Rams hit 5 in incredible win


Derby 5-0 Wolves (8/11/14)

This was the Derby we know. The Derby of the back end of last season that devastated oppositions. The side we have, in spite of good results, longed to see again. It arrived. In style.

Yet, still, the 4-1 play-off semi-final win over Brighton is still narrowly my favourite win under McClaren.

Firstly, the pre-match poppy display in the East Stand was a good idea in front of the cameras. It was a rare occasion that a sea of red was acceptable!

It also transpired that it wasn’t just raining horrifically, it was raining goals. Weather like that quickly comes bearable when you’re treated to this Derby side.

Actually, I thought the conditions would hinder the Rams and I wasn’t too confident about winning either. How stupid was I to think that?

From the off, it was clear that the hosts were up for this; they got in Wolves’ faces, passed confidently and, pleasingly, looked stylish. When this side clicks, it really does click perfectly.

Pleasing about the goals was the team nature of them. Everyone chipped in, as well as some delightful individual finishes.

The first goal came from an Omar Mascarell free-kick. All of a sudden, the Rams have looked dangerous from set pieces. I have had a gripe over set pieces with the team for a while! Omar’s lovely delivery was met wonderfully by the head of Ryan Shotton.

The next came from a throw-in but not quite direct as Simon Dawkins flicked on Cyrus Christie’s throw into the path of Jeff Hendrick, who, picked his spot into the bottom corner. It was an unstoppable drive.

Soon it was 3-0. Mascarell hit his corner too far for Richard Keogh to head direct in goal so, intelligently, the skipper headed back ito the mix. The ball found its way to the on-fire Johnny Russell. That wasn’t all though, he chested it into his path and away from the ball-watching defence and, unchallenged, hit it home. Magnificent.

3 up at the break, the Rams were cruising it. How would Wolves respond? Well, not very well. Their defence just couldn’t cope with the in-form home side.

The fourth went in courtesy of Hendrick. This was probably my favourite. Omar, Dawkins and, most significantly, Hughes, Martin and Jeff himself played some neat football to make this goal. It was quick passing and moving. Simple but joyful to watch. Hendrick finished with ease. Home and dry. Not quite dry, though the points were safe.

Next up was Russell. Again. In the build-up, a real treat came from the incredible Mascarell, who showed off his Spanish flair in some style.

Craig Forsyth, from a good distance out, hit an inviting ball across the Wolves box. Russell pounced on it and got the fifth. It looked easy from the stands, yet, on closer examination, it can’t have been easy to keep down with the ball zipping so quickly across the wet surface.

At that point, I was thinking it could be as many as 8, the amount the surprise package of the season so far Bournemouth hit at struggling Birmingham last month. The defending was abysmal.

The game fizzled out after that. It must be said that possession was pretty even with it being just 52% in Derby’s favour. Also, the visitors did have chances in front of goal. It was 6 on target and 5 goals for the ruthless Rams.

Picking a man of the match for me is a toss-up between Russell and Mascarell, while Hughes and Hendrick also had great games.

It will be hard to break up this eleven. It really ticked. The midfield, often a position incline to get a few questions raised over, had everything. Hendrick’s power and finishing means it will be hard to make a case for the injured Craig Bryson, still searching for real form, to return to the side.

A word on Mascarell. The loanee stopped the away side from playing and was at the heart of everything good about the Rams’ performance. He can pass very well too. Quietly, he is beginning to grow into the all important ‘Thorne’ role.

Last season Derby scored 5 in 4 separate matches. So far this season, they’ve managed it 3 times.

It’s a shame the international break is upon us. It does, however, mean we can drool over that performance for a little longer!

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Lions frustrate Derby in 0-0 draw


Yesterday, fans endured a frustrating afternoon against Millwall. It all ended 0-0. Here are a few points about the game.

Derby began the game very positively but let things fizzle out a little in the second-half. Still on home soil the Rams struggle to get an early goal to ease the difficulty presented by the sides that come to Pride Park to defend, defend and defend. Out of the 14 home goals scored so far this campaign, McClaren’s side have only bagged 2 of them in the first 45.

I have long called for more game time for Real Madrid loanee Omar Mascarell. Again, John Eustace got the nod yesterday. When Derby have a lot of the ball (63% yesterday) at home, I feel Omar would probably do a better job. The role isn’t just about defending, George Thorne added more quality to it.

The Spanish midfielder has only made one sub appearance in the last 7 league games. Has something gone on that we’re not aware of? Is he not putting the work in during training?

Crosses especially seemed awful yesterday. Even Craig Forsyth didn’t seem to hit a decent cross. It is similar with set pieces, Derby just can’t seem to use them to their advantage.

Jordan Ibe, unlike his dazzling performance in the last round of the League Cup, failed to impress. What the referee deemed to be a dive was difficult to see for me. Putting that aside, he does have a lot of pace and clearly plenty of skill but, at times, it all goes to waste on making the wrong decision or just simply going too far. Hopefully it was just a one off.

The substitutions didn’t have the same impact as they have previously. Leon Best’s early glimmers are proving to be a distant memory. Yet, I do have to admire the manager’s positivity with subs, in contrast with the previous manager. Jeff Hendrick, Leon Best and Johnny Russell were all thrown on within around five minutes of each other.

Having said all of that, it was another clean sheet and the fourth in a row after shipping goals in four consecutive matches prior to that. Steve McClaren can’t seem to make his mind up about who to partner Richard Keogh. I sense that, because of that, when Jake Buxton is ready to go he’ll be back in the starting XI.

Millwall clearly haven’t changed from their visit last season, when they became one of only two sides to beat Derby under the guidance of Mac, Simmo and Steele. The Lions deployed the same tactics; excessive timewasting and a willingness to sit back and defend.

Fans that travel to watch Millwall home and away must have an awful experience. They go to watch the opposition play because, clearly, their side don’t. They just stop the others from playing.

However, you do have to admire their organisation and ability to play like that for a whole game in defence! I understand moderate timewasting towards the conclusion of a match, every side does it, but Millwall take it to another level.

This match is looking at the narrow picture. Looking at the wider picture, it has been a good start to the season – unbeaten at home, just one defeat, in the top 6. I can’t wait to see the Rams really get going, the rest of the league should be ready because it’s coming!

Now it is time for the international break. I’m sure I’m not alone in loathing frequent international breaks. Club football all the way for me.

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Rams Round-Up


After two 2-0 wins in a week, Derby have the comfort of a week containing two home games.

2-0 wins

Both victories have been good, polished victories. One very pleasing thing has been the two clean sheets, the Rams hadn’t kept a clean sheet since August. Richard Keogh, after a few pre-season jitters, is looking great in the heart of defence and he has now committed to the club by signing a new contract. Cyrus Chrsitie, although dropped for the Nottingham Forest game, has adapted to Championship life very well indeed.

The midfield seemed to have found its balance even before this impressive week but this week has highlighted the midfield’s ability to control games. Furthermore, Craig Bryson appears to have found his feet after a difficult start.

The week ahead

On Tuesday night, AFC Bournemouth make the trip to Pride Park. Eddie Howe’s side has had a great week too, beating pre-season promotion favourites Cardiff 3-0 away from home in the League Cup and following it up with a 2-0 home victory over Wigan.

On Saturday, Millwall make the trip north to take on the Rams. I still remember that loss to the Lions last season with the excessive time wasting. In fact, that defeat on home soil is one of only two home league defeats under Steve McClaren.

Penalty problem?

Last season Derby failed top convert 6 of their 11 penalties. Chris Martin missed two of the six he scores and yesterday he saw his penalty saved at Bolton Wanderers. Who should take the team’s spot kicks?

One year on

It is one year to the day since Nigel Clough was sacked as Derby County boss.

I remember my immediate reaction; shock and disgust. Have a read of the nation’s reaction, from Robbie Savage to Niall Horan, of the dismissal by clicking here.

The club is keen to remind fans of the huge turnaround, recently posting this graphic (see below) of the remarkable record at home.

Martin begins with a bang At this exact date last season, Chris Martin had scored six goals, the same amount he has now (see top goalscorers below). In total he managed 25 goals last season. It’s always difficult to follow up such a good season so it’s good to see that the signs are good.

Sammon at Ipswich

Conor Sammon’s loan move to Ipswich Town was no doubt greeted with one or two cheers around Derby. Much to my surprise, he scored for Town recently, though it is worth pointing out it was a rebound having hit the ball directly at the goalkeeper. Yesterday, he was back up to his old tricks, missing an open goal.

In the match in which he scored, Sky Bet offered its customers a boost in odds! And I didn’t think 10/1 was generous!

Top goalscorers

Here is a tally of the scorers so far (in all competitions). (Figures from football-league.co.uk)

topscorers2

 

Assist tally

Here is the tally of assists made so far (in all competitions). (Figures from football-league.co.uk)

assisttally

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Rams into the final 16


Last night the Rams met Reading for a place in the League Cup last 16. Only one side really looked like winning and that was Derby.

It was a 2-0 win, through a great Johnny Russell strike and an own goal, along with a good all round performance. You can’t ask for much more than that.

The common denominator of both goals is that Chris Martin created them. For the first one he slipped the ball into Russell’s path and, for the second, it was his cross that was turned in by the Reading defender.

Steve McClaren made many changes for this, including handing Kelle Roos his debut. The young goalkeeper did everything asked of him and made some smart saves. An excellent, competent debut, so much so that the South Stand faithful shouted “Roooooooos” every time he was involved.

Roos had an alert defence in front of him with Ryan Shotton slotting in at centre-half. He is certainly an option there.

Also coming into the side was Omar Mascarell. The loanee was hugely impressive, he anticipated the game well and made some intelligent interceptions and passes. He seemed to be everywhere and his performance should, I would think, be enough to get him a starting place on Saturday at Bolton.

In fact, the whole of the midfield had a good game and ran the show for much of the game with many typically neat passes through long spells of dominance.

Jordan Ibe caught the eye on more than once occasion. I was eager for him to start as he impressed as a sub at the weekend. He is such a tricky, unpredictable player and he offers something different to Ward and Russell; he can be very effective at running with the ball at the opponents, taking the game to them. Some of his twists and turns were delightful to watch.

Leon Best began ahead of Chris Martin and he got involved but the difference was clear when Martin entered the match.

The Rams didn’t quite manage the same amount of possession as Saturday (73%!), it was split at 50 each. That isn’t a reflection though. Derby had the quality and it prevailed.

Onto the next round. A big side or a nice quiet draw? I’d go for a quiet draw so we can march on. Anything close to 2009 would be great!

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Frantic second-half sees Rams held


On the 10th anniversary of Brian Clough’s passing, Derby County and its supporters paid their tributes to Old Big ‘Ed. An applause was held on the 10th minute, just like at last weekend’s trip to the City Ground.

Prior to the match I read a fascinating article on the BBC Sport site and I do strongly recommend it. One of my favourite lines was “That Portuguese bloke at Chelsea, Jose what’s his name… He reminds me of me at the same age. But I were better-looking.” That was typical Clough with that strong charisma that, for me, helps set him above some of the other managerial greats.

Anyway, on with the match. Even though the Rams went 2-0 down it is a disappointment. The goal conceded and the command of possession meant I went home disappointed. Having said that, I can’t take anything away from the players, who, once again, showed mettle to come from behind. Here are some post-match points.

  • Derby should have capitalised on their complete domination in the first-half. Chances were missed it and the visitors were fortunate to go into the break at 0-0. In total, Derby had 18 shots, just 5 of which were on target in the whole match.
  • Craig Bryson has, it’s fair to say, not began the season well, but, today, like Tuesday, he has stepped up a gear. His wonderful goal will help bring back that confidence he oozed last season. Will Hughes, too, had an impressive game.
  • Failure to take one of the many chances in the first 45 left the Rams vulnerable to a Cardiff side clearly waiting for a chance to catch the hosts out. It came twice and they took their chances in such a clinical fashion that mean they were being very successful in spite of seeing so little of the ball. Smash and grab was written all over the match at 2-0. I was left thinking it wouldn’t be our day.
  • Is conceding becoming a problem? Two on Wednesday and another two today. Two lapses proved costly today.
  • Steve McClaren’s change in bringing on Jordan Ibe helped massively when the Rams were chasing the game. The loanee caused problems to the Cardiff defence and he clearly has a lot of pace and skill, which he used to be more direct. I think he must be close to getting a starting place, maybe on Tuesday night in the League Cup.
  • Taking set pieces is something Derby are just not effective at doing. At Forest last week, Craig Forsyth made a wonderful delivery that led to the Rams’ goal. This week, he didn’t, from my memory, take any.
  • An enormous 73% of the possession was from the home side. I’m sure it would have been much higher if you just counted the first-half alone. The midfield contributes hugely to Derby keeping the ball so much, Will Hughes has been great recently and I felt that John Eustace put in a good shift today, his passing range was good, but it was right that he was withdrawn as McClaren’s side looked to cancel out the Bluebirds’ (or Redbirds’) goals.
  • John Brayford returned to Pride Park. He was a player I hugely admired in his time as a Ram and I wish he was given more of a chance in the Premier League last season. Many of the home fans were frustrated at how long he took to take a couple of throw-ins as the match edged to its conclusion. Yes, it’s annoying when it is your team that is looking to go on and win and the opponents are doing everything to run down the clock, yet you can’t blame him; I’d expect a Rams player not to rush in the same position.
  • The result isn’t all that effective of the game. Derby were excellent in the first-half., Everything was there aside from the finishing.
  • Finally, the Rams are getting very close to their best and, I know it’s difficult to forget, but they’ve only lost one match so far this season.
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Derby Day Draw


Today’s East Midlands derby had it all; typically fiery, goals and a red card.

Beforehand I would’ve taken a point and, in the end, it was a fair result.

On the way, Bobby Zamora’s face was littered on signs. I’m glad it has been of amusement to our foes down the A52.

Enough of that and on with the real business, Ryan Shotton starting to try and contain the hosts’ advances down the wing made sense and Will Hughes was the obvious replacement for the injured Jeff Hendrick.

wpid-20140914_131136.jpgThe game began with tackles flying around and therefore it seemed a little stop-start early on. However, it all calmed down when both sets of supporters united on the 10th minute in tribute of Brian Clough.

Shotton was terrorised by the dangerous Antonio, while elsewhere, the Reds were mostly restricted.

It was Forest that had the better of the chances in the first-half but Derby’s defence held firm and weathered the storm. 0-0 at the break, coupled with two key Reds going off injured, gave Derby a good chance in the second-half. I was beginning to think the away side would sneak a win.

Things hotted up a notch in the second-half. After around 70 minutes, Assombalonga’s smart finish put the home side ahead. There was nothing the commanding Lee Grant could do, it was a well-taken goal by the man kept largely quiet throughout the game.

Positive substitutions from Steve McClaren helped freshen things up. Leon Best, Ivan Calero and Jordan Ibe coming on showed, once again, he is not afraid to make bold changes.

At times I felt Derby lacked a more direct winger because there was too much passing, instead of swinging a cross in.

The Rams responded soon after the opening goal through a scrappy goal. Forsyth, who should take free-kicks more often, swung in a lovely ball, met by Keogh’s head. After crashing against the crossbar the ball found itself in a goal mouth scramble, only ended by Ryan Shotton poking the ball home. There it was; the character any successful has to find in tricky situations.

Jake Buxton did, in truth, deserve his sending off late on. This fixture produces a red card religiously and Bucko was quickly a contender to follow the trend in today’s match.

Prior to that, the scenes were ridiculous. A Forest fan was allowed to wander all the way from the Trent End to the away support and back, unchallenged. Getting him sorted early would have surely prevented others from attempting to follow him.

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The Mac salutes the travelling support.

Like I said (no, I’m not Richard Keogh!) earlier, it was a fair result. Forest were the better side in the first 45 and Derby responded in the second period.

Skipper Richard Keogh was tremendous throughout. He made some heroic interventions and coped well with the home side’s £5 million plus dangerman. During pre-season, many, including me, expressed concern. Today he put on a true captain’s performance.

Also putting in a good shift was Will Hughes. The youngster drove the side forward and wasn’t afraid to put in a tackle. In terms of strength, Hughes has improved hugely.

Today provided Stuart Pearce’s side with their most difficult test so far and, on the day, they didn’t look like a side flying high at the league’s summit. Nevertheless, Derby weren’t and still aren’t at their best, but they’re getting closer. Today, Craig Bryson couldn’t get into the game and Chris Martin had little service to thrive on.

Two tough test are on the way in this coming week. Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City await.

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It’s Nearly Here


The East Midlands derby is almost here. It is more than a game but everybody knows that, so, what will happen tomorrow?

Will there be goals?

Last season it was Pride Park that hosted a goal feast that Rams fans will not forget in a hurry, yet, in actual fact, it is the City Ground that has been the main venue for producing goals over recent times. Over the past 14 meetings (since both sides reunited in the Championship in 2008), 26 goals have been scored at the City Ground and 14 at Pride Park.

What about a red card?

I most certainly wouldn’t bet against a red card! The last two have come in Nottingham. There have been four in the last six meetings; Richard Keogh, Dexter Blackstock, Marcus Tudgay and Frank Fielding.

A managerial sacking?

Both of last season’s matches resulted in well-documented managerial sackings and Nigel Clough and Billy Davies aren’t alone in getting the chop after a local derby defeat, others have fallen victim to the occasion too. That is unlikely, of course, tomorrow.

Finally…

I would honestly take a point tomorrow, Forest have started the season much better than I thought and, while Derby are getting towards their usual levels, they’re not their yet.

Much of how Derby will play will rest on who fills the shoes of George Thorne. John Eustace is likely to play and his experience may be key. The ex-Watford skipper will not provide the same passion vision and threat as Thorne so Will Hughes will be encouraged to get on the ball. I think it will be a good test of Hughes as, clearly, he has sought to improve his midfield presence this season. Forest’s fans will, rightly, point out that they have never seen the youngster live up to his reputation in these clashes.

Upsetting Stuart Pearce’s start to life back with the Reds would be a huge reminder to the rest of the league what the Rams are capable of.

What’s almost certain is that things will not get to the margin of victory as last time around. Tomorrow will most probably be tight, typically fiery and settled by a fine margin.

Come on you Rams!

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Who should start for the Rams?


Next up is the big one. Yes, it’s Nottingham Forest away in just over a week’s time. Stuart Pearce’s side are riding high at the top of the table and will no doubt be confident of achieving revenge from March’s extraordinary 5-0 Rams win (I just had to mention that win!).

