|RamsWeek 21 - Happy Talk|
Mon 23rd May 2011 01:10 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County’s close-season rebuilding continued, as the end-of-season promotion and relegation issues unfolded elsewhere.
Stories regarding Derby County’s possible recruitment of a ‘technical director’ appeared to have some foundation, with local press now reporting that the club were looking for someone with football experience to work alongside President and CEO Tom Glick.
Notwithstanding the sour experience that the Rams had with a previous so-called ‘director of football’ who eventually served at Her Majesty’s Pleasure’, Derby do not currently have sufficient resource or expertise in areas like the transfer and loan market. Now Messrs Clough & Glick are apparently looking for assistance on top-level football matters.
An experienced figure linking up with Clough and Glick to work on squad development and with player agents, football authorities and so on will strengthen the club and make it more responsive and competitive.
Since the departure of Adam Pearson (and to a lesser extent, Tim Hinchey) and without a board of owners based at the heart of the matter in Derby there has been insufficient top-level resource or English football nous at Pride Park Stadium compared to previous regimes.
Wading through the convoluted explanations from the club about the mooted appointment, it’s been apparent to fans that Clough was stretched, with Glick seemingly lacking experience too.
It’s all carefully couched in ‘happy talk’ of course as is GSE’s manner - but there’s no doubt that it has been difficult for Mr Glick to perform above and beyond his familiar commercial, administrative and networking roles and embrace the football operation as well.
Then, the club was badly caught out, as the failure to replace departed squad members saw GSE gambling dangerously with Derby’s Championship status. There is a difference between being prudent and being weak - but when both can be said to have been evident during Derby’s New Year transfer policy, it almost proved a recipe for disaster.
There’s much more ‘happy talk’ around Pride Park Stadium these days, as a dour, disappointing 2010-11 campaign is consigned to history and shunted quickly to a spare corner of the memory. We’re reminded almost daily that there are a number of transfer targets being pursued and, six weeks before the players report for pre-season training, ‘new’ signings like Fielding and Ward exhort their hopes for a more successful time at Derby under their permanent contracts.
The Rams now seem to be more aspirational - the owners have declared that money will be spent on players to make the team competitive again, and summer 2011 is promoted as a time of strengthening and positive development at Pride Park Stadium. It was time for the club’s owners to beef up their message and show some ambition. Talking fans to death simply won’t win them over and convince them, if there’s no substance to the fayre on the pitch week in and week out.
As ye olde song goes: “You’ve got to have a dream; if you don’t have a dream, how are you going to make your dream come true?” Well, the dream is the GSE promise to establish Derby County as a Premier League team again - and that’s the only index of success by which they will be measured in the final analysis.
The club disclosed that they had sold 16,200 season tickets by the ‘early-bird’ renewal deadline on Sunday, 15th May. CEO Tom Glick declared that the figure was a little down ‘season-on-season, on May renewal deadlines’. That was being a little creative with the information; the renewal deadline this year has been moved back a month on previous seasons at the request of the fans.
The season ticket deadline was then moved back to May 15th - as suggested by RamsTrust in their meeting with Mr Glick on 11th February. Hence the disclosure of ticket sales as at the renewal deadline is a fair way behind the 2010 figures, which were publicised as 17,500 by mid-April.
The Rams boasted some 19,500 season-ticket holders in 2010-11; the club have some way to go to convince fans to gear up for next season and dig into their pockets once more. Derby is however well ahead of such as Leicester, Burnley and other aspirant clubs in season ticket sales.
A comparatively slow take-up of renewals at the end of this season followed Derby’s poor end to the campaign- a string of defeats cheesing off already disgruntled fans even more. “The economy has challenged people”, commented Tom Glick; true enough, certainly - though the parallel factors of poor value for money, the lack of entertainment and little sign of on-field progress in 2010-11 have caused a number of long-term season-ticket holders to call time on their expenditure.
Derby still want Leicester City striker Martyn Waghorn and are reported to have put in a £1.25m bid for the player. Leicester procrastinated over Waghorn’s proposed loan move to Derby early this year and then declined to let him go -, so I’d prefer to see Derby move on to other targets and leave Sven and his acolytes to their own business. £1.25m for a fairly inexperienced squad player seems risky.
The Foxes, having faltered late in the season and failing to make the play-offs, are sure to spend big again and are undertaking a major shake-up of their squad. Leicester has released 10 players already but may still see Waghorn as part of their 2011-12 squad - so will have no reason to hasten any dialogue or co-operation with Derby County over the player’s future. They might even be happy to impede the team-building intentions of their Midlands’ rivals.
Forest’s Nathan Tyson is out of contract and allegedly on Derby’s radar; he did raise the hackles of Rams fans with his ‘corner flag parade’ at the City Ground two seasons ago (and paid a punishment for his stupidity) but is a quick and direct striker of the kind Derby need.
Trees fans would also be able to replace Kris Commons with Tyson as a figure of hate at Derby, for his apparent ‘treachery’ is scarpering off to the other end of the A52!
Whoever plays up front to solve Derby’s goal drought in 2011-12 will still need a strong and beefy target man to play-off, so hopefully, Clough and Glick also have a centre forward on their shopping list. Derby’s 2010-11 top scorer - the one that escaped to Glasgow in January, Kris Commons - collected a Scottish FA Cup Winner’s medal on Saturday as Celtic overcame Motherwell 3-0 to lift the Cup.
Nigel Clough and his scouts have been sniffing around the SPL for talent to bring for England; Derby are in the frame to sign Aberdeen striker Chris Maguire for a reported £400k, and are also interested in Kilmarnock midfielder Craig Bryson. Neither fit the bill as experienced Championship players however, and would have to adapt quickly to life in England.
