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RamsWeek 6 - Selling England By The Pound!
RamsWeek 6 - Selling England By The Pound!
Monday, 11th Feb 2008 01:22 by Paul Mortimer

Manager Paul Jewell’s witty asides reflected some lifting of the gloom at Derby after the team had battled for two hard-earned draws.

After the Rams’ gritty draw at Birmingham City, he quipped that he’d still got more points on his licence than Derby had in the Premier League – and when journos asked him about Villa (Emanuel, our goal-scoring Argentinian striker), he twisted the question by responding: “Villa? They’re the biggest team in Birmingham, aren’t they?’ Which was a great putdown of the grotty Bluenoses, anyway!

The Reserves, consisting of mainly Academy players, lost 0-6 to an Aston Villa side containing first team squad members. Seems like the Rams Reserves are faring no better than the first team at present.

Derby’s injury woes have continued, with the defensive jinx being extended. Claude Davis suffered a knee injury that needed surgery and looks like ending his season. Tyrone Mears is long-term injured though Jay McEveley is back in light training. Darren Moore was another doubt for the Spurs game with a hamstring injury.

Of course, full back Danny Mills is sadly now an aborted loan with his own serious injury, which caused his return to Manchester City whilst Derby must still pick up the wages tab.

The arrival of Alan Stubbs was necessary and timely and it looks like Edworthy and Leacock would be filling the fullback berths again for the time being.

Paul Jewell again paid tribute to the Derby County supporters, out in number again at Birmingham to watch rubbish; the Rams’ home crowds also place us among the top 10 supported clubs in the land.

Mr Pearson and the new owners tell us how valuable we are and repeat platitudes about how we are the heart and soul of the club, which will be focussed around us - whilst they simultaneously and secretly plan alongside other Premier League bosses to ship out some future matches abroad, well out of our reach.

Interestingly, there was an official hint about the sources of Derby County’s foreign investors. Noises from fans and comments in the national press concerning the invisibility of the Rams’ new backers have evoked further comment from the club. Tom Glick said that they were from America, Canada and Hong Kong and that they would be visiting Pride Park Stadium for games before the end of the season.

There was a flurry of international interest as the Cappello era got under way with England’s win over Switzerland at Wembley, and as with most clubs, several Rams players were away in different parts of the globe as the latest round of international friendlies (and African Nations Cup tournament) took place.

At the same time as the FA were showing off their newly imported national team manager, the Premier League enclave were busy selling England by the pound. It was revealed that EPL teams will be sent here there and everywhere to complete a lottery based additional overseas fixture for the benefit of remote telly addicts.

Therefore, Tom Glick and his new crew who call the tune at Pride Park Stadium will be able to take the Rams off to play away at the whim of the game’s custodians to play on widescreen TV in the homes of our mysterious investors - and even in their very midst, in Hong Kong, Canada and America!

The ‘39th game’ debate (the one that Premier League chairmen hope to keep quiet) erupted to reach all corners of the game and has caused some consternation and bemusement as the usual national cronies tell us how exciting and progressive it all is. Rams CFO Adam Pearson (like all Premier League chairmen) has endorsed the initiative in principle. 

I have a suspicion that by 2011 or soon after, the Premier League will be shrunk by a club or two via ‘natural selection’ (otherwise known as the billionaire ownership squeeze - as a clutch of very rich clubs demand more of a fattened cake), so that the overseas matches won’t inflict fixture congestion…

Like other clubs in the Greed League, no consultation has been made by anyone concocting these proposals with manager or fans. Paul Jewell, like many managers, isn’t exactly enamoured with the idea.

How does an ‘international round’ make it a ‘better competition’ or retain the English character of our game, or guarantee the development of homegrown talent, as Richard Scudamore is suggesting?

Mr Pearson declared that such a game could be worth £5m to the club - thus implying that the integrity of the competition and denial of realistic live access to all games for the true fanbase were secondary to the objective of making as much as possible from that one fateful additional fixture.

There is no guaranteed benefit to the fans or the club itself, or community or certainty of player development as declared by the game’s leaders. Clubs would claw in the extra money but billionaire owners and remote shareholders don’t actually have any obligation to put it anywhere but their own pockets, do they?

