|RamsWeek 29 - Smack Dab In The Middle |
Sun 20th Jul 2008 18:44 by Paul Mortimer
The Derby County squad were back home and in preparation for several further pre-season friendlies.
There was a disturbing report about the Rams’ finances early in the week, with the Daily Mail carrying a story alleging that GSE’s had an inability to meet the obligations of their investment in Derby County.
Tom Glick quickly decried the rumours, saying all was going according to plan and their obligations and that “One or two people have a problem in letting go.”
This was an interesting soundbite in that it was the first time I’d heard TG in any kind of oppositional or critical comment, such is his permanent and usually unabashed charming optimism concerning all things Derby County!
We can only speculate as to whether the comment was a reference to former chairman and local hero Peter Gadsby, who is now marginalized in terms of influence at the club, or whether the mail story represents mischief from assorted egotistical misfits from certain previous DCFC regimes who may still lurk in the background with aspirations of future influence or control.
Whilst the Rams haven’t gone wild on transfer fees under GSE they have paid significant loan fees and high wages to secure some of the new players they want. However, the Championship and Football League rules allow clubs to use the loan system more extensively and it makes good sense to do this.
The real judgement of DCFC or any aspiring club’s regime comes when we see their ability or willingness to operate seriously in the transfer market once promotion to the Premier League has been attained.
We’ve all seen the consequences of inexperienced management and an under-funded operation…. and it’s not a pleasant place to be as a football supporter.
GSE are positive and progressive in the way they currently operate Derby County Football Club in my view. They have allowed Jewell to staff his backroom with quality personnel, and (importantly) strengthen the Academy system and scouting networks.
They are progressing refurbishments and improvements at the stadium such as the new ticket office and revamped Shopdcfc and have attracted fresh sponsorships. If manager and players can deliver the goods, we’re on our way back.
GSE thus don’t appear to be transient opportunists and avowedly expect to marshall the Rams back into the Premier League, hence I do not think that the Mail story will cause significant concern amongst the fanbase.
On Wednesday, the Rams won 2-0 at Burton Albion, with newcomers Stephen Davies and Nathan Ellington notching first half goals. There was more snap and fizz about the Rams, with Davies looking impressive; his goal was a classy solo dribble with a crisp finish and Jewell was pleased that two of his new forwards found the net.
It was the first outright win for a Paul Jewell Derby County first team too, some small relief for a manager desperate to see a winning mentality restored at the club.
It’s early days but you can’t help thinking that what Davies did, at 20 years of age, was what we expected the likes of Fagan and Pearson to have done regularly for the Rams: simply go with the ball and finish it!
The transfer talk trundled on with various arrivals and departures mooted. Leicester City failed in their bid to secure Stephen Bywater’s services. Along with Roy Carroll and Lewis Price, Derby have three first-team goalkeepers - and Jewell feels this allows the club to listen to offers for Price or Bywater.
Derby had left the Ferrie Bodde saga aside when, after weeks of embattlement, Swansea’s chairman won out for the present as Bodde issued apologies to the fans and signed a new deal with the Swans! I don’t have to eat my season ticket, because I was quite right in declaring that he wouldn’t see his contract out at Swansea…he didn’t - he got a new deal instead! I don’t reckon he will see that contract out, either…!
Unabashed, Paul Jewell said: “I’ve been able to sign every player I wanted to this summer,” and as Bodde was technically never on offer, that sounds just about true! The manager soon turned his attention to other midfielders.
Apart from taking the experienced ex-Reading midfielder John Oster on trial, Jewell looks to have captured a good ‘un with the season-long loan signing of Porto’s Polish international left-sided midfielder, Przemyslaw Kazmierczak (26).
He’s 6’ 3” and so should be a formidable presence in the middle. “Kaz” has been capped 11 times and has also played Champions League football.
Kaz will complete the formalities of his move in the coming days. He hasn’t cost a transfer fee but the Rams will have an option to purchase him next year. So, who needs Ferrie Bodde?
