|RamsWeek 39 - Children of the Revolution |
Mon 26th Sep 2011 01:30 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County could enjoy the satisfaction of having beaten local rivals Nothingham Forest last time out, as they prepared for two successive Championship home games.
Jamie Ward’s brilliant City Ground equaliser - goal of the season for Rams fans so far - was featured in the BBC’s Goals of the Week highlights and match-winning midfielder Jeff Hendrick was named in the Championship Team of the Week. Npower must have mistakenly missed out the other 9 on-field Rams on duty at the City Ground last Saturday!
The joy was tempered a little with the news that midfielder James Bailey, who missed the Forest game, will be sidelined for several months as he has a fractured ankle bone and ligament damage, an injury he picked up in training. That leaves manager Clough - having already declared his need for an extra midfielder - even shorter in the ‘engine room’ of the team.
After last week’s abortive move for the Foxes’ Matt Oakley, the search for loanees goes on. Clough did manage to move out one of his surplus players on loan, with goalkeeper Stephen Bywater going to League One side Sheffield Wednesday for a 93-day emergency loan.
That will occupy the under-employed Bywater for 3 months - who is obviously not even wanted to understudy Adam Legzdins whilst Frank Fielding serves his one-match ban. It probably won’t be a ‘holiday’ for Bywater trying to help the Owls battle out of League One, who latterly seems to have become a legend in his own mind, if no-one else’s.
Bywater needs games to battle back to first-team status somewhere. It is good news for Rams boss Nigel Clough wherever the keeper ends up, as it will ease Derby’s wage expenditure a little and hopefully make room for loan deals.
The Matt Oakley loan story rumbled on (he’s reportedly injured, anyway) but it seems to me that the Foxes prefer not to do business with local rivals; as far as I’m concerned, Messrs Glick and Clough need to look elsewhere and add reinforcements to the squad in areas that the manager regularly repeats.
It’s a while now since Premier League teams had to confirm their 25-man squad cut, though we’ve heard little about any temporary recruits with pedigree or quality. Various useful players are being snapped up by Championship rivals; the latest example is Stoke’s Danny Pugh who has gone to DirtyLeeds.
Pugh would have been a shoe-in for midfield cover at Derby… One wonders why financially-troubled Leeds can stump up these wages and Derby defer on relevant deals? Elsewhere, Reading signed 6’ 4” out-of-contract French striker Cedric Baseye for the rest of the season.
The Rams are ‘monitoring the loan market’ and Clough admits the squad is still short of midfield choices and full-back cover. Many fans remain adamant that a ‘traditional’ centre-forward is needed too. Derby is interested in 20-year-old Mansfield Town defender Tom Naylor, who played in the Rams’ reserves recent 6-1 win over Walsall. It might cost Derby £50,000 to lever the player from the Blue Square Premier club. Heady stuff!
The club should capitalise on their current momentum and the attractiveness of Derby County to would-be squad recruits. Obtaining the experienced, quality players they declared they still need in key positions gathers importance as winter approaches - everyone knows how tough a Championship campaign is. The boss and the CEO also know how their popularity with the fanbase can plummet should results deteriorate and the team tumble down the table.
Sky Sports have blessed travelling Rams fans with a Friday evening away trip to Crystal Palace, as the fixture at Selhurst Park has been moved for television to Friday December 2nd at 7.45 pm.
Ex-Ram Dean Saunders have stepped up a few rungs in his burgeoning management career, taking over the hot seat at the Championship’s bottom club, Doncaster Rovers this week. Manager Sean O’Driscoll had received a vote of confidence and within two days, was sent home to tend his garden following a 19-game winless streak.
Deano left Blue Square Bet Premier side Wrexham to take up his new challenge - and then kicked off his career at the Keepmoat Stadium with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
After the glorious win at Nothingham Forest last week, the Rams had the chance to strengthen their position in the top four of the Championship table with two home games in four days. Could the Rams follow up their splendid effort at Nothingham?
Three points from the first home game could see the Rams move into the top three after Brighton were held 3-3 by DirtyLeeds on Friday night. Leeds picked up another 5 bookings (as did Brighton) but, strangely, no red cards!
Millwall - thrashed 5-0 in the Carling Cup by Wolves in midweek - were the visitors to Pride Park Stadium on Saturday. That gave ex-Lion Theo Robinson the chance to keep his place and sustain his form, whilst goalkeeping coach Martin Taylor remembers Millwall for their ugly past.