The team selection has attracted a lot of talk so far this season. The much-debated ‘Thorne role’ has provided fans with a constant source of cogitation, as well as who should be the wingers and even if Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton are up to scratch in the heart of the defence. Here’s my assessment of who should play against Forest.

So far this season Derby have conceded four goals in seven outings. Captain Keogh has played in all of those games and I’d expect him to continue. It is a question of who should partner him.

Regular Jake Buxton has been struggling with a slight hip problem in recent weeks. It isn’t really known how much that has impacted his performances but it probably hasn’t done him any good. Another player might have sat out a game or two extra (he has missed the two Cup games), it is typical of Bucko to want to carry on.

Vying to take his place is Ryan Shotton, a man that can clearly be deployed in a few different positions, and Zak Whitbread. If Buxton isn’t fully fit, I would go for Whitbread and if he is fully fit, I would still consider it. The defence has a big role to play in keeping out Britt Assombalonga, a huge presence with four goals so far this season.

It is difficult to understand where exactly new loan signing Shotton will fit in yet. However, clearly, he is tall, strong player that will be useful in the coming months.

In the holding midfield role, it is a toss-up between Omar Mascarell, John Eustace and perhaps even Ryan Shotton for that position or another within the midfield. Eustace’s experience means he gets the nod from me.

A blow in midfield has been the injury to Jeff Hendrick. Craig Bryson hasn’t started the season in electric form yet he and Will Hughes would be my two.

The starting eleven will certainly include Jamie Ward. He is perfect for these kind of matches and he has scored three already this season.

Moving on, I would hand Jordan Ibe his debut. It is a big, big debut – that’s why I would have given him some game time in the last match from the bench. The youngster will be very eager to impress and would inject plenty of pace, giving Reds full-backs Eric Lichaj and Jack Hunt something to think about.

It is clearly another tough team selection for Steve McClaren and I will read it with great interest before kick-off next week. Here is my verdict (below) and I welcome yours in the comments section. I’m just glad it’s not me making such big calls!

Grant; Christie, Keogh, Whitbread, Forsyth; Eustace; Hughes, Bryson; Ward, Martin, Ibe.

Whatever happens next week is unlikely to be followed by the events that followed last year’s meeting at the City Ground!

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Rams play out stalemate at Hillsborough


Last season Derby were involved in just two 0-0 draws, yesterday they clocked their first of the new campaign through a hard-fought draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

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You don’t get this at Pride Park!

The Rams lined up in the usual system with Will Hughes continuing in the defensive midfield role, Jake Buxton returning to the side after being rested in the League Cup and Simon Dawkins and Jamie Ward claiming the two wide roles.

Quickly after the first whistle, the Owls were on the front foot and excelled. Chance after chance came their way but Derby, somehow, hung in there and survived the onslaught successfully.

Once the Rams settled down and finally got into the game, things were much more even. Going into the break at 0-0 would certainly have been considered as a success in the dressing room. I have to say that Wednesday were a much better side than I anticipated.

Flicking through the matchday programme at the interval, I discovered that Sam Rush is a former rugby union player and turned out for Saracens. You learn something new every day!

Anyway, back to the football and the second-half saw Derby look more comfortable and saw Richard Keogh, in particular, make a couple of great tackles and blocks. The backline and Lee Grant were fairly concrete and did well to emerge with a clean sheet.

Derby had more clear cut chances than the hosts and most of the away side’s chances came in the second 45. Having said that, Derby were only really dangerous on the break. Johnny Russell came on and added a bit more to the attack but he really should have scored. In straight through on goal, the Scotsman fired at the grateful Kieron Westwood. I can’t call it a spectacular save, Russell just fluffed his lines.

One noticeable difference from the previous two matches was the lack of involvement in attacks from both full-backs. On Monday at Carlisle, I thought both Cyrus Christie and Craig Forsyth were superb. Also, the wide men never got in the game.

An alarming moment came from the away fans when Simon Dawkins, who, granted, had an awful game, was cheered off. That wasn’t necessary at all.

Russell’s miss confirmed it wasn’t Derby’s day and a point was probably a fair result.

Again, the ‘Thorne role’ dominates post-match talk. After playing well in the opening two matches, Hughes kept his place but today he just never got a grip on the game and failed to pull the strings of the team. It isn’t his best position. Yes, he can do a job there. However, he is much more effective further up the pitch.

Omar Mascarell came in and played very well. Clearly, he isn’t afraid of a tackle, just like George Thorne, and he recovers so well from errors. The Real Madrid loanee came on for the final thirty minutes and instantly the Rams were much more of a threat. I would expect him to start on Tuesday at Charlton.

The Rams were not at their best and, with a bit of tweaking, things will improve. Yesterday they simply never really got going. Three clean sheets and no defeats isn’t a bad way to start the season!

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The Opposition View: Sheff Wed Vs Derby


Tomorrow the Rams travel to Sheffield to take on the Owls.

Ahead of the game I have sought the views of Matt Savage at the SWFC Armchair Fan blog.

How would you assess your team’s campaign last season?

Last season for Wednesday was a bit of a mixed bag, we started off with low expectations as a flat looking team under Dave Jones didn’t raise any hopes or generate much excitement. The sacking of Jones in December proved to be instrumental in our season following a string of poor results such as a first round exit of the League Cup at the hands of local ‘rivals’ Rotherham United, a 4-1 drubbing at Birmingham City and a record of being one of the last teams to keep a clean sheet in the new season.

Jones’ assistant Stuart Gray stepped in to take caretaker control and steadied the ship, earning himself the job on a permanent basis. A fresh wave of enthusiasm flowed through an attacking team and we finished the season safe from relegation weeks before the final day – somewhat of an accomplishment given the form up until the New Year, with the highlight being a 6-0 destruction of rivals Leeds United at Hillsborough.

What can you tell us about Leon Best, new loan signing at Pride Park, from his time at Hillsborough?

Leon Best would have been welcomed back to Wednesday with open arms should he have chosen that option. We brought him in lacking match fitness and he grew with every game. Some fans thought him of lazy and not chasing the ball down, neglecting his defensive duties in the middle of the park but personally I saw it as him holding position – staying high for an option of a quick release. As I say he grew with game time and he knows how to put the ball in the back of the net!

What do you make of ex-Ram Chris Maguire?

Chris Maguire was a forgotten man at Hillsborough, lacking fitness and drive the man was sent out on loan to Pompey. There he recaptured some form, improved his fitness and was promptly recalled to Wednesday where his non-stop running, good delivery and accurate finishing earned him a place in Owls fans hearts. He’s now a fan favourite and we are looking forward to what he brings in this new season.

How has the summer been in terms of transfer activity and, from that, what are you expecting this season?

This close season has been dominated with talks of takeovers and missed targets for us. The ongoing drama of Hafiz Mammadov and his takeover of Wednesday has had a negative effect on targets with players opting to sign elsewhere rather than face the uncertainty surrounding the club.

We have brought in Sam Hutchinson from Chelsea who was billed as the next John Terry before injury curtailed his career – he joined on loan last season and was brilliant so to have him on a permanent contract is somewhat of a coup. Kieran Westwood has also joined to provide competition for Chris Kirkland and Tom Lees from Leeds (free transfer) has proved to be a shrewd acquisition. We also have the ‘big money signing’ (hey, £800k is a lot to us these days!) of Stevie May – the striker from St Johnson who created a buzz in the SPL last term.

What do you make of manager Stuart Gray and the ownership takeover?

Stuart Gray has been fantastic for us – his attacking setup and positive substitutions are a sight for sore eyes at Wednesday so has generated a fresh buzz of optimism and enthusiasm from the players and fans alike. The takeover seems to be dragging its heels a bit now, with weekly news articles regarding the shadiness of our prospective new owner; Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov. If those articles are just fabrications (as he states) then fresh money into the club is what has been needed for a long time. Milan Mandaric was our saviour, he saved the club going out of business and stabilised the finances whilst investing in our youth setup but has said himself that his time at SWFC is all but over as he looks to spend some much missed time with his family.

Who is the danger man of the Sheffield Wednesday side?

To pinpoint a danger man for Wednesday on pre-season matches is tough at the minute, a fortnight ago I would’ve said Michail Antonio as his explosiveness could turn teams inside out at times, but after his £1.5m+ switch to those who must not be named I would say we are more of a team effort rather than looking for his pace to break. If Atdhe Nuhiu is on his game he will be a real handful for the Rams’ back line, he is strong and tall with a powerful shot. He has done a lot of preseason work on his heading as for a big lad he didn’t head much, that seems to have come along nicely.

Lastly, what is your score prediction?

My score prediction for the match is a hard earned score draw, 2-2. Best of luck to Derby County for this season!

Thank you to Matt for taking the time to answer my questions and, of course, good luck to the Owls for the season!

 

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Rams open season with three points


Today the Rams welcomed the fiery Steve Evans’s Rotherham United side to Pride Park to kick off the new season.

The headlines from the team news was Jake Buxton’s return from injury and Will Hughes retaining the ‘Thorne role’ after looking assured in the Rangers friendly last week. The two loan signings of the week, Leon Best and Omar Mascerall, were on the bench.

Greeted by the roar of a 30,000-strong crowd, the Rams really started on the front foot and, for the first few minutes, gave the Millers a torrid welcome to life in the Championship. At that point, my £2 on 4-0 wasn’t looking bad at all!

Soon Rotherham settled down and the match evened out a little. Both sides had their chances and we were even treated to Paul Green, ex-Ram and now the away side’s midfield engine, squaring up to Richard Keogh! The half ended with a fair outcome, even if both sides should have capitalised on their chances.

It was much clearer who the better side was in the second-half. Derby attacked and attacked, threading some good passes together, but, on the other hand, the visitors’ persistence and strong back-line demonstrated their credentials for the season.

Although Rotherham lacked that piece of quality in the final third and in the key midfield areas at times, they were a very hard-working side, as you’d imagine from Steve Evans (you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him, would you?). It was good to get a glimpse of how Ben Pringle had progressed since leaving Pride Park and it’s fair to say he looked dangerous on the rare occasions he had the chance to whip in a cross.

Omar Mascerall, Leon Best and Jamie Ward were all introduced as the hosts looked to score a winner. Eventually the winner arrived with just around ten minutes to go. Cyrus Christie charged forward, not for the first time, waited patiently to find the right pass and did so when he found Jeff Hendrick, who gratefully steered the ball home with a great finish. I know I’m not alone in anticipating him being a shining light for the Rams this season and probably scoring a similar amount to Craig Bryson’s impressive total of last season.

Hendrick’s goal sparked a nervy ending for Rams fans with Lee Grant being forced into action and Craig Forsyth called into making a clearance off the goal line.7

In the end, it was a deserved victory for Derby, even though they weren’t at their best, but, had it been a side with a little more quality, they could have left the ground without the three points. The second 45 saw McClaren’s side have more extended spells of possession. All in all, there can’t be any real complaints; the side came through a typically tight Championship match with a moment of brilliance and I can say with confidence that it won’t be the only time.

My man of the match is summer signing Cyrus Chrsitie. Firstly, his attacking mentality and drive to go forward was marvellous. Each time he got in the opponents’ half he looked a threat. Secondly, he held firm in defence. The 21-year-old can only get better and clearly he’ll continue to develop under the stewardship of the coaching staff.

It certainly wasn’t hard to see why he has arrived with such a good reputation already and a high rating for the future.

Also looking good was Will Hughes. Last week he stood out but he was against a much weaker opposition in my view so the big question was could he repeat it in the highly competitive Championship. This week the England Under-21 international was in good form.

In addition, the back four and Grant looked assured today and shut out Rotherham in their advances. However, not everyone impressed to the same extent and there were tough times in breaking down the sturdy Millers defence. It’s early days though.

Mascerall, on as a sub, played the majority of the second period. The Madrid star was always available to receive the ball. A full 90 minutes in the upcoming League Cup tie at Carlisle will be a good way to indoctrinate him into the thrills and spills of English football beneath the top flight.

Best came on out wide and looked quite sharp, as did Jamie Ward, also a sub. I can see a lot of switching between the players occupying those roles over the course of the season.

The Rams march on to the next one. Up the Rams!

 

 

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The Opposition View: Derby Vs Rotherham


Ahead of Saturday’s season opener against newly-promoted Rotherham United, I have asked Richard Gaynor of Millers Mad a few questions about his team.

Was last season’s promotion what you were expecting at the beginning of the season?
Well, we kinda knew we would be having a good go at it, the chairman’s an ambitious bloke and Evans knows how to get the best out of the team. But as for expecting it, the more rounded fans wouldn’t have expected it, no. Fancied it? Yes.

What do you make of ex-Ram Ben Pringle? Here he struggled to break into the side.
You’ve lost out kid!! Cracking player and he likes killing pigs.

One thing with Pringle is the effort he puts in, he covers every blade of grass, that for me is a must. Andy Scott, the manager who originally signed him, didn’t give him a chance…more fool him.

How has the summer been so far in terms of transfer activity?
Busy, as usual. That Steve Evans, he signs who he wants (well almost) – 12 players in as I type, with a huge bid (for our club) reportedly accepted for Stevie May. We’ve been after him before, although this time looks like we might get him.

Who is danger-man of the side?
Too early to say, I’ve not seen any friendlies as they’re just run-outs to get fitness.

What are you expecting this season?
Survival…anything other is a bonus. However, Evans is a lucky manager, he’s also got something, four successive promotions speaks for itself. The chairman backs him. You never know!!

Thanks to Richard for taking the time to answer the questions.

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Rams Round-Up


Here’s a summary of a few developments regarding Derby County and my thoughts.

Leon Best arrives

Blackburn Rovers striker Leon Best has joined Derby on a season’s loan.

Clearly he is a huge upgrade on Conor Sammon as cover for Chris Martin. The ex-Newcastle man fills the gap of the club needing another striker. Without Chris Martin, the team looks significantly weaker. Martin scored a brace in the Rangers friendly and a hat-trick at Notts County so hopefully this new competition brings out the best in him!

To me, it seems like Best is a good player to get on loan from a club in the same division. Could Derby have got better? I would have thought so if they wished to splash the cash but it is fairly understandable considering Chris Martin is doing so well – on the other hand, this season should be one in which another promotion push is made.

Here’s a reminder (below) of the goal he scored against the Rams in last season’s opening match.

Where does this leave Sammon?

Conor Sammon’s move to Derby hasn’t really worked. It is time to move on. Considering he is said to be one of the highest earners, it makes little sense for a high earner to be inactive on the first team scene. So, who will take him? The wages no doubt make it difficult to move him on, otherwise I’m sure Derby would be on the phone to Nigel Clough!

I was shocked to read that he scored a hat-trick in a Derby XI win over Oxford. It was behind closed doors at Moor Farm so would it be unreasonable to ask for video proof?! It could be just a publicity stunt to generate interest. Joking!

Pre-season round-up

Figures from the club’s friendlies. Please note that these only include first team matches, not Under-21 friendlies.

Matches played: 9 Goals scored: 14 Goals conceded: 6

Goalscorers: Martin 5, Hendrick 3 & Bryson, Forsyth, Bennett, Sammon, Eustace & Ward all got 1 each.

Assists: Russell 3, Hughes 2, Dawkins 2, Hendrick 2 & 1 each from Martin, Bennett, Naylor & Whitbread.

Bennett & Freeman moves off

Mason Bennett was due to move to move on loan to Sheffield United with Kieron Freeman also making the move permanently. The details are here (Derby Telegraph).

Last season Freeman was given a short run in the side and didn’t impress hugely, Adam Smith impressed even less, prompting Steve McClaren to sign Andre Wisdom on loan. Personally, I would keep him, even if that meant lending him to a League One club to continue his development with the option of bringing him back immediately because, at present, the defence is a little light and Cyrus Christie may take time to find his feet in this division. I feel that he could do a job at this level and would not doubt improve over time.

Centre-back

On Saturday, injuries caused a reshuffle in defence – Craig Forsyth slotted in at centre-back and Lee Naylor came in at left-back.

Forsyth did a good job and, with the injuries to Jake Buxton, Zak Whitbread and Mark O’Brien, could fill in there, though it would be preferable for Bucko to return for Saturday.

I think another centre-half would be welcome, especially while Whitbread remains unconvincing for many and O’Brien continues to struggle with injuries. However, there is Jamie Hanson knocking on the door, but, without wishing to prevent emerging talent, it really is the time that the Rams can make the leap to a top two side.

Will Hughes impresses

In the friendly at the weekend, Will Hughes played in the central defensive midfield role to good effect; he wasn’t afraid to put in a tackle or two in and generally looked comfortable.

Still, the youngster doesn’t convince me for the role full time. Yes, he played well against Rangers but they are not the European Cup side they once were so it is a match that we maybe shouldn’t read too much into.

A player in the George Thorne role remains a must for me. It was mentioned in the Sportscene Talk-In last night that he isn’t the man for the role in matches such as the Leicester ones, the Burnley ones of last season – clubs with hardworking and bullies of midfielders at times.

(Since writing this article, Derby have captured a Real Madrid midfielder on loan)

Forest in turmoil again

This isn’t strictly Rams related but naturally I took an interest!

It really isn’t a surprise anymore. The details are here.

The club is crying out for someone who has been involved in the English game for a long time at boardroom level.

Recent articles

Rams beat strongly-supported Rangers

Fans’ Season Preview

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Rams beat strongly-supported Rangers


Today presented the final chance to see the Rams in action before next week’s season opener against Rotherham United. Rangers provided the opposition today.

Although I moaned about this friendly, I went along anyway.

First of all, it must be said that Rangers’ support was nothing short of magnificent. To provide over 8,000 fans for a pre-season friendly so far away illustrates the visceral support the club is fortunate to have at this period where the club is climbing back up the leagues.

I counted around three Israel flags and, most notably, there was strong support for the union ahead of their upcoming independence referendum with plenty of union flags and a huge banner (see below) spread across the width of the packed South Stand.

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Anyway, onto the match. Jake Buxton missed out through a ‘slight strain’. Paul Simpson played down George Thorne’s injury and look where that got us! As a result of Buxton sitting out and fellow centre-backs Mark O’Brien and Zak Whitbread still being sidelines, Craig Forsyth moved over to centre-half and Lee Naylor slotted in at left-back.

