Bristol City Q+A: Han-Noah Massengo contract talks, Robins transfer spending, Nigel Pearson and more

Our first mail bag article as we answer your queries on the West Country club.

Welcome to our first Bristol City question and answer feature, where we’ve invited you to supply the questions and we tell you what we know.

It’s a very interesting time at Ashton Gate currently. There are green shoots appearing in the current team that could herald a very bright future, as Han-Noah Massengo, Alex Scott, Antoine Semenyo, Cam Pring and others all show great development this season.

On the flip side, is the difficult financial situation the club is walking currently, and a competitive Championship that is skewed towards those sides with Premier League parachute payments.

Here are our first batch of replies. Feel free to get in touch with us on social media and discuss anything you have on your mind regarding the club.

From Adam: Who do you see as the most likely to be sold in the summer? I know we will have to sell a few to settle the books but surely we must learn from past mistakes and stop selling our best players else we will never go anywhere.

I completely agree, Adam, and wrote about that previously: have the club learned, or moved on from selling off Joe Bryan and Bobby Reid back in 2018, and Lloyd Kelly in 2019?

Given the financial background, the club unfortunately must make ends meet - and comply with Profit and Sustainability EFL rules - and that may necessitate in a sale of a good player. But hopefully it’s no more than one, or the club will be really set back.

And coupled with that, the recruitment must be better than in the past. Any replacements must help push City forwards. That hasn’t always been the case. Ideally, City would keep all their best young players and sell off those not involved, but that may not raise enough funds.

Nigel Pearson says those not in his plans can get back into the first-team picture. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

I thought it was interesting yesterday to hear Nigel Pearson talking about a sale next summer to help the club financially. That does very much sound on the agenda.

“We have no intention of putting them [our best players] on the market, that’s not our intention at all. We’re trying to reshape the squad in a way which is sustainable and that’s going to take time and it’s going to make compromises from time to time,” said Pearson ahead of the Blackpool game yesterday.

“I’m not wet behind the ears so I don’t expect everyone to stay here indefinitely, maybe there may be the necessity to sell one of our talented players at some point for us to negotiate a way through this next period of time but the intention is not to sell them,” he also added.

And I would suggest that what happens with Han-Noah Massengo’s contract talks will very much have an impact there. If the Frenchman does not renew, then I expect him to be sold next summer, with just a year left on his deal.

From Ben: The club have said they’re still working on a contract for Massengo. What is the likelihood/do you think he will sign a contract? I’d like to think the club will do their absolute best, and he will sign. He’s playing consistent football now and a fan favourite.

I’m sure the club will do everything they can to keep him. He’s playing some great stuff currently and City have put in some really good performances of late, with his energy and tenacity in the middle a big factor in that.

One source had suggested that he was unlikely to sign a new deal previously as he wasn’t playing enough. But he’s starting most games now, so let’s see.

If the club could wrap up a new deal that would be a real statement and possibly help others see their longer-term future at Ashton Gate.

I’d suggest that the next few months are key: we’ll see a renewal, or else he’ll get to the summer with just a year left on his deal. At that point, the club may have to reluctantly sell him rather than let him go for a very minor fee (likely set by tribunal) the year after, if he sees his future elsewhere.

From Harperjun: Will Alex Scott & HNM still be in our team next season?

See above on Massengo. We’re entering a crucial phase on that. Either a new contract comes soon or he’ll - likely - be sold in the summer.

Maybe the club can push on in the next few months and convince him that a promotion push is likely next season, because there has been top tier interest in him and he has said previously that he wants to play at the highest level, in World Cups and more.

One factor in City’s favour: he is STILL only 20. He’ll be 21 in the summer and there is an argument that why rush things. If he’s playing consistently and enjoying his football then maybe the club can convince him to spend a bit longer in BS3 and progress together.

I see Alex Scott being in Bristol next season. He only signed a new four year deal last August and there’s no need for the Robins to consider offers from elsewhere, as he plays consistently and develops, as he has several years on his deal to go.

City may consider a sale to help the club in the summer but that might be more likely to be Massengo, if he doesn’t renew, or Antoine Semenyo, given the level of interest from other clubs in him.

Although it’s important to add that City are expected to sign a new striker next summer themselves too. The CEO and manager may be able to convince the young guns that they can all achieve Premier League football at an ever-improving City together in the next years.

From George: What’s the latest with Matty James? Nige said he should be back in a few weeks a couple of weeks ago but I think I saw a picture of something on his foot.

