|RamsWeek 34 -The Land of Make Believe |
Mon 23rd Aug 2010 01:53 by Paul Mortimer
Derby County had to shrug off their disappointing home defeat at the hands of Cardiff City and look to better things from the meeting with Coventry City.
There was talk of transfer activity but nothing transpired because manager Clough has to shed a player or two first. He wants Cardiff player Ross McCormack but recounted that such a deal was beyond the club at this time.
Injuries have already hit Derby hard again and the early news of the week had fans grimacing almost as much as the Rams’ two latest unfortunate casualties.
Young forward Ryan Connolly - just awarded a professional contract with Derby after coming through the Academy - has cruelly suffered cruciate ligament damage and will need 6 months or more in recovery. All the best from RamZone to Ryan, for a full recovery.
Tomasz Cywka of course suffered a cheekbone fracture in the Cardiff game; manager Clough said that he could be included in upcoming squads, if not in a starting position. The medical advice was for 2-3 weeks without the risk of contact.
The Rams’ reserves started the defence of their divisional title with a sound thrashing by 5-1 at Port Vale, despite the inclusion of first team squad members Buxton, Pringle, Martin and Moxey.
Derby County’s expenditure on player agents’ fees in the last reported period (2009-10) showed them as 9th highest spenders in the Championship, with an outlay of £434,000. The club undertook 60 transactions in the period!
Apart from some punitive payouts relating to players that Clough has jettisoned, the club’s loan-frenzy meant that many fees were paid out on short-term players.
Paul Green has been included in Republic of Ireland squad for their European Championships 2012 qualifiers against Armenia and Andorra next month.
The Ricoh Arena was Derby’s next port of call in their quest for League points. The positive start to the season at Leeds had been largely dissipated in a poor defeat in the League Cup at Crewe and then the home reversal last week from Cardiff City.
It was an injury-hit, makeshift Derby team that took the field with Hulse absent (Achilles) and Porter (as ever) half-fit and on the bench. Robbie Savage made his 500th League appearance, then managed to put in 3 media appearances for the BBC in different programmes during the rest of his weekend.
Coventry won 2-1 without exactly impressing anyone. Unbeaten City had that little bit of extra strength and quality - and Derby paid dearly for defensive lapses. Reserve left back Dean Moxey was deployed as a striker and did creditably, scoring Derby’s goal.
He is now Derby’s joint-top scorer (with 1 goal!) but it was still really only a temporary measure by Clough, borne of desperation.
Luke Varney, who presumably picked up his Derby wages this week, wasn’t selected in the squad at all for the game at the Ricoh (presumably, he was not allowed to play, as a directive from above?).
That decision was apparently so as not to jeopardise a pending move to a rival Championship club. That no doubt pleased the paying, travelling Derby supporters no end - an injury-wracked team yet again and no strikers on show in the starting line-up.
A large wage-saving would apply to offloading one of Paul Jewell’s well-paid follies - but the reluctance to field the club’s only fully fit and available striker was deplorable. The manager was away early from the Ricoh Stadium to look at a potential signing in another game, rumoured to be Adam LeFondre of Rotherham United.
Dean Leacock was rolled around by McSheffrey before bringing down the City striker. For my money, Leacock isn’t strong enough in one-to-one battles to avoid such lapses. Jutkiewicz scored from the spot kick and City held Derby off in reasonable comfort for the remainder of the first half.
Moxey levelled the scores early in the 2nd period but poor defending by Barker from a Lee Carsley cross ten minutes from time allowed defender Ben Turner to notch the winner. The Rams came away empty-handed and the season has taken a downturn.
We now have a settled defence - but gave away soft goals yet again. The team is otherwise patched up and disjointed; 2010-11 is already mirroring the frustrations and inadequacies of last season. Derby must resolve these fitness deficiencies or no progress will be made at all.
The next fortnight is quite critical for Derby, as it will set the tone for this season regarding squad building and potential progress. Fans want to see the cheque book deployed; they anticipate that there is a buyer for Luke Varney followed by and a couple of decent signings for Derby as an immediate requirement.
Giving a good account of themselves at Coventry didn’t count for anything in the League table because Derby already look less than competitive in terms of squad quality, cover and fitness.
The vast open spaces of the substantially under-subscribed Ricoh Arena haven’t prevented Coventry putting together a better team (with a recently-appointed manager) than Derby County.
Derby fans are already suppressing their aspirations of a tilt at the top six in the Championship and many think that the club must be in ‘the land of make believe’ if the club feel that this campaign will prove any more successful than 2009-10.