The first-half saw Derby initially stamp their control and have their chances, exposing the Rangers defence as awful on occasions. However, the away side worked their way back into the half and mounted a bit of pressure, all without really testing Lee Grant.

After the break the Rams looked much more at home and held better spells of possession. Both goals came in the second 45 and began just over ten minutes into the half. Cyrus Christie picked out Chris Martin, who made no mistake in front of goal.

Martin and Derby’s second came all through Will Hughes, whose rampaging run through midfield ended in a smart pass to Derby’s number 9 who did the rest.

Pre-season friendlies aren’t known for horrific fouls or moments of rage by players but today the lanky Rangers number 3, Bilel Mohsni, playing at the heart of the Scottish side’s defence, decided to combat that normality.

I didn’t see the off-ball incident as I was following where the ball actually was but he did headbutt Chris Martin while still on the ground. Astonishing, especially for a friendly match. Unsurprisingly, he was given a straight red card.

I felt that he looked clumsy and calamitous throughout the game but that was something else. Martin can easily wind defenders up, as we saw last season.

Back to the Rams and their performance and it was certainly another good workout for the players with a good 2-0 win. The gulf in quality of the sides prevailed with Derby ultimately looking the most comfortable side and taking their chances.

Craig Forsyth in the position of centre-half certainly didn’t look out of place and I’m sure McClaren wouldn’t have any qualms about him filling in there in the event of an emergency. If Buxton’s injury is worse than what it has been first assessed as then the club would have to dip into the loan market for that position.

Defensive partner Richard Keogh had a couple of nervy moments again but there was a particular tackle that he made that was especially good. Overall, the defence wasn’t tested too much and generally held their own.

Chrsitie, the new signing at right-back, impressed today. He was very keen to get forward and always in space to receive the ball. There are no doubts that he is part of that popular breed of attacking full-backs. I’m still yet to see him tested much defensively.

The George Thorne role, pivotal to the team, has provided a lot of discussion for Rams fans recently and today Will Hughes played the full 90 in that position.

For me, he looked very good and, as perhaps expected, had a couple of off moments, yet, on the whole, stood out. The youngster put in a couple of wonderful tackles and wasn’t beaten easily in terms of strength against Kenny Miller. Also, he did charge forward despite his role to assist the second goal so hopefully he still has the chance to use his passing range to good attacking effect from that position.

After today I would expect him to continue in that position for the Championship opener next week. John Eustace played magnificently last year (obviously Thorne was a masisve upgrade but Eustace did play the majority of the season) and should be a good squad player over the course of the season. Still, I think it would be good to strengthen with a natural in that position.

Simon Dawkins was another standout performer today. The ex-Spurs winger drove forward and wasn’t afraid to run at the defence. Jeff Hendrick looked good, as did the lively Jamie Ward from the bench.

Lastly, Chris Martin was clinical. He took both of his goals well. It’s always hard to follow up a season like he had last year so, pleasingly, the signs are good so far.

Next week it’s down to the real stuff. Come on you Rams!

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Fans’ Season Preview


The new football season is just around the corner. It is time once again for the Rams to do battle in the Championship. Last season’s bitter end was tough to overcome for supporters but now it is time to look forward to what many believe could be a successful season.

Here I have sought the views of Derby fans Charlie McGrath of Rams Ramble, Jonathan Rodgers of Facing Two Ways and Simon Hudson of Steve Bloomer’s Watching, who have kindly agreed to answer my questions for this preview.

What effect will the events of last season have on the players in the new campaign?

Charlie: I think they’ll be hungry. Hungry to right the wrongs of last season. No one will be wanting to end up in the play-offs again, and hopefully this will spur them onto automatic promotion.

Last season was a great learning curve, as most of the squad had never been involved in a promotion push before. This time around, they’ll have more experience and be better adapted to cope with the stresses and strains that come with that.

There’s a danger that after a very good season, players think it’s set in stone for them to be up there next campaign, too. It’s an old cliche associated with this league, but nothing can be taken for granted and the squad will have to work incredibly hard to be in with a shout come May.

Many have tipped Jeff Hendrick for a great season, who do you feel will be the most pivotal for the Rams?

Jonathan: It looks like Jeff has carried on his fine end of season form into the pre-season games. If he can keep that up I think we’ll be looking at a player of the year award and 15 or so goals come next May.

Like last year, I think Chris Martin will be also be crucial to the team again. If he gets injured, loses form or comes up against someone like Richard Dunne again (as per the play off final) I think we might struggle. We just don’t have a Plan B without Martin and McClaren is not going to change from the 4-3-3 formation (or 4-1-2-2-1 as I think it is).

Do you think the Rams should dip into the loan market like last season or does the squad have enough depth as things stand?

Simon: I think we have better squad depth than we’ve had for quite some time, but with the lack of right-back cover and the injury to George Thorne, I think a look at the loan market is definitely needed. McClaren’s standing in the football world seems to open all sorts of doors for us, and I think we’d be daft not to leverage that and see who we can get from one of the bigger PL clubs. A few names have been bandied around but I guess we’ll just have to see who’s available once the PL squads are announced.

I’d like to see any loan signings handled in the same way as last season – a sprinkling here and there to compliment the core of the squad, rather than bringing in lots of players simply to beef up the numbers available to us. Quality, not quantity.

 What do you make of the club’s transfer dealings so far?

Charlie: I have to say I’m very impressed. Hughes, Hendrick, Forsyth and Buxton have all signed new deals, which can only be good news. Not to mention Bryson, who looked set for Burnley. The fact that Derby were able to convince him to stay, despite the lure of Premier League football (and probably better wages), is a testament to Bryson. Most would have accepted in a heartbeat, but not him. He would rather battle it out at a club he loves and one that loves him, rather than just jumping ship – as so many modern footballers do nowadays.

Obviously, the signing of George Thorne was the best news anyone could have hoped for this summer. I was pleased to see how passionate he was to come to Derby, handing in numerous transfer requests in an attempt to force a deal. But that joy soon turned to dispair with the tragic news he had been ruled out for 9 months. Football is a cruel game and things don’t get much worse than that.

We’re on a different level when Thorne plays, he lifts the team in a way only the best players can. There’s no doubt, he’ll be a huge loss. However, with all the doom and gloom around, people seem to be forgetting that we already have one of, if not the best midfields in the Championship.

Yes, having Thorne would be great, but with Hendrick, Eustace and Bryson all being capable to play in his role, it would be ridiculous to say our season is over (as some people have been claiming on Twitter).

Cyrus Christie has joined to fill the void left by Andre Wisdom. It will be interesting to see if the former Coventry man is up to scratch as a first choice right-back. At just 21, I don’t think anyone can say for sure.

Personally, I would like to see a striker brought in. Martin is brilliant, but if he were to ever get injured, we would be left with Sammon…and that wouldn’t be good at all.

The midfield system was integral to last season’s promotion push, how would you set it up with whom this time around?

Jonathan: Now that Thorne’s out of the equation, I’d set up the midfield with Eustace in the holding role, then Hendrick and Hughes would be my first choice in the attacking midfield roles. I’d probably rotate Bryson with Hughes. I’d like to see Jamie Hanson given a chance in front of the back four, possibly in cup matches at first. I appreciate he’s inexperienced but we need to blood these young players. I’d like to think that Hughes and Hendrick had the ability and adaptability to play the holding role now and again but both struggled doing that job last year. I thought Hughes was wasted in that role in the Notts County friendly and was brushed aside a few times.

Is the centre of defence a position of concern to you and would you change anything?

Simon: I’m a huge fan of Jake Buxton and I think the praise he gets for his work rate and heart-on-his-sleeve attitude actually does him a great disservice by ignoring his superb passing range and reading of the game. Keogh on the other hand, worries me sometimes. He has a general aura of mild panic about him whenever he receives the ball and never looks 100% comfortable in possession. His passing always appears to be too heavy and often the receiving player has to re-adjust their body position to control the ball. Whilst I don’t think Zamora’s goal at Wembley was entirely his fault (Forsyth and Buxton both had opportunities to stop the danger before the ball came into the box), he does seem to be the most affected by it and the big test will be whether or not he carries that into the new season.

I think we can manage with the pairing we’ve got now, but I’d like to see another CB brought in as competition. I think Whitbread is good as cover, but perhaps we need a slightly bigger “name” to keep Buxton and Keogh on their toes.

Lastly, where do you think the Rams will finish the season?

Charlie: This could make me look foolish come the end of the season, but I’m feeling optimistic. We’ll be up there again, and I think we could just scrape 2nd place.

Jonathan: My tips are always a bit ropey (I thought Watford would be Champions last season). I’ll plump for second place and automatic promotion. I think that the squad and the management team have the talent to do it and I honestly believe the bigger crowds at the iPro will have a real positive influence too.

Simon: I’d like to think we’ll use the momentum and success of last season to go one better and get promoted automatically, but I fear we’re no longer an unknown quantity and we’ll find it harder to impose our passing football on other teams as they will be more savvy in terms of snuffing us out. We might also suffer from a Wembley hangover, so it’s all about how the young players pick themselves up and dust themselves off.

Another third place finish, play-off final and this time a win for the Rams.

My thanks go to Charlie, Jonathan and Simon for taking the time to answer the questions for this preview. I do urge you to check out their Rams blogs.

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Rams Round-Up


Here’s a summary of a few developments regarding Derby County and my thoughts.

Scottish Invasion

Firstly, I wanted to discuss this weekend’s friendly against Rangers. The ticket prices are adults £15, seniors £12, juveniles £10 & under-12s £5. Meanwhile Sheffield United are charging adults £12 for tickets to see two friendlies, one against Huddersfield and the other against Fenerbache.

Now I think those prices are a little steep for a pre-season friendly, especially considering the opposition and that I would consider matches of this kind as a family affair. Back in May it emerged that the club had lined up a ‘big’ side to come to Pride Park so, to me, Rangers is quite a disappointment.

I would have preferred to watch Derby take on a team such as Stoke or Aston Villa, like they usually do, than Rangers, a second division Scottish side. While I appreciate that many big sides are jetting off around the world on tours, they do spend some time over here. And what about Barcelona? Again, I can imagine they’re difficult to pin down to a friendly but over this week they’re in the area at St George’s Park.

The match itself has attracted attracted 8,500 away fans so far (as per John Vicars’ tweet) and 5,500 home supporters to buy tickets, though, naturally many will purchase on the day, yet we still face the prospect of being outnumbered by a side 300 miles away! Forest fans on Twitter will have a field day at that!

At least we can welcome back former striker and Derby top goalscorer, Kenny Miller!

Bamford will be missed

Reports suggest that Patrick Bamford is heading north to Middlesbrough on loan. Last season the Chelsea striker made a huge impact at Derby and won points with his moments of brilliance.

With a full campaign in this division it isn’t hard to see him bagging plenty of goals, rivalling Chris Martin’s total of 25 last season. At Derby he managed 8 goals in his loan spell.

Since he returned to Stamford Bridge I have been surprised to read comments on fans’ forums saying they wouldn’t have him back. Personally, I’d have had him back like a shot and I’m disappointed that, since it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning, it is a fellow Championship club where he is due to arrive – I can quite easily envisage him scoring against the Rams!

The reason I would have him back is simply because he scores goals. And plenty of them. Do I need to say anymore? OK, I will. There’ll be times in the coming season when I know I will say on this blog in a post-match report that a Bamford figure was needed to change a tight match. He offered that very effectively. Also, the Forest thrashing (any excuse to mention that!) demonstrated that he offered more than the moments of quality that Steve McClaren had become dependent on at times.

However, a move back to Derby wouldn’t have really suited him under the current system. It seemed that he wasn’t the man for the Chris Martin role and therefore he was left out wide when he did play. Good luck to him.

The Thorne Saga rumbles on

It seems that Derby will look to the loan market for a replacement for George Thorne.

John Eustace showed that he is still more than capable at this level and I think he will be a valuable squad member; I don’t think he’s the man for the whole season. Paul Coutts could work in that role too and Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes have been tried there too but, ultimately, I believe it needs a real specialist to cover it as it is essential to the way the team plays.

Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea has done the rounds in talk between supporters. Jose Mourinho has said he wants to loan him out along with Bamford “to compete against men in a different league” to the Under-21 division.

I think he’d be a good replacement on a temporary basis only; Derby will undoubtedly stick by Thorne. Nonetheless, it looks like Derby would face competition for him and it is no surprise given the success of his previous loan spells in this Championship, Burnley have been reported as being keen on the defensive midfielder.

Here’s a famous goal scored by the 19-year-old.

Thorne’s been there before

If there is any bright side to this it is that he has been through a similar lengthy recovery before and come out the other side, as we found out last season, as an impressive player.

His current injury is a cruciate knee ligament injury. The previous one was an anterior cruciate ligament injury, it saw him out of action for eight months.

Roos shines in pre-season

If you missed it last week, see my feature on goalkeeper Kelle Roos.

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Kelle Roos, Derby’s number 1?


Kelle Roos, the Dutch goalkeeper with such slick hair, joined Derby back in January from Nuneaton Town. It seemed that he was a man in demand and it was revealed that he even had a trial at Liverpool.

Unsurprisingly, he failed to break into the side when Lee Grant was performing exceptionally well in the run to the play-offs and with Adam Legzdins occupying the goalkeeper place on the bench.

It is only recently that I have watched the 22-year-old. Grant is recovering from a minor operation and Legzdins is now playing his trade at Leyton Orient therefore Roos’s chance has come this pre-season. The match at Notts County has been my first and only friendly attended so far so it presented a first chance to see him in action. In my post-match blog I said ‘although he wasn’t really tested, he dealt with everything that came his way – collecting loose balls, being switched on to come out of goal and distributing forward. The Notts goal was beyond his reach.’

Next up in pre-season for the Rams came the toughest test yet against Russian side Zenit St Petersburg. Derby lost 2-0 (link for match highlights) but put on a good show considering the opponents are among Europe’s elite as a Champions League side. The first-half was a much better half for McClaren’s side that did have chances to score, however the second 45 saw Zenit look much more comfortable.

In terms of Roos’s contribution, it’s hard not to begin with the penalty save. Admittedly the penalty was quite weak but, taking nothing away from the ‘keeper, it was a smart save. In addition to that, he rescued Derby on many occasions, making some great saves. Unlike the Notts County match, where he was solid, in the Zenit match he was much busier and put on a good show.

So, does this mean he is in with a shout of beginning the season as Derby’s number 1? It does seem right to reward good performances and, don’t forget, we’re yet to get a look at Lee Grant this pre-season. Steve McClaren does, of course, reward good performances, though in a different situation, just like in the play-off final when Will Hughes started ahead of Craig Bryson after a wonderful performance in the semi-final second leg.

Last season Adam Legzdins was Grant’s deputy and didn’t even get a match. For me, Legzdins is great cover and is much better off playing first-team football elsewhere. It seems that Roos could be good competition this year.

It only seems right that, when mentioning the goalkeepers at Derby County, Eric Steele is given credit. Grant improved hugely after Steele’s arrival last season and now it seems that Roos is benefiting from the goalkeeping coach’s work.

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Martin hits hat-trick in 3-1 win


wpid-20140719_125442.jpgDerby ran out 3-1 winners against Notts County at Meadow Lane today.

Chris Martin bagged all three goals for the Rams, boosted by the arrival of George Thorne.

Unfortunately Thorne didn’t play today but that was not a problem considering the long saga we endured!

The rain poured down in the first period, the players must have been soaked.

In terms of the midfield, Steve McClaren opted to play Will Hughes in the ‘George Thorne role’, with Jeff Hendrick and Craig Bryson in their usual roles. What a wonderful bunch of players to choose from in midfield the Rams have this season.

wpid-20140719_125808.jpgThe first-half was a comfortable period for Derby with the ball, though at times they did get caught out doing too much and tried to frustrate Notts County by retaining the ball in the opponents’ final third.

It was the Magpies that broke the deadlock with around half an hour played. A trialist, named on the tannoy simply as ‘number 10′, caught Richard Keogh out and stole the ball, followed by a firm shot that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Derby responded prior to half-time through a neat Chris Martin finish, created by Johnny Russell, who confused the Notts backline with his pass.

In the second-half, the away side’s superiority was more on display.

A penalty was won by Simon Dawkins, who appeared to have been tripped up, though it did look soft from where I was sitting, early on in the second 45. Martin stepped up and scored.

Much credit is owed to Jeff Hendrick for the last goal. The Irishman won the ball, charged down the right side and slotted the boll straight to Martin, who made no mistake with an unbeatable shot into the top corner.

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Steve McClaren on his up the stairs for his usual view.

The match was a first chance to see new signing Cyrus Christie in action. Playing alongside his former Coventry team mate Richard Keogh, he looked sharp going forward and on the ball. In what was probably his first real piece of action of the game, Christie bombed forward down the right hand side and handed the ball to Chris Martin on a plate, only for the striker to make a mess of it.

Towards the end of the match, when Derby were swapping and changing with the available subs, Martin played in midfield and didn’t look too out of place, however, I’m sure he’ll be happy to leave the midfield to Bryson and co!

Also, I saw Kelle Roos in goal for the first time. Although he wasn’t really tested, he dealt with everything that came his way – collecting loose balls, being switched on to come out of goal and distributing forward. The Notts goal was beyond his reach.

Jeff Hendrick looked especially sharp in midfield and would probably be regarded as the Rams’ man of the match. He did have chances on goal of his own, but his best contribution came for the third and final goal.

Late on in the second period, a trialist appeared in the shape of defender Allasane Toure from France’s RC Lens club. Is he a relation to Ya Ya Toure? Anyway, he slotted in at right-back and wasn’t afraid to put in a tackle or two and, notably, he took a huge swing at a loose ball and completely missed it!

We didn’t get to see the new Spanish signing Ivan Calero in action today. It seems he’ll be playing in the development squad. I did think that he was playing when Jamie Hanson came on, an easy mistake to make when you’re sat high up, right?

I think somebody failed to tell Jake Buxton that it was a pre-season friendly. He went in with full commitment to many tackles and wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers. Exactly what you’d expect from Bucko. Keogh, especially, made some defensive slip-ups – he won’t want to make it a habit. Both he and Buxton did have a bit of a handful with the big number 9 trialist for the hosts in the first-half.

All in all, it was a good, friendly pre-season match between two mutual haters of Nottingham Forest!

