|RamsWeek 29 - The Man In The Middle|
Sun 19th Jul 2009 21:23 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County continued their pre-season training as transfer activity increased through both arrivals and departures.
Defender Lewin Nyatanga left the club to join Championship rivals Bristol City in a permanent transfer. The ‘undisclosed’ fee is thought to be £500,000 and Lewin signed a three-year deal with City.
He did well in many respects at Derby in progressing through the Academy ranks to the first team and full international status with Wales, becoming the youngest full international in Welsh history.
Lewin should develop yet further to have a long and successful career but at this time, Rams’ manager Nigel Clough is seeking tougher, more experienced and forceful defenders to sort out Derby’s brittle back four.
To reinforce that philosophy it was reported that Derby are in negotiations with Claude “Clod” Davis to settle his contract. You don’t need to read too many RamsWeeks or look far on the messageboards to find Rams fans’ opinions of this hapless £3m Billy Davies signing. He’s been a shocker, with very few effective performances for Derby.
He’s being jettisoned two years before his contract expires and it’s a relief to know that he won’t be donning the black & white of Derby again. In these very tight economic times, to reflect that it’s necessary for the club to have to hand over a large sum of money to Davis to be rid of him is galling indeed. At least it will be part of the squad sort-out accomplished.
Striker Liam Dickinson joined the clearout without letting Derby down on the pitch...because he (almost) never stepped onto it in a Derby shirt in a whole year at the club! He has been transferred as expected to Brighton & Hove Albion, for another ‘undisclosed’ fee that might be alarmingly small. Oh well..!
Further welcome news was not only that Nigel Clough finally captured Blackpool defender and Player of the Year Shaun Barker on a 3-year deal for £900k - but that the Tangerines’ captain preferred to sign for Derby County instead of Nothingham Forest! You lose, Billy - but hey, you can re-sign free agent Clod Davis soon, when we’ve released him!
There was talk of Barker’s desire, commitment and defensive attributes; he’s a Trees fan but also a Nigel Clough fan and that was a key factor in the player’s choice.
Plenty of players have been excited about joining Derby with all the superlatives about the stadium, facilities, fans and potential rolled out with monotonous regularity by players and management - so the fans and club will want Barker to repay both Clough’s faith in him and Derby’s tenacity at upping their bids to ensure they won the chase.
Clough still wants Crewe’s John Brayford to add to the new defensive compliment but Derby might have to pay up to £500,000 for him. Patrick Kisnorbo, who played well on trial at DCFC last week in the Burton Albion friendly, seems to be looking at other deals as well (notably Crystal Palace), so I’d hope that Clough maintains his search to enhance the defensive options, especially as Dean Leacock has immediately reported another niggling injury that is disrupting his comeback.
Young Arsenal midfielder Mark Randall (19) is set to join up with Derby for their upcoming friendlies in the southwest, when the Rams face Yeovil Town, Exeter City and Torquay United over the next week.
Randall is more experienced than fellow Gunner Nacer Barazite, who spent last season on loan at Pride Park Stadium and has had starts in the Premier League, Carling Cup and Champions League as well as a loan spell with Burnley and could add something new to Cloughie’s midfield choices.
I’d expect Green to stay fit and make a major contribution and there is Teale, Croft and Davies (and perhaps Commons) out wide - but central midfield is somewhat unconvincing.
Savage is ageing and can’t put in a 55-game season now or tank around in the fractious style that was his forte; Pearson has suspect fitness and form (and only scores one goal a season if you’re lucky) and Giles Barnes…. who knows? So we do need further options.
Perhaps Randall can provide a spark to improve on what Barazite and Bannan achieved during their loans - or the rapidly improving Ben Pringle can be a surprise package to become the man in the middle? He's 20 next week and expected to be a key player in the under-21 development team - but maybe he will soon follow in the footsteps of Tom Huddlestone and Miles Addison or even eclipse Giles Barnes as a serious contender for central midfield in the first team?
