|RamsWeek 32 - Why Does It Always Rain On Me?|
Sun 10th Aug 2008 20:55 by Paul Mortimer
The Rams commenced their final week of preparation with doubts over the attitude of ex-captain Robbie Savage.
The cake-haired midfield irritant’s attitude has been questioned and Paul Jewell revealed that the Welshman had been omitted from the last two pre-season friendlies because the manager thought that Savage could have done better in training.
Savage may have been disappointed to learn that defender Alan Stubbs had been given the captain’s armband for the 2008-09 season instead of him (few Rams fans would be disappointed!) and if this has engendered a negative reaction from Savage then he will face rapid rejection not just from the manager but from the fans too.
To throw a mardy on pay of £23,000-odd a week won’t win over anyone in Derby.
Paul Jewell, who has vowed to be more ruthless this season, revealed: “Robbie wasn't happy about not being first choice and I wasn't happy with the way he reacted in training. He's like any other player - if you don't want to do your best in training then you won't be considered." Jewell added: "If he comes back on Monday and knuckles down then he'll be considered like everybody else. If he doesn't, he won't and that's the same for every player at Derby County."
Time will tell if Savage shows his usual fighting spirit to knuckle down and become a regular name on Jewell’s team sheet or if he drifts off into comfortable oblivion instead, in his Rams-customised Bentley.
By Tuesday evening, an almost hilarious scenario had developed, with the furry F*xes of Leicester mooted to be interested in re-signing their former ‘hero’ Savage; their chairman Milan Mandaric even spoke publicly and said that City would assess their needs.
I say ‘almost hilarious’, because it can never be that funny on wages of over £1m a year. If Savage moves to the Fosse or elsewhere soon, his Derby sojourn will represent a staggering waste of money and a total irrelevance on a scale of some of the Pride Park signings that were made at the end of the 1990s!
Savage should be relishing the chance to make a difference to Derby this season and to throw all his battling abilities to the cause for the club, manager and fans that expect and need him to deliver. Anything less and he will leave the club in ridicule and disgrace.
Two other here-today, gone tomorrow players from Derby’s past have arrived back in England - mercurial Italian striker Arturo Lupoli is on a season-long loan with Norwich City from Fiorentina and German superstar Marco Reich has landed in Walsall on a free transfer from Kickers Offenbach.
Whilst Paul Jewell continues to scour the planet for new players, the club did make another signing, as announced on Monday: they signed a ‘groundbreaking’ partnership deal to bless the fans with more tag-on offers, this time from the Alfreton-based mobile phone and electronics retailer BuyMobilePhones.net.
The sponsorship deal is ‘worth a significant sum’ and there will be tie-ups with free Rams merchandise for customers taking up their various product options as well as branding visibility for the local sponsor.
Stephen Bywater’s move to Tottenham Hotspur fell through for undisclosed reasons. Manager Jewell is happy to have Bywater vying for Roy Carroll’s goalie jersey and hence is no longer looking for another keeper.
Young Welsh keeper Lewis Price is recovering from his knee op, so Derby will soon have three fit goalkeepers. Price has been included in the Welsh squad for their friendly against Georgia at Swansea on August 20th.
Jewell has struck up a season-long loan for Andrey Pereplotkin from Skonto FC; it’s another deal with an option to purchase the player if things work out this season. This gives the manager another attacking option as the Latvian wide player looked impressive for an hour in the friendly versus FC Utrecht recently.
Meanwhile, erstwhile fullback Mo Camara has gone to Blackpool on a month’s loan.
There was an additional surprise signing on Thursday, as 18-year old Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic joined Derby from Italian side Parma. He’s 18, Swiss-born but has played for Serbia at Under-17 and Under 19 level due to his parentage and stands 6’ 2” tall.
The Rams await international clearance for Prijovic, who scored a hat trick for Derby in an Academy game at Moor Farm in a 4-1 win against Arsenal.
As the Rams prepared for the big kick-off against Doncaster on Saturday, with a 30,000+ crowd expected, Manager Paul Jewell had only a few minor injury casualties and absentees. Lewin Nyatanga will be out for a fortnight with a knee injury, Claude Davis and Mile Sterjovski are back in full training after their various knocks and Giles Barnes continues his rehab from his knee operation.
American midfielder Benny Feilhaber is with the USA Olympic squad in Beijing, having recovered from a summer cartilage operation sustained on international duty. He has a substitute’s appearance as the USA beat Japan 1-0 and a similar role in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Holland. Aussie Ruben Zadkovich is also with his country’s squad at the Olympics, putting Australia ahead against Serbia. The match finished 1-1.
It will be interesting to see how the matchday traffic flow and parking facilities are conducted this season, because the City Council plans to clamp down on businesses near Pride Park Stadium who have previously offered matchday parking to fans.
Some 2,000 parking spaces close to the stadium may be eliminated and businesses affected also complained that the clampdown might also deter trade from matchday visitors. The Council’s policy might only displace parking and congestion to other areas of the city and suburbs, as that volume of cars still needs somewhere to park.