 

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Fan Polls – July 2014


Here are some polls for you to cast your vote and see the results.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rams pin down leading stars


News of Derby County’s key players signing new contracts has flooded in over the past couple of weeks. Will Hughes, Craig Bryson, Craig Forsyth, Jake Buxton and Jeff Hendrick have all signed new deals. Wonderful.

All, especially Bryson after all the interest and panic surrounding an alleged contract clause, send out a huge message; the Rams are coming. Not only that, but also the instant increase in value this brings has been great.

Now it must be time to expect some movement on players coming into the club. A right-back is widely accepted among fans as a priority. Yes it is, but I also firmly believe an alternative to Chris Martin is an absolute must. Conor Sammon is still at the club – not for me, it just hasn’t worked out. When Martin isn’t in the Derby side, things aren’t the same.

George Thorne isn’t at Pride Park yet. That really has dragged on. If the West Brom midfielder doesn’t arrive, another player would be pivotal to fill that roll as competition to John Eustace.

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An interesting summer ahead


The events of Wembley at the weekend are still sore but I’m sure all Rams fans will agree that we can be optimistic about the coming season.

Where exactly should the Rams strengthen?

Firstly, it’s absolutely key to keep hold of the squad’s permanent members that have been the nucleus of all things successful this season, so, what about the loans?

George Thorne is a player to be excited about. I recall an exceptional tackle he made at Wembley to prevent a QPR advance with delight (shame about the result, of course) and he received plenty of praise in the Sunday’s papers. He ‘drove the side forward’ according to The Sun and Henry Winter in the Telegraph described him as ‘the best player on the pitch’ despite the Rs’ defensive heroics. His passing, tackles, off-ball work (often as important as on-ball work), vision, power and goals have been dazzling.

The Albion loanee’s value and availability is quite unpredictable. He signed a three-and-a-half year deal before joining Derby on loan back in late January,  however there will be a different manager leading West Brom into the new season. I’m not sure how high the WBA hierarchy hold Thorne, who has made 8 Premier League appearances for the club.

Meanwhile Patrick Bamford and Andre Wisdom appear to have said their goodbyes and thank you messages to the fans via Twitter, yet they must still be due some talks with their parent clubs to assess their progress and Steve McClaren has said ‘I’d like to sort out the likes of Wisdom and Thorne and Bamford. Maybd we have a chance of getting them back because I think they’ve enjoyed their time here’. No mention of Zak Whitbread. Who? Exactly.

What’s clear is the fans’ demand and desire to see Thorne in a Rams shirt again. Co-owner W. Brett Wilson has noted that and he tweeted the following.

For the record – the coaching staff and owners of #DCFC are indeed aware of @GeorgeThorne15 (and we have his phone number!). #PatiencePlease

Speaking of Wilson, he certainly seems more engaged and excited on the Rams front. He has certainly upped his Derby Twitter prescence and this added interest could see more money into the squad. This summer is a chance for the owners to make a statement of intent for the coming campaign.

Obviously there doesn’t need to be loads of additions but there needs to be some.

In net? Lee Grant has been outstanding since Eric Steele arrived. Adam Legzdins is set to leave, I wonder who’ll replace him in the competent deputy role. From within, Mats Morch and Keele Roos are two youngsters on the club’s books or what about adopting the Clough method of just signing a goalkeeping on emergency loan if Grant gets injured and not bothering with a competent deputy (Saul Deeney back anyone? No? I thought not).

Defence? A right-back if Wisdom isn’t back is first on the list. John Brayford naturally gets a mention, however I reckon Cardiff will give him a go Championship. Kieron Freeman is still in contract until 2016, a bit of the McClaren effect, like with Buxton, Forsyth and Grant, could help him a lot. I think the Mac will be eager to watch, after all he does thrive on training ground work, him in pre-season but could Nigel Clough could be more eager to have Freeman in his plans? He’s very comfortable in League One, that’s for sure, and from what I’ve seen, I’ve liked of him in the Championship.

In the middle of the park? Thorne? Of course. I’d love him to be back but if he doesn’t then, if the system remains the same, another Thorne would have to be brought to the club. John Eustace’s one-year deal is up and, personally, and since we won’t be in the top flight, I’d keep him. Yes, he’s 34 but don’t forget he was that wise head before Thorne that played terrifically. Thorne was a huge upgrade, don’t let that affect how you see Eustace, who I think would be a good character and squad player to have next season – maybe with a coaching role with the youngsters thrown in.

Elsewhere in midfield, Paul Coutts will be back,  it’ll be interesting to see how McClaren rates him. Although Bryson, Hughes and Hendrick struggle to fit into one midfield line, it’s important to keep them all and fend off any bids. I’m sure they’ll all be mindful that a good season potentially lies ahead at Pride Park.

Up top? The problem is there is nobody that can replace Chris Martin to good effect. When he was suspended, Derby fell to a 1-0 home defeat to an awful Millwall side. I think it’s probably time to cut the losses with Conor Sammon.

Jamie Ward’s deal runs out, but there is an option of a further year. Take that option up, I say. Little Jamie has been tremendous for parts of this half of the season.

Meanwhile, could it be the year for Mason Bennett to step up? I’m sure he’d be a usueful figure in the squad but a loan with a good side could benefit his development more.

The players out of contract this summer are Adam Legzdins, John Eustace, Lee Naylor, James Bailey and Ben Davies.

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Cruel end to magnificent season


wpid-20140524_144356.jpgHow cruel does it get?

It really thought it was the day, Derby’s time, but it really wasn’t our day.

Horrific traffic meant I arrived at my seat in the nick of time; just as the Rams walked out onto the pitch. I was met with a tremendous view. What a lovely ground.

Craig Bryson was obviously a hugely notable absentee, it really does illustrate the depth and quality of the squad when the player of the season isn’t picked for the play-off final, as Will Hughes retained his place. The Scotsman must have been gutted. wpid-20140524_145619.jpg

The first 45 was fairly even, both sides had their efforts. Young Will had a decent shout for a penalty, it was quite soft, but I’ve seen them given.

Jamie Ward and Craig Forsyth went close in the first-half as Derby looked a threat on the break and kept the ball well at times. Meanwhile QPR were largely restricted to longer range efforts, with Charlie Austin, ever a Derby nemesis in a Burnley shirt, eager to shoot when he could. 0-0 at the break, a big 45 minutes of football was on its way and I was still confident of a Derby victory.

The weather took a lovely turn at half-time, blue sky and sun appeared, it was time for our Rams, backed by over 38,000 passionate fans, to shine.

Steve McClaren’s army began the half as the sharpest and that was affirmed with just over an hour to go. Johnny Russell exploded through the middle of the Rs’ defence and was poised to shoot, when Gary O’Neil slid in and committed a blatant foul to prevent Russell’s advance.

It was a clear red card and, after consultation with his linesman, the referee sent O’Neil packing. The midfielder later said on Twitter that “I thought Russell was going to score and knew I was getting a red! But decided to do it to help the team and thankfully it worked out! First red in 15 years!! Worth it now tho eh? #ladssaiditwasagooddecision”. At that time, Harry Redknapp had made two subs.

wpid-20140524_160700_richtonehdr.jpgUnfortunately the foul was just outside the area, leaving little room to get the ball up and over the ball. The dominance was with Derby, time to capitalise.

Chance after chance was squandered. QPR held firm, Robert Green pulled off some great saves and Nedum Onuha and Richard Dunne battled well, both ensuring of Chris Martin’s ineffectiveness. George Thorne and Will Hughes were the most impressive Rams for me. One tackle that Thorne made was outsanding, whilst Hughes played some neat football at times.

Simon Dawkins and Craig Bryson were thrown on. They both had chances, along with Martin, Ward and Keogh, but, still ‘Arry’s men kept Derby out. There was a penalty shout when Dunne appeared to push Martin, yet the referee didn’t think twice about waving away any appeals. Extra-time loomed.

The Rams did everything but score, which makes the events of the last couple of minutes much harder to swallow. The club deserves promotion.

Completely against the run of play, QPR scored, leaving the West side of Wembley in absolute shock. Bobby Zamora took advantage of Richard Keogh’s poor clearance and fired home.

The goal came just before the 90 minute mark. Patrick Bamford was brought on in an attempt to send the match into extra-time. A late corner for Derby saw everyone pile forward, but it came to no avail. It was over. The romantic story of the ‘innocent climb’ had fallen. QPR were up. I suppose that’s what you get for all those millions.

wpid-20140524_165636.jpgRichard Keogh was among the most distraught come full-time. He’s been very reliable all season, he’s still a Rams hero for me having led the team so far.

What a horrible feeling. It’s difficult to put into words. Totally undeserving, QPR march to the Premier League. Where’s the justice?

I’m sure Derby will be back strong next season. The season we’ve had proves little comfort in the midst of the heartache.

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I’m sure Derby will build on what’s been a remarkable season and be back stronger. Proud to be a Ram.

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Newslinks: Pre-Play-Off Final


Here are many of the articles publsihed on the Rams in the national media ahead of Saturday’s match. I’ll update this with more links when more articles appear. Just click the headlines!

THE GUARDIAN

Chelsea’s Patrick Bamford aims to make his mark for Derby against QPR

DAILY MAIL

Jake Buxton determined to help Derby County to Wembley glory after almost quitting football earlier in his career

Harry Redknapp hoping QPR’s experience will help his side overcome Derby County in Championship play-off final

QPR and Derby strike deal to give Wembley gate receipts worth £1.5m to Championship play-off final loser

Derby County are banking on Patrick Bamford to win £134m Premier League shootout… but Jose Mourinho is keeping close eye on Chelsea striker, says One Direction idol Niall Horan

QPR and Derby prepare for the biggest payday in global sport as Championship play-off final winner will accrue £134m 

W Brett Wilson is friends with Ricky Gervais and likes to sit with Derby fans: meet the Canadian owner who’s king of the county!
DAILY MIRROR

Derby County squad could DOUBLE their season’s wages if they beat QPR in Championship play-off final

When is the Championship play-off final? All you need to know ahead of the Wembley clash

Beat Louis van Gaal by giving him flowers, says Derby manager Steve McClaren

Derby County to earn whopping £120million should they achieve Premier League promotion on Saturday

DAILY EXPRESS

Lee Grant admits ‘sweet irony’ in Derby County’s ’07 play-off snub

Promotion would be huge! Chris Martin hoping to achieve comeback dream with Derby

THE TIMES (£)

Jake Buxton ready to leave struggles behind in quest for Derby glory

Lee Grant keen to realise top-flight dream with Derby County

DAILY STAR

Derby ace Richard Keogh: Money isn’t motivating us to win promotion to the Premier League

Martin’s in dreamland: Derby County forward on the verge of the Premier League

THE JOURNEL – THE SCORE (IE)

‘It’s something that will live with me forever’ – Keogh ready for £120m Wembley challenge

BBC Sport

Championship play-off: McClaren’s Derby V Redknapp’s QPR

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Rams geared for battle at Wembley


It’s coming. It’s the talk of the town. It’s almost the play-off final. How to describe the feeling? A healthy mix of nerves, excitement, confidence and fear – and that’s just me!

‘Arry’s mishmash bunch, that, I must say, seems to have settled down and there is a strong ever-present nucleus, on mega contracts is the only thing that stands between Steve McClaren’s well-assembled, hard-working and relatively youthful team and the Premier League.

The Mac faces the dilemma of who to start in the middle of the park. George Thorne is the only dead cert. Will Hughes impressed massively when he replaced Craig Bryson in the second leg against Brighton and scored a delicious goal (I can’t stop talking about it!). Can you consider leaving out the fans’ player of the season for young Will after one terrific performance? And what about Jeff Hendrick, could he make way? Have your say in the poll below.

I mentioned earlier that QPR have a tight defence. Yes they do have a rigid backline, but the Derby backline has come on leaps and bounds in the past few months and Lee Grant looks to be the real deal. The Rs’ defence in the semi-final second leg was Simpson, Onuoha, Dunne and Hill; it doesn’t strike me as the paciest of defences, yet, of course pace isn’t everything. Derby tiered Brighton’s ageing defence apart on the semi-final and that Albion defence had an average age of 32.

Midfield could be where the tie will be won and lost. Thorne is key for the Rams and if he can stamp his authority on the game and mop up any QPR advances, then the rest of the midfield can really do their thing.

There is an added incentive for Mac’s men to win the game with reports saying that the squad will plit a £4.5 million win bonus should the Rams win. For some, it would double their season’s earnings! The breakdown of who gets which amount is said to be mainly based on appearances. Both Lee Grant and Craig Forsyth have played every minute of every game so far.

My match prediction is that Derby will win 3-1. I think the game will be kept tight, as the two fixtures have gone this season, for a while by QPR’s tight defence and then the Rams will explode and out-pace the Rs in the second 45. Charlie Austin is bound to score, but at least he will not be in our bogey team Burnley strip this time. The QPR side that arrived at Pride Park back in February lacked ideas and offered little for large parts of the game, Austin wasn’t present that day and, unfortunately, he is back on the goals trail having bagged five goals since his injury turn last month.

The match is a tough one to predict, it could go either way.

Finish off a remarkable season in style at Wembley. C’MON YOU RAMS!

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The Opposition View: Play-Off Final – Derby Vs QPR


Ahead of this weekend’s play-off final, dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, I have asked QPR Report a few questions about the Rs.

How would you sum up your season and has it matched your expectations?
Pre-season: All scenarios seemed possible: Automatic promotion; playoffs; Relegation/Relegation struggle.
In truth, once we got off to our good start, I am somewhat disappointed we’re in the playoffs. (Although of course grateful to at least have this chance.)

Your semi-final was obviously tighter than ours, how do you think it went overall?
Bottom line: “We did it. We did it. We did it!” – Always expected a tough semi-final playoff. And we DID come from behind to do it.

Who will provide your main threat in the game at Wembley?
Hogan Ephraim and Shaun Wright-Phillips! (Sorry but not going to give you any aid. But if you look at the crucial “Spine of a team” – I think we’re pretty strong. We have a lot of very experienced and on-paper, very classy players.

Lastly, what do you expect for the final and what is your prediction?
Our beloved Chairman of QPR has characterised me as “Negative” – and it’s true that I am not inherently the most optimistic of posters.
I’ll be gutted and “sick as a parrot” if we lose. But I certainly won’t be shocked by that loss. But nor will I be shocked by a win – although of course, I will be chuffed and “over the moon!”…. (Of course even if we win, “the long twilight struggle” for QPR’s future, will continue! But I’ll take that…

I’ll go for QPR for the win. But in all honesty..who knows.

I obviously can’t wish Derby County luck before the game, or any nonsense like “May the best team win.” But I certainly
don’t bear any enmity towards Derby, and if worst comes to the worst, best of luck…And who knows: 12 Months from now, whichever team goes up on Saturday, may 12 months from now, be passing the defeated team as the clubs switch…

Onwards and Upwards!

Thank you to Mike at QPR Report for taking the time to answer the questions.

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WEMBLEY HERE WE COME!


wpid-20140511_170918.jpg

Derby 4-1 Brighton (6-2 over two legs)

Sunday was a day to remember. At the beginning of the day, Wembley was within touching distance and, as if there were ever any doubts, the Rams booked a play-off final place in ruthless form. Perfect.

As the team news filtered through, I was disappointed to hear about Bryson and, for the first time, slightly worried about the outcome – there was no need. Hughes, Bryson’s replacement, was outstanding. His finish was exquisite. On first viewing, I didn’t know how cheeky it was. It took a replay for me to really appreciate how well the youngster had done to divert the ball goalwards. Young Will can take a bow. The goal eased any nerves.

Hughes has created a real dilemma for the final. How on earth do you drop someone after such a good, polished man of the match performance? Bryson, Hendrick and Hughes – all in good form – how do you combine them? For me, it’d be bring Bryso back for Hughes. Changing the system or Thorne would be mad to accommodate all three.

Derby bossed the whole thing from beginning to end. It was a proper team performance, topped off with some great team goals. Quick to latch on to every ball, the Rams attacked with such vigour and a high intensity. They sprayed the ball around wonderfully.

Just before the break, Grant made a vital save for the hosts. It seems pretty insignificant now, however it was vital at the time. Lingaard’s lofted pass eluded the Derby defence, fortunately the ‘keeper was alert to the recipient of the pass, Ulloa.

Goals flooded in the second 45. The first one optimised another good shift from Martin, who showed more desire and strength than the Brighton defenders to score the second. Home and dry. Once again, Martin was magnificent for the Rams.wpid-20140511_182921.jpg Ward was key in the goal and I thought he was tremendous for the Rams.

Twenty minutes later, Thorne hit an absolute beauty of a volley. Like his goal at Doncaster, the loanee showed remarkable technique to score.

Almost all game, the place was bouncing in every corner of the ground. The scarf waving prior to kick-off made for a great spectacle. Wouldn’t it be good to see a 30,000+ strong crowd each game next season?

For the final goal, it was Hendrick’s run at the Albion defence that began it all, he slid in sub Bamford, who intelligently rolled it back for Jeff to smash the ball home. Rampant is an understatement.

With the outcome already decided, Lua Lua pulled one back for the away side. From just outside the box, he placed his shot to perfection. In any other game, he would’ve got huge credit for it. This day belonged to the Rams.

Inevitably, the fans streamed onto the pitch at full-time (and some fans before the final whistle!). The scenes were marvellous to watch. wpid-20140511_190628.jpgWE HAD DONE IT!

 

Down on the pitch, I could just make out the players emerging from the directors’ box, some with their children. Keogh took to the mic and said something, I couldn’t understand it over the tannoy, but it sounded worthy of a good applause! wpid-20140511_191239.jpg

QPR are the opponents in the play-off final. Austin, Krancjar, Morrison, whoever…I say bring it on! Derby are in outstanding form and seem to be able to beat anyone.

I’m sure we are firmly the people’s choice to win too because of the clubs’ differing approaches.

Bring on Wembley! COME ON YOU RAMS!

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The Opposition View: Play-Off Semi-Finals – Derby Vs Brighton


The play-offs are almost here. It’s Derby Vs Brighton over two legs. Ahead of the ties, I have interviewed Scott McCarthy of Seagulls blog wearebrighton.com.

First of all, how has the season gone and has it been how you expected?