The Rams won their midweek friendly at Arnold Town in a canter, running out 5-1 winners at the inaugural game in the new Eagle Valley Stadium. The impressive Ben Pringle snatched two goals and youngsters Jermaine Johnston, Alexsander Prijovic and Henrik Ojamaa scored the others. Arnold goalie Lee Broster had a busy night and kept the score down with a succession of saves, as Derby kept on the offensive.
Clough fielded several players with a limited future at Pride Park Stadium: Roy Carroll, Jordan Stewart, and Martin Albrechtsen (when will we know more about the official version of that outburst in the press from Albrechtsen, declaring he’d left the club?) Tom Erik Nordberg, a Norwegian trialist, started for the Rams in central defence; Savage, Green and Pearson formed the midfield and Varney played up front.
It was a different matter at Chesterfield on Saturday, where the Rams surrendered the Derbyshire Centenary Cup to Chesterfield.
A bright opening by Derby saw Paul Green shoot them into the lead but the midfielder then limped off. Apparently it is a jarred ankle but we could do with having the midfield dynamo fit and ready to start when Peterborough visit.
Derby squandered chances in the first half and then conceded soft goals to lose the game after the break. Shaun Barker had an inauspicious debut, giving a goal away straight after coming on for the 2nd half. Derby faded and allowed Chesterfield to turn the game around.
Ben Pringle impressed again and that’s a plus but there are still injury problems concerning Green, Leacock, Hulse, Commons, Davis, and Porter. There’s clearly plenty of room for improvement both in fitness and performance.
The Northampton Crown Court trial was expected to end on Friday 17th July, with sentences due to be served on the ex-Derby County directors recently found guilty of fraud.
It was due to be judgement day for Messrs. Keith, Mackay, Mackenzie and Lowe. However, with all the discussion and mitigation under way from defence barristers on behalf of the allegedly rich or poor, estranged or homeless and otherwise depleted and disadvantaged defendants, His Honour Judge Ian Alexander QC declared that he would consider all the information over the weekend and resume sentencing on Monday.
See the exclusive RamZone court report here:
Whatever the outcome of the sentencing and the fate of the disgraced criminal quartet, fans will take satisfaction that the court deemed that the repayment of compensation to Derby County of the stolen £375,000 (plus VAT and interest) takes preference over other financial penalties, so that the club would ultimately get their money back.
It will also be interesting to see how the convicts fare (once they have paid for their misdemeanours) regarding further involvement as directors in football or any other business, after any disqualification or so-called ‘fit and proper’ tests that are applied.
Last year, RamsWeek 29 saw manager Paul Jewell seeking midfield players as he deemed that it was ‘smack dab in the middle’ where Derby needed reinforcements.
He’d captured the promising Paul Green but nobody then knew if Robbie Savage would be discarded or rehabilitated, or if the likes of Stephen Pearson or Giles Barnes would be automatic choices for the treatment table again rather than the first team. We still don’t know, a year onwards...
In any case, Pearson was poised to sign for Birmingham City for £600k and Derby had abandoned their pursuit of Swansea City’s midfield super-hero Ferrie Bodde.
Derby won 2-0 at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion in the usual neighbourly friendly, courtesy of goals from Steve Davies and Nathan Ellington. It was actually the first time a Paul Jewell Rams team had won a game since the manager joined the club! They also played a tedious 0-0 draw with Rotherham United at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium.
Jewell recruited Porto midfielder Przemyslaw Kazmierczak, of whom great things were expected (but so little was delivered). The itinerant John Oster came on trial and vanished just as quickly to other pastures. Better news was that Blades’ centre forward Rob Hulse had all but signed for the Rams for a fee of around £1.5m and he watched the Rotherham friendly match along with Kaz.
There was a bit of an off-field kerfuffle due to Daily Mail story that highlighted Derby owners GSE’s alleged inability to meet their obligations to fund the club. Derby County President and Chief Executive Tom Glick roundly denied the rumours. It appeared that some of the outcasts of Derby’s past regime(s) might still have been dabbling in media smears and Glick said that ‘one or two people have a problem with letting go’.
We will only really know the answer to those stories when the board have to find serious money to buy Premier League-standard players - and that time apparently hasn’t arrived as yet.
Let's see what Cloughie’s cut-price cavaliers can do in a few weeks’ time!
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