Derby Down Under - Goodbye & Goodluck!
Sunday, 13th Jan 2008 03:01 by Daniel J Sewart
With the news that we've sold two of our promotion heroes, I think we should all take time to remember their fantastic contribution to the club.
Matt Oakley and Steve Howard have now both joined Leicester City and as they depart should be applauded for the part they played in getting the team back into the Premier League. Both players were serious professionals who both arrived at Derby with a point to prove.
Matt Oakley was the player Billy Davies brought in as his captain with experience at the highest level, playing with a calm authority that could rise to desperate determination should the need arise. After a horror run with injuries at Southampton being relegated and falling out of first team calculations with George Burley the move gave him the chance to show exactly what he was made of and he did just that.
Oakley achieved more than anyone could have hoped in his time as the clubs on field leader with 61 appearances and 9 goals for the Rams. Oakley also was one of the few players who could claim he managed the pace of the Premier League with 3 of the team’s goals in the top flight this season. Two of his most special memories in black and white will be being named man of the match at Wembley and scorer of the teams first Premier league goal.
Although record books will show he only had a short stay at Derby, Matt Oakley leaves Rams fans with more special memories than most players in recent history. It came as a shock to most that he was shipped out so quickly as if relegated would have been invaluable depth in another championship campaign.
The other departure was that of Steve Howard who brought goals to the club when they were desperately needed if promotion was going to be achieved. 17 goals in 59 appearances showcased his power in the air and presence on the ball especially when holding it up and distributing for his teammates.
Howard took a while to kick start his Rams career taking 7 games to hit the back of the net before netting in four consecutive games becoming the first player to do since Fabrizio Ravanelli. Howard was Player of the Month in January 2007 and scored 16 goals in the promotion season with the most telling being a brace in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg against Southampton.
Although not managing to establish himself as a Premier League striker with the Rams he managed to break the teams much reported ‘away’ goal drought in December against Manchester United at Old Trafford. That goal was celebrated by players and fans as if a cup final had just been brought to Pride Park and will leave something for the fans and the man himself to treasure.
The greatest shame of all is that in his final game for the club against Blackburn he missed a crucial penalty. He deserved a more fitting finale but football rarely offers such happy endings.
Matt and Steve may have left Derby County but I doubt any fan will regret that they chose to pull on a Rams shirt. They are solid examples of two players who displayed the courage fans demand and a Manager expects.
If, as it seems we will once again meet the foxes in battle next season, then both will join the list of ex-players we will cross paths with in battle. As much as I hope neither continue the tradition of scoring against their old club I doubt many would begrudge them a good game whoever they are playing for.
I chose to have their names printed on my Rams shirts over the last two seasons and both will be kept in my treasured collection. They will be a constant reminder of the memories and quality that both players brought to a club that desperately needed the talent that they provided.
On behalf of all at RamZone, 'goodbye and good luck'!!
Photo: Action Images
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