After all the upheaval of the summer with Poyet going and all the fall out from that, I think most Brighton fans would have bitten your arm off to be in the play-offs again. A top ten finish seemed far more realistic at the start of the season and even back at the beginning of April most people thought that would be as good as it got. The squad is weaker than last seasons and we have also had a pretty disastrous run with injuries as well so it is a real credit to Oscar Garcia in his first season in English football to have got us into the top six. We’re easily the underdogs but are in great form and as Palace showed last season, once you get into the lottery anything can happen.
Your team has the highest amount of clean sheets in the division, what has been the main reason for that?

Consistency really. The back five has picked itself for most of the season with Tomasz Kuszczak, Bruno, Gordon Greer, Matt Upson and Stephen Ward playing the majority of the time. The fact that our End of Season awards saw Upson win player of the season, Ward finish second and Kuszczak third says everything about how important the defence is and those three in particular have been outstanding.
Who are the star players that Derby fans should be weary of?

Leonardo Ulloa is the man who gets the majority of our goals so he is probably the one. Kazenga LuaLua and Will Buckley can both make things happen down the flanks but if we are to beat you, then it will probably be based on the aforementioned back five performing well.
Lastly, what are your predictions for the semi-finals and eventual winner of the play-offs?

With the squad they have QPR should have gone up automatically so they should be hot favourites. I’ve been really impressed by what Schteve McClaren has done since taking over at Pride Park or whatever it is called now, so I imagine it will be you and QPR in the final and hopefully we’ll be hearing excuses from Harry Redknapp afterwards about how he needs more money, is down to the bare bones and worked a miracle to even get QPR into the top six. The pressure is well and truly off us as I don’t think many people expected us to be there and it’s quite refreshing to know that whatever happens, it cannot be worse than losing to Palace and all the fall out that came from it!

Thank you to Scott McCarthy for taking the time to answer the questions.

My answers for We Are Brighton on the Rams can be found here.

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Rams play out draw with Leeds


Leeds 1-1 Derby

wpid-20140503_120957.jpgA good crowd of nearly 30,000 gathered for this end of season encounter, the minute’s silence was impeccably observed.

It was quite a poor game from a Rams’ perspective and a draw was probably a little harsh on Leeds United, who gave the match a real go.

The important thing was simply getting through the game with a fully fit squad and getting a work-out ahead of the play-offs. Every box can be ticked in that respect.

wpid-20140503_121316.jpgPredictably, some changes were made to the starting XI. Six changes in total. Out went Buxton, Bryson, Thorne, Martin, Russell and Ward. In came Whitbread, Hughes, Eustace, Sammon,  Dawkins and Bamford. Such wholesale changes highlight the depth pf the squad. On paper the side seemed strong enough to continue the spectacular run of form against Leeds.

Derby began the game on the front foot and got an early goal. Neat work down the left side found Hendrick who saw his shot saved. Dawkins was alert to score a tap-in. The 3,000 strong away contingent exploded into delight. It seemed like the game was destined to be another routine win over the Yorkshire side.

Following the goal, the Rams were comfortable and kept the ball well. However, Leeds soon responded and began to pressurise. Lee Grant was called into action many times and every decision he made was spot on. The ‘keeper has improved hugely since Eric Steele arrived, he seems much more decisive than he was at the beginning of the campaign. His decisions and saves yesterday make him my Rams man of the match.

Leeds ended the half as the better side and began the second 45 as the better side. Smith, probably the liveliest of the home players, got the deserved equaliser. Aside from short spells, Leeds controlled the second period.

It was only when Mason Bennett was introduced that Derby looked like grabbing a winner. The youngster began running at the defence but had few options. Both Bryson and Russell were brought on just shy of the 90, not enough time to make any impact. Ten minutes earlier and something could have happened. wpid-20140503_135609.jpg

The final whistle was probably met relief from the home fans. It’s been another disappointing season. I don’t think McDermott will be there next season, and what about their prized asset McCormack?

A poorly attempted pitch invision from a few Leeds fans over to our right was oppressed by some bouncer-like stewards in suits.

Some of the away side stayed on the pitch to view the scores up on the ground’s screen. Results meant it is to be Brighton as the play-off opponents. Personally I quite fancy us against the Seagulls over two legs. The Rams have done the double over them this season.

Anyway, looking back on the game today, it was abundantly clear how much Martin’s presence was missed. Sammon, in his place, led the line very poorly, didn’t win many balls at all and got forward quite slowly. Is it time to cut the losses? I think so, regardless of the division.

Overall, the performance wasn’t great, but I’m sure things will be stepped up for the play-offs. It wouldn’t have been easy to get up for this game.

Let’s get started on the play-offs. Brighton have every reason to be afraid of the in form Rams. I am confident. Come on you Rams!

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Watford win adds to Play-Off momentum


Derby 4-2 Watford

We were treated to a goals festival at Pride Park yesterday, it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, which confirmed a third place finish.

All in all, it was a tremendous performance by the Rams – neat passing, runs down the wing and some very good individual and team goals.

On the other hand,  the pure domination from Derby was put in jeopardy by some occasional slack defensive moments that let the Hornets in.

In terms of stand-out performers, Hendrick, Ward, Martin and Forsyth put in especially good shifts.

Hendrick looks to be at his best, he really has improved hugely in the past couple of months and I would certainly select him over Hughes in the play-offs. Yesterday the Irishman hit two goals, the first seemed a tame effort on the volley but it was enough and good positioning to be there. His second hit was an absolute wonder drive from distance.

Ward was always involved in the attacks and Martin led the line well, once again, showing his value and getting the goal he deserved. 

Forsyth was often in space on the left side and got forward at every chance. The ex-Watford man’s goal was a thunderbolt inside the box, he really does have a sweet left foot for crossing and shooting. I believe he is a great example of the improvement made under McClaren, he has enhanced his game massively.

Four goals were scored but the scoreline really could have, and probably should have, been much, much more. Derby must be more ruthless in the play-offs, having said that, when you create as many chances as this side you are in the fortunate position of being able to miss a few chances!

Now for a quick word on Watford, the away side offered very little and I did expect more after they narrowly lost at QPR and, prior to that, were on a good run of form. It seemd they require some more established Championship players (like Eustace) to push on.

Next week it’s a trip to Elland Road. Obviously there’s nothing to play for in terms of league positions, however it’s always great to get one over Leeds.

The team set out yesterday,  unchanged from the Barnsley win, signaled McClaren’s intentions to go all out and win. I do think he’ll make some changes next week and give a few players a breather.

Personally I would, to start with, rest Martin, Bryson, Thorne and Hendrick and look at giving Eustace and Hughes, both recently benched by others’ good form, a run out, as well as the likes of Sammon and Bailey. I would also look at giving Bamford and Dawkins some game time.

Lastly, congratulations to Bryson on winning the fans’ player of the season for the second time in three years.

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Penalty Problem?


The play-offs are coming, it’s an exciting time to be a Rams fan and, without wishing to bring everyone down, I’ve had a look at Derby’s penalty record this season.

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42930000/jpg/_42930137_inigo416.jpgLast time the Rams entered the play-offs, a penalty shoot-out against Southampton settled the semi-final. Another spot-kick show-down could well do the same this time. While the penalties may be a challenge of both penalty and mental nous for the players, it will certainly be a test of the heart for us fans.

Some say that penalties are a lottery, maybe they are, but I think there is skill to it, there has to be.

If you watched the recent FA Cup semi-final between Wigan and Arsenal you’ll have seen how poor the Latics’ penalties were. I’m sure they’ll be looking to improve ahead of the play-offs. It would aappear that Steve McClaren’s Rams need to too. Take a look at the stats of Derby’s penlaty record so far this season.

penalty stats

 

 

 

The stats don’t make for brilliant reading. Last season there was an issue with penalties too – Conor Sammon, Jamie Ward and Theo Robinson each tried and failed to be consistent from the spot.

I would certainly have Chris Martin down if a shout-out did arise, he’s been the most clinical of the trio that have stepped forward in the current campaign. I’m not sure I would put Craig Bryson among my first takers, even his penalty scored against Nottingham Forest was close and quite unconvincing (I’m not complaining, I love all goals against Forest!), Johnny Russell likewise.

Who else does that leave? Jamie Ward could be worth a punt again after a couple of misses last season, Patrick Bamford is obviously a good finisher and a confident young player, as well as George Thorne, he knows how to hit a ball, Jeff Hendrick likewise.

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It’s time to prepare for the play-offs


Burnley’s win over Wigan today gives the Clarets Premier League status and confirms that Derby will have to all the way to Wembley and win if they are to make it to the big time.

Sean Dyche has done a remarkable job against Turf Moor and his side fully deserve their promotion. I can’t help but look back on games such as the Birmingham draw and the defeat at Burnley. Costly errors and decisions.

Anyway, on with today’s match against relegation-battling Barnsley (or Baaaarnsley as the Yorkshiremen insist they are called).

The first-half was largely controlled by the energetic hosts, who created plenty of chances and zipped the ball around well. Barnsley struggled to contend with the Rams and didn’t look like scoring.

Jeff Hendrick’s 25-yard goal was impressive. The Irishman came in for Will Hughes, a good change, as well as Patrick Bamford, also among the least ineffective of the bunch on Friday, made way for Jamie Ward.

A Johnny Russell deflected shot doubled the lead just before the break. My 4-0 prediction was looking good.

In truth, the result suggests the game was much tighter than it was, that was due to a lackluster second period from the home side. The Tykes pressed and there was little response from Derby.

Jamie Ward, the pick of the bunch in the first 45, and Graham..I mean George Thorne, who, once again hit some fabulours passes and, even when they weren’t quite successful, incredible vision, were substituted in quick succession midway through the half, contributing to the Rams’ slowing down.

Nick Proschwitz bagged the away side’s goal with ten minutes remaining on the clock. A better side would have most certainly punished the hosts with more vigour.

The goal wasn’t to be the most dramatic moment of the half. Quickly after the goal to half the lead, sub Conor Sammon was brought down for a clear penalty. Russell saw his effort from the spot superbly saved.

More chances followed the penalty to top off an electric, in comparison to the rest of the half, final ten minutes. Derby should have scored a couple in those closing minutes.

At the end of the day, it was another three points in the bag and more momentum into the play-offs. However, the second-half does raise conerns because of the way the Rams allowed Barnsley into the game and squandered so many chances, having said that it is sure to be a completely different situation in the play-offs.

Before I move onto the play-offs, just a quick word on ex-Ram Tomasz Cywka. The midfielder received a good reception from the Derby faithful. It seems a while ago now that he was a regular in the Rams’ ranks.

The play-offs are on their way. Derby and QPR have mathematical confirmation of a place, while Wigan effectively have a place secured. QPR have a lot of big name players that would be no stranger to Wembley-type venues and Wigan have direct experience of visiting the big smoke, in fact, it’s been their second home over the past year or so, though I’m getting ahead of myself with Wembley there.

Sixth place seems to be anyone’s as things stand. A win at Leeds has given Forest renewed hope, how about a juicy East Midlands derby in the semi-finals?

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Alternative Awards 2013/14 Season


Following on from my player of the season piece, I’ve gathered more reflections on the campaign and compiled some different awards.

Sweetest left foot – Patrick Bamford

Who else? I wish I had a left foot half as good as Bamford, who I have really taken to since he arrived from Chelsea.

Most patient – George Thorne

Out on loan to gather experience, the West Brom loanee found himself doing little more than trying out the substitute benches of various clubs. The midfielder was an unused sub for eight successive matches after signing in late January. Finally, he was unleashed in the East Midlands derby last month and turned out to be rather good.

Best beard – Jake Buxton

This one’s barely a contest. Bucko was quoted as saying his wife “hates it” but “the lads love it” so the beard continued to grow.

buckobeard

 

 

 

 

Best galloping runs and accurate crosses – Craig Forsyth

The full-back is a constant threat down the left flank having improved massively as the campaign has progressed.

Scrappiest goal – Conor Sammon

Somehow the Irishman bagged Derby the winner against Middlesbrough on a cold Wednesday night at the iPro back in December. I don’t know how he was credited with it or how he scored, but he did. Watch it again and try and point out who actually scored!

Most bizarre celebration – Richard Keogh

Stop it, Richard!

Most time spent on the ground – Chris Martin

There aren’t many players that are fouled or end up on the ground as much as Martin. At times, he seems to seek the foul and actually back into the opponents. His goal record, though, cannot be argued with.

Most skilful – Jake Buxton

Cristiano Ronaldo, watch out. Watch this below that illustrates the defender’s skill.

Craziest game – Derby 4-4 Ipswich

The post-Clough era didn’t begin quietly. Atrocious defending was met with a superb response and genuine fight by the Rams.

Most boring game – England U’21s 1-0 Wales U’21s

OK, this isn’t strictly a Derby County game but it was at the home of the Rams.

It was like a training match, no fight, too tactical and, as a result, extremely monotonous, the intensity of league matches is the opposite of that. Club football most certainly beats internationals. This match could have been helped by England giving Will Hughes a start and playing the nowhere to be seen Derby adopted heroes Patrick Bamford and Andre Wisdom.

Best game – Derby 5-0 Forest

It fills me with immense joy to even think about this one. Utter embarrassment for the men from down the A52. The rampant Rams could have even scored more. Sure to put a smile on your face, re-watch the highlights below.

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Thorne blossoms in promotion push


After eight successive games of warming the bench, George Thorne was unleashed against rivals Nottingham Forest and proved to be a class act. Since then he has remained in the side and proven he is an excellent player.

The West Brom midfielder, who Derby were linked with back in 2011, is clearly an excellent distributor of the ball and always ready to receive the ball and unleash.

Take a look at this wonder pass to set up Johnny Russell for the opener in last weekend’s 3-1 defeat of Huddersfield Town.

Thorne has 8 Premier League games under his belt.

I, for one, would most definitely like to see him play for the Rams beyond next season. However, the 21-year-old signed a three-and-a-half year deal before crossing the Midlands to arrive on loan at the iPro. This contract was signed after the arrival of new Baggies boss Pepe Mel so, clearly, he must have liked what he’s heard and seen in the short space of time the pair crossed paths before the loan move.

In the same position as Thorne, John Eustace has been a remarkable addition to the team and, just like Chris Martin and Lee Grant last summer, was a free transfer by Nigel Clough. The veteran’s experience and implementation into the team on a regular basis has formed the backbone of the team’s magnificent rise up the division.

The midfield anchorman signed a one-year deal in the summer having impressed in pre-season. Will the club give him another year? I hope so. While he may not, aged 34, play as many as the 36 matches he has played thus far this campaign, the ex-Watford skipper would surely be a useful squad member, Premier League or Championship, two divisions he has ample experience of.

Eustace in his younger days.

Last summer, the Hornets offered the Eust a player/coach role, in which he declined in favour of the Rams, stating that he didn’t wish to turn away from his playing career. Maybe he’ll want to try his hand at coaching next season, if so could Steve McClaren be in a position to offer that? Both Chris Riggott and Rory Delap, former Rams, occupy roles in the club’s academy, possibly their first coaching roles.

Anyway, comparing Eustace and his junior Thorne, it is clear that they both offer a lot, and Derby are well-equipped for the play-offs being able to call on them both, the latter seems to be the most mobile and the former’s organisation and dictation of what to do and when has similar value.

Aside from George Thorne, there have been some further loans that have been pivotal. Patrick Bamford, aged 20, I would imagine isn’t much closer to getting into Jose Mourinho’s Champions League and Premier League title-chasing side despite two brilliant loan spells this season. He could well be available on loan again but maybe they’d feel it’s time to give him a go at a Premier League club. And then there is Andre Wisdom, an integral part of the defensive steel, his parent club, just like Bamford’s, can be nothing other than impressed with his performances.

For now, all that is put to one side, although it will still no doubt and must be in the club’s thinking, as the Rams pursue promotion.

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Player of the Season Verdict


Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, this has been a wonderful season and much better than most, including myself, expected. It has been a year that the club has, instead of offering rare glimpses of excitement, took the fans on an intriguing ride that I hope isn’t about to end.

Mid-table mediocrity improved almost each year with Nigel Clough and there was a sense that he was edging closer to masterminding a push towards the top six. Looking back, could he have ever done that push? It has become clear since his departure that Derby required someone to push them to the next level with not only more experience but more effective methods for the players on the pitch.

However, there is no denying Clough’s remarkable work to transform the Rams back in to a prospering club after sinking to its knees in adversity during the Premier League dark days. Craig Bryson, one of the league’s top midfielders, was brought in for around £350,000, nothing when you compare it to the millions that both of our East Midlands neighbours have ploughed into their squads. That is just one example, there are many more successes of players being bought in for little and thriving a lot and there is the youth development, which needs little explaining with Will Hughes destined for the top flight one day.

Steve McClaren has been the biggest game changer of the season (and I’m not just talking about his in-game tactics), Derby are now almost a ready-made Premier League club. Now for the players that have had the biggest impact on a magnificent campaign as I consider my Rams player of the season.

First of all, a word on Lee Grant. The goalkeeper has improved hugely since Eric Steele’s arrival and is most certainly the most enhanced player under the new regime. Craig Forsyth is another to have enhanced his game since McClaren arrived, as well as Jake Buxton.

Now, loan signings have largely been made to fill in for injured regulars in the past few years but this season there have been some incredible additions. Andre Wisdom has been key in the defence’s tightening up and been a menace for opponents going forward and defending in the right-back role. Patrick Bamford has brought his quality to the team too, he has hit some vital goals and, most recently, showed he has more than a knack of scoring, he has demonstrated his awareness and ability off the ball. Also, George Thorne has recently impressed and I’m still in awe of that pass to Johnny Russell in the 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town!

It is testament to the new management that the club can attract and develop such stars.

Elsewhere on the pitch, John Eustace has showed Watford fans what they have been missing this season. A very good signing and integral to how the Rams line up.

Goals, goals and more goals have been scored by Chris Martin, another free signing brought in by Nigel Clough. There have been many calls from fans to the board to splash out on a ’20-goals-a-season striker’, surprisingly one has come in the form of a free agent. Anyone who scores so many goals is always a contender for the player of the season prize.

Furthermore, much praise of how well the Rams have done this season must go to midfield magician Craig Bryson, a certain frontrunner for the award (he was extremely close to getting my award).

The Scotsman has hit two hat-tricks from midfield, a great feat from anyone, yet against Nottingham Forest it has an extra meaning so, Bryso, I salute you for helping make one of the best games I’ll ever witness so very sweet. Goals from midfield, marvellous runs forward, extensive box-to-box running and a never-say-die attitude (remember the Ipswich match!) make the 27-year-old a sensational all-round player.

