|RamsWeek 35 - Running On Empty|
Mon 30th Aug 2010 00:28 by Paul Mortimer
With the defeat of a depleted Derby side at Coventry City and transfer movement in and out of the club anticipated, fans looked toward an interesting week at the club.
Luke Varney’s imminent departure moved to fruition; he’s now a Premier League player with Blackpool and made a scoring debut against Fulham.
The unwanted striker has a contract running until 2012 but it was essential that the manager finalised an outgoing deal in order to bring in much-needed new recruits.
Trigger events involving the departure of unwanted players have become prerequisites for further squad development at Derby County.
The treatment tables at Moor Farm have filled up again and fresh legs are certainly needed. An alarming similarity to the start of last season is apparent with injuries and inconsistent form; such reversal is not going to be tolerated forever by an increasingly disenchanted fanbase.
Cardiff’s ambitious (risky?) strategy in signing Craig Bellamy and other players has brought them points, goals and large sums of revenue rapidly generated from a surge in replica shirt sales, season-ticket subscriptions and matchday ticket sales, and increased corporate interest.
Does Derby have a match winner? Not unless strikers get fit, or Kris Commons clicks into gear. Could the club generate £500k income from a rejuvenated fanbase in a matter of days by imaginative moves in the transfer market?
Clough watched Notts County play Dagenham & Redbridge last weekend to assess County’s Ben Davies and Danny Green of D & R. Both are goalscoring midfielders but have not played at Championship level. Derby’s offers for Davies have so far been rebuffed by Notts’ ex-Derby manager Craig Short.
Davies is a mature player (29) and is doing well at Meadow Lane. Green is quick and effective, scores goals and provides chances. We could certainly do with some of that in the team...if they can make the step up to Championship football.
Meanwhile, Jon Stead, a solid and productive striker who had a good loan spell at Derby, moved to Bristol City for just £200k. His wages should be affordable by Derby County too and he would have improved our strike options.
City also snapped up goalscorer Ben Pitman from Bournemouth in a deal that could cost £800k with add-ons. Those two signings had caused City to drop their interest in Derby’s Luke Varney. Who would blame them, having made good captures like that?
Leeds United looked set to snap up Cardiff’s midfielder Gavin Rae and striker Ross McCormack - the player that Derby boss Clough said the Rams cannot afford. Other clubs will be active and Derby fans rightly seek inspiration from fresh arrivals soon.
Is the DCFC board too cautious - or are the remote (but extravagantly rich) consortium members simply (or strangely) unwilling to back the club substantially? The manager is a proud Clough, whom it would be difficult for the Derby public to turn against, chosen by GSE to succeed the expensive, failed randomness of Paul Jewell. Nigel is still paying the penance for Davies and Jewell. How much longer?
The current manager has to be adequately funded. Clough must be enabled to assemble a team with the right level of depth, quality, steel, skill, experience and youth to truly advance beyond Championship level. He must not join the list of legends that could not emulate his own or Derby County’s glorious past.
Derby must know that they have to avoid another long winter grind towards a Championship survival target, as in the last two campaigns. Things must alter!
Significant expenditure before the August transfer window deadline now looks unlikely - but there were moves to bring in players on loan. The Rams have made an offer to Real Valladoid with a view to taking their 22-year old Spanish Under-21 international forward Alberto Bueno on loan.
Derby also wants WBA’s Chris Wood, an 18-year old New Zealand international. James Vaughan of Everton also appears to be back on Clough’s radar, though his spell at Derby last season was short and inconsequential to say the least.
Improvement is not absent; Derby’s play has often been bright this season. There’s the feeling once more that a lack of depth, injury proneness and resultant selection inconsistencies and inability to recruit the best players available might condemn the Rams to another season of struggle and under-achievement.
Last Friday saw the formal unveiling of the magnificent Clough & Taylor Statue at Pride Park Stadium, the club garnering their sponsorship network to fund Andy Edwards’ fitting design of Derby’s greatest managerial team shaking the League Championship trophy at the world.
The statue is almost 20 feet high and is a wonderful new Derby landmark. Just as Steve Bloomer casts his imperious eye over Derby’s inconsistent modern-day team from his place near the home dug-out, the figures of Clough and Taylor are now there at our stadium in spirit, challenging all at the club to strive and emulate their achievements!
Our hearts wish for an incredible repetition but our minds tell us that it was a unique six-year period, which can at least be remembered and celebrated every time we look at the statue.
A further dedication of the statue for fans all to attend was made at 1.00 pm on Saturday and most supporters were very impressed of the spectacular new monument. It is a splendid new landmark at the home of Derby football.
The task for the present day regime is to build a competitive team that can escape from the Championship to regain and sustain a place at ‘the top table’ - even if another title may now always be beyond a club of Derby’s provincial size.
Grand as the statue is, once inside the stadium where today’s players tread in the footsteps of successful teams of the past, supporter’s eyes are focussed on the Pride Park Stadium pitch with the expectation that Clough’s son - with adequate backing from the board - can propel the club to higher things again.
Without an exciting and successful team to watch, heritage tributes - however well-intentioned – do become a reminder of the shortcomings of the current team and only illustrate the distance between the glory years and present-day under-achievement.
Hence it was with swelling pride and irreplaceable memories - alongside a nagging worry of imminent embarrassment or let-down - that many fans approached Saturday’s game with QPR.
Rangers were unbeaten, top of the league, a perfect record played 3 won 3; 9 points gained; no goals conceded. We have seen front-runners stay the course, we’ve seen ‘em fall by the wayside. Dashing out of the traps doesn’t guarantee promotion!