Stephen Pearson is moving to Birmingham City for £600,000; the Rams have signed several promising midfield players with ‘Kaz’ being the latest; as the newcomer is an experienced international with greater presence and physicality than Pearson possesses, it’s not surprising to adjudge the Scot to be superfluous.
No doubt ex-Ram Lee Carsley will provide the muscle for the Blue Noses - he’ll need to - but that’s their lookout.
After vying for the loan services of Wigan forward Marlon King, who looks likely to be involved in a permanent transfer within the Premier League, Derby refocused their attentions upon 28-year old Sheffield United striker Rob Hulse, whom Derby appear to have been chasing for some time.
Hulse will sign for the Rams on Monday for a £1.6m transfer deal that could approach £2m including the add-ons. Along with the capture of Kaz, Jewell has now signed a complete team of eleven players!
Derby will give a trial to Australian central defender Daniel Piorkowski next week. He’s 24, currently plays for Whittlesea Zebras and has represented his country at Under-20 level. It could well be the first recorded case of a Zebra turning into a Ram!
There is speculation that, with the depth and diversity of Derby County’s midfield recruitment this summer, Robbie Savage’s place in the scheme of things could be in jeopardy. It was expected that a fit Robbie Savage could give Derby the strong fulcrum in the middle next season. Most fans are still entirely acquiescent about Savage’s presence - and some remain hostile to the thought of him in a Rams’ shirt.
He wasn’t fit last season and totally failed to rally the troops and provide a spark to lift the fans or an occasional victory to boost the club ready for next season, as the team were spat out of the Premier League at high velocity. If he stays, Robbie will prove to either be ‘Jewell’s folly’, a gamble that didn’t pay off, or a grinding cog in a meaner, winning football machine that propels Derby back to the top flight.
With such speculation, alongside Jewell’s pursuit of other influential midfielders like Ferrie Bodde, the signing of Kaz, a trial for John Oster and heavy investment in other midfield talent, it’s apparent that Savage has to deliver or disappear. It’s smack dab in the middle of the park that Derby will win or lose games - there must be more protection for the defence and more ammunition for the forwards next season.
Other marginal midfield players including Jones, Fagan, Holmes, Malcolm and Pearson have been moved on, Giles Barnes may yet be a star turn and Jewell has recruited a diverse set of midfielders this summertime. Far from being the centre of attention, Robbie might find himself superfluous if he makes no impression.
As mentioned, Derby’s pre-season programme resumed on Saturday against Rotherham United, with a friendly game at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium. Kris Commons and Alan Stubbs were again absent with minor injuries; neither player has yet participated in Derby’s warm-up games. Trialist John Oster, having had a run-out against Burton Albion, was tried again, though the game was a boring 0-0 affair.
It was a remarkably dull spectacle, to be consigned to history as a further step towards match fitness for the participants. The Rams used 16 squad members overall and Rotherham gave 22 players some action. All those players still didn’t manage to force either keeper into a save in the second half.
Frustratingly - whilst such games are only fitness workouts - Paul Jewel still cannot claim to have beaten any League opposition over 90 minutes in his entire tenure as Derby County’s manager!
Newcomers Kaz and Rob Hulse watched their erstwhile teammates in action and will probably have reflected that they can add some improvement. I hope so, because Derby need to get into a goalscoring mood and add more wins to their build-up so that they can hit the ground running on August 9th.
RamsWeek 29 last season saw the Derby squad training in Italy as they continued ‘building it up’ towards the August Premier League kick-off; they overcame Swiss side Chiasso FC 2-0 in a friendly.
Fans were restive awaiting more transfer activity and there was little sign of the stadium roof being lifted. Pompey defender Andy Griffin was in talks with the Rams; the club awaited the ruling of the football authorities over Claude Davis’ visa. Shame they eventually ruled in our favour…!
USA MLS star Eddie Johnson was prevaricating over his promised move to Derby, the glamour and spotlights upon the Beckhams dazzling the striker into staying in the States. Talk of Matt Etherington and James McFadden joining Derby was just talk. So were a host of other names!
Derbyshire Police arrested a 4th individual, a 53-year old man, in connection with the investigation into fraud and money laundering at DCFC under John Sleightholme’s regime.
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