingly recovered. We were forced to play another youngster in Elliott Parish when we could have done with a 30-something to calm everyone down, organise and give confidence to those in front of him.

With the exception of those sides who were promoted, who were the outstanding teams Bristol City played in League One last season?

Sheffield United stake the obvious claim if you only take the season from February onwards, or more pertinently once Nigel Clough had a chance to get the team playing how he wanted.

Which teams do you predict will be promoted this time out and who are the outstanding candidates to make the play-off mix?

Can’t see past Sheffield United and Preston North End personally. I suspect we might be in the mix for a play-off spot alongside maybe Doncaster. Leyton Orient may struggle to get over their near-miss last time out although Brentford coped well last year, whilst Peterborough United and Coventry City both have obvious potential - if they can strengthen their squads.

MK Dons are always in the mix, whilst there are often a couple of the promoted teams who do well - so I’ll plump for Fleetwood and Chesterfield.

Thanks for reading our latest update. Catch up with Part One and Part Two in the series and give us your feedback on how you feel things are shaping up for the new season and add your comments below this post. Does the lack of recent transfer activity alarm you? Can the Reds' youngster make the step up and give us a realistic tilt at the play-offs or promotion?