Article by Paul Beasley Monday, November 13th, 2023  


At the end of the Maidenhead FV I wrote “Anything for us to worry about? Liam Manning to Bristol City paper talk. I’ll leave that for another day. With football you just don’t know what’s round the corner. Makes it interesting”.

Monday 6 Nov.

No sooner had I published that FV than Sky News were reporting it’s a done deal. The Oxford Mail have a quote from Assistant Chris Hogg confirming that Manning took training on Monday but bookies odds on him going to Ashton Gate have been cut from 6/4 to 8/11 with some reports that bets are no longer being taken on this happening.

What will be will be. He’s an ambitious man. Apparently there’s a release clause in his contract at OUFC. Given the job he has done with us no wonder he’s sought after. But is it a sensible move at this time? Would it possibly be better to get a promotion with us on his CV then consider what might be in the form of more offers? Would Bristol City back him to the extent that he wanted? If it didn’t work out would he get ditched pretty quickly? There’s a lot of impatience in the Championship. Has his MK Dons experience made him cautious?

We got our recruitment process spot on getting him in the first place and I’d expect us to do similar again if we needed to. Any new incumbent would have a vastly superior squad to work with than the one Karl Robinson dumped on the club and left Manning with to get above the relegation line in 22/23. That said every manager/head coach has their own philosophy, way of playing and preferred type of players.

There’s going to be a lot of watching of spaces in the next few days.

Tues 7 Nov

I was at Warwick races with a few friends, all of whom except one were Oxford fans. The longer it went without an announcement the more optimistic we became. Then it came. He was gone.

That’s reality, that’s the harsh world of football. Money talks. So much for loyalty but who wouldn’t jump at the chance to greatly increase their salary? We don’t know the details of the release/buy -out clause or what he was on with us and will be on with BCFC. If there were such clauses then the OUFC hierarchy must have been aware of the risk and hopefully had planned accordingly.

Wish him luck in his new post? No of course bloody not. Whilst not L1 rivals, Bristol City are rivals of sorts. “Hope he fails miserably” has been posted on social media. That would make me chuckle. The Championship is a different ball game to L1 although Ipswich have made light of the supposed gap between the two divisions.

Wed 8 Nov

Mulling this over starting to feel a bit angry now. On Saturday Manning had said that there had been no approach. I appreciate that he was in a difficult position and whatever he had said on Radio Oxford could have been interpreted in many but the speed of his departure suggests that something must have been going on. Perhaps there are a number of different interpretations of the meaning of the word “approach”.

You can’t question any new manager on their loyalty to the club they’ve just joined and they would say the right things wouldn’t they? They’re not going to say “I’ll be off as soon as I get a better offer and sod you”. I keep recalling though back a few months to the AGM when I couldn’t help but think I believe in this guy, he’s the real deal. Also the open day training session at the Oxford Sports Park.

There’s much more that’s pissing me off about his departure.

In Tuesday’s Guardian there’s this quote from Manning: “This is a terrific opportunity and one that I’m really looking forward to. If you look at the vision of the club and where they want to get to and how they want to get there I think there is really good fit and alignment with my journey and where I want to get to.” Absolutely insulting to us. I have not read one word from him thanking us for the opportunity he was given at Oxford having been sacked by MK Dons.

Clearly the club are not happy which is more than understandable. Chairman Grant Ferguson said “We reluctantly gave Bristol City permission to speak with Liam after he indicated he wanted to discuss their vacant managerial position with them.” So even if there had been no approach he was actively looking to move on.

Tim Williams, Oxford United’s Chief Executive Officer, added: “I am hugely disappointed to be losing Liam and Chris at this stage of the season, particularly given the support they had been given.” Yes, his number two has gone too. It is also very telling that there is no statement from OUFC thanking Manning for what he has done for our club and wishing him all the best.

A nasty taste has been left. I thought he was an honourable man.

I took a look at Bristol City’s fixture for this coming weekend hoping they’d get turned over. Away at QPR who have drawn three and lost seven of their last 10 league games. What an easy start.

In his first interview at Bristol City he was asked about his decision. “It’s been an extremely full on and intense 24 hours. I was informed yesterday of the approach, in the morning and was at work at Oxford” So that was the first time he was approached?

“I’ve got some good people around me and spoke to a few people in the game, whose opinions I really trust and respect. I got that feedback and then informed the club at Oxford of my decision that I wanted to move on and join Bristol City.”

“I had a short time at Oxford, but it was a good time in terms of the progress we made. We left the club in a better position than when we joined”.

“I wouldn’t have left for any club, that was quite important. There were so many things in terms of alignment with the playing group here, how I see the game and how I want teams to play.”

“We achieved quite a lot in a short period of time, saving the club from relegation and then to transition the team completely and then leave it in a position where they’ve got a healthy squad.”

