Head coach Sean O'Driscoll calls for fighting spirit at Bristol City
BRISTOL City's under-achieving players are in for a shock to the system when they turn up for their first training session with new head coach Sean O'Driscoll today.
Appointed to succeed the sacked Derek McInnes on a 12-month rolling contract, O'Driscoll has 20 games in which to keep rock-bottom City in the npower Championship, beginning with Saturday's trip to Leeds.
Aware time is fast running out for a team that is six points adrift of safety, the former Doncaster and Nottingham Forest boss believes the situation requires drastic action.
In an attempt to replicate the conditions City are likely to face at Elland Road, O'Driscoll is promising to make training sessions as intense and competitive as possible during his first week in charge.
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O'Driscoll said: "If we are going to hit the ground running, we have to make sure training this week replicates what we are going to get at Leeds on Saturday.
"The team that goes out to play at Leeds is not going to be the most confident, that is a fact. The team is going to have to show other qualities. In that situation, what is the point of playing five-a-side games in training and showing off our skills?
"If we are going to have to scrap, fight and give sweat, blood and tears come Saturday, then that is what we need to be doing in training.
"There is no point doing things one way on the training ground and then doing something completely different on a Saturday afternoon.
"Because we need to train the way we are going to play, then it has to be intense, it has to be competitive and it has to be hard."
An experienced campaigner in the Championship, O'Driscoll believes strength of character will be more important than ability in determining whether City stay up or go down at the end of the season.
First and foremost, he will assess the character of those in the dressing room before passing judgment on his players.
O'Driscoll said: "If you wrote down a list of things you need as a football club to get promoted and a list of things you need to stay in the division, they would be much the same.
"I don't mean players saying 'I must score more goals' and 'I must keep more clean sheets' because we know all that. I'm talking about the things all successful organisations have, whether they are football teams or not. I'm talking about character.
"You need to be committed, you need to be determined, you need to have a good attitude and you need to be resilient. At this particular moment in time, we need that in all of our players. Some players will find that difficult in certain situations, others will come to the fore, stand up to be counted and be better players when the team is under the cosh.
"The working environment is dictated by peoples' character and, at the moment, I would imagine the environment is not conducive to playing free-flowing, passing football.
"The present environment will require the players to show different qualities."
Although O'Driscoll boasts an excellent track record in terms of developing players and building structures for the future, he insisted his priority is to keep City up. He said: "I would prefer the club to be sitting top of the league and looking at the Premier Division. But they are bottom of the league and changing that is the challenge.
"Of course, there are things you want to put in place for the future, but given the situation the club is in, staying up is all that matters right now.
"The supporters don't want to know how the under-11s are doing. They want to know if we are going to beat Leeds United on Saturday."
Previous assistant boss Tony Docherty followed McInnes out of the door at the weekend and O'Driscoll is keen to appoint a lieutenant as quickly as possible. He said: "I've been given the head coach's title and that is the way the club wants to go. That means I have the opportunity to bring my own staff in.
"As far as I'm concerned, that needs to happen sooner rather than later. Ideally, I would like someone in now, but because things have happened so quickly, that has not been possible.
"The board have some ideas about who they would like and have made recommendations and I have some people in mind who I think would be a good fit as well.
"I need someone in to work with me as soon as possible and will be trying to make that happen."