Clough may also be tracking the Inverness Caledonia Thistle player Adam Rooney; he’s a prolific goalscorer in the SPL. He’s still only 23 but has had 4 clubs already - and would need to make the step up to a Championship level of physical and mental capability.
Mr Clough cannot afford to sign up a further brood of inconsistent players of limited experience at our level. Injury-prone triers like Porter and Anderson have proved unable to contribute to significant progress at Pride Park Stadium and even though Clough has obtained more value from Stephen Pearson, when fit he can still be frustrating - sometimes exciting, sometimes insipid.
Early this week, we watched smilingly as Nothingham Forest performed their usual Championship play-offs’ capitulation by losing their semi-final 2nd leg 3-1 to Swansea City. The memorable third goal for Swansea to seal Forest’s fate saw their ex-Derby goalkeeper Lee Camp stranded and gormless on the halfway line as the ball billowed their net. Delicious!
He’d gambled upfield at the death as Forest fought to gain extra time; Swansea cleared the ball - and Camp looked on as Swansea’s Darren Pratley lofted in the killer goal from inside his own half. We will certainly look forward to our Championship clashes with the Trees next season.
The Swans’ Welsh rivals, Cardiff City failed to win through to make it an all-Welsh final as Reading drubbed the Bluebirds 3-0. So, Swansea and Reading will battle it out for the prize of a place in the Premier League at the end of May.
The final day of the Premier League season saw an incredible afternoon of topsy-turvy action. Blackpool and Birmingham City ended up losing their top-flight status, having swapped places in the table more than once with Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn Rovers during the course of their games.
Blackpool contrived to lead at Old Trafford at one stage on Sunday afternoon before capitulating - whilst Birmingham disastrously lost to a late goal at Tottenham. Brum’s Blues - the 2011 Carling Cup winners and Europa League qualifiers just a couple of months ago - have slumped badly. Their West Midlands rivals Wolves pipped them to survival by a point, even though they slipped to a 2-3 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
Wigan Athletic snuck a win at Stoke City to pull clear of the bottom three, whilst already-relegated bottom club West Ham United ended their campaign on a low note with another home defeat.
The managerless Hammers, whose sign over the player’s tunnel declaring the Boleyn Ground as ‘The Academy of Football’ now stands as a hollow reflection of the days of Moore Hurst, Peters and Brooking, have a huge financial burden and look to have an unstable future.
No doubt all of the Championship clubs will be looking to shoot them down in 2011-12 and an East London ‘bounce-back’ to the top flight is by no means a foregone conclusion next season!
The refreshing breeze that blew into the Premier League from the Blackpool coast was swept away back to the Championship in their last-ditch defeat by Manchester United. No-one took the Tangerine seriously as a Premier League side until they sprang some surprises, and they will be keen to get another taste of the top flight.
Birmingham’s blues might multiply, however, with question-marks over their finances and the future of manager Alex McLeish.
Nearer the top of the Premier League table, Chelsea sacked manager Carlo Ancelotti this Sunday. Not much happy talk down at Stamford Bridge, then. The Blues ‘only’ finished second in the EPL, and after winning the double last season, and that’s not good enough for Roman Abramovich.
Older Rams fans will fondly remember Frank “The Tank” Upton, who passed away this week aged 76. He signed at The Baseball Ground in 1954 and was a formidable presence in midfield for Derby’s late 50s/early 60’s sides, as the Rams fought successfully to recover their Division Two status.
Frank was a tough-tackling, hard-shooting wing-half who put in more than 270 appearances for Derby County. He served the Rams with distinction through the period before the coming of Brian Clough. He also had a formidable and well-travelled career as a coach when his playing days ended. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Frank’s family and friends, as another black-and-white stalwart is laid to rest.
It currently seems that local businessman and ex-Derby County Chairman Peter Gadsby is on a bit of a sticky wicket regarding his hopes for a new ownership shareholding in the club, but Gadsby has turned his attention to supporting Derbyshire Cricket Club in a bid to incentivise them to repeat their former glories.
He has pledged £200,000 in bonuses to Derbyshire players if they make a success of their one-day championship season. Mr Gadsby said that he remembered DCCC’s brilliant 1993 Benson & Hedges Cup victory and wants to see such sporting success give the region a lift again, as was seen when the club lifted that trophy in the past.
Certainly, both Derbyshire cricket and football need lifting out of their current doldrums on the field. Let’s hope our fortunes pick up soon!
In RamsWeek 21 last year, it was a case of ‘the seaside shuffle’, as surprise package Blackpool - having vanquished the Trees in the Championship play-off semis - beat ‘Cinderella club’ Cardiff City in the final at Wembley to win a place in the Premier League.
Rams boss Nigel Clough captured Crewe’s John Brayford and James Bailey in a deal reported to be worth £1m, rising to £1.6 on appearances and achievements.
Transfer rumours abounded, as ever at this time of year; various clubs wanted Rob Hulse and Derby in turn were linked with strikers Stephen Naismith and Billy Sharp. Polish loanee Tomasz Cywka was close to signing a permanent deal at Pride Park Stadium.
Rams’ midfielder Paul Green appeared on the international horizon with his participation in the Welsh training camp exercises. A midfielder that Derby wanted, Michael Tonge, had a useful loan spell at the club with 19 appearances to his name - but looked out of reach as his parent club Stoke City put him on offer.
He didn’t move on after all, and managed only 5 appearances in 2010-11 when on loan to Preston North End. Perhaps he’s still a player that would be a useful addition to Derby’s 2011-12 midfield selections? A darn sight better than such as John Eustace, I’d say…
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