No-one loves Millwall north of Brick Lane - and sometimes with good reason. In the past, the Rams have been subject to mass vandalism from their fans at the Baseball Ground and suffered violent, racist attacks on Taylor and other Derby players during a crowd pitch invasion at The Den in 1994, when Derby beat the Lions comprehensively home and away in the play-off semis.
There’s been plenty of community effort put into the East End club since then and they mainly reserve the disruption for the visit of West Ham nowadays. On Saturday, the Lions included the ex-Rams defender Jordan Stewart (another expensive Paul Jewell flop that Clough had to discard) but despite their lowly position had reinforced their squad with 3 signings at the end of August.
They kept faith with ex-Ram Jordan Stewart at full-back however; he was exceptionally ordinary during his short time at Derby, and we didn’t even get a better deal when we swapped him for the ill-fated Lee Hendrie in a player exchange a couple of years ago!
I’m quite happy to see a player like Stewart on the opposing team sheet, and my ‘neighbour’ in the East Stand Upper seating - who’s seen every Derby full back for 50 seasons - just couldn’t recall him at all.
Nigel Clough brought in ex-Brewers’ keeper Adam Legzdins to replace the suspended Frank Fielding and Steve Davies returned to the side with Tomasz Cywka among the substitutes. Nathan Tyson, we learned, was out of action again with his groin strain and has had a minor operation that will sideline him for a month.
Well, the answer to the earlier question is yes, the Rams could follow up their City Ground glory with another competent performance. They dispatched Millwall 3-0 and whilst the Lions had some good situations and wasted a fair few of them, so did the Rams - and the home team scored three picture goals to wrap up the points and move to within a point of leaders Southampton.
The Rams are third on 18 points, off second spot only by a single goal margin to Middlesbrough. Millwall are a workmanlike team; they were physically capable and often enjoyed the assistance of a lenient and mediocre referee in Mr Colin Webster - but such is Derby’s spirit and output that they can match any team and Millwall ultimately had no answer.
When a little quality and a goal or two were required, Derby had them in their locker. Craig Bryson, motoring all over the pitch in a typically persistent performance, stuck in the first goal after 24 minutes to break Millwall’s stubborn resistance after some slick interplay between Ben and Steve Davies.
The Rams strengthened their position by taking a 2-0 interval lead, the two Davies’ again combining to provide a cool 12-yard finish from the formidable Jeff Hendrick. Steve Davies almost made it three himself when Lion’s keeper Forde was forced to claw a header onto the crossbar and off to safety.
Derby stayed in control after the break without really threatening to overrun the East Enders. Derby’s third ‘clincher’ goal was a long time coming but worth the wait, with a flowing move from defence to attack ending with Steve Davies thundering home and emphatic drive.
Clough took the opportunity to let Cywka, Maguire and Anderson have some match-time as the Rams kept a grip on the game and enabled Legzdins to achieve a clean sheet on his full Championship debut.
The team’s prodigious work-rate is paying dividends and every week, the players prove to themselves that you make your own luck in football. O’Brien and Hendrick improve visibly every week; Theo Robinson is maturing and proving effective, Bryson and Ward are non-stop operators.
It’s actually difficult to pick a Man of the Match most weeks, as there are usually half a dozen candidates whereas last season you wondered if anyone apart from Brayford or Barker would get close to earning it. The task now is to sustain the good form and establish the Rams’ challenge.
Young, inexperienced midfielders are scoring more goals already this season than supposed senior professionals like Savage and Pearson could muster in a career, and creating chances for others. The promise for this season grows stronger by the week and there is potential to build upon.
Without reaching great heights, it was a satisfying win which kept the Rams right in contention at the top of the table. Though the Rams may lack squad depth and experience in some positions, their tenacity, work ethic and teamwork have improved dramatically and with this, so have results.
Rookies like Mark O’ Brien and Jeff Hendrick are playing out of their skins in the first team, finding consistently excellent performances that belie their age. There’s freshness and energy on display, which Derby supporters have been craving for over several years.
O’Brien is showing tremendous strength and maturity at the heart of Derby’s defence and Hendrick is putting in controlled and influential midfield performances - and of course has already written himself into Derby folklore with the winner at the City Ground last week.
In fact, Hendrick already had a part in the record books too, as back in January he helped the Rams to their all-time record score in a competitive game. Derby beat Shirebrook Town 14-1 in the Derbyshire Senior Cup and Hendrick notched a hat-trick; Nigel Clough was soon talking about blooding the young Irishman into the senior Rams squad.
