James Bailey had a decent game against Stoke back in January. In truth, The Rams didn’t trouble the Potters too much but we weren’t overrun and enjoyed a fair amount of possession. Three days later, The Rams faced Barnsleyat Oakwell and Bailey found himself dropped to the bench for the on-loan Spurs midfielder Tom Carroll. From that moment on, James Bailey’s Derby County career has slowly and inexplicably spiralled down the plug-hole; his (lack of) Rams future seemingly confirmed by some unmistakeable Clough-speak recently.
After winning the Young Player of the Year award and being almost ever present in his first season, everything was looking rosy for Bails. He was also a regular for the first half of last season and stats pedalled around at the time showed how The Rams results were significantly better when Bails was in the team. Having to watch the Tom Carroll fiasco unfold was painful enough for the fans but with Bailey on the bench or even not in the 16, something had clearly changed by February 2012 (although Clough later said Bailey was ill at some point during this). Bailey appeared fleetingly after Barnsley, never having another run in the team and looking off-the-pace when he did appear.
Clough has previously said “you can never have too many centre halves/ forwards” (a few times but from memory about Riggott and Noble) but evidently you can have too many central midfielders. And three is too many. Well, according to Clough’s recent assessment that having Bryson and Hendrick in form makes Bailey surplus to requirements. Obviously you do need more, you can’t expect two players to both play 50 matches with the threat of injury, suspension and form. There’s also competition for places, formation changes and so on. But the hint is clear enough, just as Croft and Martin were surplus without wingers and still not required with!
The clearest message though came with Clough’s “last year of contract” comment regarding Bailey. The well used euphemism for people heading for the exit door, which should really be followed by “…and he isn’t getting another one”. Used frequently about Pearson, Leacock, Bywater and Martin, it really is the kiss of death.
In case there was any remaining doubt, the final nail in the coffin came in a Clough quote a couple of days ago, in which he used the word “Bailey” in the same sentence as the words “Addison” and “Croft”. Those other two famous final-year-of-contract men. Bizarrely, the beginning of the sentence was “it would be lovely in some ways to keep…” with a “but” arriving soon after.
Its sad but seems inevitable now that Bailey will be moving on and I doubt we will get anything like the £1m+ that most of us would have valued him at, at any point between October 2010 and January 2012. The only saving grace is that Clough’s judgement on moving players on has been spot-on so far, right from Barnes to Bywater, with J-Mac, Moxey, Leacock, Cywka etc. along the way. No one has gone onto better things despite some of the calls being harsh at the time.
The moment Clough says “he hasn’t developed as much as we’d have liked”, we know its time for a Departure Lounge proper.