The forgotten Bristol City man who is changing transfer plans after his reemergence
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Zak Vyner is out to prove his doubters wrong, says Bristol City assistant manager Curtis Fleming.
Vyner was dropped after the defeat to Swansea City in February and had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes bench with a 45-minute cameo against Peterborough the only action he got in the last 14 games of the season.
The 25-year-old however has been ever present in the Championship so far this season which is in contrast to when he struggled for game time during the second part of last season.
The defender had been let down by a lack of consistency in the past, but an excellent start to the Robins’ 2022/23 campaign from Vyner has earned him a regular starting spot ahead of Timm Klose.
Nigel Pearson’s side conceded a frightening 77 goals in 46 league matches last term, and after letting in six in their opening three games this season, there was concern that the trend wasn’t going to improve soon.
However, the Robins have kept back-to-back clean sheets, and seem to have cut out individual errors in recent matches.
Speaking after their 2-0 Severnside derby victory over Cardiff City on Sunday, Fleming was keen to talk about the importance of Vyner adding greater consistency to his game.
“We’ve called out for it, we don’t hide,” he said. “Everything that you see, we see – and he sees. He knows that he needed that little bit more consistency, but I think sometimes it’s the belief. It’s the consistency of the belief that you’re given, that you tell them.
“At the start of the season when he came back for pre-season, he’s still a Bristol City player. And if he’s doing well enough and we need to win a game, he’ll get a game.”
Vyner’s run in the side is also a surprise given Nigel Pearson’s desire to recruit a right-sided centre-half, which he admitted he wanted in his pre-match press conference ahead of the match with Coventry.
‘People are saying we haven’t been busy enough in the transfer window and we’ve got a couple in,” Fleming said.
“Lads have stood up and have taken their chances; Tommy Conway and Zak Vyner.
“Everybody talked about him going out of the club, he is in the team on merit. We’re not being nice, he’s a lovely lad but he’s always a lovely lad. He’s working hard this pre-season after getting in.”
Pearson brought in defender Kal Naismith in the summer to try and help solve the Robins’ defensive frailties. Naismith has played every minute so far this season, but Fleming was keen to stress that the experienced defender wasn’t signed to take Vyner’s place.
“We’re not saying that we’ve brought a player in to replace you, we’ll play the best player,” he explained.
“As I said to him at the end of the game, fantastic, but again, consistency. Happy days, brilliant, (same again on) Wednesday. Wednesday, happy days, (same again on) Saturday. We go again. There’s no doubt he has the ability, he’s a brilliant athlete.”
With Tomas Kalas and Nathan Baker out, Rob Atkinson has been the first choice on the left-hand side of the back three.
Atkinson, who netted the Robins’ second in Sunday’s derby win, is only 24 himself and praised Naismith’s impact on both him and Vyner since the Scotsman’s arrival.
He explained: “He’s a loud character, he’s commanding, he demands out of everyone around him. That helps me and Zak and he’s a good addition to the club.”
Naismith has played over 300 games across the Championship, League One and League Two and isn’t shy in voicing his demands to his teammates on the pitch.
However, Atkinson doesn’t mind the experienced centre-half’s tough love methods. “It’s never personal, you’ve just got to take it. When he says something, it’s only to help us, not to ruin our confidence,” he said.
“When we’re zoning out a bit or switching off, he gets us to switch back on to get us all back on the same page.”
With Kalas still stepping up his recovery as we wait a return in the imminent future, fans could expect to see Atkinson, Naismith and Vyner feature alongside each other in the coming weeks and months.
The trio have started together in all six of the Robins matches so far this season, and the young defender is confident that they can continue to form a strong cohesion together.
“It’s early days in the relationship but we’re figuring each other out and it’s going well so far,” he said.