James has still not recovered from a foot problem involving his plantar fascia - the ligament that connects the heel with the front of the foot. As people have spotted, he has been walking about with that protective boot to help the injury heal.

Despite it being a possible niggly one, Nigel Pearson does not expect him to be out for long, though the manager said that James won’t return against Blackpool.

From Jess: Thoughts on Dan Bentley’s future? Big fan of Max but at the moment I’m not sure he should be our number one.

I really like Max. I think it was a good idea to give him a run of games at some point this season, and I see Max as possibly being the future of the club between the sticks. But Dan Bentley is the better goalkeeper at this moment in time still and I think City would have picked up more points over the last few games if Bentley had been playing. In particular at Luton and against Preston.

As per above, if City need to make a sale in the summer, the best plan to my mind would be to restore Bentley to in goal shortly, then sell him in the summer (no offence to Dan, but he might be due a Premier League move) and keep all the young players, with Max to then be the club’s no.1.

From Tom: Louis Britton was on trial at Derry City and now moved to Waterford. Are City planning on offering him a new contract?

I believe they will. It appears that the trial was to see if a loan would be a goer. But perhaps Britton himself will have a big decision to make himself, as he’ll want first-team football and it doesn’t seem like that will be at Ashton Gate currently.

From Ash: Do you think Semenyo/HNM/Scott will be offered new improved deals or do you think we will sell them on considering our finances?

See above for Massengo, Ash, while Scott only signed a new four-year deal earlier this season. A new deal for Antoine Semenyo should be high on the club’s agenda.

However Semenyo does have, effectively, two and a half years to go on his current deal, should the club trigger a one-year option contained in that, which it would make every sense to do.

That gives the club a bit more security and means we could see Antoine in BS3 next season if the Robins decide to repel all interest and keep him another year, at least.

From Ollie: How long will it take for the books to be settled and we can start spending?

Both Nigel Pearson and Jon Lansdown have hinted that a new striker is something that the club will target down the line. And that could be next summer, but possibly depending on outgoings.

As financial assessment is measured over a three-year rolling period (with the last two seasons that were covid-affected being amalgamated and an average taken instead) then it may take a few years to really recover from the £38.4m loss announced in December.

But only yesterday Pearson explained that the club is able to spend currently. It just has to be managed very finely.

Nigel Pearson was mystified by a few offers received for two of his players. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

“That doesn’t mean that we won’t do business and it doesn’t mean that there will never be anybody coming in. I tried to brief you, even from the summer, that January wasn’t going to be a window where there was a lot happening,” said Pearson yesterday.

From Raging Robin: Richard Gould and Steve Lansdown have spoken extensively about bringing new investors into the club a year or so ago.... How is that progressing and what will the investment (if it comes) primarily be used for?

I haven’t heard anything on this of late though Jon Lansdown did speak to a fans podcast earlier this year playing down the chances of anything happening imminently.

He explained that it was about looking to the future and it ties in with the succession planning that Steve Lansdown has mentioned previously.

From Ben: how likely is it we’re going to begin next season on -6? Or do you think the club banking on the authorities going even easier on everyone due to Covid’s impact on finances? Surely other clubs’ accounts for 2020/21 going to look bad?

They sure are, Ben. First off, I’m pretty sure the club won’t fail the Profitability and Sustainability rules. I don’t think the Lansdown family would want that or let that happen. It would be against everything the club stands for.

I think CEO Richard Gould is putting pressure on the EFL to reform with those previous comments. Unfortunately, City may need to sell a player or two next summer to comply, but we’ll have to see what happens there.

Also, as it’s assessed over a three-year rolling period, and 2018/19 booked a profit, I think they have some room to manoeuvre. It may be further down the line that the club might have problems, but that also allows time to steady the ship.

From Andy: We have seen a significant improvement in possession and an attacking style that the fans are enjoying watching, what has changed in the past month or so to prompt this?

It’s been much better, hasn’t it? 10 goals in the last five games and good chances made along the way.

I put it down to several factors, not least Nigel Pearson’s work and that of the coaching team. The team seems to be doing well in this, roughly, 3-4-3 formation that has been used of late and we’ve seen some stability in the system used, which then helps breed familiarity and confidence.

As Nige has said himself, these tactics are getting a good tune from the Robins, even though he would personally prefer a different formation (4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3). This suits the players at his disposal better.

Some of the squad have started to hit form, especially younger players like Antoine Semenyo, Han-Noah Massengo and Alex Scott again after a little dip. And maybe Chris Martin has benefited from a rest on the sidelines before coming back into the side again.

City now have to do better defensively and stop conceding the late goals. I think it will come.