A Shift Up Through The Gears
It’s a well worn phrase to say “a week’s a long time in football”. Indeed with the soap opera nature of modern football, a week can sometimes seem like a heartbeat as clubs make multi million pound decisions on a whim (normally off the back of a bad defeat, a player/manager fallout or a bit of fan abuse) and one win later all is forgotten, until the next time.
With Nigel Clough at the helm for the last five years and the fact we have never had a foreign “sugar daddy” throwing his millions around, Derby County have been somewhat shielded from that. However in all of my time as a Rams fan, I can’t recall such a shift in gear as we have seen in the last 6 weeks since Clough left.
Clough’s sacking has been well covered here and everywhere else. But it’s worth re-stating that a good section of Rams fans felt this was harsh and pretty much every neutral fan I have spoken to, without exception, has said to me it seemed a rough call.
It was clear from an early stage (once it was established that the Pulis photo was just co-incidence thank god) that McClaren was the only choice for the job and I don’t think many Derby fans were blown away by the prospect. With the Wally in the Brolly and his Forest fiasco still fresh in the mind, not to mention back to back defeats to our biggest rivals still smarting; we all wondered just how much more we could take. However almost from the announcement of the appointment things changed.
First off we establish that Steve is not ‘the manager’ but Head Coach in a new European style structure. This we know is his core strength and is re-emphasised with a tidle wave of compliments and best wishes from QPR, saying how his coaching had turned them around.
Next we see the arrival of ex Rams favourites Simmo and Eric Steele and the feel good factor starts to rise (although it did waver a bit when we realised Simmo wasn’t coming to play left side midfield!). All three of our coaching team talk about how great the club is, was and can be again – also they pay respects to what Clough has left them to work with.
Then the football starts. We don’t need a match report on the Ipswich turnaround and the Leeds tonking but 7 goals and a post match manner that wasn’t saying how well we had played after losing made a pleasant change. Substitutes prior to the 80th minute in an attempt to influence the game was also a new concept which worked with bells on in the next game at Watford.
The following week we sign Andre Wisdom from Liverpool for the season. This is not a championship reserve or an 18 year old from the Premier league but the England U-21 captain with a healthy dose of Liverpool appearances already under his belt. We have since been linked with moves for Raheem Sterling and Jack Cork, the latter deal definitely looking like it has legs.
With our Technical Director arriving on Monday, this week also saw the announcement of the £7m stadium naming deal with I-pro. Regardless of your views on football tradition, there is no debate that this is a monumental deal for a club outside of the Premier league and is probably the biggest indication yet that we really are not messing around anymore.
With all this activity, my thoughts again turned to Nigel Clough. His tenure now seems like a different lifetime. Was he holding us back or were GSE holding back on him? What is absolutely clear now is that, regardless of the merits of his work, Clough had gone stale and the couple of thousand fans who have immediately returned seem to agree. It’s also clear that in Steve McClaren we do not have “the wally with the brolly” but a highly skilled coach who is respected throughout football and has the ability to attract top players and make us better.
After we lost at Forest, I was thinking how we could possibly make the top 6 and was almost writing off the season. Now I look at the squad, the fixtures, the other teams in & around the top 6, the potential of the January window and I actually think the sky’s the limit. When was the last time you thought that as a Derby fan?
Come on you Rams!