We await proposals that would guarantee money being used for tangible benefits to real Rams fans in Derby and elsewhere that attend Derby County games and see the Rams as their only football team. Commitment to expenditure on some real, large-scale permanent access to the club’s heritage and history, rather than just that tacky little frame in Starbucks with a few token DCFC photos on it, perhaps?

Perhaps various broken promises about stadium statues of respected heroes could be acknowledged and finally fulfilled? Or maybe just another fast food or finance franchise outlet would be facilitated instead.

The Rams have spent a net £2m in bringing in a total of 8 new players on permanent deals or loans and shipping out the same number of their own players temporarily or permanently to other clubs. Tottenham, however - Derby’s opponents on Saturday - spent £18m on just two players during the window.

It would therefore be another test of the Rams’ progress as new players began to contribute and the team took on a more competitive mentality. The memory of that dreadful 0-4 drubbing at White Hart Lane at the start of the season was something that the Rams had to try and erase, that was certain!

With Stubbs and Carroll making their home debuts and Emanuel Villa lining up alongside Kenny Miller, fans were hopeful that Derby could produce enough spirit and resistance to give Spurs a game this time around. Hossam Ghaly was ineligible due to the clause that Spurs had inserted in the loan agreement.

The Rams matched Spurs for an hour and had chances to take the lead through Barnes and Miller, which they fatefully spurned. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and the twinkle-toed Dimitar Berbatov came on as a substitute and changed the game.

Tottenham’s passing and movement began to dazzle Derby and the Londoners hardly needed Rams defenders to vainly appeal for an offside that never was as Keane drove in the first goal. Yet another lesson to learn over again - play to the whistle, because the other team will if you don’t.

Derby were caught sleepy for a Spurs corner again late in the game for Kaboul seal their victory and consign the Rams to a 20th game without a win (equalling the club’s worst-ever sequence from 1990-91) before Berbatov himself rapped in a penalty in the last minute for what seemed a harsh handball decision against Alan Stubbs for a 3-0 defeat.

It was a cruel scoreline as the performance for the first two-thirds of the match were precisely what Derby fans wanted - busy, attentive, inventive, effective - and but for the usual poor final balls and bad finishing, the Rams may well have put Spurs to the sword.

Aussie midfielder Mile Sterjovski did make a late substitute appearance for his Derby debut and the long-lost David Jones also came off the bench, but Spurs were irrepressible and their quality told in the end.

Derby’s fragile confidence was destroyed again as soon as the opposition scored - and the comfort of scoring enabled Spurs to relax and turn on the style to win comfortably. “For the first hour I think we had them rattled, but once the first goal goes in they look like a different team - and so did we”, manager Paul Jewell lamented.

The fans did see some entertainment for once and the 33,000 crowd enjoyed good debuts from Stubbs and Carroll, who brought more experience and quality to the Rams’ ranks. Stephen Pearson and Dean Leacock also performed like we know they can.

Captain Robbie Savage has picked up an injury, however - but a few more fans than I might think that Alan Stubbs will make a good leader instead.

Supporters would also acknowledge that Tottenham’s skilful squad, from ex-Ram Huddlestone to Robbie Keane, Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas to the imperious Berbatov, had the ability to step up a gear and the Spurs are coming of age to look an attractive and progressive outfit under new manager Juande Ramos. It remains to be seen if they can ascend to the Top 4.

A sign of things to come was the press comments attributed to Rams’ star striker Kenny Miller, who has been linked with a move to back to Scotland with Glasgow Rangers. He declared he’d have no worries joining the ‘Gers even though he was a former Celtic player - and seemed to be issuing a ‘come and get me notice’ whilst acknowledging he has another two years at Derby with no ‘get out’ clause.

The Rams have a blank Saturday this week due to the FA Cup - though that dream has long gone and there are just 6 Premier League teams left in the competition!

A year ago, RamsWeek 6 arrived with the Rams still flying high at the top of the Championship. Their incredible away record and superbly consistent form – now 8 wins on the trot - saw them gain an important and impressive 1-0 win away at Southampton.

Another goal from Steve Howard bashed up George Burley’s promotion hopes and maintained Derby’s position as the team to catch.

Unfortunately, a couple of teams did just that - but we later duffed up the Saints again of course in the Play-off Semis and picked off the fancy dans of West Bromwich Albion in the Wembley Final to reach the Premier League!

Photo: Action Images

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