|RamsWeek 13 - My Way|
Sun 28th Mar 2010 20:59 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County had two more games to play in a week where the Championship was tightening up into a battle right to the end of the final straight for teams nearer to bottom of the table.
Manager Nigel Clough commenced his week by giving notice of his frustration concerning the lack of quality service to his forwards.
He contacted Pompey’s administrators, wanting to draft ex-Ram Tommy Smith in on loan until the end of the season, the manager’s move being in response to the perpetual unavailability and/or unreliability of Steve Davies and Kris Commons.
Smith’s opportunities have been limited at Pompey but he’d just broken into their team (and scored); there was the complication that Pompey wanted Smith in their squad for the upcoming FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham. So, it looked like the James Vaughan saga all over again.
Then, during Pompey’s midweek stuffing by Chelsea, Tommy broke something else - his nose. That was courtesy of Daniel Sturridge’s elbow and it has put paid to Tommy’s comeback and his proposed loan move to Derby in one swipe. The deal isn’t totally dead, as Clough said it might be worth knocking on Pompey’s door in the summertime.
Tommy was a good player for us and has had a steady career but for me, with him now at 30 years of age and accustomed to Prem wages, I’m not sure that he would be an addition who really fits Derby’s stated philosophy of getting in ‘young, hungry players’ to build for the longer term.
One player heading out of Pride Park on loan was Lee Hendrie. He went to Brighton & Hove Albion, having joined Derby early this season on a short contract.
I conclude that Hendrie is still a waste of time and money; he’s squandered his potential and best years. A handful of starts for Derby plus a handful of substitute appearances have rendered this deal poor value indeed. One for the ‘chopping list’ come Monday, May 3rd, I hope. Who needs all these rehabs?
Manager Nigel Clough moved quickly to increase his striking options with the loan transfer deadline looming. He added a loan striker to his ranks, taking Wigan’s young Polish forward Tomasz Cywka (pronounced ‘Shifka’). Tom is just 19 but can play as a striker or ‘in the hole’ behind another forward - so Derby now have required cover for Commons and Davies.
Reinforcements at Derby County also came in another guise on Tuesday, as President and CEO Tom Glick announced additions to the club’s board of directors as registered at Companies House.
Whilst TG and the current administration at Pride Park Stadium remain in charge of GSE’s Derby project, several of the much-vaunted investment group have now formally joined the board. Bill Luby, Tom Vertin and David Richardson have completed formalities; Jeff Mallett and Tom Ricketts will soon join them.
Between them they will hopefully move to finance Derby toward a challenging position on the pitch; anything else renders such change meaningless to the fans.
Mr Glick spoke positively about the club’s future: “We will take the club back to the Premier League”, but he said they won’t stretch the club by challenging for promotion whilst having to fight the Tax man or other creditors. Without referring to the recent Gadsby bid, TG moved to underline the group’s commitment to Derby County.
He gave supporters a little of what they had hoped to hear, with suggestions of genuine investment in the playing squad during the summertime. Perhaps Peter Gadsby’s bid sent GSE scuttling for the keys to their treasure chest, as TG took the refreshing step of declaring that if Clough wished to invest in players commanding a fee of “Shaun Barker and beyond” proportions, then the manager could do so. That’s more like it, Mr Glick!
Peter Gadsby for his part issued an open letter to fans on his website, answering some of the points raised by fans and the current DCFC regime since he tabled his takeover bid. He still took issue with the real level of investment by the current DCFC board, also stressing that no money from the club would be used to further his beloved Pride Plaza development projects.
PG rightly points out that he left no ‘mess’ at Derby for GSE to clear up as Tom Glick had blurted - and Gadsby did hit a hot-spot with the fans in criticising the punitive post-deadline price increases for season tickets not renewed before April 19th.
Curtailing that worrying trend is of interest to fans, as is a board that would invest properly in the team. Dishing out costly management fees for club custodians (whether they be fraudulent “business doctors” or proper administrators!) is also something that strikes a discordant note with Derby fans, for very good reason.
On the other hand, Gadsby’s intention to create his own ‘new’ supporters’ trust to ‘gift’ the fans a 10% shareholding contrasts with the policy of exclusion his board practised in 1996. He claims that was due to his lack of majority shareholding) but his idea remains fundamentally flawed.
