Time To Shuffle The Pack

Over the last few weeks I’ve been on a fair few festive socials with family and friends. As ever, 80% of the conversation generally revolves around the Rams and the day to day goings on at Pride Park.

Whilst it’s often all too tempting to tweet odd thoughts or a stream of consciousness, here’s a more structured summary of some of the things we’ve been knocking about to move Derby forward again to the elusive “next level”.

I think there is a general consensus amongst Rams fans at large that this year’s vintage of DCFC is overall better than last year, but equally not quite good enough to be in the top 6 on a consistent basis. I’m probably not providing incisive analysis to suggest the main reasons for this are an inability to score goals away from Pride Park coupled with a frustrating habit of gifting soft goals at the other end.

Although the need for a cheap holding midfielder was severe, George was a surprised as anyone to get the call.

Although the need for a cheap holding midfielder was severe, George was a surprised as anyone to get the call.

Clough is right to suggest we have been “in” every away game for long periods, but the lack of a true clinical finisher means we rarely capitalise on our long periods of possession and thus leave ourselves susceptible to the string of wonder/scrappy/deflected/soft goals that we concede (more on that in a minute).

In midfield we are technically as good as anyone in the division and the work rate is off the scale. However what we don’t have is anyone who is happy to just sit and break up play when required. If we had this sort of player (Shaun Derry being an obvious modern example of the genre) it would give us much more flexibility away from home to play 2 up front and not rely so much on “defending with the ball”.

The defence (including the keeper) is the most interesting one. Individually you wouldn’t really swap anybody in the back 5 aside from a regular partner for Keogh. However collectively we have been a soft touch for too long now for something not to be fundamentally wrong with the unit as a whole. We’ve changed the keeper and that’s made no difference so it must be something else.

If big Sam comes knocking, don't feel bad, get down to London and every night could be like this.

If big Sam comes knocking, don’t feel bad John, get down to London and every night could be like this.

Brayford and Coutts are superb going forward but are they as good a unit defensively? Roberts rarely gets skinned and strangely rarely gets done on headers, but would a 6ft full back that could help defend set pieces be better? Keogh attacks everything as though his life depends on it but is he trying to take on too much responsibility and thus doing everything ok and nothing brilliantly?

With these questions and our paper thin squad running on empty, thoughts immediately turn to January. Obviously all the focus will be on Hughes and no doubt some Premier League piranhas will have a pop. However unless someone offers genuinely daft money, I think we should hang on to the summer where Sam Rush can hopefully use his contacts to wind up a massive Dutch auction.

In order to drum up some funds now, there’s two things we should do. Its now widely accepted that Tyson is the highest earner at the club, so if we can even get some of his wages off the books with a loan then we should. If he gets games and scores goals, even in league 1, then we should be able to sell him properly in the summer.

The second thing we should do is actively look to sell Brayford. This may seem a strange thing to say but consider his age, the fact he’s in great form (thus at optimum value), the fact we have a replacement good to go in Freeman, the fact he’s part of a defence that’s not working and the fact he’s done a great shift for us and deserves a chance at the Premier league (that’s a Foxtrot Oscar call sign to you Cardiff), I think it makes sense. If we can get £2m (If Gunter’s worth £2.5m we should get at least that), we should do the deal.

With those funds we can then perhaps loan or buy the centre half, ball winner and/or finisher (George Boyd anyone?) we need to move us forward again.

Happy New Year to everyone who continues to read and contribute to the site and let’s hope it’s a great 2013 for the Super Rams!


Posted on December 30, 2012, in General Rams Comment and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Despite us seeming a touch unlucky at the back (last three goals conceded being a perfect example of that) we do seem to ship too many soft goals in (both against Hull a good example). I think losing Bukko has perhaps unsettled us a bit, but even with him only 2 clean sheets all season is poor!
    I know finances dictate these matters but I think if we had held onto Shak we would have been excellent at the back this year and could well be in the top 6! Having said that Burnley concede a lot of goals!
    As good as our youthful team is, I think a few good hard pro’s is what we lack. A bit of hard ess and nastiness at the back and in central midfield can make a massive difference in the championship. The likes of Robbie Van der Lann (Jim Smiths first signing) winning every header and tackle in midfield would be a great addition. Do Port Vale have his son playing by any chance?

