|RamsWeek 10 - The Backlash Blues?|
Mon 10th Mar 2008 01:11 by Paul Mortimer
The dreary draw with Sunderland was followed by another blank week for the Rams due to Chelsea’s FA Cup date with Barnsley on Saturday.
After a tough week of media criticism before that 0-0 bore draw along with some serious focus on training, the manager anticipated that the team had turned a small corner on the road to improvement.
One thing’s for sure: the upcoming Chelsea away game - followed by Manchester United at home - will certainly test the Derby players to the maximum.
There was little real news emerging from Pride Park and we had to make do with the tales of Robbie Savage being a Good Samaritan. He had picked up a father and daughter in Brailsford from a bus stop en route to the game and given them a lift to the game in his new Mercedes AMG, then followed that up with a pang of guilt for his naff performances to date by donating a chunk of his salary to charity.
I’d suggested a few RamsWeeks ago that the players hadn’t earned their money and should give it to a good cause - but only Savage, it seems, was listening! A fellow fan has commented that if Derby players were on performance-related earnings, then they’d surely be on Income Support!
Savage was champing at the bit to be included for the Rams’ next game, the daunting away fixture at Chelsea next Wednesday. Derby could certainly do with some presence and aggression in midfield so it would be as good a game as any for Robbie to turn in his first telling performance in a Derby shirt.
Derby’s Reserves lost 0-2 to Portsmouth Reserves, following up a similar defeat against Reading the previous week that I omitted to mention in RamsWeek 9. It seems the Rams Reserves are even more outclassed in the Prem Reserve League that the first team are in the Big League, with a dreadful sequence of results, which shows the paucity of Derby’s current set-up.
There is a huge job for Jewell to do at Derby, from top to bottom of the whole football structure of the club.
The Academy youngsters show a little more spark, with recent wins over Nothingham Forest and Barnsley. Kevin Thelwell’s juniors do give hope for long-term prospects for producing homegrown talent and several juniors have had to cope with outings for the Reserves rather before they are really ready.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, still on the fringe of things at Pride Park and yet to start under Paul Jewell, was allowed to go off back to the States to be with the American U-23 Olympic squad and take part in their CONCACAF qualifying tournament games. He’ll be missing for at least a fortnight.
Giles Barnes’ scan revealed knee trouble that will sideline him out for the rest of the season. Barnes hasn’t really caught fire as hoped as a Premiership force and his season is ending the same as last year, with a lengthy injury absence.
The Rams now have three players out of action for the rest of the season, as Claude Davis & Tyrone Mears are already under long-term rehabilitation.
After 42 appearances and 2 goals for Derby, Craig Fagan was allowed to go back to Hull City until the end of the season under the emergency loan system. Tigers’ boss Phil Brown was getting all excited and from his comments, you’d think he had just signed Ronaldo!
I’d nearly forgotten what addled verbiage Brown is routinely capable of as he declared that Derby were ‘smarting a bit’ and ‘in no man’s land’ but it’s clear that Paul Jewell is simply offloading players that do not have a future at Pride Park! The Rams may be forlorn and adrift as a Premiership club, Phil - but they do have positive direction and significant funding for next season.
With or without Fagan it’s still difficult to see Hull as serious contenders for top-flight football for the first time in their history!
Jewell has run out of patience with more than one or two players, no doubt Fagan is one of them. Derby will recoup most of their original transfer outlay if Fagan’s move back to the KC Stadium becomes a permanent deal in the close season, as there’s a £700k price tag attached.
Fagan has been an energetic and wholehearted player and has shown more application and commitment than some - but how long exactly does a manager wait for a killer cross, a shot on target, or a decent quota of goals from midfield? The answer, according to Paul Jewell is quite long enough, thanks.
Premiership statistics in the Observer reveal Fagan as a dreadfully inaccurate crosser of the ball. He’s delivered 67 crosses with only 6% accuracy, the worst of any player in the Prem that has attempted 50 or more crosses.
Less than one in fifteen balls delivered accurately from a key provider is just one reason why Derby have failed at Premier League level and it’s clear that Jewell is looking for a quantum leap in quality, even as Derby prepare to enter a lower division.
So far, Paul Jewell has therefore offloaded - either temporarily or permanently - Mo Camara, Lewin Nyatanga, Jon Macken, Lee Holmes, Stephen Bywater, Michael Johnson, Bob Malcolm, Gary Teale, Craig Fagan, Steve Howard and Matt Oakley so it’s clear that fans’ assessments of a dozen or more departures from this current squad is not far off the mark.
There were media reports that another likely departee, striker Kenny Miller, would leave ‘on the cheap’ in summer with Glasgow Rangers being his likely destination. However, there is no release clause in Miller’s Derby contract in the event of relegation and Derby would not expect to let him go for less than the £2.5m paid for him last autumn.
As the FA Cup Quarter Finals unfolded over the weekend with the wonderful displays by Championship sides, the Top 4 Premiership clubs now all dumped out and Alex Ferguson blabbing his usual sour grapes protestations, it is apparent that the successful Championship teams seem more motivated and better prepared and organised to face Premiership teams than do the Rams.
This season’s turgid Cup displays by Derby against lesser opposition are all the evidence you need to back up such thoughts.
Apart from Derby’s ineptitude, it has made for an open and exciting Cup extravaganza this season and few fans of clubs outside of that elite pinnacle will say that the FA Cup is poorer for the absence of United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool. Can someone now topple Pompey?
The spotlight turns back onto the Rams in League action to see if they can avoid the backlash blues from humbled Chelsea and Manchester United. The giants have just been denied their God-given rights to Wembley appearances and trophies for once and it will be interesting to see how Derby can match the industry, quality, concentration and determination of those successful Cup sides that have now halted the Blues, Red Devils and Liverpool Reds in their tracks!
Last year, RamsWeek 10 saw the Rams sustain their brilliant away form as they won 2-1 at Norwich City. After a mediocre first half display and falling behind shortly after the restart, Derby roared back with a superb 22-yard drive from David Jones. The young ex-Manchester United midfielder, starring in this game along with Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater, then cracked the winner after classy set-up play by Teale and Barnes as Derby notched up their 11th away win of the campaign.
Derby climbed back to the top of the table, 2 points clear of Birmingham City and 6 ahead of West Bromwich Albion. The Rams clash with Brum at St Andrews a few days later, however, saw the Blue Noses take over at the top again by defeating Derby 1-0 in a tight and turgid game on their porridge pitch.
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