Having said all of that, my player of the season is Jake Buxton. The central-defender wears his heart on his sleeve and would put his head where others wouldn’t put their feet, but you need more than that to be a great player. Bucko has developed hugely in his time at the club; there is nobody that has worked at their overall game more than this fellow.

Michael Keane, an under-21 international tipped for big things, from Manchester United and Zak Whitbread, a Liverpool academy graduate that was more recently involved in Norwich City’s successive promotions, from Leicester City have both been brought in with the aim of presumably being an upgrade on Buxton alongside Richard Keogh in the heart of the Rams’ defence. Neither has managed to get much of a look-in with the Mansfield lad getting the better of both purport upgrades.

From non-league to Premier League and developing so much would make a great story. Top work from Derby’s ‘footballing genius’ throughout the season and in his time at the club, he must have wondered if he’d ever play for the Rams again when met with a long-term back problem in the 2010-11 campaign.

It is worth pointing out too that since his arrival and including the summer of his arrival Derby have signed Shaun Barker for around £900,000, Jason Shackell for around £750,00 and Richard Keogh for over £1 million all in the same position as Bucko.

Player of the season would be good recognition for the man that has turned from being capable in non-league to being very competent at the top end of the Championship.

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Billy’s Boys Humiliated


What. A. Day.

There’s beating your local rivals and there’s humiliating your local rivals with a magnificent performance. It was truly magnificent from beginning to end.

prematchThe Rams looked sharper from the off and were clearly up for it, completely unlike their East Midlands foes. Just six minutes in, Craig Bryson bustled through the defence and his persistence paid off with a close-range finish. The goal began from some neat work from the lively Jamie Ward, but the ball fizzled away and found its way to the Scotsman.

Bryson’s opener had Derby bouncing and more dominance paid off when a great turn and pass from Patrick Bamford fell to Chris Martin, who also turned and then found Bryson, who had made a darting run into the box, on hand to tidily slot the ball home. The fluid build-up was lovely to see, Forest simply couldn’t cope with it.

A third goal quickly followed, it massively caught out the Reds as it all began from a Reds’ corner. Lee Grant, holding off Forest pressure, punched the ball away, it fell to Ward who hit it on to Bamford. The Chelsea loanee had two desperate defenders rushing his way, he held them off and showed his awareness, seemingly without even looking up, to perfectly pick out Jeff Hendrick, who did the rest, hitting the ball both between Karl Darlow’s legs and the goal posts. Counter-attacking football at its best. It came just five minutes after the second goal, thus, after little over half an hour, Derby were comfortably three goals to the good.

It was 3-0 at the break but it really could have been more, the Rams looked like scoring when they marched forward and were good value for the lead. I thought at half-time that the floodgates would remain open for more – and they did.

Johnny Russell, on for the injured Ward, didn’t take long to get in on the act and open the hosts’ second-half account. Russell hit a beautiful strike under ten minutes into the second 45 and sent the crowd wild. Such a well-struck effort, the goal must be a goal of the season candidate.

Later on after his remarkable goal, the striker slipped and made an embarrassing miss-hit. Luckily, the home faithful were in a position to laugh and not groan and he appeared to follow suit, later tweeting…

As the rain poured in the second 45, the goals continued to pour in as Rams fans were in for a treat to tell future generations all about. A 69th penalty concluded the afternoon’s scoring. Darlow was brought down by Bamford in the area, due to the forward advancing away from the goal the ‘keeper was spared in an early shower (although that must have been an appealing prospect with the rampant Rams not settled with 4-0). It was certainly a penalty. No arguments.

penaltyCraig Bryson (who else?) hit the ball down the middle to complete a wonderful hat-trick. Amazingly, the last 5-0 win by the Rams in this fixture also contained a hat-trick. The great Steve Bloomer, on that day in 1898, bagged three goals, and now has a bust beside the home dug-out in his honour. Is there room for a Bryson one anywhere?

That penalty rounded it all off and from then to the last whistle the home side kept the ball extremely well, frustrating their fierce rivals.

If I was a Nottingham Forest supporter, I’d be ashamed of the team. They didn’t look like they wanted it, put up no fight and never looked like scoring. For the second goal, two players rushed to the same ball, leaving the on-rushing Hendrick free to score. Wouldn’t it be funny to see Billy Davies sacked after Nigel Clough did in the reverse fixture? I think it’s time Billy went.

Whenever the poisoned dwarf, continuing to avoid the media, came to the technical area he was met by a chorus of boos and, of course, the standard ‘Cheer up Billy…(you know the rest)’ chant. He thinks it’s him against the world and the Forest supporters appear to be turning on him, little over a year after ‘king Billy’ returned.

goalAnyway, back to McClaren’s classy side. The team performance as a whole is worthy of a lot of praise and every single player was more than up for it, they were busting with energy and genuine attacking intent. In addition, the passion the players also had is extremely pleasing. Of course they should have that ardour, but it does seem very heartfelt, and it is very inspiring to the crowd, which brings me to my next point.

The ground’s atmosphere was incredible. All sides of the ground played their part and the new South Stand arrangement (where the DCFC fans are now all housed behind the goal, with the away fans ostracised into the corner) looked the part.

In terms of stand-out performers, I can’t look further than Craig Bryson for man of the match. The midfielder put in a real shift and supported the attack to great effect. Forest’s midfield, which featured Jesus look-a-like Jonathan Greening (who couldn’t even provide a miracle against such a good team), were run ragged by him. Today’s hat-trick means the 27-year-old is on 15 goals for the season, a marvellous tally for a midfielder.

Aside from the hat-trick hero, I was very impressed with George Thorne, making his debut in the absence of the suspended John Eustace. To be honest, I had my doubts; I thought he would have played by now (he joined in late January) if he was any good. Thorne made some intelligent passes and firmly looked the part. As I’ve said numerous times this season, it’s fantastic to be able to have one integral player replaced by someone more than up to scratch – instead of having to call on a less competent player (as Derby have had to do at times in the past five years).

Richard Keogh holds the Brian Clough Trophy.

Richard Keogh holds the Brian Clough Trophy.

Patrick Bamford, against his old club, looked splendid. The Chelsea man’s off-ball movement was good, as were the clever interchanges he had with the hosts’ middle and front lines, which a key played a part in two goals. Moreover, Jeff Hendrick, criticised recently for looking a little off ther pace, was also in form, imposing his presene in the midfield areas.

I hope Jamie Ward, who went off injured before the break, is okay. He looked extremely sharp before giving way to Russell, who showed that tenacity he always shows.

So, after four games without a goal this is what we got. A day to be remembered for a long time to come. Up the Rams!

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Statistical Preview: Derby Vs Forest


It’s almost here. Take a look at the key stats.

  • Forest are without a win in their last 7, meanwhile Derby haven’t won in their last 4.
  • Derby have lost just 1 of the last 5 meetings with Forest.
  • Forest have only won once at Pride Park, that win came under Billy Davies in 2011.
  • Forest have won 5 on the road this season in the league, including a win at Leicester in November.
  • The Reds have conceded 14 goals in their last 7 outings.
  • McClaren’s Rams are without a goal in their last 4. In the 5 fixtures prior to the dry spell, the team bagged 9 goals.
  • Billy Davies has won 4 and lost 3 against the Rams while in charge of Forest.
  • There have been 5 red cards in the last 7 meetings between the sides.
  • The Rams have beat just 1 (QPR) of the 4 current top 6 sides played on home soil this season.
  • After a recent dip, Derby lie 11th in the Championship form table. Forest’s slump means they are 23rd in the division’s form guide.
  • The side from across the A52 have the 7th best away record in the division yet they’ve won just 1 in their last 8 road trips.
  • 6th-placed Forest are just 1 point clear of 7th-placed Reading.
  • Derby are 7 points clear of Reading. The Rams are 3rd with 63 points and 10 points behind the last automatic promotion spot.
  • Former Rams boss Billy Davies achieved Forest’s first double over Derby since 1990 with a double in the 2010/11 season.
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Rams Fans Share East Midlands Derby Memories


Saturday’s blockbuster is fast approaching and to whet your appetite I have gathered a few Rams fans’ memories of past Derby County Vs Nottingham Forest encounters and their predictions for the weekend’s match.

First up is Charlie McGrath, writer of great new blog Rams Ramble.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Hmmm…that’s a difficult one! Any win against Forest is very special and I’ve been lucky enough to watch a few. One that stands out in my mind is the 4-2 win in March 2004. Ian Taylor scored early on and then Peschisolido bagged a brace. It seemed like an easy victory was on the cards but Forest had other ideas and managed to pull back two goals. It was beginning to get tense until Peschisolido found Tudgay late on and his deflected shot secured a brilliant victory.

I can’t not mention the win at the City Ground with 10 men but as I wasn’t at the game, my favourite East Midlands derby is the 3-0 win back in December 2004. Our first goal in that game remains one of the best I’ve seen! The quick passing and pace in the move is just breathtaking and one of my favourite ever players, Tommy Smith, was there to finish. Grzegorz Rasiak headed in a Smith cross and then tapped in from Morten Bisgaard’s cross to complete a cracking win.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

The worst Derby-Forest match I’ve seen is probably the one earlier this season. Being a relatively young supporter, I’ve not experienced too many derby defeats so, for me, this one was particularly painful. It was the first time I’d been to the City Ground and, after that, I wouldn’t rush back. Our performance was just terrible and we lost 1-0, without even putting up a fight. And, to add insult to injury, Nigel Clough, who I thought was doing a good job, was sacked shortly after full time.

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

On Saturday, I can’t see anything other than a Derby win. We’re not in a particularly good run of form but we should take confidence in the performance at Reading last weekend. Eustace is suspended and Hughes may miss through injury, which won’t help, but I know we can do it. There’s no greater time to finally end this goalscoring drought and I suspect Chris Martin will be the man to do it. Forest aren’t doing well of late either and some are even calling for Billy Davies’ head. We should take advantage of this and who knows, Billy could get the sack if Derby win, just like Clough in the reverse fixture. Having said that, I think it’ll be tight, so I’m going for a 2-1 win.

Next up is Jonathan Rodgers, writer of the excellent Facing Two Ways.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

My first ever derby was the 4-1 victory over Forest in 1979 (the one with the classic Graham Richards commentary -”Forest are in absolute ruins!”). However, I was only ten years old then & don’t recall anything about the game other than being given humbugs by some oiks in the Normanton End.

So, the best one I’ve ever witnessed has to be the 2-0 FA Cup victory in 1983 (the game styled as Clough v Taylor). I was standing on the Popside with my dad for that game & will never forget the free kick from Archie Gemmil that put us ahead. His celebration was pretty good too.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Saturday’s game will actually be my first East Midlands derby in a long, long time &, to be honest, I can’t recall a game I’ve been to where we’ve lost. Having said that, watching the game at the City Ground earlier in the season (on Sky) was a pretty awful experience!

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

I don’t normally make predictions because I’m a tad superstitious but I’m reasonably confident about this one. Forest are a shambles at the moment & we’re due a win after playing so well in the Bolton & Reading games. I’m going for a two one win to us, with at least one sending off & Andy Reid scoring for them from outside the area.

Matt Bregazzi has also had his say.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Without doubt for me the best has to be the 3-0 win under George Burley during the 2004/5 season.  We had a terrific side that year who were desperately unlucky not to make at least the play-off final, and we really put on a show that day.  Two from Gregorsz Rasiak and the pick of the bunch from Tommy Smith following a lovely move which encompassed a neat one-two between Inigo Idiakez and Morten Bisgaard.  The latter played the ball back in field to Idiakez, who squared for the onrushing Smith to sidefoot into the Forest net.  One of those goals (and matches) I’ll always remember with great fondness.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Perhaps surprisingly, I’m choosing a Rams win for this one as well – the 1-0 victory in March 2012, courtesy of ‘Sir’ Jake Buxton’s late, late header.  My reasoning is simple; aside from the winner in the 95th minute it was one of the most dull games of football you’re likely to see anywhere, ever.  The ball probably got the best vantage point of the afternoon on account of it being in the air immediately above Pride Park for about 60 mins of the match.  I don’t remember it being a particularly ill-tempered affair either (by the standards of this fixture, anyway), so it’s not like we had many handbags-at-five-paces incidents to distract from the aching boredom and alarming lack of quality on show.  For any neutrals who are reading that watched that match, I truly apologise.

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

This weekend’s game is arguably the most important one for a fair while, and also probably one of the toughest to call in terms of a prediction.  Both sides come into it in lying in the top 6, but also strangely in their own sort of mini-slump.  Add into that the fact that both are struggling for goals and you’d be forgiven for thinking this might be another game for lovers of clean sheets (defenders and ‘keepers, then).  However, as the old adage goes, ‘the form book goes out of the window’, and there’s never a greater spur than potentially re-igniting your season by getting one over on the old rivals.  My heart – and our recent performances compared to the mutterings coming from Forest fans about theirs – says Derby to win, but my gut screams a 1-1 draw and someone getting sent off.  Probably a Forest player reacting to Chris Martin ‘buying’ a free-kick on the edge of their box with 10 mins to go.  I’m not normally good at this prediction lark, as my recent accumulator results will attest, but I’m going to commit to a forecast and go with my gut.  1-1.

Finally, Tom Few answers.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Well, I missed out on going to the infamous 10 men 2-1 win, so it would have to be 1-0 in March 2012, purely for the atmosphere when Buxton scored.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Losing 1-0 at home in 2011, that was just such as dull fixture, luckily I also missed the 5-2 thrashing, so that is the best and the worst I have missed.

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

After the performance we put on against Reading and Bolton without scoring, I’m sure the tides will turn and we will thrash someone soon. So why not out of form Forest? I’m going for a 3-0 win.

Thanks to the fans for answering the questions.

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The History of the Great Rivalry


As the build-up ahead of the latest East Midlands derby gathers momentum, I bring to you a look at the fixture’s history. Kevin Tarrant has kindly sent in an article.

Nottingham Forest and Derby County are two clubs that have had a passionate rivalry with each other for over a century; yet despite the tension between the sides whenever they meet, there are strong similarities in the histories of the Midlands clubs.

Both clubs are considered two of the sleeping giants of English football. For teams with such glittering pasts and a trophy cabinet to match most Premier League sides, in recent years they have both found themselves in the second tier of English football and unable to climb out to once again compete with the elite.

Despite the fall from their glory days both clubs are averaging over 23,000 fans for their matches, their stadiums and facilities are up to Premier League standards and have been involved in some of the biggest events in football. Derby are 3rd in the Championship and Forest are 6th. To get back to the promised land of the Premier League is the aim for both sides, and to do so at the expense of their arch-rivals would be even better for the fans.

History

It’s not the first time that the two rivals have clashed with each other. The first fixture between the teams was way back in 1892. Forest came out on top that day with a 3-2 victory. There have been highs and lows for both since then and some gruelling encounters between the two.

Forests City Ground and Derby’s Pride Park are only 17 miles apart. Football can often cause a divide in families and one workplace can have sets of both supporters when two sides are this close. The only thing that comes close to seeing your side win is to see your rivals lose and how Forest and Derby would like to get the chance to gain promotion this season over their enemies, most people support their teams by placing the bets on their favourite team on Bwin.

Despite the feeling of animosity between the clubs, they both share one love; to hear the name Brian Clough will bring a smile to the face of both Derby and Forest fans. Clough, who is considered one of the most successful managers ever, enjoyed the best parts of his career at Derby and Forest.

Clough at Derby  

When Brian Clough was appointed manager of Derby in 1967 it would set him on the way to becoming an all-time great and change transform a small club like Derby who were struggling in the second division into the Champions of England and onto European adventures.

Clough took control of the Rams after enjoying success as manager of Hartlepool. After only finishing 18th in the second division in 1968, Clough showed how capable he was of transforming a clubs fortunes. With his right-hand man Peter Taylor, who had an eye for talent, he set about building the first of his great empires.

In the summer of ‘68 he signed Alan Hinton, John O Hare, Roy McFarland and Dave Mackay. He got his team playing the Clough way and guided them to the top of the table. Derby won the league and were promoted to Division 1. Clough was now a hero to the Derby faithful.

Clough was an ambitious young coach and wanted more success. He continued to build his side and delivered the Division 1 title in 1972. It was the first time Derby had ever won the league and was considered a huge achievement. The following season Clough led the Rams on their first battle in Europe. They managed to reach the semi-final before losing to Juventus.

Despite Clough’s achievements he failed to retain the league title in 1973. After coming under question from the board he resigned as manager. In Clough’s 6 years at Derby he turned them into one of the biggest teams in England and will forever be known as a hero to the Derby fans.

Clough at Nottingham Forest

Clough became manager of Nottingham Forest in 1975. In the two years since he had left Derby he had gone on to manage Brighton & Hove Albion with little success and was famously sacked by Leeds United after just 44 days in charge. Clough needed to rebuild his reputation and was hungry for more success.

Forest, like Derby when Clough took control, were now in the second division. In his first year there Forest finished 8th in Division 2; Clough was then joined by his old assistant Peter Taylor and together they guided Forest to promotion by finishing third the following year.

This was just the start for Forest as they went on to achieve unbelievable success. With Clough at the helm until 1993 they went on to win the league and four League Cups. The biggest achievement from the era was winning the European Cup.  In 1979 Forest beat Malmao FF 1-0 in the final and then remarkably managed to retain the trophy in 1980 when they beat Hamburg in Madrid.

Clough brought Nottingham Forest the most successful era in their history. He resigned in 1993 after he wasn’t able to prevent them from being relegated from the Premier League. He is an idol to Forest fans and the club have named one of the stands at the City Ground the Brian Clough stand.

Aiming for success

Both clubs are forever grateful to Clough for bringing them such great success. Since he left, neither have managed to gather the momentum to bring the glory days back. It’s been 6 years since either team have been in the Premier League, and Forest have even dropped in to the third tier since they were last in the top league.

This season it looks as though both have a genuine chance of claiming promotion. Billy Davies and Steve McClaren have got their teams into a playoff position; wouldn’t it be ironic if it was battled out by the two clubs where Brian Clough made his name at Wembley on May 26th?  The two clubs have been involved in some thrilling matches over the years.

Derby 4 – 0 Nottingham Forest, 1971

Going back to 1971 and this is an era that all Derby fans would love to experience again. If getting them promoted didn’t do it then thrashing their local rivals certainly turned Brian Clough into a hero. Before Clough had any association with Forest he led his team to this glorious victory at the Baseball ground.

