|RamsWeek 5 - The Money Shuffle |
Sun 30th Jan 2011 21:11 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County had to pick up the threads of their season after the home defeat to Forest, with the focus on strengthening the squad before the next game.
There was no Championship game last weekend to enable Derby to try and bounce back from their setbacks (it was the 4th Round of the FA Cup....we’ll leave it there...) and the Rams were pushed further down the Championship table to 15th place on Tuesday, after Barnsley won at Doncaster Rovers.
With manager Nigel Clough still seeking attacking reinforcements, he awaited possible loan news about Leicester City’s 5th-choice striker Martyn Waghorn. I’d like to record that I find it more than faintly ridiculous that Derby County put themselves at the mercy of a fellow Championship club to deign to loan the Rams their 5th-choice striker. What on earth is going on at Pride Park Stadium?
The sale of ex-Ram Kenny Miller to Turkish club Bursaspor enabled Rangers to find the money to table a bid for Kris Commons, reportedly £500k; they didn’t get him, though. With Clough’s pointed comments about Derby County’s team funding situation, it’s apparent that only the sale of players at Derby will finance purchases and loans desperately needed by manager Clough.
The future of Kris Commons dominated the local news. After last weekend, Derby had reportedly matched Commons’ demands for his contract terms but the player was still not committed to staying. Derby didn’t match his expectations for success and honours - and that enabled interested clubs in Scotland to move in. He’s joined Celtic; the Glasgow SPL leaders paid around £300k to Derby - and Commons shuffled off for more money, and probably some medals.
I have mixed emotions, which is rather a default outlook for a Derby fan! Commons is an exciting player; he can and has turned games on his own. The Rams - and specifically manager Clough and his staff, as well as the player - put in a lot of work to resolve career-dogging fitness and form problems.
It is always difficult when players are in the last year of their contract; in Commons’ case the saga became protracted, with the club being careful over the course of the last five months to put an optimistic spin on the eventual outcome. After all that, Commons agreed a three and a half-year deal with Celtic. Commons might have been waiting for good signals from Derby in January, expecting them to bring in more new talent - but that is probably being charitable to him!
It’s a great move for Commons; his weekly wage of circa £20k a week at Celtic Park far exceeds Derby’s offer, he’s playing in a Champions League squad at the top of the Scottish Premier. He made a dream debut for the Bhoys at Hampden Park on Saturday in the Scottish Cup semi-final, scoring after just 5 minutes in their 4-1 win over Aberdeen.
What a shame for his loyal Rams fans that he couldn’t manage to score in Derby’s FA Cup tie at Crawley Town, even from a penalty.
The transfer leaves a difficult gap to fill in Derby’s squad, though. If the lack of investment at PPS weren’t so profound, and the costs of funding a player like Commons so high, it would have been almost comic to read Mr Glick’s assurance that: “whatever funding comes in from the deal is available immediately to the manager or whenever he should choose to invest it”.
DCFC don’t ‘do’ bad news readily (well, it’s supposed to be an entertainment business) and so the club’s website steered clear of early comment. On the day of the transfer, the move was disclosed in the DET early Thursday morning and reported nationally on the BBC football pages before 7 pm. The DCFC site made no mention of the deal until mid-morning on Friday, when the official news was conveyed by the club in a short statement.
The later news items from Messrs Glick and Clough were logical and predictable - we all know the reasons why Kris can benefit from the move, financially and in football terms. Fans share the club’s disappointment (perhaps bitterness) in how the saga ended. When Commons said: “it was an easy decision to make” to move to Celtic his comments would have rankled with DCFC, their manager and fans, who long anticipated that he would stay.
DCFC would not have wanted to be empty-handed at the end of the season when his contract expired, and it’s also suggested that in making provision for such a big contract for Commons, Clough has been impeded in his transfer market ambitions and manoeuvres. Cheers, Kris!
So, it is now more about what Derby County FC do next to build a successful football team. They said they would add a forward even before Commons left - and now they have to replace him as well. There will be another large ‘money shuffle’ in player wages at DCFC this season, which should now enable Clough more movement in the transfer market in the near future.
The best-paid players are involved. Derby sold their centre-forward Rob Hulse to QPR at the end of the August 2010 transfer window, and now their other star forward, Kris Commons has left for a new start at Glasgow Celtic. Both players have joined clubs in the hunt for honours - Derby County is not currently in any such race. The Rams were in receipt of around £1m for that pair - and will also see Robbie Savage leave soon.
Hopefully, the equivalent of his massive wages can be deployed in bringing quality players to Pride Park Stadium.
