The Untouchable One (?)

At the time of writing Nigel Clough is the fifth longest serving manager in English football.

Over the 4 years and 228 days (as of today) Nigel has been our manager there is no doubt there were numerous occasions where he could easily have been sacked and probably would have been at most other clubs. Indeed he has often been described as “untouchable” by people inside and outside DCFC circles.

Having pondered our start to the season over the last week, I have started to wonder if this is still the case.

When Nigel took over in January 2009, he was greeted with a shambles of a club. A bloated, expensive and underperforming squad, a youth academy that hadn’t yielded a player of note for nearly 5 years and a fan base with zero belief in the club after the humiliation of our record breakingly horrific Premier League relegation.

It was never going to be a quick fix and whilst GSE would talk about the “slow build” Nigel did at Burton, in reality they knew his name would buy time and goodwill from the Rams long suffering fans, which it did.cloughfold

Whilst it has been a slow and very bumpy journey, there are plenty of ticks in boxes. Our wage bill has been reduced significantly year on year whilst the squad has constantly increased in quality and value. Our youth academy is now widely regarded as one of the best in the country and in Will Hughes and Mason Bennett we have two of the best young players in English Football. Even in terms of leagues positions and points we have got better every year and lets not forget we never got relegated to league 1 when plenty of clubs of similar standing with similar problems did (including Forest & Leicester).

With all of that done and a more than competitive squad in place, we now simply need to start winning football matches regularly and get in the top 6 if not the top 2. Is Nigel capable of winning those tight Championship games on a regular basis to achieve the same?

The Burnley game last week was a massive disappointment. It wasn’t just losing to a bang average team; it was the predictable nature of it, the poor team selection, the late substitutions and the complete lack of a plan B (or at least a willingness to try one).

Pre season, I heard an unqualified rumour that Nigel had “until October”. Yesterday I heard another one saying that he has “3 more games”. There are also constant rumours of other managers being discussed coming from people very close to the club.

Whilst none of this is necessarily true. I do think that Nigel has now done what he was bought in to do and Sam Rush clearly isn’t here to be mid table Championship.

Hopefully we can crack the home form and we will be challenging in and around the top 6 all season. However I think if we have many more days like Burnley, Nigel may find that he isn’t untouchable anymore.


Posted on September 8, 2013, in General Rams Comment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Not looking the real deal in 6 weeks, and I’d be getting a new man in ready for January.
    Choked to say it.

  2. Without parachute payments to play with, or significant external investment / debt finance, how do you crack the top six? Palace were the exception that proves the rule.

    Check the league tables for the past few seasons and look at the clubs that finished in the top six. You’ll see the pattern:-

    2012/3 – Cardiff, Hull, Watford, Brighton, Palace, Leicester
    2011/2 – Reading, Southampton, West Ham, Birmingham, Blackpool, Cardiff
    2010/1 – QPR, Norwich, Swansea, Cardiff, Reading, Forest
    2009/10 – Newcastle, WBA, Forest, Cardiff, Leicester, Blackpool

    The same names over and over again. Cardiff every season for the past four, Reading two out of four, Leicester two out of four, Forest two out of four, Blackpool two out of four. Toon and Hammers yoyo bouncing straight back up.

    I think we have to ask ourselves what any manager could achieve given the budgetary constraints in place at DCFC. Mid-table budget = mid-table squad.

    To me, the only reason to change it would be if the owners were prepared to throw
    £10m at it – or, more likely, we get a £10m windfall from Hughes next summer – and they didn’t have faith in Clough to spend it properly. Otherwise, it would be change for change’s sake, which would destabilise everything.

    I will stick my neck out and say that the Burnley game was a one-off disaster. Nobody really saw it coming, which made it much, much worse, but I think we can point to individual errors by Buxton and Freeman, rather than system failure, for all three goals. Freeman is 95% likely to be dropped for the next game and hopefully Smith will do better. Yes, we need to be better at centre back, but we did well in getting Grant, Russell and Martin this summer and as we all know, there isn’t a blank chequebook to open at will.

    Did you notice that Jake turned his back on Shackell’s shot for the third goal? Other people have been publicly eviscerated by Clough for that sort of thing, so I hope he got an almighty bollocking for it.

