Former Bristol City favorite over Lee Johnson’s mismanagement and ‘terrible’ Sean O’Driscoll

Frank Fielding opened up about his six years at Bristol City by calling ex-manager Sean O’Driscoll “terrible”, Steve Cotterill “intense” but “whatever you want” and detailing Lee’s questionable management. Johnson.

Fielding remains a cult hero at Ashton Gate after making 181 appearances for the club between 2013 and 2019 with his place in the 2014/15 record-winning two-time squad, the most burning memory of the former England Under-19 international. 21 years old while discussing his career with The late kick-off podcast.

Now 33, Fielding signed a short-term deal with Stoke City earlier this month as cover, reuniting with former City assistant manager Dean Holden, who is now No.2 in Michael O’Neill at bet365 Stadium.

Holden was in place during Fielding’s final years at City as Johnson replaced Cotterill as manager in February 2016, which led to an inconsistent time at the club in which he suffered a number of injuries and was dismissed. by his coach while several other goalkeepers were signed.

In his last three seasons, before going on a free transfer in 2019, Fielding saw Fabien Giefer, Ivan Lucic, Luke Steele and Niki Maenpaa all sign as Johnson didn’t seem to assess him.

On several occasions, Fielding was told his position at the club was either uncertain or he was “done”, only for the goalkeeper to then regain his place between the sticks a few months later.

“Great trainer, good ideas but not too sure human skills” Fielding said of Johnson. “Ups and downs, really.

“I remember we were flying on Christmas (in the 2017/18 season), I was sent off against Wolves on Boxing Day – (we had) 50 points and second in the league, I was playing every game – and he said, “you’re probably not going to play now for the rest of the season.”

“I was suspended for a game and I thought: what motivation is that? What are you talking about?'”

Steele had taken the gloves for City’s next two games that season, a 5-0 loss to Aston Villa, then a 3-0 FA Cup loss to Watford and with Manchester City looming in the Cup semi-final. the League, and the fact that his deputy had played in all previous cup games – including against Manchester United – he didn’t expect to play against Pep Guardiola’s side, only to be selected later.

Frank Fielding saves from Kevin De Bruyne in the League Cup semi-final against Manchester City (Photo by Alex Livesey / Getty Images)

“To cut out all the garbage, I ended up playing against Man City. When you’re in the moment and walk in everyday and graft on, game after game, you don’t need interference like this. So many stories that fans don’t know, ”he added.

A moment particularly engraved in Fielding’s mind around the signing of Fabien Giefer on loan in January 2017. The German made his Robins debut two days later, replacing Fielding, but after 10 consecutive appearances Johnson returned. to its previous number 1.

At the time, it was reported as an ‘eye injury’, but Fielding revealed the real reason.

“I told him, because I have 18 months left on my contract, ‘am I finished now?’ and he said, ‘yeah, it’s over,’ Fielding said.

“So I said, am I free to go now?” And he says to me ‘yeah, but be careful what you wish for because I don’t think you’ll find that money anywhere else.’

“I left the room. The German keeper was an absolute disaster. I ended up coming back to the squad because this boy wears contact lenses and there was something wrong with contact lenses before a game against Norwich.

“I ended up being drafted and playing every game until the end of the season, then Lee Johnson gives me a new contract! So during the six months he told me “be careful what you want” because of the money, he ended up giving me more money.

Despite those experiences and the difficult end, as he only made seven appearances in his last season due to injury, Bristol Fielding’s memories remain positive, with the 33-year-old admitting he has still many friends in the area, apart from football, and described the city as a “place of life on the ledge”.

He was tempted by Sean O’Driscoll at Ashton Gate in 2013 with Barnsley also interested as City paid Derby £ 200,000 to bring him to League One after their relegation.

However, consistent with the field results, Fielding’s experience with O’Driscoll was not a positive one.

O’Driscoll was ruled 18 games in the 2013/14 season with the Robins 22nd in League One and in freefall after just two wins.

“I’m going to be tough here, it was terrible”, Fielding said. “(He) just didn’t get it. We were beaten 3-0 by Peterborough on Saturday and came for a meeting on Sunday because we had a game on Tuesday and he was telling us in the debriefing that we had played well!

“The whole team stank, he didn’t know what to do, it was just a mess.”

Part of the reason for City’s demise under O’Driscoll, according to Fielding, was the exit of right-hand man Richard O’Kelly the summer following relegation. O’Kelly continued to work with Dean Smith at Walsall, Brentford and Aston Villa.

“You are as good as your staff,” added Fielding.

Cotterill then followed O’Driscoll, stabilizing the ship, keeping City in Ligue 1 before statistically forming the biggest team the division has ever known as the Robins hit 99 points and 96 goals by securing a promotion, also winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

“Intense, honest – basically everything you expect from a manager,” Fielding said. “Loved his guys, looked after them like they were his own children. He couldn’t do more for us but he sometimes lost the plot and didn’t speak to us for three or four days.

“The season we were promoted, we were doing four or five day trips. We were going on Thursday for a game on Saturday and if we had a game on Tuesday we would stay all the time. So we went straight from the hotel.

“We played Colchester at Colchester, we were beaten 3-2 and we went straight to Doncaster after that and he didn’t speak to any of us until Tuesday morning (game day).

Frank Fielding enjoys a selfie with Scott Murray in front of City fans in Coventry during the 2014/15 season (Dougie Allward / JMP)

“The first year he kept us updated and the season after signing his players very early, his recruiting this preseason, so we did a whole preseason together. We went to South Africa and Botswana on a trip, a great trip and we just gelled.

“We had a really good mix – young and old. Aaron Wilbraham, he ran our locker room. Just a great human being. “

Fielding’s time under Cotterill was unclear as the signing of Simon Moore in January 2014 threatened his future at the club but, as a forerunner of his time under Johnson, he once again won over his manager.

“He thought I was done. I had two and a half years of contract, I had a difficult start, I lost a division at 26 years old. He signed Simon Moore and I was about to have my first child and he thought I was done. Basically, saying, “I signed it… the fans don’t like you” – I’ve heard it all before. But Simon ended up hurting himself and I ended up playing again.

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