The result gave Derby the momentum they needed as they went on to win the league. The season got even better for the Rams as their rivals were relegated from the top flight.

Nottingham Forest 3 – 0 Derby, 2003

Fast forward to 2003 and ten years after Clough had retired from football both teams were in the second tier. Forest were looking the stronger of the sides at the time and they showed why they were chasing promotion.

A Darren Huckerby strike and two goals from Marlon Harewood gave Forest a famous win over their rivals at the City Ground. The result was one of the highlights of the season for Forest as they were unable to carry the form through to the end of the season and missed out on promotion.

Derby 1 – 1 Nottingham Forest, 2008

The two sides hadn’t met for 3 years as Derby had been in the Premier League, so tensions were high at this fixture. Going into the match Forest had never won a game Pride Park. The first half failed to deliver though, as no real chance were made and the fans were becoming impatient.

If the first half was dire then the second was anything but. It had everything you’d want and expect from these two famous clubs – goals, fouls, red cards and penalties provided the fans with end to end entertainment.

Derby’s Argentinian striker Emmanuel Villa had given Forest the lead when he put the ball through his own net. The striker turned from villain to hero though as he went and got the equaliser for Derby to set up a tense finale.

The remainder of the match was filled with drama that you can expect from a local derby. Forest’s Luke McGugan was sent off for challenging with his studs up. Luke Chambers was also lucky not to get sent off as he gave away a penalty. Derby failed to capitalise though as their former keeper Lee Camp saved the spot kick.

Derby thought they had won it late on as Miles Addison headed the goal into the back of the Forest net only for the referee to disallow it, a decision that was highly disputed by the Rams. The match stayed at one a piece though in a match that was fitting to two of Brian Clough’s old teams.

Nottingham Forest 2 – 3 Derby, 2009

Going into this FA Cup fourth round match, Derby hadn’t won at the City ground since 1971 when Brian Clough was manager so Forest were favourites. They had drawn 1-1 in the first match and a replay was needed.

Forest showed why they were favourites as they dominated the first half. Chris Cohen and Nathan Tyson fired them into a 2 goal lead by half time. It looked as if they would be on their way to a famous win over their rivals in front of their home fans.

This was the FA Cup though and anything can happen. Derby came out in the second half and were a different team. Three goals from Rob Hulse, Paul Green and Kris Commons inspired them to an amazing comeback. The match finished 3-2 and Derby were rewarded with a fifth round tie against Manchester United.

Derby 0 – 1 Nottingham Forest, 2011

Going into this match Forest still had never won a match at Pride Park.  The odds were stacked against them but like always in these matches anything can happen.  33,000 were there to watch this Championship game that was the highlight of the season for the fans.

The match deserved more than the one goal as both sides treated the fans to an open attacking game. Passion got the better of some players as the referee handed out 7 bookings and sent a player off.

With the game deadlocked after 80 minutes it was Rob Earnshaw who put Forest in front with a tremendous strike.  Forest managed to hold on and the fans went wild at full time, manager Billy Davies going over to the fans to join in the celebrations. Not only was it Forest’s first win at Pride Park, but the first time they had done the double over them for 21 years.

Where now ?

Despite the ups and downs both clubs have had in recent years and chances to get back to the big time, they both find themselves in very similar positions. Both with the history and fan base of a top division club they find themselves stuck in the Championship.  Now two of Brian Clough’s old teams are battling out against each other to try and recapture glory.

In fact, in recent years the most glory that either club has had is winning a trophy that is dedicated to the former manager of both sides.

In 2007, 3 years after Clough passed away, the Brian Clough trophy was invented. The winner of the Nottingham Forest vs Derby match has claimed the Brian Clough trophy. As it stands, Derby hold the record by winning the trophy 7 times compared to Forest’s 4. It’s certain that both clubs would love to take the playoff trophy home along with the Brian Clough this season.

Thanks very much to Kevin for the article.

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The Big One is Almost Here


It’s the one everybody scrambles to check for when the fixtures are released in the summer, to check there aisn’t a holiday at the same time and to ensure it is pencilled straight into the diary. Yes, it’s the Rams against bitter East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.

Frustratingly, and in stark contrast to much of the Steve McClaren tenure, Derby have now gone four matches without a goal and are surely due to put a few away; it couldn’t be against a better oppsoition that everyone is keen to inflict misery towards.

In last week’s 0-0 draw at the Madjeski, Will Hughes picked up an injury and fellow midfielder John Eustace got booked to warrant a suspension for both the East Midlands derby and Tuesday’s trip to Ipswich. It means there will be another reshuffle in the middle of the park.

On-loan West Brom midfielder George Thorne is a clear contender to get a long-awaited nod. Yet to make an appearnce since signing in late January, Thorne has been an unused substitute in each game since making the move across the Midlands. Does this mean McClaren belives he isn’t as good as he’d hoped or is the match a little overwhelming for his debut? In the time the 21-year-old has spent as an unused substitute there have been occasions recently in which he must have had a chance to start yet was overlooked.

Fortunately he does have Championship experience to his name with games in loan spells for Portsmouth, Peterborough and, more recently, Watford.

In addition to the Albion loanee, James Bailey, who’s played little over seven minutes of football under the new regime and been injured for a large spell of the season, is also available.

In attack, things aren’t as bright as they were, but, like I said, the goals are coming. I expect Chris Martin to lead the line. Who to partner him? It’s a big derby match so Jamie Ward, for me, has to be the first name on the teamsheet, the forward oozes passion and has proven he can score in sich big occasions – as well as earning praise for his efforts at Reading. Patrick Bamford, Simon Dawkins and Johnny Russell are the remaining contenders. Bamford’s moments of magic are always worth keeping him as an option, while Russell has showed what an impact he can have from the bench.

Nottingham Forest are set to be without key player Andy Reid. The visitors arrive very much out of form, without a win in their last seven outings. It’s a chance for the Rams to push the Reds out of the top six with plenty of teams surely ready to jump at a ploace in the play-offs.

Looking at the match itself, it’s always difficult to know what to expect as it is a feisty derby. However, my prediction is for the goals crisis to end with a 3-1 Rams win and a red card or two (as ever!).

There are divided thoughts about who should be starting so please post your starting line-up below in the comments section, as well as any hopes or concerns ahead of the match.

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Red card mars crunch Championship clash


Panoramic Tuf  Moor2-0 defeat at Burnley could have been a lot different, decisions by the referee hampered the Rams’ chances of getting a result at Turf Moor. Now Derby lie five points behind second place.

It was my first time at Turf Moor and it definitely makes you appreciate the luxuries of home matches.

When I finally got a good signal, the team news wasn’t too surprising. Dawkins had impressed when he came on last week and thus he stated ahead of Patrick Bamford. Both Jamie Ward and Craig Bryson were only fit enough for the bench, which, again, had quite a strong feel to it.

Chris MartinIt is widely known how unfortunate Chris Martin was with the sending off. Things could have been much different and the impact that could have on the Rams’ season could be crucial.

Yes, Martin was extremely unfortunate and very hard done to. However, he does have a tendency to back into players, go down easily and look for fouls – maybe a reputation of those things cost him yesterday.

Recently the ex-Canary has been a shade of his early season form, nevertheless the striker’s goal record is something nobody can argue with. In the past couple of games Conor Sammon has offered more when he’s emerged from the bench, but, of course, not as much as Martin in front of goal.

Watching The Football League Show last night exposed to me the incidents leading up to the sending off in more details. Suspicious incidents went unpunished, that’s for sure.

Martin came and sat on a seat (plastic, unlike the wooden one I paid for!) amongst the away fans, along with the substituted Johnny Russell and Mason Bennett. Reeling from the straight red, he looked extremely disappointed, but, quickly, he was spotted by supporters looking for a photo opportunity.

In the first-half, Derby were on the back foot. Retention of possession was poor and, at times, it just seemed like the visitors couldn’t clear their lines at all.

With ten men in the second 45 the Rams looked like a changed outfit, playing some neat football and coming close to equalising on a few occasions. Based on that second-half, without mentioning the referee’s decisions, Derby deserved to go home with something.

The Clarets were a really organised side that had some very good ball winners in midfield and a solid backline. Prior to the beginning of the season, I didn’t even consider Sean Dyche’s team to be contenders.

David Jones’s goal for the home side was tremendous. Andre Wisdom isn’t exactly at fault hut it must be said that he could have got up quicker to try and stop Michael Knightly making the pass to Jones. Burnley got fortunate with a deflection for the second goal – Derby did always look vulnerable with ten men to searches for a second goal.

Full-timeTaking the positives, McClaren can definitely be pleased with the second-half effort.

Luck was not with the Rams, but it’s time to move on as, looking ahead at the fixtures, March is a tough month – potentially a season-defining month. Forest and trips to Reading and Ipswich stand out as difficult matches. Next is relegation-battling Millwall, now led by Ian Holloway.

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The Opposition View: Burnley Vs Derby


Ahead of Saturday’s game at Turf Moor I have interviewed Jamie Smith, the editor of popular Clarets blog No Nay Never

It seems that Burnley have caught many, including myself, by surprise this season, did you expect a promotion push?

Nope! It’s been a lovely surprise. You always want to improve on the previous year but when you sell your best player (Charlie Austin) just before the season starts and don’t replace him, you worry a little. I didn’t expect us to struggle but a lot of the football we played under Sean Dyche last season was poor, so I thought it could be a long year.

I’m delighted to have been proven wrong though. Hardly anyone expected us to be pushing for the top six, let alone be second going into March. It’s been a phenomenal season so far but we’re hoping it carries on for a while now.

Danny Ings and Sam Vokes are obviously huge threats to Derby’s back four, but who else could be potential menaces to the Rams?

Kieran Trippier is the supply line. Even though he’s our right-back, he’s got more assists than anyone in the league. He’ll exploit any space he gets when he goes forward and his delivery is typically excellent. He fancies himself as a free-kick taker as well but he’s only scored one so far. Trippier is excellent defensively too and I don’t think it’s looking too far ahead to suggest he could be a future England international.

Ings and Vokes are our main goal threats though. Vokes is absolutely dominant in the air and Ings scores all types of goals from nothing, so your back line will have its hands full despite a good run of clean sheets recently.

When Jason Shackell moved to Turf Moor in 2012 many Rams fans were angered, how has he performed since?

He had a pretty slow start, but apparently he was carrying an injury at the time. Since he’s shaken that off he’s been a colossus at the back and £1 million looks like an absolute steal. He reads the game brilliantly, organises the side from the back and is possible the best all-round defender I’ve seen play for us in 20 years. He’s that good. Our back five is very settled and Shackell is an 8/10 player every week.

Frankly I’m amazed he’s playing for us. He looks good enough for the Premier League to me. If we don’t go up, he’ll probably leave.

The Clarets have been quite a bogey side for the Rams, what is your match prediction and promotion predictions?

We were absolutely magnificent in the first half against Forest last week, 3-0 up at the break and it could have been more. If we start like that on Saturday I can’t see Derby stopping us. But I’m wary of Patrick Bamford and Will Hughes and Steve McClaren will have you organised, so I’m not expecting us to blow you away like we did to Forest.

I hope we can get a win, but a draw wouldn’t be a disaster given the stage of the season. If either team wins you’d have to say they become favourites for promotion, especially as we open a nice gap if we get the points. I’m sure there are twists and turns to come yet, but it looks like us or you for second right now, so it could be a winner-takes-all occasion.

Most Burnley fans will have their fingers crossed Lee Grant makes a rick at some point. He was excellent for us last season but is certainly capable of a match-losing error.

I’m going to sit on the fence and say it’ll be 2-2 on Saturday and promotion will be decided on the last day.

Thank you to Jamie for taking the time to answer the questions. 

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Statistical Preview: Burnley Vs Derby


As the match gets closer, take a peek at the key statistics and facts.

  • Burnley are clearly a bogey side for the Rams, who haven’t won in the fixture in the past 9 meetings.
  • Turf Moor has been quite a miserable place to visit, Derby have just 1 win to their name in the last 11 visits.
  • Derby stand as the division’s second best away side with 31 points from 16 outings on the road.
  • The Clarets are undefeated on home soil this season and are second in the home table with 36 points from 16 games.
  • The form table has the Rams in second and the Clarets in fourth.
  • A win in the fixture would see Derby go second, a draw would see Derby remain 2 points behind Burnley and a defeat for the Rams would raise the gap to 5 points.
  • Between them Burnley strike partnership Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have scored 34 goals.
  • Derby’s last victory over the Lancashire side was at Pride Park in January 2007. Steve Howard scored to extend the club’s lead to 6 points at the top of the Championship on a night when Billy Davies was sent to the stands.
  • Sean Dyche’s side have an impressive record against top 6 sides at Turf Moor; Forest, QPR and Reading have all lost there, while leaders Leicester are yet to visit
  • The second-placed side have played 6 matches against fellow top 6 sides, they are undefeated in all of those matches with 3 wins and 3 draws.
  • Meanwhile the third-placed side have also played 6 matches against their top 6 counterparts, but have won just 1 and lost a disappointing 5.
  • Lee Grant is a notable player to have played for both sides due to his switch in the summer. He made over 100 appearances for the Clarets, including every single league match last season, and since joining DCFC he has 8 clean sheets to his name having played every single league game so far this campaign.
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Then & Now


Derby County take on Burnley in Saturday’s grudge match at the top of the Championship, a win would see the Rams occupy the second place.

Cast your mind back to late August when the Clarets visited Derby. The away side demolished the hosts 3-0, making the Rams look a far cry from promotion contenders. But of course there was a long way to go at that point and now, after a huge change at the club, there’s every reason to believe in Derby as they push for a place in the top flight. So, what’s happened, on the pitch, to revitalise a relatively mediocre side into a huge force in the division?

In the four home league matches prior to Steve McClaren’s performance there were no victories for the Rams, quite a surprise when you consider that the form on familiar soil carried the team into the top half last season. In the 12 home league matches since, the club have lost just one – an extraordinary record. It is clear that the team now is at their best where they should be.

Behind that record is the management. Nigel Clough did an excellent job here, I can’t stress that enough, however the new regime evidently has a little extra to push on – the perfect antidote to a couple of years of promise from the likes of Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick yet a lack of shrewdness to compete with the top dogs outside of the Premier League.

Under McClaren and co, the approach on the field has had huge effect. Substitiutions actually make a difference, you only have to look as near back as Saturday for that – the introduction of Simon Dawkins and Conor Sammon at the interval revised the team’s play for the better. The Mac isn’t afraid to make a bold change or two and keep his team pressing to score until the very end.

Recruitment-wise the Rams have flowered with a glitter of premium loan signings. Andre Wisdom, Patrick Bamford, Simon Dawkins (now permanent) and Michael Keane have arrived from the nation’s elitist clubs, who obviously trust Derby to bring on their talents. Although loan scoops were made previously, none were of this quality.

Quite a subtle reform, yet important. John Eustace has had a prominent role in this season’s success to date. At the beginning of the season, the ex-Watford captain didn’t feature as often, now he is intrinsic to the side.

Noticeably Derby can now win ugly, especially in the past few weeks. Chasing the game or not in thrall of the game, Derby rarely won, yet now, there’s always a belief and genuine chance of a result being pulled out of the bag.

To reiterate an earlier point, Clough did wonderful under his resources at the club and proved perfect to steer through quite a mess that was left for him. Since his, at the time, bitter sacking, I have been woken and enlighten by different concepts that have been pretty refreshing.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, there are still 14 matches to go – a long way and time in the ever-changing world of football.

Saturday’s match will provide a benchmark of how far things have come over the season, since it was rejuvenated almost five months ago.

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Martin serves up a moment of magic


Another 1-0 win, this time over Eddie Howe’s organised AFC Bournemouth side at the iPro.

 

teamvsbmouth

Here is how the Rams lined up.

The team news made for disappointing reading with Craig Bryson and Jamie Ward both sitting the match out due to injury.

Bryson is the engine and catalyst for everything good about Derby’s midfield play, that was telling in the first 45. Jeff Hendrick, in the Scotsman’s place, almost watched the game pass him by.

Tremendous credit must go to the way the away side set out. They got in the Rams’ faces, made some good interceptions and stopped Derby from playing.

Defensive lapses worried the home faithful as the away side went into the interval unlucky not to be ahead. Something had to give at half-time, it couldn’t go on.

Again, bold substitutions upped Derby’s tempo. Steve McClaren’s changes have had a massive effect since his arrival. John Eustace made way for Simon Dawkins and Patrick Bamford made way for Conor Sammon. The two attack-minded subs gave the ascendancy to the hosts.

Finally, the Rams were on the front foot but they tested the tolerance of their fans. Chris Martin seemed especially ineffective leading the line – or so I thought.

Goal DCFC

The players celebrate the goal.

Will Hughes was judged to have been tripped on the edge of the box five minutes from time. After watching a reply, no foul was committed and Derby were fortunate but, when you’re running forward with the ball at the opponents and mounting the pressure, you make your own luck. Chris Martin took the free-kick, much to my surprise as I can’t recall him taking one before, and fired home with a wonderful drive to send the ground wild.

Dawkins was very good when he came on, Will Hughes also had a good outing but my pick is definitely Johnny Russell. The Scot made some excellent runs and exchanges as they went in search of that elusive goal.

Lee Camp, as ever, got the attention of the Derby fans on another visit to his hometown. The ex-Red managed to earn himself a deserved yellow card when his protests over a foul went too far with his arms flailing at the referee.

It was good to hear the attendance at the healthy figure of 27,306 but most pleasing was the victory after not being near their best, just like at Hillsborough. It’s been said time and time again, that is a massive promotion credential.

Elsewhere, Burnley beat Forest 3-1 at Turf Moor, etching next week’s visit to the Clarets up a notch. Are the wheels falling off Billy’s promotion wagon? QPR were defeated at Charlton, a good result for Derby as the Rs do have a game in hand over McClaren’s army.

Up The Rams!

leaguetable22feb

How things stand in the Championship’s top six. (Click to enlarge)

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Still On The Up


Derby County made it two 1-0 wins in a row on Tuesday night with victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Again, like the QPR match, the Rams managed to win in spite of not being the best team on the night – one of the most significant promotion credentials.

In a match of little quality, loanee Patrick Bamford produced a moment of magic to grab the three points. I’ve watched it now three or four times – so sweetly struck.