So we’re supposed to be eternally grateful for what he has done at our football club are we? He doesn’t seem to have mentioned the support he was given. Healthy squad, absolutely yes. But which players will he come after when the January window opens? How healthy will we be in February?

I’ve read in one on-line football paper that Bristol’s training facilities are vastly superior to ours. Bet the person who wrote that has no idea what we have.

It’s clear that City owner Steve Lansdown is a very wealthy man but he publicly announced his intention to find a buyer in April 2021 having invested around £240million in the club during his tenure. He’s not yet sold and is in no rush to do so but would if the right person was willing to pay the right amount of money. With this in the background how can Manning know for sure what the “vision” there actually is? There’s no hint of our owners selling up as we embark on the mission to get that new ground at the Triangle.

To the year-end May 2022 Bristol City FC lost £22.8m. I think they cover their debt and losses by issuing new shares all the time but that is after just a cursory glance at their accounts.

Thurs 9 Nov

So, we’ve lost a video analyst to BCFC. Who next?

There are, as always, many names being bandied around as potential candidates for the vacant post. Most of them are ill informed nonsense but newspaper columns need filling. The bookies just initially go for any out of work manager. When I look at the list I’m going “no”, “please no” or “no thank you” nearly all of the time. I’ll keep quiet though just in case one of those I don’t want here does end up being LM’s replacement. Got to give everyone a chance.

The club got the recruitment process bang on in every aspect except one last time. Good young progressive coach, playing entertaining possession football and winning football. The builder of a balanced squad. What’s not to like? We now of course know – he wasn’t fully committed to the cause in the medium term let alone long term.

I’m not expecting them to bring in a duffer this time but do wonder if there will be some caution in the back of their minds with all this matching of ambition stuff.

But we are where we are.

Fri 10 Nov

As a fan, time to focus on Saturday. What tube lines are closed and how will we get to Orient? Will the planned pro-Palestinian march impact our journey? It starts at Hyde Park which is very close to Marylebone, the station we come in to.

Of course we have to get right behind Short and Hackett, which we will. At times like this there’s a kind of galvanising effect. Hope it’s the same with the players. Again I’m sure it will be. They’re professionals. It wasn’t the first team on Tuesday night but they put paid to the Chelsea kids easily enough.

Sat 11 Nov – “WHO THE **** IS LIAM MANNING?”


Our plan had been to aim for the Leyton Orient Supporters Club (LOSC) for mid-day opening. The selected train from Bicester North was due to depart at 9:54. Luckily I arrived in good time as I had to collect my ticket from the machine – booking online the previous evening didn’t give the option to have the ticket on my phone. Just when I thought I’d cracked the technology.

A mate who was catching the same train but from Banbury relayed the information that it was not only running 15 mins late but was reported as being full with standing room only. As it happened some at Banbury weren’t able to climb aboard. So we legged it to Bicester Village station, got a seat for our journey and watched as the train got fuller and fuller at every stop before Marylebone.

The central line tube started off rammed but, as we got closer to Leyton, stretching out was a comfortable option and it was only about quarter past 12 when we entered the LOSC.

It was already pretty busy that early which is telling. Card carrying CAMRA members get in free otherwise it’s a nominal quid. Away fans are as welcome as home fans. There’s many hand pumps serving a range of styles with each pint costing four quid. All staff there are volunteers and even when the place got even fuller there was no waiting to be served. They were bang on it and knew their beer. Piss being taken out of Greene King and lager etc. It was like a mini beer festival. My choice was the pale ales, of which there were three.

Being part of the ground it wasn’t far to walk to the away turnstiles.

Once inside it was clear that our fans were up for it and some. That the whole ground was sold out only added to the atmosphere.

I came away thinking Orient, whilst not being long ball merchants, were much more direct than many L1 teams. They didn’t seem to think twice about getting crosses in and long throws into our box were very much part of their tactics. This though may have incorrectly coloured my view because the stats tell a somewhat different story.

The home side had 51% possession. They made 392 passes to our 379. There wasn’t much difference in long passes made. They clocked up 106 to our 91. There wasn’t a huge difference in passing accuracy either. Overall we were better, 63% accuracy to 58% but in the opponents half of the pitch they managed 46%, to our 45%.

There was one huge difference. Of Orient’s ten shots only one was on target. We had 13 shots with seven on target.

The game was very even from the off but I still had that little feeling, not one of arrogance but because I genuinely believed, that we had a bit more class. That showed occasionally.

A Stan Mills effort went just wide and our no.7 was involved again a bit later when we should have taken the lead. James Beadle passed out to Greg Leigh who found Ruben Rodrigues midway in our half. RR hit a beautiful 60 yard pass to Mills who squared it to Mark Harris who should have buried it. Keeper Solomon Brynn did pull off a very good save. Fine margins and all that. Harris really could do with a league goal. He immediately got a second bite of the cherry and again should have buried it but with his other foot, his left, this time hit the post.

It had me muttering “not good enough” but he’s very close indeed and there’s no faulting his work rate. Can’t deny he’s missing too many of those though.

