‘Working-class mentality’ - The Birmingham City lowdown on Bristol City manager target John Eustace
Bristol City are on the search for a new manager after parting company with Nigel Pearson on Sunday, and already names are emerging to be his replacement.
The Robins cited recent results as the reason for the sacking of the 60-year-old, and it's a decision that's been met with some criticism. A large selection of the support base have voiced their opinions that Pearson should have remained, and reminded the decision makers that the club is dealing with an injury crisis which has had a knock-on effect with results.
It was reported by SkySports journalist Rob Dorsett on Sunday that a shortlist had already been drawn and he listed three names. Gary Rowett - who before Gareth Ainsworth’s sacking was the last manager to leave a Championship club was on there, along with Nathan Jones who was sacked by Southampton in February. The last name was John Eustace who in the eyes of many believe he was harshly sacked by Birmingham City, who replaced him with Wayne Rooney.
Eustace has already had the privilege of managing at Ashton Gate this year with mixed success. He was in charge when the Robins won 4-2 back in January with Antoine Semenyo, Nahki Wells and Mark Sykes scoring that day. The former QPR coach did get revenge back in August however with a 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Koji Miyoshi and Lukas Jutkiewicz with Rob Dickie sent off. Eustace had worked with Dickie during his time at Loftus Road, and that certainly would be a plus point when considering the next boss of Bristol City.
To get more of an insight into who John Eustace is, we sought the opinion of someone who is well placed to offer on an opinion on him. BirminghamWorldfootball journalist Charlie Haffenden answered our questions on what kind of manager he is and what Robins fans could expect should he be the successful candidate.
How would you describe John Eustace? What was his management style like at Birmingham City?
To start with, Eustace was quite negative with his play as Birmingham relied on long-ball football and set pieces a little. As time progressed, though, there was more of a possession focus. The recent summer transfer window really helped Eustace’s style to become more exciting and attacking as Blues signed a handful of tricky wingers.
What was John Eustace’s favoured formation at Birmingham City - or did he change his approach depending on the opponent?
Eustace showed some good tactical versatility during his time at St Andrew’s as he switched between three main formations – a wide 4-2-3-1, a narrow 4-2-2-2 diamond and a 3-5-2 with wing-backs.
As for transfer business - he worked with a technical director Craig Gardner. Do you think any of the signings he made were his or by the person above him?
There was definitely some cohesion between Eustace and Gardner, although the final say would typically be made by the technical director. That balance has changed a bit now that Wayne Rooney has come in. Eustace was described as ‘head coach’, whereas Rooney is ‘manager’, displaying the subtle difference.
What would be the positives for Bristol City if they were to get John Eustace? What’s his best strengths?
The Robins would definitely benefit from Eustace’s strong man-management skills and his working-class mentality. He used to speak often and passionately about getting his players to fight for one another as if they were a working-class family. It brought about brilliant results, especially in the latter stages of games.
Would there be any downsides to appointing Eustace... Is there anything you think he can improve on?
The downside would have to be Eustace’s decision-making with substitutions. Birmingham fans would often get frustrated by the lack of changes or the lateness. Eustace clearly likes to keep some sort of continuity in his lineups, including throughout matches, but sometimes subs were needed quicker to shift the momentum.
Should Eustace be appointed as Bristol City boss, is there anyone you’d expect him to try and sign?
Maybe a bit of a random one, but Reda Khadra was a player Eustace spoke very highly of when he was on loan at Blues during the tail end of last season. Khadra left Brighton for Stade Reims in the summer but he’s hardly played there. Eustace could theoretically try and sign Khadra on loan again.