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Monday Musings: So, ARE things improving?
Monday Musings: So, ARE things improving?
Monday, 24th Aug 2009 12:38 by Paul Redfern

It very much looks like it – both on the field and off it.

On the field, on Saturday, we were treated to the spectacle of Hulse, Commons, Barker and Green all on the bench.  Most Championship teams would have started with all of these, but Clough felt confident enough to put out a starting eleven that included debut loanee Livermore and Davies.

Despite a poor start, there was a lot of passing to a white shirt and occasionally to a green shirt or to an empty space.  Unlike that of last season when I wrote after the away win at QPR: “ Cloughie (Nigel’s father) would have been dismayed by the amount of London grime the ball gathered in its time in the air.  Far too often someone with enough time passed to the wrong shirt, or to an empty space – indicative of a hurried mentality.”

That particular failing seems to have been eradicated – if anything, Derby players were occasionally guilty of dwelling too long on the ball.  Even Connors has got onto the act – he passes to another white shirt instead of aimlessly hoofing it into the penalty area.  All credit to him as it doesn’t come naturally.

And Bywater occasionally plays the role of a sweeper when he is part of a series of passes, instead of picking up the ball and punting it downfield. Certainly, website posters complaining of the ‘hoofball’ that was employed under the previous regime no longer do so, although of course there are those in the crowd that grumble about this kind of studied football.

One benefit of this approach seems to be that we commit fewer fouls because we are not trying to get the ball back – we have it.   By contrast the other team commit more fouls and this gives us an opportunity to try out set pieces.  I suspect that if some nerd out there did some research on the number of fouls we commit and compared it to the other teams, we would find that our foul count has dropped dramatically while the other teams’ is either static or increased. 

In fact we have, so far, committed the lowest number of fouls (29) (league stats link)and given away 2 bookings, one more than Ipswich (surprise!) .  This does not matter too much at this stage of the season but come Christmas or March when you suddenly lose players (especially the likes of Addison) because of bookings, then it becomes important.

The other improvement seems to be that we have become more menacing at set pieces and corners.  Compared to the Jewell regime where I often felt that unless Hulse was able to pick it up, we would waste the corner or set-piece, we now bomb the area with bodies and it only takes one error on their part for us to get a goal as we did on the first day with Teale poking home at close range.

This is surely a welcome change from the days when watching Derby ready themselves I would always be reminded of the then Southampton manager Gordon Strachan’s memorable quote about Claud Lundekvam which went along the lines of him claiming that he didn’t know why he (Lundekvam) went up for corners as he never did anything, and then added that referees should book him for wasting time.

But, of course, fans are often more concerned with results and the game against Plymouth was often in the balance (a heart-felt thanks to Savage for that last ditch tackle) despite our dominance for long periods.  So we can expect a few slip-ups and even a bad run when nothing goes right for us and we lose a few on the trot.  Make no mistake, Plymouth could well have gone home cracking open the champagne, instead of reaching out for the Budweiser.

Off the field, there was a dramatic announcement before the game that we had reduced the debt by £8 million – welcome news indeed. As Appleby pointed out, this is part of an on-going plan to manage our finances and then ensure we have adequate investment in the playing side.  He stated: “We are completely aligned with the supporter base on getting this club back to the Premier League and we believe when we get there, we will be ready for it.”

Pearson was also on message by saying that the progress made needed to be steady and commented that: “I am well aware that this is not a particularly exciting message in the modern world of football.”

On a related note, the reserves start their campaign on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see who goes into the team and how they fare throughout the season.  The last time we had a reserve team was in the Premiership and like their seniors lost just about every match which did nothing for the morale of those youngsters, and arguably destroyed some budding careers.  Hopefully there will be a good balance between development and results, and replication of the same type of football played by the seniors, so that when anyone makes the step up, they play to the same pattern as the seniors.

The most successful clubs pay as much attention to their academy and reserves as they do to the first team squad.  They know that the successful teams are those that are tweaked every season with one eye on young players coming through and the other eye on the transfer market.  That is what we need to aim for and this will not happen for at least 2 or even three years.

So the club management’s insistence on rebuilding slowly is welcome, and should end the years of boom or bust which has made for far too many miserable years.


Photo: Action Images

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