|RamsWeek 18 - Mixed Emotions|
Mon 30th Apr 2012 01:51 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County wrapped up their 2011-12 season with the home game against Peterborough United and fans’ attentions turned to how the club would strengthen the squad to improve next season.
The early news had a somewhat medical focus, though it’s doubtful if Rams fans wanted the spotlight to be on injuries and treatment after another injury-plagued campaign.
Captain Shaun Barker and Ben Davies featured on BBC1 TV’s ‘Late Kick-Off’ programme, with Ben stressing Barker’s importance to the club and the injured player vowing to return and play a part at Derby County, despite the seriousness of the knee injuries that will sideline him for a year.
DCFC announced yet another corporate partner, the new link providing injury treatment and fitness support to the club. Nuffield Health Derby Hospital has become Derby’s “Preferred Health and Medicine Partner”. Here’s hoping the club don’t keep the Nuffield hospital too busy...
With the imminent departure of midfielder Paul Green, manager Nigel Clough aims to ‘get right onto it’ to sort a replacement for the versatile Irish international.
There’s speculation about other Championship clubs wanting Derby’s most experienced midfield players amid reports that Derby are bidding on 20-year old Northampton Town winger Michael Jacobs and confirmed interest in young Liverpool full-back club Jack Robinson.
At the moment (given the retention of other key players) the Rams need left-back cover, a centre-half to replace Shaun Barker, more midfield experience and creativity, a natural goalscorer or two, and a centre forward who can provide more muscle and presence up front.
That’s five or six incoming players ideally; so far, there are at least three departures in Green, Addison, Croft and perhaps plus misfit Chris Maguire to be sold. Fans will hope to see more quality and depth invested in the squad - with the best players retained and the club resisting big fees for the young talent that is now coming through.
The 2012-13 side must be capable of starting their next campaign well, needs to show more consistency - and score more goals - to register further progress and finish higher than in the current campaign.
Championship clubs passed a majority vote to adopt rules based on the forthcoming Financial Fair Play rules that will govern a club’s spending based on their turnover and penalise heavy annual financial losses in certain circumstances.
A handful of clubs did not vote in favour - they perhaps intend to spend and (they hope) be able to disregard Football League rules because they will be recording vast Premier League income (and expenditure) by aiming for promotion tout suite.
Looking beyond Championship strictures hasn’t done Swansea, Norwich, Southampton and others too much wrong - but Mr Glick will recount all day how good FFP is gonna be for Derby County. Great, we can plod along beneath the freshly-relegated clubs and others still receiving their £48m-worth of Prem ‘parachute payments’ to be brave also-rans, just what we always wanted!
Holders Derby County surrendered the Derbyshire Senior Cup this week. The Rams lost 0-1 to Buxton, the Evo-Stik Premier League side that they beat 5-0 in last year’s final. A young Rams side failed to notch any of the many chances they made and lost their grip on a trophy that they have traditionally dominated.
The final fixture of the Championship season kicked off at 12.30 pm on a distinctly chilly, almost wintry day in Derby. The Rams aimed to send their fans home with a warm feeling with a win over Peterborough United, hopefully with a top 10 finish to the 2011-12 campaign.
It didn’t quite work out that way, as Derby contrived to spurn chance after chance. Having secured an early lead through Theo Robinson’s 12th goal of the season they then gave away a late goal to allow Posh to claim a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw. Derby had 36 goal attempts - 23 of them on target - and as the manager later reflected, perhaps enough chances to win 3 games.
Adam Legzdins deputised for the injured Frank Fielding in goal and Jamie Ward also missed out through injury as young Will Hughes made his first start. Will’s Academy colleagues Mason Bennett and Josh Leland were included among the Derby substitutes.
Like the passing season overall, there were mixed emotions about the match. There was some pleasure at Derby’s attractive approach work and honest endeavour, as Derby took the game to Posh and often produced entertaining football for the near-27,500 crowd.
The Rams started brightly and tested Posh ‘keeper Paul Jones more than once with Steve Davies going close, before taking a 10th-minute lead through Theo Robinson. He touched in Bryson’s penetrating cross as Derby took control but it nagged fans for a further hour that the Rams did not add to that lead.
Disappointment came on 82 minutes when David Ball slotted in an equaliser for Posh to deny Derby what would have been a deserved final-day victory. The Rams really should have been out of sight long before that setback.
Delight certainly derived from the clever, confident work of the willing and intelligent Will Hughes on his full Derby debut. The slight, blond 17-year old midfielder blended well with Player of the Season Craig Bryson and Young Player of the Year Jeff Hendrick, as his quick feet and trickery often helped to probe and open up the Peterborough defence in a very mature performance.
Hughes was at the centre of most of Derby’s good play; as the game progressed, his close control and passing ability came to the fore and the Peterborough defenders learned that if they dived in or tried to muscle him out of the game, he would soon pop up again or leave them in his wake.
It is early days for Will yet and the demands of a tough Championship campaign next season will tell us more about his potential, but he possesses more trickery than Ben Davies to beat a man and can also deliver a corner or a free kick. It should be interesting and exciting to witness his development.
So, frustration overtook us again on Saturday at Derby’s trademark lack of ruthlessness and finishing ability - and the hapless Nathan Tyson has become rather a figure of fun. He was often involved in Derby’s forward thrusts but nearly always showed a lack of confidence and composure in wasting good positions or rushing a pass or cross with the ball ending up nowhere near a colleague or more likely, straight at the feet of the opposition.
