|RamsWeek 30 - Editions of You|
Sun 25th Jul 2010 23:06 by Paul Mortimer
Pre-season continued with the players getting more match-time under their belt, as transfer speculation continued to circulate.
The Rams’ pre-season roadshow rolled south, to take in friendly matches with Southend United and Bournemouth AFC before returning to the Midlands for further pre-season games closer to home.
There was a surprise for fans on Monday when they learned that Robbie Savage would wear the captain’s armband for 2010-11. It was expected that star defender Shaun Barker would assume the captaincy after the manager’s comments at the end of last season. Unless transfer speculation surrounding Barker is more than just rumour (hence Clough can’t rule out losing him), I find this a retrograde move.
Barker is only named as the deputy, with goalkeeper Stephen Bywater third in line. Savage, who wants to be ‘the next Gary Lineker’ in his burgeoning media career, said he thought he deserved it after last season. I would have though Barker was a natural leader and a winner, whereas Savage offers only moderate ability, even if he does have bucket-loads of heart and is battling against his advancing age.
I think we had a very weak midfield last season; pedestrian, not creative enough and unable to deliver enough ammunition for our forwards, and also painfully goal-shy as a ‘department’ of the team itself. I think Barker, 2nd top Rams’ goalscorer with 5 goals in 2009-10, just about outscored our midfield players in total!
I’m no great Savage fan, that’s no secret, as he is mostly huff and puff (and running out of that). He has been egocentric and outspoken in dealing with local media and has baggage that affects the team on the field, as evidenced by the dreadful (and expensive!) disciplinary problems that Derby County faced at the hands of the FA.
Perhaps it was a condition of allowing DCFC to spread Savage’s expensive wages over a longer period - in which case, one or two team mates who deserve the armband have been nudged out by the Welshman. It’s all about Robbie, as ever.
It was an eventful week in Derby’s pre-season preparation, with several matches and various formations, utilising all available players - some in quite strange positions! It was a case of numerous ‘Editions of You’, to borrow the Roxy Music title, as players moved in and out of the Derby teams fielded this week.
Fitness problems intervened (again) to force Clough’s hand in some team selections and substitutions, and several trialists were pitched into the fray. Although Derby are testing out their 4-3-2-1 formation, Clough acknowledges that players have to make good decisions during games and that the pattern of the team must react to events during the game to counteract what the opposition is achieving.
Derby played Southend United at Roots Hall on Monday night, with Clough using two complete teams again, one for each half of the game. It seemed like a robust affair with the opposition approaching the game somewhat more competitively than Derby would have liked.
Rob Hulse, who gave the Rams an early lead from another pinpoint Kris Commons cross, was fouled repeatedly and Russell Anderson was concussed and hospitalised after a clash of heads.
The Rams didn’t capitalise on their first-half superiority Southend levelled the scores with a second half penalty given away by Luke Varney, for some reason being deployed as a full back again. The 1-1 draw was a thorough work-out.
Derby moved on to Dean Court, Bournemouth on Wednesday. Russell Anderson was omitted, recovering from his concussion and Dean Leacock missed the game through sickness, and was sent home. Perhaps it was giddiness from appearing in two games in succession after his long injury lay-off! Hulse and Moxey played in the centre half slots (!) in order to accommodate Chris Porter’s return at centre forward.
With Steve Davies sidelined, and Varney becoming an odd job man in defence in pre-season games, so much for Clough’s “we already have 6 forwards” mantra! Clough is still seeking a forward, with Everton’s James Vaughan mentioned (no thanks) along with WBA’s Simon Cox (could be useful).
It was an eventful game, finishing 3-3 with Derby demonstrating some familiar sloppiness in defence to concede goals at the end of each half. Kris Commons scored a blistering free kick goal and Paul Green and James Bailey netted fine efforts.
You can see dedicated reports on Derby’s recent pre-season friendlies from our team - please go to the home page to find them.
There was a lot of chopping and changing in the team this week, especially in defence - so it’s unwise to prejudge how the squad will fare until there are round pegs in round holes and the team is firing on all cylinders in a competitive League situation.
Clough isn’t now chasing Stoke City midfielder Michael Tonge as a priority, though he was so important to Derby’s shape and purpose in the second half of last season. It seems that financially-troubled Cardiff City and cash-strapped Glasgow Rangers may be competing for his signature.
