RamsWeek 28 - Just an Illusion
Monday, 12th Jul 2010 01:48 by Paul Mortimer
The week saw more of the traditional pre-season stories of new players keen to impress at Derby and injured players battling back to fitness.
Derby did sign five players in a flurry of ink and paper, though (as reported earlier this week), the Rams hadn’t quite gone on an unexpected spending spree but have signed a quintet of Academy lads on professional contracts!
They are goalkeeper James Severn (who is on standby for the England Under-19 squad), defender Kallum Keane, midfielders Jeff Hendrick and Graham Kelly and striker Ryan Connolly.
There was plenty of activity elsewhere, with the Foxes snatching Swansea City manager Paolo Sousa after Nigel Pearson left to join Hull City. Ex-Ram Bobby Davison has applied for the manager’s role at Swansea.
Among various player deals struck at other clubs, ex-Ram Jay McEveley has joined Championship rivals Barnsley. Tykes’ manager Mark Robins said he ‘wasted no time in getting him in’ when Jay became available. Suits you, Sir!
McEveley won’t enjoy a big pay packet like the one Billy Davies gave him at Derby, and as Nigel Clough decided in May that he could cope without the inconsistent defender, he became a free agent.
Doncaster Rovers have secured the services of Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp for a fee reported as a club record £1.1m. Sharp was coveted by Derby and mentioned in the ‘possibles’ for Derby signings by Tom Glick and Nigel Clough. The player did have a successful loan period at Rovers last season, which was no doubt a factor in his decision.
Derby’s top target, Scunthorpe’s Gary Hooper, was reportedly in talks with Glasgow Celtic, with a host of clubs interested in signing him. It seems that the Rams haven’t bid for either striker. Was it substance or spin, fans are wondering, after all the springtime talk from the club that they would spend £1m of more for the ‘right’ player?
Some might conclude that was just an illusion, it was merely spin to generate supporter enthusiasm after another mediocre season. Do the Rams mean business or were they just talking up their ambitions with one eye on the impending season ticket renewal deadline?
Time will tell. It’s only in July that transfer activity picks up when clubs are up and running during pre-season. Contracts are expiring and many players are freed, new managers prune squads to refresh their player complement, some allow surplus players to go out on loan - there’s two more months of activity yet, in the whole merry-go-round.
Plenty could happen between now and the end of August on the transfer or loan front, though fans continue to air concerns that a lack of pace and creativity in midfield hasn’t yet been addressed either. Stoke’s surplus midfielder, Michael Tonge, doesn’t know where his future lies yet.
He’s in pre-season training at Stoke but there is plenty of unsettling transfer talk surrounding his future. Stoke want a fee, or could use him as bait to sign other players.
Tonge says he has not heard from any club this summer, which does query Derby’s alleged keenness in securing his services for the new season. Despite the manager hoping to land Tonge on a renewed loan deal that might also end up as an illusion; Derby are at the mercy of the club that owns his registration.
Manager Clough made early inroads into improving the Derby squad as well as releasing a number of players. Hopefully we will have some fresh energy from the youngsters Bailey, Brayford and Cywka he’s signed, the experience of Roberts and Anderson and a much better fitness chart next season.
The club also aren’t as bullish now about a ‘signature’ striker signing. Mr Clough has recently declared that he already has six strikers and won’t recruit unless one of his existing forwards moves on.
I’m not sure that his strike-squad count is as impressively as that: Kris Commons and Steve Davies haven’t been flavour of the month due to fitness problems - and both played only bit-parts last season.
Luke Varney, yet to prove at Derby that he wasn’t one of Paul Jewell’s final follies, was an outcast, sent off on loan perpetually at Sheffield Wednesday. After relegation, the Owls can’t afford him and he’s hardly high up the Derby County pecking order. Chris Porter can score goals but is injury-prone and recovering from a lay-off from hip and back problems.
Top scorer Rob Hulse is subject to constant transfer speculation and can still command a fee at the moment; youngster Tomasz Cywka has promise but is unproven at Championship level, after being groomed at Wigan and released.
Hulse topped Derby’s scoring charts in 2009-10 with 12 goals; 2nd highest scorer was defender Shaun Barker with 5 goals - creditable for a defender but also a shocking reflection on the contribution of other forwards (and midfielders) on the books. There must be a vast improvement next season from midfield!
Derby are also being short-changed in another area, after the Proceeds of Crime proceedings at Northampton Crown Court failed to award Derby County FC any compensation for amounts taken fraudulently by the four defendants.
There were “complex issues of law and fact” that prevented such compensation, according to Judge Alexander.
Messrs Mackay, Keith and McKenzie were ordered to pay back amounts totalling some £600k (VAT inclusive) that were defrauded from the club whilst they were part of the now-discredited John Sleightholme regime. They have 6 months so to do, and would face further jail sentences of between 18 and 30 months if they fail so to do.
Properties of the convicted will be sold in lieu of the fraud but proceeds will go to the public purse, and DCFC now have to consider civil proceedings for compensation.
Reports said that the ordeal of prosecution, trial and imprisonment had affected the defendants and that Mackenzie and Keith had lost weight. Well, as Derby County are somewhat lighter in the pocket after the fraudsters’ disastrous tenure at the club, I can’t see the weight loss factor doing the rotund Mr Keith any great harm. I don’t think he would find it too difficult to buy trousers in a slimmer size!
There’s no report of Mr Murdo Mackay’s waistline shrinking dramatically through his ordeal but I trust that his ego has shrunk somewhat since the time he used to monopolise the microphone on matchdays at Derby and hold court as the Rams’ so-called director of football. They sure got chased out of town, and through the courts.
It would be remiss not to mention the conclusion of the 2010 World Cup and the skilful, hardworking Spanish side added the world crown to their European title after Andres Iniesta’s classy extra-time strike put paid to Holland’s ruthless, sometimes desperate endeavours to stifle the Spaniard’s attacking intent.
The Soccer City stadium reverberated to Spain’s celebrations and South Africa’s exhuberant and colourful staging of the world tournament has lifted the perception of the rapidly-changing continent. Let’s hope there is a lasting legacy for the African people.
England’s legacy from their tournament of great hope was a tarnished ‘golden generation’ of over-rated, under-equipped players. We were humiliated by Germany after several other mediocre performances had stunted our optimism.
Well, no doubt we have been instrumental in resurrecting the foolishly-discarded FIFA goal-line technology debate and our ‘top’ referee, Howard Webb, issued a record 14 yellow and a single red card in officiating at the final in Johannesburg.
Not much to show, Mr Capello and all, is it? Do we need a footballing revolution from the top down, or what?
In RamsWeek 28 in 2009 it was all rumour and sigh, transfer speculation surrounding Rams’ stars Rob Hulse and Kris Commons much as it always has done.
The club stressed it did not need to sell players and had jettisoned several expensive misfits during Nigel Clough’s initial purge of the moribund squad that he inherited.
Goalkeepers Lewis Price and Roy Carroll were poised to move, the former only temporarily on loan. Clough was lining up his old chum Saul Deeney from Burton Albion for the reserve ‘keeper berth. Derby beat Albion 1-0 with a goal from Chris Porter in the now-traditional pre-season friendly between the football neighbours.
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