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Bill's Take: Up There Where We Belong?
Thursday, 17th Oct 2013 07:23 by Bill Riordan

I tend to think of the history of football as having begun about the time I attended my first Rams match in 1960. It’s a nice, convenient date; far enough back to have enough historical significance, but recent enough that most of what has happened since is still somewhat relevant.

In this shortened version of football history only two clubs have been in the top division the whole time.

Which two?

Well the answer might surprise a few people; Arsenal and Everton.

Obviously they are two clubs with a large and loyal base of support; it’s probable also that their directors have done a good job of appointing capable managers to maintain their status.

There are several other clubs who should never drop out of the top division except in disastrous circumstances; Spurs, Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs and probably Chelsea.

Others who should always be in the top division as long as the manager is paying attention would be Newcastle, Aston Villa and perhaps Sunderland. Others who are not but should be are at least one of the Sheffield clubs and probably Leeds.

Its all part of a theory I have - not very original I admit - that every club has a division where they naturally belong. It’s a combination of the size and passion of the fan base, and has not a little to do with the ability on the board of directors.

So where do the Rams belong?

Should we be achieving promotion naturally, as a matter of right?

In the 53 seasons since 1960, the Rams have spent 21 seasons in the top tier, 30 in the second tier and 2 in the third tier. So yes, we are a club that can get into the top tier and compete there, but it’s far from automatic; as has been obvious the last few years.

As I pointed out in a recent article, the Rams have been promoted to the top division four times in these 53 seasons. The first time was in 1968/69 with Brian Clough as manager.

We spent eleven years in the old Division 1, before coming down in 1979/80 with Colin Addison in charge. We next went "up top" in 1986/87 under Arthur Cox. We spent four years in the old Division 1 on that occasion, before dropping back in 1990/91 with Arthur Cox still manager, but with a massive contribution towards relegation coming from Robert Maxwell.

The third promotion came in 1995/96 under Jim Smith. That team spent six years in the Premiership, before being relegated in 2001/02 with first Colin Todd and then Billy McEwan as manager.

The most recent promotion, of course was in 2006/07 under Billy Davies; with relegation the following year guided by first Billy Davies and then Paul Jewell.

Here is the conclusion I draw from this: the Rams can reach the top flight and compete, but only as long as we have excellent management.

Few would argue that Brian Clough, Arthur Cox and Jim Smith were the best managers the club has been fortunate enough to have employed in the last fifty years.

But when our management falls below such standards of excellence, we realize quickly that we are not Arsenal or Everton and we drop back down.

As for Billy Davis; he was a clueless individual who quickly followed the Peter Principle and found his level of incompetence.

As part of my theory, another factor has been that over the years the Rams have not always been fortunate in those that have inhabited their board room. Unfortunately successful local business people seem to have been under-represented.

In moving on to present day - where will Steve McClaren fit into the Rams' hierarchy of excellence when the history books are updated?

I don't know; but I suspect that the next three games - Watford, Birmingham and QPR - will give us an idea where this season is heading.

Photo: Action Images

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