BRISTOL BOX OFFICE
Aaron Wilbraham is City goal king after being ordered to stay in the box
BRISTOL City hot-shot Aaron Wilbraham believes he is dispelling the myth you cannot teach an old dog new tricks – as he closes in on the best goalscoring season of his 18year career.
Having continually tried and failed to usurp the 17 goals scored for MK Dons in the 2008-09 campaign, Wilbraham was one short of that tally before yesterday’s trip to Crawley.
The striker’s feat is all the more remarkable when you consider he turned 35 in October – and missed almost two months of the season with a hip injury!
But Wilbraham is quite clear on the reason for his success – a stroke of genius from his manager Steve Cotterill.
“I’ve always worked best when I’ve been given a gameplan and I think that’s why things are working so well this season,” he said. “I sat down with the manager and he said to me ‘don’t do so much outside the box’.
“I’d always been that way, holding the ball up, bringing others in to play. But he said to me ‘Get in the box more, there’s no value to you lurking around the edge of the area’.
“I’d have probably had to give up my place in the team if I wasn’t scoring, though the manager was noticing the job I did. But the goals started coming, which is easy when you have good players around you and the manager believes in you.
“He’s given me guidance and direction. It’s the first time we have worked together, but I absolutely love working with him.”
Cotterill is not just popular with Wilbraham, but the whole red half of Bristol at the moment with his team racing towards the League One title and looking forward to a day out at Wembley later this month for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Walsall.
Ending the season with both trophies is still a big ask, but Wilbraham did just that in 2007-08 with MK Dons. It was the second of four promotions in his career, having gone up with Hull as well as Norwich and, most recently, Crystal Palace via the play-offs.
And Wilbraham sees no reason why his current employers cannot stay on track for their own season of success.
“Being involved in both competitions didn’t affect us at MK Dons, it wasn’t a distraction,” he added.
“If you win it’s a great feeling, but it is only one game. Once it’s over you have to get on with the league season and with MK Dons we did exactly that. We went to Wembley and won, but we didn’t take our eye off the ball and got promoted, too.
“When you know your career is coming to an end, for this to be happening is something you dream about.
“We’re in a great position. Anyone would swap with us, though I’m not sure it’s a case of it’s ours to throw away, because there are still lots of points to be played for.
“There is a bit of expectation within our squad, though, and again, that’s down to the manager instilling this winning mentality and supreme confidence in us. He always makes sure the players know what is expected of them and everyone knows their role within the team.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be promoted four times and sometimes you look around and think maybe anyone could have success managing this team. And yes, we have good players, but the manager gives us that direction – he is so thorough in everything he does.
“I’m good friends with Sam Baldock (now at Brighton), who I spoke to before I signed, and he spoke very highly of the manager. I can see why.”
NOT AGAIN! Aaron Wilbraham celebrates another goal for Bristol City