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Bill's Take: Derby Have Dug Themselves Into A Very Deep Hole
Friday, 24th Feb 2017 07:01 by Bill Riordan

In my last column, I opined that the Rams’ only realistic path to promotion was to finish in sixth place in the Championship.

A good way to have started on that path would have been to win all three of the upcoming home fixtures against what appeared to be modest opposition; Bristol City, Cardiff and Burton Albion.

Here we are just a short time later, and the Rams have only managed a draw against Bristol, a defeat against Cardiff and a draw against Burton under their belts.

The Rams are now in eleventh place, ten points behind sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday, but with a game in hand and fourteen more games to play.

It looks very much as though any thoughts of promotion must be put on hold until next season; Steve McClaren gave it a good crack when he was first appointed, but the team has an unbalanced look about it, and some of the players are just not good enough.

So, where do the Rams go from here? What can we look forward to between now and next season?

One thing that many Rams fans are calling for is a clear out of the playing staff at the end of this season. Unfortunately, I think this is one thing that is unlikely to happen.

The only Rams players with significant first team experience who are out of contract this Summer are Chris Baird, Cyrus Christie and Darren Bent. Baird looks sure to move on and Christie seems certain to be offered a new contract, while Bent’s situation may well hinge on what happens with the disposition of Chris Martin’s loan spell and permanent move to Fulham.

Many of us will have a personal list of players we would like to see gone; but as you can see, many of the names on our lists are still under contract for not only next season but another year or two after that.

Even if the Rams decided that the underperforming players could leave on free transfers this Summer, and clubs could be found to take them, are the players going to turn their backs on a rich Rams contract which runs until the summer of 2019 or 2020? No, most of them will not.

For several Rams players, the only way they will leave is the Conor Sammon route; a series of loans with various clubs until their Rams contract finally runs out. Andreas Weimann already looks to have taken the first steps on this path with his loan to Wolves for the rest of this season.

There can be little doubt that the Rams have dug themselves into a very deep hole with their transfer market shenanigans of the last couple of years, and it is going to take enterprise and initiative to work our way out of it.

My guess also is that the Chairman will not be looking to pump a great deal more money into the club to fund transfers, until he can be convinced that the money will be spent wisely. So, we will most likely be looking at any incoming signings being players who arrive on free transfers.

This may well be a good thing: I would love to see a couple of players with physical presence that can consistently do the simple things properly, and there is no need for those players to cost a great deal of money.

It also looks quite likely that we will return to the loan market for a couple of players; the last time Steve McClaren was Rams manager he worked the loan system with consistent success.

We will also be hoping for a successful return from long - term injuries for Craig Forsyth and George Thorne; having them back to their best would be like new signings of the best type.

As stated earlier, we do not know how the Chris Martin situation will work out, but it is quite possible the Rams might have Martin back as another almost-new signing.

In summary, I am expecting few players to be leaving permanently, but perhaps several going out on loan; and probably no more than a couple permanent transfers with perhaps two or three more arrivals on loan.

Steve McClaren’s contract runs until the end of the 2017/2018 season, so I am hoping for no change at the helm for a while.

Finally, if the Rams are to be playing in the Championship again next season, I would really like to see some of the youngsters given a chance in the closing weeks of the season, to prepare them to challenge for a first team place in the future.

However, I do not see it as all that likely, as Steve Mac never strikes me as a manager for whom encouraging youth is a priority.

Photo: Action Images

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