It’s moments like that that mean Bamford is worth keeping on the pitch in scrappy Championship encounters for the edge he can provide. The Chelsea striker is one of a few loans that have helped the side’s Premier League push and huge credit must go to the club for attracting and identifying such pivotal loans.

Post-match Rams fans could again admire the zeal on show from defender Jake Buxton with another spirited photo (below).

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(From @dcfcofficial)

Craig Bryson, Chris Martin, John Eustace and Andre Wisdom have been the main stand-out performers this season. Bucko can be added to that list.

Not too long ago I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him follow Nigel Clough to Sheffield United. The defender’s efforts, the way he was fended off competition from Michael Keane and Zak Whitbread this season to cement a first eleven place and the wonderful improvement he has made since joining (when he hadn’t tasted life above League Two) have been commended.

First-team coach Paul Simpson acknowledged Clough’s influence on the ex-Brewer and hailed his work under the new regime “Nigel was good for Jake but Jake has been absolutely magnificent for us”.

Does this make him a contender for player of the season? There is nobody on the pitch that expresses their delight and sheer fervour for the club more than him.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game at the iPro against 15th-placed Bournemouth, there is a chance for Derby to put another foot on third place and even leapfrog Burnley into second place.

The Cherries have won just three on the road, however their record against the division’s top sides away is quite commendable. Over the season they have picked up a win at Reading and draws at Burnley and Forest so it’s clear that the match will be more than a walkover.

Worryingly for Eddie Howe and co, the Rams are in imperial form and lead the Championship’s form table with East Midlands counterparts Leicester City and Nottingham Forest. That match against the Reds on March 22 is looking like the most important between the rivals for a very long time.

This weekend there is a venomous fixture at the top of the Championship. Burnley play hosts to Forest, while QPR travel to Charlton and Rangers have won just one of their last four away from home so maybe that’ll be a banana skin for the Championship giants. Leicester, in the form they’re in, appear to have a pretty routine fixture in the form of a home game against Ipswich.

Take a look at the current top six below and cast your votes in the polls.

leaguetable

 

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E I E I E I O…..


My last two articles on here have contained groans about the Derby County defence. How stupid do I look now?

The defence collectively produced a solid display against QPR on Tuesday night, with Jake Buxton and Richard Keogh performing outstanding at the heart of the back four. I really didn’t anticipate keeping a clean sheet after conceding poor goals against both Yeovil and Birmingham.

John Eustace’s goal, his first in Derby colours, was wonderful. The loop outwitted the defence, punishing Rob Green after his short punch out.

I thought the away side were pretty uninspiring for their superior amount of possession and the amount of money spent. They couldn’t create as many clear-cut chances but credit to Lee Grant for making a couple of excellent saves.

On Monday the table looked lovely, however, after a night of results that didn’t go in the Rams’ favour. Four points now separate McClaren’s side from second-placed Burnley and one point is the current gap that Forest must mind.

Sheffield Wednesday, 17th, appears to be, dare I say, a relatively easy game on the face of it, but the Owls were on an 11-match unbeaten run prior to their 3-0 defeat to WIgan last night. After that, Bournemouth, 15th, visit, two good opportunities to gain maximum points before the difficult trip to bogey side Burnley.

Derby have a comparably easy next couple of games to the promotion chasing counterparts. It’s a time I hope is capitalised on. Burnley travel to Bournemouth at the weekend, followed by a grudge match with Forest on the 22nd. The Reds, before that, take on runaway leaders Leicester. QPR next face 6th-placed Reading. This spell could result in a little reshuffle beneath the Foxes.

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What next for the Rams?


Many Rams fans were rightly peeved by the defensive lapses that contributed to last week’s 3-3 draw at Birmingham City.

It was an utter shame considering the menacing Derby attack look like they have a lot of goals in them. Is it time for a dominating central-defender to be brought in? Let’s not forget, though, that defence starts from the front-line. It does seem that more loan activity could be on Steve McClaren’s agenda.

Jake Buxton has been the best defender this season, he’s fended off competition from Michael Keane and Zak Whitbread and stepped up to the plate as captain during Keogh’s injury lay-off.

As aforementioned, the loan market continually appears to be interesting to the club. Yes, it’s worked wonders – just look at Andre Wisdom, Simon Dawkins and more recently Patrick Bamford – and credit to the club for sourcing such gems. However, I feel January was an opportunity missed. In an article last month, I said that, considering the Rams’ league position, there should have been more activity.

An extra face or two would have not only bolstered things and kept the current regulars on their toes, but also showed their intentions – why not make a big push when you’ve laid down the foundations and got through some gruelling fixtures to emerge in a good position? Money being thrown around needlessly is of course not what I’m saying, only a little more shrewdness with the new recruitment set-up up and running.

On the other hand, I can’t over-question this due to, again, the loan recruitments’ success thus far and the on-pitch record of the new team; they obviously know what they’re doing. The team is in safe hands.

The Mac’s record is quite remarkable. Played (league): 19. Won: 12. Drawn: 4. Lost: 3. Yet, since the turn of the year (league) things have been different to the breath-taking December form. Played: 6. Won: 2. Drawn: 2. Lost: 2. It is slightly unjust to suggest that Derby have completely stagnated since the beginning of 2014 because a sticky spell was probably inevitable after such a marvellous run of form, but there have been slightly frustrating times (penalties!) that could come back to haunt us.

Still, the Rams sit pretty in 4th spot and, I believe, the squad has what it takes to hang into the play-offs at least. There are 17 matches to go, a long way. Looking far ahead, the latter five matches are against current bottom-half sides – not a bad run-in, though there is a lot to happen between now and then and a play-off place is by no means secured.

The Manchester City of the Championship, Queens Park Rangers, are next up on Monday night at the iPro. Derby will no doubt line up with a more defensive mindset than the one which turned out at St Andrew’s last week to contain Harry Redknapp’s side more, but, equally, the Rams won’t sit back – as we know, the side isn’t short of a goal or two.

Monday’s visitors are unbeaten in the current calendar year (league) and, in fact, are yet to taste defeat since their last visit to the east Midlands on Boxing Day at Nottingham Forest. Looking more positively at the hosts’ chances, both Matt Phillips and Charlie Austin, integral members of the away side, won’t be available and are expected to be out for some time.

I predict a relatively tight game. QPR have made the most clean sheets (14) this season, whilst the Rams have scored the most (57) in the division. I’ll go for a closely-fought 2-2 draw.

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Disappointing draw at St Andrew’s


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Pre-match rainbow.

Simon Dawkins came out of the line-up for Jamie Ward in Steve McClaren’s only change. It came as a surprise after the former Spurs forward was a shining light in the stellar comeback on Tuesday night.

The Rams missed a plethora of chances in the first-half, enough to have been two or three up. Craig Bryson’s saved penalty further asserted the well-known fact that Derby simply aren’t consistently good enough at penalties. What if the play-offs came down to a shoot-out?

In the second 45, an early flurry of goals sparked the match into action. It did take Birmingham’s goal to wake up the away side after the break, from them on the Rams assumed control.

You probably won’t see a more bizarre goal this weekend than Derby’s second goal. Chris Martin fired a shot that Bryson attempted to avoid but it ended up looping over the goalkeeper via the back of the Scotsman! You may say it was lucky, I’d say it was deserved after all those chances went begging.

Finally, the third goal was a wonderful move finished off by full-back Craig Forsyth.

The Blues

Their midfield was quite non-existent at times and their defence could easily be split open. Creatively, the Blues offered little, instead Lee Clark’s man capitalised on Derby’s deficiencies to earn their unfair share of the soils.

The Rams 

Mac’s Rams were in utter hegemony on the game. A lot of neat football was played in the usual positive fashion, Dawkins wasn’t missed as much as first feared. photo_4[1]

There is no way that Derby should have drew. There is no question about that. Attacking-wise, the way the team advances together is quite splendid. Unfortunately, it isn’t complemented defensively. In addition, the horrendous Birmingham City makes it harder to accept – they’re an awful side and it’s not hard to see why they’ve been on a slide.

The Defence

If you’ve not been convinced by the back four for a while then you’ll be no closer to being convinced after today’s display. Generally, there was little for the defence to deal with but when they were a little under the cosh lapses in concentration proved costly. I felt that matters had improved upon Richard Keogh’s return, they had briefly but not now.

There are concerns in that area. Some more training ground work? Or take a plunge with on-loan Zak Whitbread?

Patrick Bamford

Again, I must mention him. The loanee went on some glittering runs and got stuck into some some splendid build-up play, especially his link-ups with fellow youngster Will Hughes. It’s becoming clear that he has an extremely bright future  ahead, credit to the club for snapping him up and credit to Bamford himself for making the step-up from League One to Championship with such serenity.

Another goal today, this time it was at the second attempt – he fired in a rebound from close range to send the away supporters wild.

Jamie Ward

photo_3[1]The ex-Blade has been given a bit of stick from fans recently. Today he showed exactly why it was right to return to starting after being a substitute in midweek, he was definitely the away side’s man of the match in his best performance for a while now.

His role in the first goal was worthy of a goal itself. Ward weaved in and out, reached the by-line and found the perfect cross. You can’t beat getting to the by-line and putting in a decent cross, one of the most effective ways of attacking. He also bagged in assist in the third goal.

Bogey Ground

You have to go all the way back to 1995 to find Derby’s last victory at St Andrew’s as there hasn’t been a Rams win there in the past six occasions.

Coming Up

It would’ve been a perfect match to gain all three points with the lunchtime draw between QPR and Burnley and there being a chance to beat the Rs in the next fixture but it wasn’t to be.

‘Arry’s glamour side visit Derby on Monday 10th February.

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Rams fight back after first-half woes


What a night!

The main talking points from Derby’s 3-2 win over the Glovers….

Yeovil fans

The travelling support from Somerset was impressive considering the distance, the day and time of the match. They also made themselves heard. Prior to the match, reports circulated that some of the away fans were making their way up on boats due to the heavy rainfall!

The first-half

Yeovil set out well – defended for their lives and attacked in numbers with immense vigour for an away side. It was, of course, very effective. Splitting the defence open and displaying their clinical side in front of goal shocked the Rams, who had enough chances of their own to have matched the visitors’ half-time goal tally, and the supporters that expected to be cheered up with a comfortable victory after another day of miserable weather.

Defensively the home side were not at their best and struggled with the surging runs as the Glovers counter-attacked. Ishmael Miller was quite a presence in their attack.

An improved second-half

John Eustace was taken off at the break for Jamie Ward, demonstrating McClaren’s attacking intent. Yeovil were pressured from beginning to end of the half and fortunately they attacks were fewer and further between, enabling Derby to pile on the pressure.

The diving header from Patrick Bamford went in just five minutes after the re-start and Craig Bryson, just three minutes from full-time, showed immense quality to slot the ball in the bottom corner of the goal across a body packed of boxes.

Of course the Rams weren’t content with a point. A Bryson free-kick was glanced in by Chris Martin’s head. Wild scenes followed, the players even broke the corner flag whilst celebrating. A euphoric feeling after a plethora of chances missed, including a sitter from left-back Craig Forsyth.

The, to use a great football cliché, ‘never-say-die’ attitude was marvellous to see and, in spite of seemingly clinching a draw, Johnny Russell was brought on for added time. The Rams did it the hard way.

Patrick Bamford

Bamford’s goal means it is three from three now, with two of those matches coming from the bench. Not only does he have such clinical finishing, but he’s also Derby’s most tricky player. The Chelsea loanee went on a couple of completely dazzling runs that made me wonder how he held on to the ball. Clearly a talent and somebody that has a contribution that makes a significant difference. It was Bamford’s first start in Derby colours and some may suggest he is wasted out wide.

Simon Dawkins

Dawkins was a leading threat for the home side and his liveliness on the ball helped create the first goal. For me, he was man of the match for the Rams in possibly his best match since joining permanently this month.

Don’t leave before the match is over!

Derby really like putting their fans through the mill, don’t they?

Two goals in the last few minutes last night, a late equaliser at Ewood last week and, casting my mind further back, a last-gasp winner at Watford back in October and another late Bryson goal to complete the turnaround in the 4-4 draw with Ipswich.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a glorious photo from Derby Telegraph snapper Ian Hodkinson of the players after Martin’s winner.

Derby 3-2 Yeovil

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Magnificent Martin


In the summer of 2013, Nigel Clough picked up striker Chris Martin on a free transfer. It was effectively a “try before you buy” deal as, in the closing months of the previous season, Martin had spent some time on loan with the Rams.

Having watched the striker during his loan spell, I found it difficult to predict that he would spend the next season banging goals in so frequently. But he did. And what a remarkable free transfer he has proved to be. Calls to spend big on a “20 goals a season striker” were quashed. That striker arrived for nothing.

It was perfect. Martin couldn’t break into the Norwich side and he never made huge impressions in his loan spells, he needed somebody to take a chance on him. Derby offered that and he became the nucleus of a very successful and nearly promotion-winning side.

Last season, the ex-Norwich City man scored 25 goals in all competitions. Even in his most successful season with the Canaries, the 2009/10 season in which they won promotion from League One, the striker did not manage that high amount of goals.

The success of last season in terms of his goal record was always going to be difficult to follow up. So far, the signs are that he can follow it up, if not, better his goal tally. 11 goals is the tally so far this campaign. At this point last season, Martin had scored 4 goals.

Despite all of this, I can’t be alone in getting frustrated with him! Seemingly, at times, he is looking to be fouled and goes to ground a lot in many tussles with opposition defenders. You can often see the disgruntlement and annoyance in his face and body language from the stands.

When the team isn’t in the game, he isn’t. When the team is playing well, he is a huge part of it.

There is such a huge reliance on him. It would be worrying to see him out injured. Leon Best, on loan from Blackburn Rovers, hasn’t offered much since arriving. Can Derby, when things aren’t going their way, like in the recent homes games against Wigan and Millwall, change the system to something else? Will Best, in time, be an effective replacement? These are questions still to be answered.

January’s transfer window isn’t too far away. It will be interesting to see if this is addressed then. When the last January window came around, I felt the club missed a chance to help their cause in their promotion ambitions. Yes, the squad was great, but, given the position they were in, it wouldn’t have been a bad thing to dip into the market and try even further to keep up the pace with Leicester, Burnley and QPR.

Anyway, Chris Martin, though I am guilty of moaning at one or two things he does in a game, has been absolutely magnificent and he will be instrumental in this season’s promotion push.

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The Opposition View: Fulham Vs Derby


For a place in the last eight of the League Cup, Derby travel to Fulham.

A lot has changed since the Rams demolished the Cottagers 5-1 at Pride Park back in August.

I have spoken to Andrew Beck of Cottagers Confidential to find out more about the opponents.

How much have Fulham changed since that 5-1 drubbing?

Fulham have changed immensely. Just making sure the manager isn’t a crazy person was a big boost. Magath never settled on a lineup and refused to play some of the most talented players (Dan Burn, Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz). Since Kit Symons has taken over, Fulham have been a different club. He’s been in charge for seven league matches, and over the last six, Fulham have been the second best team in the league.

Has the poor start to the season changed your opinion of how Fulham will fare back in the Championship this season?

At the beginning of the year, I felt Fulham were probably the most talented team in the Championship. There’s a lot of quality in the squad. With a competent manager and a little strengthening in January, I would have expected them to challenge for the top two. I think the hole that they dug under Magath is probably too deep for that. However, making the playoffs is still a very good possibility.

What are your thoughts on your team’s League Cup campaign so far?

The cup has been fun so far. Fulham got to play one of their traditional rivals away for ther first time in over a decade. The fact that it was also a win was very satisfying. Just a few weeks ago, I would have been happy for Fulham to actually concentrate on a cup run just to salvage some of the season. But since the recent improved form, the league is once again the most important thing in my eyes.

Finally, do you expect Fulham to field a strong side and what is your match prediction?

I expect some rotation. Rodallega had to leave Friday’s match with cramps, so I’d expect him to sit, probably replaced by Cauley Woodrow. I don’t expect Ruiz or Scott Parker to start. You’ll probably see Patrick Roberts and Emerson Hyndman. But the squad will be very strong, and it will be well coached. Don’t expect them to roll over this time. How they do depends on how serious Derby takes it. If Derby fields a strong side I expect a close game that could go either way. If they field more of a second choice lineup, I’d expect Fulham to win.

Thank you to Andrew for taking the time to answer my questions.

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Another 2-0 win, another 3 points


Derby won their third match in a row by 2-0 last night with a win over Bournemouth. It is now unbeaten in nine for McClaren’s Rams, whose only defeat was a 3-2 loss at unbeaten Charlton back in August.

Bournemouth presented a different opposition than the usual away side that defends & tries to catch Derby out on the break at Pride Park. They were comfortable on the ball, quick in attack at times but they got numbers behind the ball very quickly to stifle the hosts.

I felt it was time for Omar Mascarell to start but McClaren kept Eustace in the side. It seemed like the ideal match for him.

Again, it was an excellent, professional performance from Derby.

The Cherries’ sharp Callum Wilson looked a handful. Derby coped.

At half-time things were level yet I was convinced that the home team would win. They ‘usually find a way’ I said. And the Rams sure did.

The away side managed to bring themselves more into the game and enjoyed longer spells of possession. However, an odd few minutes of restlessness as to what happened sparked the hosts to life.

I don’t know why the goal didn’t stand. The ball trickled in seconds after the foul. On seeing the replay, it was a clear handball from Lee Camp and was sent off. The referee appeared to point towards the halfway line indicating a goal and changed his mind! A free-kick was awarded, Martin whacked it against the frame of the goal (he likes free-kicks against this side!).

After that strange string of events, Derby were the only side likely to score. The first was terrific from Will Hughes, with the help of Chris Martin’s clever pass. The second was finished by Martin after a cracking Johnny Russell cross. Game, set and match.

The way Derby get themselves through these sort of situations is very admirable. It is rare for Derby not to get through them on hone soil. Yes, patience is tested (by the ref too last night) but as these games go on it is usually one side that looks like winning.
Will Hughes was, for me, the best of the pitch. Over the past few weeks he has been remarkable. Clearly Derby’s best player. Such clever touches, positioning & drive forward makes him so good to watch.

Also among the standouts was Chris Martin, effective in the goals and Cyrus Christie, bombing forward, as well as the non-stop Craig Bryson.

Derby are looking like the side that fans have grown used to over the past twelve months. One year ago today, cries of ‘sack the board’ echoed around the ground. Incredible turnaround.

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