Departure Lounge – Ben Pringle
On leaving The Rams to join Rotherham on a 2 year deal. Ben Pringle concluded “for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out”. An odd conclusion in some ways from a man who joined the Rams fresh from the Northern Premier League and went on to make 23 appearances. At the time of writing, more than Croft, Varney or Martin – all players who would have a better claim to their Rams careers “not working out”.
What Ben means of course is that he didn’t become a first team regular and that by the end of his second season, he seemed further down the pecking order than when he began. Pringle had his chances to impress and it should not be forgotten that he was chosen on
merit to start in important away matches at Barnsley (a stop-the-rot away draw) and Ipswich (a win that made us think we could be contenders). Like many others, Pringle’s personal stock was affected by the teams slump in form. He started high profile matches against Crawley and Leicester but struggled to make an impact in a struggling side. He wasn’t the worst on either occasion but was an easy target for critical fans muttering about “non-league Nigel”. A man-of-the-match performance on either occasion could have launched his career but it wasn’t to be. Unfortunately for Ben, the Rams needed players who could deliver now, rather than potential. A problem emphasised by the habit of conceding late goals, due in part to a lack of squad depth to manage the latter stages.
With Clough beginning to reshape the squad, Pringle joined promotion chasing Torquay for a month to gain some much needed game time. It looked a good move; Torquay were winning and Ben was starting. Then Pringle made the surprise choice of returning to fight for his first-team place at Derby. Pringle failed to feature as a Rams player again. In retrospect, he could have had 3 months of first team football at Torquay, culminating in a play-off final at Old Trafford and an enhanced reputation.
When Pringle first joined The Rams, it was undoubtedly a great story and one welcomed by fans almost unilaterally; no more Carlos Kickaballs being paid a fortune, give a local lad a chance just like the days when football were good. However, there’s no doubt that his background would always follow him and those who had at first warmed to his signing were now grumbling about “non-league Nigel” when the chips were down.
Clough’s desire to upgrade the squad this summer also has the additional task of persuading the floating voters to renew season tickets and stick with it. Million pound bids are one way of showing ambition but some will also see Pringle’s departure as a significant move in terms of over all policy. Whichever way you look at it, Pringle’s arrival coincided with a new, sensible approach to transfers, whereas his departure has coincided with a publicly stated upping the ante. Having said all that, its a tad unfair to use Pringle as a headline for either transfer policy when the reality is, he was simply a young player who arrived for nothing and left for nothing.
In my opinion, the best comparison for Pringle, in terms of age and experience on arrival, is to compare him to a first year professional. By that measure, he has massively outperformed almost every Rams product of the past four years – for example Mitch Hanson and Jason Beardsley who were both on two year contracts when Ben signed but neither saw them through. By that measure, 23 appearances, playing in front of 30,000 isn’t bad for a lad who was driving from Newcastle to Ilkeston only two years ago, in the hope of reviving his career. Well, his career was certainly revived and now he’s still several rungs up the pyramid from where he started. Don’t be so hard on yourself Ben, I’d say things worked out fine. Good luck.