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Steve Lansdown has spoken: “Johnson holds my support”

Following disappointing defeats against Nottingham Forest, Reading and rivals Cardiff, it seems that the tide is beginning to turn against Lee Johnson. One poll on a major Bristol City fans forum after the Forest game revealed that an astonishing 90% of the 500 voters wanted the head coach out. Moreover, two banners bearing the words “Johnson Out” appeared close to the club’s Ashton Gate stadium in the aftermath of the latest loss. Thus, earlier this week majority shareholder Steve Lansdown issued both an official statement on the club’s website and conducted a radio interview, in order to openly address City’s current predicament. The club languishes just two points above the relegation zone after a run of eight successive defeats.

Lansdown was honest as ever in both the statement and consultation, addressing numerous head-on questions from an inquisitive Geoff Twentyman. Interestingly, whilst the theme of management was entirely evaded in the statement on the site, it was the topic surrounding the first question Lansdown was asked in the radio interview. He replied to Twentyman’s query about job safety by saying that “[Lee] has my support, his job is as safe as it can be” and that “we will turn this around” – reinforcing a personal hunch that in spite of some disgruntlement amongst the fans, Johnson is likely to be here for the long-term.

Yet Lansdown did admit the importance of Johnson’s next two league games. Despite not setting an official timescale for improvement, he did admit that matches versus Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham are crucial. Perhaps his stance towards Johnson could change if City were to lose both.

City remarkably beat Aston Villa early in the campaign

Even with his reputation as one of football’s most level-headed owners, Lansdown’s responses showed that he is willing to extend patience to a new-found level. When asked about the prospect of relegation, he admitted that it could “go down to the wire” and did not even hint at the chance of a managerial change.

Interestingly, Lansdown was not afraid to criticise the players, perhaps in an attempt to take some of the pressure off Lee Johnson. His most striking comment was that “Lee Tomlin’s form has gone off the boil… he needs to buckle down and win his place back”, emphasising his opinion that the £3m summer signing does not warrant a starting place at present. The comment also issued a subtle defence of Johnson’s team selections, an area of his management that has been heavily criticised in past games.

It’s refreshing to have an honest, passionate owner like Steve Lansdown. Clearly he supports Johnson and the staff. However, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes he makes if the team’s dire form continues. Let us also remember that in the summer he insisted Jonathan Kodjia wouldn’t be sold to a fellow Championship team, and we all know how that went…