It is difficult to perceive this squad as promotion contenders in this season or anytime in the future; simply, we are bereft of enough quality players to do the job. Fans are beginning to think that the next new player might be called Brady - as in the old telly drama, the invisible man like our header picture of the imaginary player with his head in the clouds!
Some would put such thoughts of success more into the realms of fantasy than bold optimism and it is no wonder that there are still no promises from the club of anything more than tangible progress, whatever measure they deem will qualify as a successful season.
There’s little to inspire the fans at the moment, who want value for the up-front investment of their season-ticket money (or away-match cost); regardless of ancillary offers. No matter that there is a scheme for everything from mobile phones to funerals; the fact is that the club’s core product - the football team - is stultifyingly ordinary.
Elsewhere, rival clubs are making imaginative moves to stimulate fans and win matches - whilst Derby merely announced another ‘partnership’ deal. This time, it’s with the Doncaster Group, which produces aeronautical components; they will now have an advert on the back of replica shirts in the agreement.
That change already outdates the 2010-11 replica shirts sold to date! We can't rely on the Doncaster Group's Dubai-backed funding for significant input, either; that economy collapsed recently...
Meanwhile, Derby’s rivals are signing good players and reaching for the sky! Cardiff City, apparently backed by new Malaysian investors, registered the audacious feat of landing Craig Bellamy in time for a bumper response last weekend.
Yes, he’s been (cynically) farmed out by Manchester City to prevent him going to a Premier League rival and his wages are being heavily subsidised - but the Bluebirds are trying to turn their club around by achieving success where it really matters - on the pitch.
Rams fans can only dream of having such an exciting, iconic player to arrive and make the matchday experience something to remember on a regular basis.
What was the resulting pay-off for Cardiff’s imagination and ambition? 1,000 replica Cardiff shirts with ‘Bellamy’ on the back were sold in a single day at the club shop, along with countless flags declaring ‘the homecoming’ with an image of Bellamy on them.
Their stadium was sold out; there was renewed season ticket and corporate interest - ohh, and their team won comfortably, with the mercurial striker repaying them in storybook fashion, with a glorious 35-yard free kick strike in a 3-0 victory. That’s entertainment!
Ex-Rams boss George Burley signed Holland international midfielder Edgar Davids to add quality to cash-strapped Crystal Palace, though admitting he didn’t know when the player would be fit enough to play. That move seems to be more of a gamble than the Bellamy deal at Cardiff, which is already paying dividends.
There is even fantasy talk regarding Forest, suggesting an emotional return to Nothingham for ex-Villa boss Martin O’Neill in place of the ever loveable Billy-Davies. This is mooted after media stories reiterating the seemingly terminal split between the fractious wee Scot and his under-performing ‘acquisitions committee’.
Seeing the imaginative Bellamy and Davids deals, can the disadvantaged Clough’s patience endure in the light of Derby’s comparative cost-cutting throughout the club? Could he conceivably conclude that the dream of following in his father’s footsteps at Derby might not be realistic at all?
George Burley - another quiet man - eventually had enough at Derby and walked out because of interference and restrictions. You do wonder how the Rams’ manager is going to build a promotion team at this rate.
With the Clough & Taylor statue being revealed in a few days, does the DCFC board calculate that heritage attractions like statues will buy off supporters? Does the board anticipate that the goodwill generated confirms the sincerity of the regime in football terms in the minds of supporters, which can insulate GSE from growing criticism?
However prized our heritage might be, it’s also way out there in the land of make believe to think that’s the case. There is no substitute for the acquisition of quality players of sufficient quantity to pull along the youngsters and lower-league recruits, if we do have true ambitions for the top six places in the table.
It’s QPR at home next Saturday; they are top of the table with a 100% Championship record so far. New manager Neil Warnock is able to invest in his team and make his mark. We need something from the game to re-ignite the spark of optimism that glowed brightly but all too briefly after the win at Elland Road on opening day.
RamsWeek 34 last season saw Derby ‘bringing it all back home’ as they recorded another home win, defeating Plymouth Argyle 2-1 with a late winner from Miles Addison. Jake Buxton had earlier given away the penalty from which Argyle took a first-half lead – and then equalised himself with his first goal for the club.
The Rams had taken a point at Blackpool in midweek in a 0-0 draw, in which goalkeeper Stephen Bywater made his 100th appearance for Derby. Roy Carroll, the ex-Manchester United keeper signed by Paul Jewell, was released from the club with 2 years of his contract remaining.
The DCFC board declared they had reduced a £31m debt at takeover in January 2008 to £23m some 18 months later. More cost-cutting would be required to align the club’s costs with their Championship status.
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