Wise QPR fans will pause before making assumptions that their new-found wealth and stability will soon see them step out in the Premier League against arch-rivals Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Fulham. Derby fans hoped that their team’s usual decent showing against high-flying sides would give them something to cheer from another uneven season.
I had woken up on Saturday remembering a previous clash with Rangers, in which Derby confounded the critics. “Rams Dazzle the Leaders’ Defence” was the headline from The Green ‘Un that I remembered from the game in question.
The Saturday evening football special reported on Derby 4 QPR 0, my happy memories perhaps evoked by the grand Clough & Taylor events of this week.
Derby thrashed the Hoops 4-0 in an uneven season of rebuilding in 67-68 - having also won 1-0 at Loftus Road earlier in that campaign. QPR topped the then-Second Division that day (17th February, 1968), in Brian Clough & Peter Taylor’s first season at the club.
QPR were promoted along with Ipswich in 1968 - and Derby County ran away with the division a season later. Clough then went one better when in Division One, to land Derby the title trophy that Rangers fans can still only dream about!
Would Saturday, 28th August be a dream or a nightmare? As it happens, it was a bit of both. Groans of resignation came from Rams fans when they learned the reserve full-back Dean Moxey would again have to play as a forward.
Another lung-busting and effective performance from him, however, makes me think we now have a useful utility player - and not just a stand-by defender. But there were many solid performances on the day, as the Rams disrupted Rangers’ cruise at the top of the league.
A 2-2 draw meant that Derby were the first side to score against QPR in 2010-11 and the first to deny them all three points - but it was Rangers who denied Derby without doubt, The Londoners found that bit extra at the death to snatch a draw from two late, late goals as home players tired, the defence finally breached.
The Rams were, though, running on empty at the death; the wily Neil Warnock had deployed his stronger choices of attacking substitutes brilliantly to make a telling difference. Rangers are a club that have invested ambitiously, with their eyes on the prize.
Barker flagged as the game moved into stoppage time, and was found out by beefy striker sub Patrick Agyemang. That made us all very nervous after such a hitherto enjoyable Derby display - but it sparked Rangers to throw everything at us.
Shaun’s lack of pre-season training caught up with him - he will be gutted about conceding so late in the game and will be stronger in weeks to come.
Dean Leacock, another fine performer who ran out of steam because of ongoing fitness problems, was rounded by the persistent Jamie Mackie, who gleefully snapped the equaliser even as the referee saw out the dying seconds with his whistle between his lips.
Derby fans should be proud and not critical - Clough’s side played with heart, passion and intelligence in the mould of a certain Clough Senior. For most of the game it seemed that the destination of the points could only be Pride Park Stadium.
There was much to enjoy about Derby’s display; though again denied a target man due to the absence of Hulse & Porter, Green and Commons troubled Rangers and the leaders had more than they could contend with in the covering of Savage and workrate of Bailey.
Commons gave Derby the lead after great work by the indefatigable Dean Moxey but Kris also took a knock or two and collected another strain, limping off before the interval. Tomasz Cywka, like Bailey a new Derby star in the making, carried on where Commons had to leave off.
The young Pole buzzed and weaved at the Rangers’ defence - his work being rewarded when he weaved a path into the danger area and presented Bailey with the chance he accepted to open his Rams account, with a crisp low shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
A win would have meant more to show for Derby’s endeavours so far but they go into the international break in mid-table, not yet gathering points at a rate to stave off initial concerns of another bottom-end dog-fight.
A near-26,000 gate was again the Championship’s biggest crowd though it still registers caution and disappointment from several thousand abstaining Derby fans, after last season’s 29,000+ average.
Nigel Clough rightly declared that a draw was a harsh result and that Derby enjoy few breaks, yet suffer punishment for every error they commit. Supporters should be cheered by the enterprising and productive football that the Rams produced. Similar performances will overcome lesser teams than QPR more often than not.
Some transfer activity, a fortnight’s break to enable injuries to ease and perhaps a new face or two to be added to the ranks should see the Rams in good shape to take on Sheffield United when the npower Championship resumes at Derby on 11th September.
RamsWeek 35 last season resounded in a chorus of ‘Ha Ha, Said the Clown’, as the circus mentality of Forest’s Nathan Tyson created a crowd scene of squabbling Derby and Trees players when tempers frayed at the end of Nothingham’s 3-2 victory over the Rams at the City Ground.
He landed himself and both clubs in trouble with the FA by parading the corner flag in celebration at the end of the game, right in front of Rams fans and adjacent to Derby players thanking their 4,400 away fans.
Forest got the points, Tyson got a ban, both clubs were handed cautions and fines, not for the only time that season. Derby had started badly but had pegged Forest back in the second half.
The Rams were above Forest in the table at that stage of the season (as we are this season) - and Rams fans had the last laugh later in the season in double measure, beating the Trees in the return League game at Derby and then seeing Forest drubbed in the play-offs.
Derby took Leicester’s veteran striker Paul Dickov on loan and learned that apparently Steve Davies’ latest injury wasn’t as bad as anticipated. Maybe I should leave that sentence in again soon for next year’s summary! Shaun Barker and Dean Leacock picked up some match-time towards fitness in the reserves’ 4-0 win over Shrewsbury Town. Seems that RamsWeek is full of repetition - but it’s not my fault, honestly!
Rams fans might have lost the East Midlands’ bragging rights temporarily to the Trees but they could celebrate the expensive but merciful cancellation of Claude ‘Clod’ Davis’ contract, and the imminent departure of another superfluous soft-touch defender, Martin Albrechtsen.
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