  2. Good post & interesting suggestion about cashing in on Brayford.
    Obviously you’re right about the problems in the side ~ lack of a finisher and fragility in defence.
    I can’t see Hughes going anytime soon. Despite his obvious talent I can’t see a big club coming in for him just yet and he’d be foolish to join one of the less able Premier teams (Fulham?) as they might be joining us next season in the Championship.
    Interesting thoughts about Keogh. Although most of us recognise he’s an upgrade on Shackell, he does suffer from not playing alongside a powerful, dominant centre half. Every “soft” goal we’ve conceded lately have been down to failings by O’Connor, Bucko or Keogh rather than Brayford. It seems that yesterday’s halftime elevation of Brayford to centre half means that Nigel’s finally accepted that O’Connor is actually a right back and not some sort of super-utility defender. I can see Brays carrying on in that role for a while until Bucko returns but I can’t see Nigel shelling out for a centre half or getting a loan in. I think he’s also too wedded to Hendrick, Hughes and Bryson in central midfield to consider a holding midfielder. In any case, now Hendrick has got over his early season mediocrity (he was great yesterday) he’s capable of breaking up play AND breaking forward. I agree it would be sensible to move Tyson on but I can’t honestly see clubs wanting to take on his wages. Overall, I reckon the board (and Nigel) are planning for our “next step” in the summer, after we’ve cashed in on Boris, and will settle for top ten this time around.

  3. A player who is happy to sit, break up play, and make a simply pass to keep possession/start an attack – James Bailey anyone??!!

    Also, I’m all for running the club sensibly and think that overall we have made good progression under Nigel Clough, but I can’t see us taking the ‘next step’ (getting promoted) until the board can stand strong and not sell the best players. Shackell being the most recent example (and people wonder why our defence hasn’t improved?). The board need to show some ambition and try their hardest to keep hold of the likes of Hughes and Brayford. Selling one Premier League standard player and replacing him with two Championship players will not get you promoted!

    Sorry to rant on….. UTR!

  4. Sell Brayford?!?! Nooooo!!! Especially as the proposed signings would need wages too.

    No need to shake it up too much. We’re not far off a very good side at this level.

    If one first team regular has to go, maybe it’ll be Theo.

  5. Overall, I reckon the board (and Nigel) are planning for our “next step” in the summer, after we’ve cashed in on Boris, and will settle for top ten this time around.

    Yes, that’s how I see things as well.

    I think it’d be silly to sell Hughes in January and to a club like Fulham. Stay with us and he’d secure a move to an elite club who might loan him to a middle-ranking PL side like Fulham (!) Palace knocked back a bid from Bolton for Zaha last January (£5M). He’s worth twice that now.

    On our defensive frailities, we have got caught too often from set-pieces and corners, bad marking, failing to pick up players. I think Clough’s aware of the problems, that we’re not secure enough at the back to just attack other teams.

    I think Will Hughes might be sold to raise funds. GSE do not have the resources; other clubs have backing; those just down from the PL have access to parachute payments. How else is the manager going to be supported in the transfer market? How can the club take the next step? GSE have never been forthcoming with on-field investment since the days of Jewell. Look at last summer. Keogh & Sammon were practically brought in with money from the sales of Shackell & Davies, Coutts with the money brought in by the sale of Maguire.

  6. Happy New Year to all.

    Just a couple of very quick points (he says, doubtless before going off on one…)

    Re Bails / a holding midfielder – I know what everybody means, but the point is, who would you drop to accommodate a sitter? Bryson? Hendrick? Hughes? The midfielders we’ve got just need to use their brains to work out who stays and who goes in any given situation. Most fans liked Bailey, but as Ramspace pointed out a while ago, ‘Will Hughes killed him’.

    Re ‘arseholes’ – I quite often hear people say that we need a bit more ‘nastiness’ / ‘hardness’ / ‘steel’, call it what you will. For me, I quite like the fact that we don’t have any horrible b8stards in the team. Our disciplinary record is very good, with only one red card all season (and that was unlucky) and one of the lowest totals for yellow cards. I suppose ‘Seth Lad’ is still the archetype a lot of fans pine for, but I’d rather have a team that can pass the opponents to death than one that can bully them out of a contest.

    Anyroad, just shooting from the hip… UTR!


  1. Pingback: Dear John…….. | RAMSPACE.CO.UK

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