Are there any keepers in the 92 that aren’t required to be able to play with their feet to a greater or lesser extent these days? This required skill has done for some. The decline of Joe Hart can be traced back to Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad and his football principals have permeated all the way down to some degree. It’s one of the reasons we’ve now got Beadle between the sticks. Some are better at it than others.

With just over 30 minutes on the clock Brynn passed the ball out. Unfortunately for him it was to Harris, six yards outside the box. RR, quickly reading the situation, got on-side and was fed by his teammate. He didn’t hit it first time. Is that being cool or dithering? Depends on the outcome. He was soon facing two defenders. With the ball resting on the line of the area he shot with unerring accuracy just inside of Brynn’s right hand post. Winning teams punish mistakes. What a player Rodrigues is.  Harris did well in this too.

We were happy enough as it got close to half-time but before the whistle went for the break we became even happier. In the second of the added minutes our lead was doubled.

I constantly air my view on shirt pulling. I hate it. It’s cheating and needs to be penalised every time when it is blatantly obvious who the culprit is.

Marcus McGuane had a handful of Joe Pigott’s top.  Referee Declan Bourne could see full well what was going on. No whistle so the game continues. There’s then a coming together between Leigh and Jordan Brown. As football supporters do, those in yellow were shouting for a foul. Truthfully it was nothing more than a clash of heads with our man turning into theirs. Bourne could easily have stopped play, particularly as Leigh stayed down. An Orient pass clipped McGuane’s heels and neither side could bring the ball under their spell until Rodrigues nicked it. Using his body strength he held off Brown (J) and drove forward before letting fly from the edge of the D. It deserved a goal with Orient’s custodian beaten all ends up. His left hand upright rescued him but only for a split second, Billy Bodin smartly heading home.

The mood in the concourse between halves was, to say the least, buoyant.  “Who the **** is Liam Manning?” constantly filling the air.

Two minutes into the second half and that was it, wasn’t it? It was us who had scored from a set piece.

Leigh’s pace won a corner which was taken by Cameron Brannagan. Our Brown’s headed flick sent the ball across goal to beyond the far past where BB was waiting. I’m not sure whether it was a shot or a case of just getting the ball in the danger zone but that’s irrelevant. Harris then helped it onto Brynn’s chest but not the back of the net. Again he was offered a second go but he didn’t take this opportunity as a red shirt did a bit to put him off. No messing from RR as he claimed his second. Very early on in the season I said he would score more than Harris.

With football though never take anything for granted. A minute later we gifted Orient a life-line. A cross came in but went over the jumping Aaron Drinan, hit Fin Stevens and went in. Stevens hadn’t anticipated what was about to happen, he wasn’t switched on.

All’s well that ends well but this did change the game as the spirited opposition fought back. We had begun to look quite in control but not so much now.

We got very close to restoring our three goal lead but when the next goal arrived it wasn’t for us.

It was once more Rodrigues who created the chance with another pass of the highest quality to Harris who had made the type of run that players of vision like RR love to find. Harris’s effort was excellent, a lob from some way out as Brynn had come off his line. Almost perfect, except not quite. It hit the bar and went over. Perhaps he’s just destined to be unlucky in the goal-scoring stakes.

A centre-forward who is not finding the back of the net often enough, um. Problem. One might think so but no team in L1 has scored more than us.

With just under half an hour of the 90 minutes still to go our lead had been further reduced. The header from a long free kick by Brynn was won by Orient, Ruel Sotiriou was unmarked and he thrashed the ball home.

It now looked a bit dodgy. Another cross came in and a header hit the post, the ball eventually being cleared by Mills.

Craig Short had seen enough and four minutes after Orient’s second he introduced Stephan Negru in the interest of defensive solidarity. It worked a treat. I thought we held on fairly comfortably.

The joy and relief at the final whistle was palpable. I can’t recall support quite like this for a long time. During the game there had been clenched fists, bumped fists, high fives and leaping about with arms around shoulders of fellow fans who you don’t really know.

The players and (interim) management came over at the end and their togetherness was the same as ours. “Who the **** is Liam Manning?” continued to rise into the air and got even louder.

This was such an important game to win. To not have done so with the next match not being until Cheltenham away on 25 November would have been horrible. We’ve shown we can win without Manning. We came out on top against a team that had gone five unbeaten in the League, albeit not against the strongest of opposition.

There’s much to be done on and off the pitch but we’ve not been derailed.

QPR 0 Bristol City 0 and BCFC’s next two games are against Middlesbrough and Southampton. I should let this go now but it is very hard to do so. The worse they do the more likely Manning is to try and raid our squad. I hope there’s a clause in his severance agreement that prevents him doing so for at least a year. I’m told that was the case with Mous when he went to Fratton Park.

A time for reflection. Puts football into perspective



This entry was posted on Monday, November 13th, 2023 at 8:47 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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