The bollock he’s dropped there is a built-in lack of independent, democratic supporter representation there would be by definition, in creating his own trust! To date, a disregard of the established ‘fiercely independent’ RamsTrust in his takeover bid renders PG’s ‘new trust’ notion a half-baked recipe.
Not even bothering to contact the existing 7-year old supporter organisation hardly bodes well, now does it? It seemed to me that Glick rather ‘trumped’ Gadsby’s latest missive by revealing that the GSE investors were drawing closer to the club; fans may take that as a signal that the housekeeping is adequate and that real funds may soon be released from the purse-strings.
It’s ironic (and typical Derby County!) that we currently have conscientious custodians that have brought about a commercial turnaround at the club and whilst being responsible with debt control, have failed to bring about significant improvement on the field.
The Three Amigos wrought financial havoc but produced a fine side, being blessed with George Burley’s managerial skills.
Gadsby sorted out Sleightholme’s appalling financial mess in 2006 and led the club to promotion, riches and back again (as had Lionel Pickering!) Now, if we can just get a bit of investment going so as to marry the on and off-field aspects, we can reclaim our top flight status...but this is Derby County!
So Derby directors past and present - who all appear to have forgotten that only 6 months ago they announced an accord to work together and pool their skills and resources to develop club and stadium - fight on in their turgid power struggle. They all declare that ‘my way’ is best! Neither of them has practised a sincere approach to supporter representation, in the final analysis.
There was a backward step at FA HQ as well, with FA chief Ian Watmore departing after less than a year in his role at the top of the English administration. Spokespersons denied his exit was in response to a ‘slow rate of change’ in the game’s procedures and policies but Watmore’s frustration at the ‘blazer brigade’ and the old boy’s network has claimed another victim.
The Derby manager concentrated on football matters and Nigel Clough is already looking forward to the summertime and eyeing up possible squad additions and watched Danny Buijs play for his Dutch side ADO Den Haag. Buijs is 27 and can play at right back or in midfield.
As Glick said, making ‘the right choices’ on players is all important and another summer of development is certain. Let’s hope we sign some good ‘uns with loans being supplementary, and not central.
Robbie Savage took time off from his TV punditry and Twitter tosh to return to Derby’s starting line-up on Tuesday evening at Queens Park Rangers. The Rams began the game 3 points behind their tally at the same time last season and had won only 1 game from their last 6.
The Loftus Road extravaganza attracted a 12,500 crowd, including 780 away fans.
QPR started briskly and forced several corners but Derby weathered the storm and battled back, without threatening or penetrating the Rangers’ back line. A half-time 0-0 would have been well-earned but QPR scored in stoppage time when the unmarked Lee Cook rifled in a low drive.
Clough replaced Sunu with Dean Leacock, who went to right back with Nicky Hunt pushing further up the flank. That didn’t really work and Steve Davies soon replaced Hunt. Derby enjoyed a better proportion of the game in the second period and gained the reward for a more positive approach when Shaun Barker rammed in an equaliser on 65 minutes.
Savage swung a free kick deep into the QPR penalty area, Leacock flicked a header across to the Rams’ centre half, who controlled the ball before side-stepping a defender and slotting the ball home neatly. It is early days yet to draw comparisons with Roy McFarland but fans are indulging themselves in such comments, as they have a new hero to appreciate.
Mac was imperious in the air, unbeatable on the ground and scored his fair share of goals with head and feet during his brilliant career at Derby. Barker is weighing in with important goals (midfielders please note!) alongside his storming defensive performances in the current Derby team and he is fast becoming the talk of the town. Player of the Year Elect!
Besides some storming defensive displays, Barker has a touch for goal that some of the other forward players could take note of, and the ex-Blackpool man is proving to be a sound signing.
The Rams saw the game out without undue incident and a sequence of three draws had maintained Derby’s path to Championship survival. It was a satisfactory outcome for Derby and results elsewhere in the Championship meant that the Rams nudged a point further away from the bottom three, the gap widening to 6 points.
The visit of Leicester City gave Derby the chance to build on their three recent draws, maintain their short unbeaten run - and if possible pull further away from the bottom three, closer to the 50+ points’ total that would ensure Championship safety.