Kris’s output this season in striking 13 goals and creating other chances made a significant contribution to Derby’s campaign. His record prior to this season was sporadic, on appearances and goals. He will be under the spotlight to perform consistently at Celtic but hey, players at the biggest clubs can still earn £20k a week for sitting on the bench if they fall out of form or favour...
Commons’ purple patch of form recently dissipated badly; he attracted criticism from manager and fans at his disappointing, anonymous showings in the defeat at the City Ground and the FA Cup disaster at Crawley Town. In those clashes Derby did need a few more hard-headed artisans as opposed to mercurial artists in order to come out of such games with any success. The Rams will miss Kris’s flair and skill - and Clough will probably have to fill the role with a lesser player.
Derby fans will wonder where the thrust and creativity (and the goals!) will come from, without Commons - just as the team has missed Rob Hulse’s battling target play, save for a brief but productive spell when Shefki Kuqi came in on loan. He was the physical fulcrum of the attack.
Kuqi has been released by Swansea, so he’s a free agent - but the Rams seem strangely reluctant to entertain the idea of bringing him back to Pride Park Stadium. Supporters are watching the club very closely for their transfer and loan responses as the manager badly needs squad reinforcements. If the board fail him, then cynicism and opposition will grow.
The Rams are interested in Kilmarnock’s Irish striker Conor Samman. They have watched the 24-year old, who was capped at Under-21 level and has scored 17 SPL goals so far this season. Killie accepted a reported £450k bid from Scunthorpe United last week but the player did not want to move to Glanford Park.
A large number of defenders, midfielders and strikers have moved to Championship clubs during this transfer window, either on loan or permanently - and Derby have signed just one first-team player, sold their top scorer, and released three young players prematurely from their contracts.
Mitch Hanson, Kallum Keane and Graham Kelly (the latter two were signed up on new deals only a few months ago) have all been released ‘by mutual consent’. Only Hanson made a first team appearance for Derby, in a Carling Cup tie at Brighton in 2008. Does that represent more economies by the club, or a lack of potential in those three players, or both?
Derby’s overall transfer activity hardly smacks of serious squad development and strengthening; shedding young professionals won’t convey much encouraging news from the production line of the DCFC Academy. To add insult to injury, Southend United Under-18s dumped Derby’s youngsters out of the Youth Cup on Wednesday night with a 3-1 win at Pride Park Stadium.
The economy measures under which Clough has operated for over two years means he still has a cut-price, under-strength squad. The manager is in profit regarding transfers in his time at PPS, and this situation can’t continue indefinitely. Fans cannot help comparing 2011 with the situation contrived by the disgraced ownership regime led by John Sleightholme. They used last-ditch sales of star players Tom Huddlestone and Grzegorz Rasiak in January and August to cover operating costs and sustain their tenure, amid mounting criticism and pressure.
In contrast, GSE are no £3.00 swindlers. There are fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs in the DCFC investment group; some have been investing deeply and enthusiastically in what Americans call certain ‘expansion franchises’.
There’s a ‘money shuffle’ going on, via the GSE investors - and it’s clearly not coming the way of Derby County. Their enthusiasm to propel other sporting ventures in their portfolios stands in stark contrast to the Pride Park economy drive. At what point does ‘building responsibly’ become just a weary, convenient sound-bite to justify treading water, a symbol of a lost opportunity?
Their associated American football teams, baseball and soccer clubs - notably the Vancouver Whitecaps, now an MLS club, are benefiting from hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. Why own and run Derby County if similar ambition is not present? The attainment of Premier League status and visibility is one of the biggest prizes in world sport; Derby County was supposed to become a ‘global brand’. If we are low-priority, then perhaps GSE should sell up so that another regime can propel Derby’s promised renaissance?
With Rams’ director Jeff Mallet’s help, Whitecaps found the money to try and tempt Derby skipper Robbie Savage to move to Canada, and they have built a new $430m stadium ready for their MLS status. Exciting times there, but The Rams seem poor relations when other ventures are given more funding and impetus.
Remote DCFC director Brett Wilson is an energy entrepreneur, Dragon’s Den celebrity and merchant banker. He’s another leading investor in DCFC and is probably worth a few $$billion; some loose change would be hungrily received by Nigel Clough!
Wilson is commercially astute and very philanthropic in outlook; no doubt he’s very busy but has overlooked that little soccer venture over in good ‘ole England. His website says he “has a balance of priorities combined with passion”. One wonders just where Derby County figures in there.