He is in danger of becoming ‘the new Stephen Pearson’ in offering an annoyingly unproductive outlet - but unlike the departed Scot, Ty hardly looks likely to deliver a lucrative Wembley goal for Derby County! Tyson’s vivid, fluorescent salmon-pink boots were as comic as some of his endeavours; sadly his talent is by no means as conspicuous as his footwear.
Tyson appeared distraught at the final whistle, as his season ended scoreless after being Derby’s so-called ‘marquee’ signing last summer. He sank to his haunches and held his head in his hands, rather like a player who has just lost a cup semi-final.
Contrastingly, Jake Buxton made a point of walking past him, hands aloft clapping the crowd, in appreciation of their support and his pleasure at being a bigger part of Clough’s plans than the defender had dared hope.
A campaign blighted by injury sagas and marginal performances leaves Tyson with a lot to prove to himself and Rams fans in 2012-13. Meanwhile, Buxton is a determined and direct footballer, keen to stay at the core of Derby’s defence after a string of solid performances in place of injured club captain Shaun Barker. Added to that, Jake put down the Red Dogs with that winning goal!
Fans had a chance to show their appreciation of Will Hughes’ memorable debut and another tigerish Craig Bryson display, affording standing ovations to both players when they were substituted in the late stages.
The booing that accompanied loanee Tom Carroll’s entrance I took to reflect fans’ frustration at Derby’s temporary acquisition of such a marginal and underdeveloped player, instead of taking a goalscorer or target man.
We needed someone like Jason Roberts, who has done the job for promoted Reading FC - someone to influence the team, get among the goals and win the points that would land us in the top six. A little speculation made all the difference for the Berkshire club.
The Rams have shown progress in several areas this season, with some honest, successful newcomers flowering in the side like Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick; centre-half Jason Shackell is an impressive presence and goalkeeper Frank Fielding has shown his worth.
Jamie Ward has rehabilitated himself since his move from Sheffield United and became a fans’ favourite at Derby; Theo Robinson has weighed in with goals and showed some development, even though he is often the wild card who produces the unexpected flash of brilliance one minute and then fluffs the simplest chance or fails to make the best decisions in many situations.
Steve Davies has fought back creditably through another injury-blighted season to claim the status of joint-top scorer along with Theo, netting 12 goals this season. Veteran Gareth Roberts has performed solidly and John Brayford continued to show his quality. Thanks, too, Paul Green.
There was pride in the emergence of Academy boys Callum Ball, Mark O’Brien, Mason Bennett and now Will Hughes. There really does seem to be something good going on at Moor Farm with Darren Wassall’s Academy.
The club’s challenge is to now hang on to this young talent and combine it with enough experience and proven quality at first-team level. Only that can provide the platform for Derby to advance to elite status. Supporters do not want to see the Rams making up the numbers and treading water, to become a feeder club for rivals with more money or ambition to poach Derby’s exciting emerging talent to drive their club upwards.
Derby has again carried many injuries, and also displayed the same frailties that dogged previous campaigns - a lack of finishing power and muscle up front, a dearth of midfield creativity and control, sufficient cover in several positions. These factors have denied Derby enough all-round resource and quality to have turned numerous narrow defeats into productive games, or more of those 14 draws into wins.
At 12th place in the Championship tale on 64 points, Derby finished seven places higher than Forest and registered 14 more points that the dismal Trees, who finished 19th - that’s where Derby finished up last season. The Trees have much higher debts and probably face an exodus of their best talent.
Derby’s points’ tally was their third-highest in the past 16 seasons, which at half way in the table registering as marked progress over recent campaigns, tells you all you need to know about the club’s sustained under-achievement and supporter patience in showing such a large and loyal following.
We have the mixed emotions of relief at a less stressful campaign with the highlights of ‘doubles’ over the Trees and DirtyLeeds - but disappointment at Derby’s continuing inability to take prolonged residence in the Championship top six and make a realistic stab at promotion.
Free-spending Leicester City became the highest-placed East Midlands team in 2011-12. The Foxes finished in 9th place, 9 points off a play-off spot - so for all their ££millions invested and a managerial merry-go-round, Leicester’s Thai owners missed their Premier League target by a long chalk. Instability and an overpaid, underperforming squad put them back to square one.
So, that’s it for RamsWeek, hopefully you’ve enjoyed the Derby diary. Enjoy the 2012 Euro Championships and the Olympics - and here’s to the Rams being among the medals in a year’s time!
RamsWeek 18 last season saw Derby lose 3-2 in a see-saw game against promotion-bound Norwich City. Steve Davies and Alberto Bueno scored for Derby, who gave youngsters Callum Ball and Jeff Hendrick a taste of first-team action.
Derby’s final home game of the season - against Bristol City - was captain Robbie Savage’s final home appearance before retirement. Injured captain-to-be Shaun Barker handed John Brayford the 2011 Player of the year trophy; Sean would have grimaced at the thought of making a pitch-side appearance again on crutches at the end of 2011-12 but unfortunately, that’s what has happened.
The Rams put in an utterly mediocre performance to lose 0-2 to City. Derby gavea soft goal away after only 5 minutes, ex-Ram John Stead given the freedom of Pride Park Stadium to receive a throw-in and take aim past Brad Jones.
A futile and meaningless fans’ pitch invasion at the final whistle left me wondering what on earth they could be celebrating, and hoping for much better next season!
The Rams had just one more 2010-11 fixture to fulfil, an away trip to Reading FC, already confirmed as play-off contenders. The Royal went one better this season, winning the title – and at least the Rams have improved a little, too!
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