Clough left out Nicky Hunt and Dean Leacock continued at right back; Chris Porter (with Steve Davies and Tonge alternating ‘in the hole’ behind) was preferred in attack to Rob Hulse. New loanee Tomasz Cywka was among the substitutes.
Derby took their opportunity through a 1-0 victory, and things look brighter from a distance of nine points above the relegation zone. A 30,000 crowd watched an unspectacular contest in which Leicester, whilst starting brightly, were matched and bettered by Derby once the home side took the lead.
Bywater had one great save to make which snuffed out the Foxes’ best chance, whilst Derby should have added further goals late on when Chris Porter and then substitute Rob Hulse failed to find the net from decent chances. The refereeing was well down to recent atrocious standards.
After 20 unenthralling minutes in which Derby hadn’t quite got their act together, Chris Weale contrived a comic goal to almost rival the classic ‘Cuppie’ goal that Forest’s Barry Roche gifted Derby in 2004!
We can add this Foxes’ folly to great goalkeeping gaffes enacted by our East Midlands rivals - and Weale didn’t even need a coffee cup to completely miss the ball, watching it dribble past him over the goal line and into the net! See you again on “A Question of Sport”, Chris!
He simply took his eye off Andy King’s orthodox back-pass, as Paul Green ran forward expecting to challenge the goalie’s clearance. Weale inexplicably neglected to clear the ball, not even swinging a foot at it to mis-kick to concede the softest goal of his career. Thanks for that! Unlike the ‘Cuppie’ goal conceded by Forest, it was crucial, being the only goal of the game.
The Rams kept the Foxes largely at arm’s length for the remaining 70 minutes; Bywater commanded his area, Shaun Barker was man of the match yet again, Anderson and Leacock defended solidly alongside him.
The Derby midfield was fitful however and Chris Porter received poor service, as Derby’s creativity fell short once again. Stephen Pearson raided regularly but just couldn’t finish off his strong forward forays with a shot or telling cross or pass (so what’s new?)
Leicester restricted Derby to a handful of reasonable chances and posed only fitful attacking threat themselves, even though Matt Oakley popped up everywhere in his endeavours to drive Leicester forward.
Ex-captain Oakley is quite the opposite of Robbie Savage; unassuming, quietly effective as an influential leader on the park and a master at knitting the team together all over the pitch.
Matt still does that successfully for the Foxes and of course still without the constant controversy, inflammatory public opinion and daft-brush off-field profile, through which Savage has shunted Derby County down the blind alley of being a target for the football authorities and referees without threatening the top 10 places of the Championship table.
Derby were more assured in the second half and played sensibly, knowing that the points they had within reach were so precious.
Leicester simply ran out of steam and ideas and Matt Oakley’s substitution weakened their ability to cause Derby problems, as their game petered out into hopeful hoofball. They would take some punishment in the Premier League should they attain the play-offs and triumph in the promotion stakes and looked very ordinary.
Robbie Savage was effective enough to see Derby through however in the end. Derby took the three points gratefully and had won the game comfortably in the end despite the tight scoreline, without playing particularly well.
They appeared more resolute and confident as the clock ticked down and managed some concerted spells of play around the Foxes’ corner flags.
Clough and his staff will be content that ‘their way’ - a quietly committed, methodical and progressive approach - now appears to be bearing fruit.
Once safety is secured, they can look forward to 2010-1; Clough’s men can take another step to safety next Saturday at the Echo Arena, Coventry. Yes, I know it is called the ‘Ricoh’ - but it’s always half-empty, with an atmosphere to rival the moon!
RamsWeek 13 in 2009 saw Derby County suffering ‘tryin’ times’ as Nigel Clough failed to land loan additions, using the international break in the fixture list to try and augment his squad.
Added to this fruitless search was the frustration of losing another player to injury, this time, Steve Davies, to another foot injury.
He joined Miles Addison and Paul Green in being ruled out for the remainder of the season with a similar injury and Davies’ absence weakened the squad right at the period in which the team still had to scrap for Championship survival points.
Brian Clough ‘fever’ broke out in the national media this time last year with the much publicised release of the film: “The Damned United”, which depicts Cloughie’s ill-fated stint in charge at post-Revie Dirty Leeds United.
Good film, flawed book - but there was a man that did it “My Way!”
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