    Let’s beat Millwall while they’re struggling and get the Burnley blues out of our system….

    • A lot of what you say there Ollie is fair comment, I think the worry from Burnley (and Leicester and Blackburn) is that we are simply seeing a new version of the same old, when we all thought this was our year.

      Having said that the point of the piece wasn’t necessarily a Clough out argument, as we still very much want him to succeed. It was more making the point that there has been plenty of reasons for mediocrity in previous seasons but, if this one goes the same way, GSE may be ready to try someone else.

  3. As a Forest fan I am tempted to say that the problem is in you seeing this “as your year”. Yes you have some talented young players who Nigel has brought through into your team but be realistic, there are clubs in this league spending fortunes and you are talking about possibly even breaking into the top 2!
    I’m not being a horrible Red Dog when I say that, I have a great deal of respect for what Derby have done in restructuring their costs and focusing on long term squad development but the reality of the Championship is that there are clubs with huge budgets and it is very difficult to knock them from the top places.
    The only chance clubs with smaller budgets have of doing that is by sticking to a long term plan and you have a good manager for that. It might turn out eventually that Nigel cannot deliver against those odds and there will come a time when you might want to try someone different, but unless you get lucky and hit upon a managerial genius there is a good chance that they will need time and suffer ups and downs too with the odds stacked increasingly against them.
    it isn;t for a Forest fan to tell you what to do, but I would say be careful what you wish for. Derby have much to be proud of under Nigel’s management, will the next man really be able to do more?

  4. Plenty of sensible comments here. I don’t think for a minute that Clough will be in any danger until it’s obvious we’ve failed in the stated aim of getting into the top 6 (and I’m still pretty confident that we will make the play offs). I think GSE do actually believe in Clough and I hope they don’t make a rash decision to get someone new in who 1) Doesn’t fit with the “right” approach (live within your means/emphasis on youth) or 2) Won’t achieve anything better. Who’s out there that’s available and will do a better job? Dean Saunders? Pulis?
    Having said that, not sure we can say the Burnley game was a one off. The warning signs were there in the Blackburn and Leicester games and is the solution a loan right sided midfielder? If it is, can we have Sean Murray from Watford, please…?

  5. Bouncing Cheque

    I agree with Steve, whose blog I’ve read in the past (MistRolling), and whilst Forest have more resources, he has often advocated the long-term approach taken by us. It is also the nature of a very competitive division that sides will beat each other.

    I was cautiously optimistic about our season, that we’d challenge for the play-offs but that was tempered with realism. Let’s look at facts still plenty of reasons for why we can be erratic. Our first choice right backs are a lad bought from Forest who is still adjusting to Championship football and an U21 England international on loan. ON LOAN, I repeat. In defence, Buxton has exceeded expectations, like Theo did, but is prone to lapses as is Keogh, who has been good, but that is it, we have no cover, not even Brayford anymore who could fill in. What will happen if either Buxton or Keogh/both get suspended or injured? Have we got like-for-like replacements who can step in?

    So I think Steve is right in what he says about budgets especially now when we also have to compete against sides with parachute payments. Instead, Clough is developing his own players & two have become key in midfield (Hughes, Hendrick) and he has made astute signings. It goes without saying that he has made some poor buys as well.

    Probably what will happen, as lazerock alluded to, is that a coveted player will be sold and Clough given the resources to spread across the team. He has shown that he can spend wisely. Whilst he has been supported in the transfer market more than many a manager, we have tended to make only one big signing each season (two last season with Sammon & Keogh), this season it was Russell with the others being frees and cost displaced onto good wages. Under Billy Davies, he was given a substantial amount in two transfer windows.

    I can’t see who could do a better job under these circumstances and am not a believer in change for its own sake and continuity has got us to this place anyway, from the days of an ageing Savage in midfield to an attacking side with pace. A new manager will bring his own ideas and, for instance, might prefer, like Billy did, to see money spent on the team rather than allocated to the Academy. So popsider was right in what he said as well.

    I still believe in the long-term plan. There will be plenty of ups along with downs though.

  1. Pingback: Nigel Clough Leaves Derby County – Ramspace Comment | RAMSPACE.CO.UK

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