It’s disappointing to observe that our prudence apparently won’t allow us to compete with such clubs for Tonge’s services, though no doubt we will get told again that it is all-important to stay on an even financial keel.
Many fans still see Derby’s midfield as a weak link.
They need to defend better and also contribute with goals and better supply. I find Nigel’s comment justifying the downbeat approach on the possibility of Tonge rejoining the club quite dispiriting.
The manager added in his comments: “...and Stephen Pearson is only six weeks away”. That will not be until 10 games or more into the season, and for all his energy, the Scot produces little of quality in the box - and scores one goal a season if you’re lucky. Let’s hope that Bailey and Brayford are more consistent and can provide some much-needed quality.
Given that Tonge would like to come and is a proven success shouldn’t we be trying much harder to obtain his services to help ensure further progress in 2010-11? After all, we’ve also junked the objective of a permanent ‘signature’ striker signing like Sharp or Hooper.
Tonge featured this weekend in a Stoke pre-season friendly and scored, so he may even be back in the picture for Tony Pulis’s 2010-11 planning.
Lee Hendrie is pursuing a move to Aberdeen, which is a satisfactory distance away from Pride Park Stadium as far as I’m concerned, and ex-Ram Adam Bolder is set to team up with other former colleagues on our doorstep at Burton Albion. We nick all their young players; they nab all of our old boys!
The manager has had a look at several triallists this week (see details in match reports elsewhere on RamZone) and has been impressed with 18-year old American forward Conor Doyle. It may be that we will soon add to our junior ranks from the numerous triallists assessed.
A Rams XI drew 2-2 at Matlock Town on Friday, with Aussie trialist Courtney Chipperfield scoring on of Derby’s goals. Saturday saw another very eventful match and a goals bonanza The Rams opened Chesterfield FC’s all-new b2net stadium and won the friendly 5-4! See I. Saw’s excellent report on the RamZone home page.
There were yet more strange editions of the Derby County first team with players shuffled around through the injury unavailability of other squad members. Goalkeeper Saul Deeney even made an appearance as an outfield substitute!
The Spireites grabbed the lead before Chris Porter equalised. Chesterfield went 3-1 ahead with Derby’s defending ringing alarm bells but they recovered to hit Chesterfield with a goals burst.
Trialist Conor Doyle headed home, then in the second half, a classy team goal saw Porter ease the ball into the net. Derby took command through a Brayford strike and a Commons penalty but there was still time for Chesterfield to snatch a goal to make it a memorable 5-4 in the inaugural game at the new stadium.
In the midst of all the pre-season games, the squad took the plunge in some south-coast water activities and team-bonding exercises. Let’s hope they make a big splash in the Npower Championship next season.
he Rams now have sterner tests to face, in the form of Premier League sides Stoke City and Birmingham City, before the team come before the eyes of the nation in the televised live curtain raiser at Elland Road, Leeds on August 9th.
RamsWeek 30 last year it was quite literally a case of ‘smiling men with bad reputations’ as the defendants in the Derby County fraud trial at Northampton Crown Court were given jail sentences.
Messrs. Mackenzie, Mackay, Keith and Lowe would all serve time for their convictions and a tawdry chapter in Derby County’s history was resolved. A year on they are free, of course, and their assets have been under scrutiny in a subsequent Proceeds of Crime case in which DCFC are endeavouring to retrieve the stolen monies.
There were high-profile takeovers and financial wranglings at two other clubs a year ago - Notts County and Portsmouth. Fans of those two famous clubs hardly need reminding what a torrid year it turned out to be for them. It looked like a whirlwind revival for the Magpies of Meadow Lane initially, Sven Goran Eriksson breezing in as manager and County beat Nothingham Forest 2-1 in a pre-season friendly.
Until the football authorities get a grip on ownership vetting procedures and establish the financial credibility of consortium members, backed up by a resilient ‘fit & proper persons test’, we will see more examples of shady and disruptive custodianship in our national game.
The Rams continued their pre-season schedule and won 7-2 at Belper Town before drawing 0-0 at Yeovil Town and winning 2-0 at Torquay United. They completed their West Country tour by winning 3-1 at Exeter City.
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