Lee Johnson, Vegas, and Tammy Abraham: Quickfire questions with Aaron Wilbraham

by Jack Dosson ¦ @jackdossonsport

Having recently had the opportunity to chat with former Bristol City striker Aaron Wilbraham, for BS3 Talk’s audio feature ‘Doing the Double‘, here are some of his thoughts on City, Vegas and more.

Thoughts on Ashton Gate?

“I’d played at Bristol City before I joined so I saw Ashton Gate’s transition, and when you look at it now it’s like a Premier League stadium. The dressing rooms are an example of that, going from the old pair behind the goal to the brand new ones, the facilities are unbelievable. The fans never stopped singing, they’d always support us which really helps the team.”

What’s holding City back from the Premier League?

“I think Bristol City as a club are in a strong position, they’ve got good owners with money which is what you need. They’ve just got to keep that momentum going, they’re getting closer to the play-offs and when you become one of those teams who are always competing at the top end rather than trying to avoid relegation you know you’re on the right track. Derby in particular have often just missed out on promotion, and Bristol City are almost becoming one of those teams now who you always fancy to be up there. Considering they were in League One just a few years ago, that shows you how far they’ve come. Promotion is definitely on the cards, and let’s hope it’s as soon as possible.”

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The revamped Ashton Gate Stadium now holds 27,000.

Best roommate at City?

“Lee Tomlin was funny, he’d just have you in stitches the whole time. Sam Baldock and Kieran Agard were my first two, but the one I was with for the majority of the time was Luke Freeman. I don’t mind, I was the same at Bolton and Rochdale, I’ll just room with anyone and have a laugh. As long as they’re all good lads it’s not a problem.”

Is it true that you first met Steve Cotterill in a Dubai hotel?

“Yes it was strange, I was out of contract at Crystal Palace and I went out on holiday to Dubai in the summer of 2014. I was in the lounge of the hotel and was sure that I saw Steve Cotterill, the manager of Bristol City, so I just went up to him and introduced myself. From then every time I went into the gym he was in there, and after about four or five days he called me over to ask if I had signed for anyone yet, before asking if I wanted to have talks at Bristol City. He let me know that it would only be a year’s contract, which I agreed to, and he then had a joke with my little girl about keeping me fit. I found out at a later date that he’d been checking in the hotel everyday to see if I’d been going to the gym. After that I came down to Bristol and everything else is history!”

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Steve Cotterill. Double winner.

Did you always know that Tammy Abraham was going to make it at Chelsea?

“He had pace, good feet, he could finish, and was just a very good lad. I was at Palace and sometimes the Under-21s, or the London lads were abit out-of-tune, and thought they had already made it when they hadn’t. But you could see with Tammy, that no matter how many goals he was scoring, he never changed, he still wanted to come in to learn, and was hungry. He had that appetite for playing football, and that’s the main thing. I definitely knew he’d make it with Chelsea, even when he went to Swansea and it didn’t work out. I still speak to him, the last thing I spoke to him about was to ask where he got his bathroom tiles from, and he’s in my Fantasy Football team so I give him a little mention if he scores for me!”

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Tammy Abraham scored 26 goals for Bristol City on loan from Chelsea during the 2016/17 season.

What was your favourite goal you scored for City?

“I really liked the header against Rochdale at home, because it was such a difficult one and it was an important three points in a game where they could have beaten us. Playing for them now it’s a good one to look back on!”

Favourite memory at City?

“It has to be the whole of that league winning season in 2014/15, we weren’t shy of a night out, it was a great group of lads, and everything went well. If you look at where the whole squad is now from that year, everyone is doing well, they’ve all gone on to really good things. I wouldn’t like to pick out a highlight from the three years because that whole season was class. I might not have played as much in the following years, but I got that goal at Newcastle, there are several special moments.”

Best player you played with at City?

“I’d probably say Luke Freeman. He was a joke throughout the 2014/15 season with his assists, and I think the best is still to come with him. If he’s given more of a chance he’s definitely good enough for the Premier League.”

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Wilbraham describes Luke Freeman as the best player he played with in a Bristol City shirt.

What was your reaction when you heard that Cotterill had left in 2015/16?

“I was gutted, a lot of the boys were that day. In football you have to just get on with it, but I knew I’d done well for Cotts, and he had my back so when you lose that kind of father figure at a club it’s gutting. I had earnt his trust, he took a chance on me when I left Crystal Palace having not played much football, but I delivered for him so we had that mutual respect for each other. He put that squad together, but in football you have to move on and that’s we did.”

How did Cotterill’s man-management compare to Lee Johnson’s?

“They’re similar, both good coaches. Steve Cotterill is really good tactically, he has a lot of ideas. Lee Johnson is a hands on coach as well, and they’ve both done great things for the football club.”

What goes on during those Vegas trips?

“What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas! It seems to be the go to place for footballers, I went with both the Palace and Norwich boys. You’ve got the pool parties and nightclubs, no one really knows who you are out there, they’re more bothered about basketballers and moviestars. It’s different to in Bristol when you see Rovers fans on nights out and have to bite your tongue a fair bit! It’s no coincidence that in May 2019, eight of that 2014/15 squad still went out to Vegas together despite being at eight different clubs.”

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Vegas has been a holiday hotspot for City teams of late.

Was your spell at City the best of your career?

“I enjoyed the Premier League spells at Norwich and Crystal Palace, but I have to say that Bristol City was the best club I played for, from start to finish. The age I was at, people probably didn’t expect me to be there for three seasons, and winning the league especially was unbelievable.”

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Wilbraham celebrates City’s Johnstone Paint Trophy triumph in 2015.

You’ll be able to hear much more from ‘Wilbs’ when ‘Doing the Double’ is released, later this month.

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