O’Brien’s quiet determination was already characterised by his dedication to battle back from a serious heart condition after an anomaly was diagnosed during a routine check-up two years ago. Both O’Brien and Hendrick have gained young international honours.
Hendrick and O’Brien have grabbed their chance of a first-team place at Derby eagerly, as senior players have been unavailable due to protracted injury problems. The emergence of young stars has been the special feature of the season; the “children of the revolution” have propelled Derby close to the top of the Championship table.
Other young players like Bryson, Legzdins, Brayford and Fielding drafted in from other clubs (mostly at lower levels) are showing considerable ability and consistency - but the most pleasing aspect is the success of Derby’s own ‘production line’ from the Moor Farm Academy regime.
Manager Clough is understandably pleased with the performances of his young charges and must be delighted to be able to tell the media - after what has gone before - that he cannot expect more from his players at this time in their honesty, work rate, commitment and achievement.
Whilst undertaking a radical clear-out of a lumbering, under-achieving squad with a losing mentality, Nigel Clough has also drastically reduced the average age of the team to around 24 years of age. Perhaps we are closer to finally washing out the hangover of Premier League relegation and the mistakes and wastefulness of previous management regimes.
Yes, I’ve borrowed a T. Rex song title for this week’s corny theme - but it could well have been “A Wassall-ing We Will Go” in honour of Rams’ Academy boss Darren Wassall’s efforts. The foundations he and his staff are laying are now paying dividends. Several lads have already graduated to reserve team level, where the Rams are top of the table and defending champions.
Other Academy graduates like Callum Ball are also becoming high-achievers and the Under-18s team is producing starlets like striker Mason Bennett. There are young internationals now liberally sprinkled among the ranks as the output from the Academy pipeline grows faster and stronger.
The Under 18’s have won at Liverpool and Leeds so far this season and season-ticket holders have a free invite to see the young Rams in action at Pride Park Stadium next Saturday morning (11.00 am). Get along and see them, for a glimpse of some Rams stars of the future!
Producing good youngsters who can ultimately play at first team level (and perhaps eventually move on for substantial fees) is vitally important to a club like Derby and the signs are that management stability and Wassall’s talents are starting to produce the goods.
With top clubs now starting bidding wars and paying out huge fees to capture young prodigies like Southampton’s Oxlade-Chamberlain, Leeds United’s Fabian Delph and others, the best youngsters will command serious transfer business and a good Academy can help to fund the first team squad at top-flight level.
The Rams have a further opportunity to cement their leading position in the Championship table when they take on Barnsley at Pride Park Stadium on Tuesday evening. Ex-Tyke Jason Shackell will look forward to that one - and will hope to celebrate a win for his birthday.
In RamsWeek 39 last year, the team were under pressure after two successive defeats and the manager sought to strengthen the squad through loan deals.
The possibility of WBA striker Chris Wood coming to Derby came to nothing - but the Baggies did loan Derby out-of-favour Luke Moore instead. Time has shown him to be rather a poor man’s Theo Robinson, I’ve come to think!
GSE investor and Rams’ consortium partner Jeffrey Martinovich came under investigation in the States when his MICG Investments brokerage was revealed to be subject to an alleged securities fraud. Though the character had 500,000 shares in DCFC, the saga was said by the Rams’ owners to have no potential effect on the club.
However, it was known that the Martinovich shares could come back for redistribution, and Stateside media reports suggested that GSE ‘had failed to find buyers for the club, which again sparked speculation about GSE’s sincerity and longevity regarding their tenure at the club.
On the pitch, Derby threw off their recent torpor to thrash Crystal Palace 5-0. The scoreline flattered the hapless Eagles, as the Spanish maestro Alberto Bueno ran riot with two goals, centre-forward Shefki Kuqi proved a strong presence up front and claimed Derby’s fifth goal after an horrendous cock-up by ex-Rams’ ‘defender’ Claude ‘Clod’ Davies.
Derby had injury disruptions during the match but Kris Commons and Paul Green also added goals as the Rams turned in their most comprehensive performance for a long time. A crowd of over 28,000 went home happy and the Rams’ fragile confidence was given a welcome boost.
It was the start of a ‘purple patch’ that had us thinking that Derby might at last challenge; alas, that was all sadly in error!
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