Perhaps we should contact Mr Robin Flynn in California, Wilson’s “Assistant for Administration and Fun”, as named on Brett’s website? The fun has sure gone out of supporting Derby County at present. It does actually say of DCFC on Wilson’s website: “We have high hopes for the FUN factor with this franchise” (his capitals). Perhaps we are once again just a “train set?”
Note to Brett: Yes - as your website declares - it was fun to beat Manchester United at PPS in the CCSF, but that glamour game was over two years ago (and actually prior to Clough taking charge of the team). Derby County need to win nitty-gritty games against teams you’ve never heard of.
Wilson may also be unaware that his captain at Derby, Robbie Savage, admitted on national radio that some of non-League Crawley Town’s players (they’re the ones that knocked Derby out of the FA Cup this year, Brett) are better paid than some of the Rams players they played against.
Another note to Brett, GSE personnel and any others - English football fans HATE their clubs being referred to as franchises; just take some time to ask them why, and they will tell you.
There are numerous other GSE consortium investors in Derby County with lower profiles than Mallett and Wilson - but also with very high net worth. Rams fans don’t want tens of millions invested - but they do expect an improvement over last season in 2010-11 and for the club to be challenging for honours next season. Fans’ tolerance of this struggling team is running low.
Fact: much of the Derby squad lacks enough experience at Championship level - performances and results are inconsistent. The club is not investing sufficiently on players that can perform for a club at our level or beyond. There is little evidence that a team able to challenge and step up to a higher level is being forged - because the manager recruits at the low end of the transfer market.
There was an interesting comment from ex-Ram Archie Gemmill on Radio Derby after the Commons transfer. He said that Derby’s owning consortium were very good businessmen but they should not be “blinkered” when it comes to realising that the team is not good enough.
Archie declared that “there will be a time when enough is enough” and that the Derby board will have to start to back their manager with funds.
Strengthening must commence immediately if the manager is to show tangible progress from last season, or the season before.
Clough was seeking defensive cover, with Dean Leacock suspended, Russell Anderson injured and Jake Buxton recovering from injury. The Rams do anticipate taking Liverpool central defender Daniel Ayala on loan early next week.
Media speculation about Blackpool’s want-away star Charlie Adam involved the Tangerine buying a Derby player to replace him. Rams midfielder Paul Green, selected in the forthcoming Republic of Ireland squad, is allegedly wanted by Tangerine boss Ian Holloway.
Derby denied any such activity but no doubt, like the Charlie Adam saga, there will be a few more twists and turns in the January transfer window yet, with players putting in transfer requests and predatory clubs waiting until the last moment to prise a wanted player away from a smaller club with a ‘take it or leave it’ offer. We’d better hope that doesn’t happen next week at Derby. There were also media reports that Crystal Palace have offered Derby £500k for full back Dean Moxey.
The Rams face Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town at Pride Park Stadium on Tuesday night; it is an important game for Derby. Home fans will want to see a home win, especially to “thank” former manager Jewell for his wretched, disastrous year of “management” at Derby.
Nevertheless, beleaguered Ipswich has backed Jewell with money in the transfer market immediately, enabling him to take Hull City midfielder Jimmy Bullard on loan for the rest of the season.
Town also tabled a big bid for Swindon Town’s 17-goal striker Charlie Austin, but the player chose Burnley. Nigel Clough would be so lucky that the Rams could afford Charlie - and Mr Jewell’s cock-up at Derby is one reason why it appears that Nigel cannot afford a £1.5m striker!
In RamsWeek 5 last year, it was a time to ‘hold your head up’ as a Rams fan because although Derby lost 1-0 in midweek at relegation-threatened Plymouth Argyle to a James Mackie goal, they won the big East Midlands’ 'derby'!
It was the week of *that* famous / infamous 1-0 victory over Nothingham Forest at Pride Park Stadium, where Rob Hulse headed gloriously home from a Kris Commons free kick, there was a touchline melee, and wee Billy Davies made allegations of assault by Nigel Clough!
We’ve written lots about that game and the Trees-Rams’ history recently, so I won’t prolong the commentary. It was a satisfying win for Derby, which turned the form books upside down when they ended Forest’s 19-game unbeaten run.
Derby boss Nigel Clough was seeking loan reinforcements (as ever!) though strikers Paul Dickov and DJ Campbell seemed unlikely to each return for a second spell at Pride Park Stadium. Clough was still chasing Gilles Sunu from Arsenal, Javan Vidal from Manchester City, David Martin from Millwall - and Plymouth’s Jamie Mackie, as loan reinforcements.
Convicted felons Messrs. Keith, Mackay, McKenzie and Lowe were in the process of appealing against the length of their sentences, incurred for fraud, false accounting and money-laundering in the Derby County Crown Court case.
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