Whilst club and council can benefit from additional revenue from parking places that they offer, it was declared that changes would be initiated on safety grounds. At present, however, matchday parking arrangements are unchanged.
The 2008/09 season kicked off on Saturday against Doncaster Rovers, with Paul Jewel desperate to wrest three points from the opposition for the first time, at the 25th time of asking as Derby County manager.
Seven players made their League debuts for Derby (Albrechtsen, Green, Hulse, Ellington, Pereplotkin, Commons and Kazmierczak) and two more did so as second-half substitutes (Connolly, Davies)
It was a rainy, dull day and the expectant crowd got a soaking travelling to and from the game and the manager must wonder why it always rains on him so often and so consistently, as he again failed to break his duck as Derby manager and win a League game.
The Rams meandered to a 0-1 defeat after a fitful, occasionally enterprising first half turned into a second half shambles with Doncaster running the show. Sadly, the last third of the game was all too reminiscent of last season with Derby chasing shadows and being outfought and out-passed all over the park.
It was a huge letdown after all the hype with expectations being built up so high.
Hulse and Albrechtsen missed chances for Derby in the first half and Kris Commons looked enterprising, positive and lively. Ellington and Hulse did not look like a strike partnership as they drifted too far apart; Pereplotkin fizzed around but needs time to integrate. Paul Green and Kaz were disappointing and the loss of injury-prone skipper Stubbs was critical.
Derby didn’t score, and so Doncaster gained heart. Derby conceded the goal just before the hour, as soon as Stubbs departed - and Jewell has some serious thinking to do if he deems that Jay McEveley deserved the captain’s armband in Stubbs’ stead.
I saw nothing on Saturday that altered my opinion of McEveley as a liability and a weak defender and cannot justify his inclusion in the team (much less as its leader) given that new full backs are on the books.
I was also extremely unimpressed with the pointless ranting deputation, led by ‘blinkers’ McEveley that after conceding the trademark sloppy goal, rushed over to chastise the linesman about an imaginary offside that Derby players thought the officials should have applied. Lesson 1: play to the whistle.
Had McEveley and his fellow players showed half the unity and urgency in defending Donny’s approach work that they showed in the foolish protest, then the goal could well have been prevented.
Then there was Robbie Savage. The manager used him as a second half substitute and no doubt expected the Welshman to close down the dominant Doncaster midfielders, to put in a few characteristically crisp challenges and tackles and to put more bite into Derby’s disjointed midfield. Savage did none of those things and it was 20 minutes before he touched the ball.
His performance was abject - an embarrassment. In this mood and after this evidence, he appears to have no place at our club. If that’s being ‘savage’, so be it - but things need to change and fast because his last few weeks have been a very expensive let-down.
Savage’s role at Derby was to provide some spirit in the dressing room and to impose his character, experience and battling qualities upon a club having a poor time and suffering an emphatic relegation.
He just has to do the predictable, simple things he is good at which have provided him with a successful, lucrative career. Of all people, Savage must give the manager his full loyalty and some focussed, committed performances.
In my opinion, we had two of the poorest players (and poorest captains, no less!) ever to be honoured with a Derby shirt on the field at the same time against Donny in Savage and McEveley. Jewel needs to abandon his persistence with and loyalty to those who cannot cut the mustard.
New players needing time to gel and the manager blending the right combination of the 30-plus player at his disposal is one matter, for which Jewell deserves due patience - but poor players with low ability and/or bad attitudes must be discarded early, if the demands of the board and promises to the fans are to be met.
Overall, the team must display more strength, more fight and more character to succeed.
A League Cup tie at home against Lincoln City (who dumped the Rams out of the competition 4 years ago) is Jewell’s next chance for further work on his players, his tactics and team organisation.
RamsWeek 32 last year saw the Rams experience their latest Premier League baptism against Portsmouth, the culmination of a week of high hopes and further derring-do in the transfer market after manager Billy Davies declared that his squad was less than 75% complete.
Southampton’s Kenwyne Jones rejected a move to Derby, and among a host of foreign ‘possibles’ rumoured to be joining Derby was American Benny Feilhaber of SV Hamburg. Long-serving fullback Richard Jackson left the club after 8 years to join Luton Town.
“Giles Barnes to West Ham” stories were rife as the teenage prodigy resumed training after injury and the Derbyshire Building Society opened a branch embedded in Pride Park Stadium itself.
The dithering FA imposed an immediate one-match touchline ban on Billy Davies for ancient misdemeanours so he had to sit out the Rams’ curtain-raising clash with Pompey, who had spent £23m on players during the summer.
The game was an entertaining 2-2 draw in front of over 32,000 fans. Matt Oakley delighted the crowd with the first goal of the season before Pompey were able to grab two goals.
A diving header from debutant Andy Todd ensured that the Rams did get some reward from their spirited performance.
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