Heroes to Zeros

Updates on Ramspace have been sparse over the last 6 weeks or so. Some of this is because I’ve been busy with work, some of it is because you don’t need me to tell you in a smart arse way what you can see for yourself, but mostly it’s because I’ve been so gutted after almost every game recently I just didn’t fancy writing about it.

With the last chance of automatic promotion disappearing on Friday night with yet another example of the Rams having no idea how to win a game, it’s time to ask some questions.

Whilst I’m not going to say we have no chance of winning the play offs, I am going to say we should have absolutely walked this league this season. Without ever reaching last year’s heights, the Rams were in a great position at the end of February with a good fixture list and a great squad. Our subsequent collapse has been as inexplicable as it has been devastating. Yes we’ve had some bad luck, but bad luck hurts you in one or two games, an eight game run is a pattern where something is fundamentally wrong and could/should be addressed.

" oh, bloody hell, who was that guy we signed from Leeds?"

” oh, bloody hell, who was that guy we signed from Leeds?”

I remember after the Brighton game hearing someone ring Radio Derby slating McClaren. At the time I thought “idiot”. Now I think……..

  • At Wembley we dominated the game from start to finish and got mugged. A year later we still do this on a regular basis.
  • At Wembley we got the ultimate punishment for a defender trying to play instead of clearing his lines. This has happened 4 times in the last 3 games and you can also add recent goals at Fulham and Birmingham at home to the list.
  • Game management has been horrific all season, particularly at home. Why has this basic championship tool not been added to our armoury over the best part of two seasons (Ipswich away excluded)?
  • Why did we not play a full team against Reading in the cup and then go shit or bust because “we didn’t want a replay” – thus losing momentum? Note an advance in the cup would have meant more of our games would have been moved to later in the season when more people were fit.
  • Accepting his injury, why did it take so long for Albentosa to start?
  • Considering how naïve our defending, game management & general organisation is, why did we sign an experienced ex England full back and have not started him in a single league game?
  • Cyrus Christie has been on the floor for weeks. Why has he not been taken out the firing line and rested for a good spell?
  • When Bent got injured at Fulham, why didn’t we A) Sign a physically big striker of any quality to feed off our immense creative players B) Change formation to 2 up top C) Recall Sammon D) Play Kwame Thomas

Don’t get me wrong, the season isn’t over and Chris Martin is right to say one win will change everything. We still have a favourable run in and it’s very possible we can hit the play offs with some momentum. Don’t forget Billy Davies won us the play offs off the back of a very similar collapse. Plus if we defend properly we know our team can score goals against anyone anywhere.

That said, if the season does end in failure it will be interesting to see is Steve has the stomach to build a new team and go again. If he does, he will need to fly out the traps next year because the goodwill he has built up with his amazing work over the last 18 months is currently evaporating by the week.


Posted on April 4, 2015, in General Rams Comment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. The point about game management is a key one for me – I cannot believe how naive we are game after game

  2. Ben Penworth

    yes, sack the manager, sack all the players. And how abut sacking all the journalists/bloggers who are associated with Derby, staring with ramspaceuk. That all sounds sensible, doesn’t it?

    • Thanks for that mate, I’m not sacked from Ramspace but have kind of thrown a few sickies of late due to stress and depression.

      If you read our stuff you’ll see I’m the most optimistic naive positive blogger ever.

      You’ll have to let me know where I suggest sacking Steve or selling anyone, as I must have missed that bit.

      • Ben Penworth

        Nothing personal, there’s just been a great deal of negativity recently as the wheels fall off the Derby County promotion campaign. I’ve re-read your post and so please forgive the knee-jerk reaction, it was probably the headline that set me off – ‘Heroes to Zeroes’ does set an editorial tone.

        The point is that it’s easy to find fault with the benefit of hindsight, difficult to predict what may go wrong when things are going well. I wouldn’t want to be a football manager for exactly that reason. But it seems you are a glass half-full Rams fan, as I am, so you’ll know that it ain’t over until the end of the season.

        I reckon play-offs and another campaign right to the wire. But still that’s preferable to previous seasons when play-offs were a distant dream.

      • No problem mate and decent of you to post back.

        I’m always a half full merchant but, a bit like being in a one sided relationship, you can only carry on letting someone shit on you so long before you start to lose the love!

        Wow, that was deep…..times must be hard!

  3. I saw a quote from Bryson earlier this year, in which he said in response to a question about his lack of goals that he’d been played in a slightly more reserved role this season, and I’ve heard (I think it was) Simmo saying they’ve been trying to be more measured in their approach this season, largely stemming from the Birmingham away 3-3 slip up last term.

    I reckon this hints at a big mistake. We should have stuck to our strengths, gone hung ho and accepted losing 4-3 on occasions. Even though we were in it right up until a month or so back, we’ve never consistently hit the heights of exhilarating football we showed for big chunks of last season.

    I think the change has cost us more than it’s gained us and we’ve lost a bit our identity and belief within the camp. Once we hit a sticky spell the wheels have just fallen off. Last year at 2-1 up against 10 men we’d have battered them 4-1, this year we stopped playing and got caught trying to be solid when it isn’t our strength.

    I said at half time on Friday that we’d need to score twice in the second half to win, and so it proved. We’ve got soft goals all over us, so the being more solid thing clearly hasn’t worked.

    On that note, we’ve signed three defenders who are not a jot better than what we had to start with. First black mark for Chris Evans. The Spaniard still has chance to prove me wrong of course, but Warnock lost me after the cup debacle and Shotton isn’t as good Bucko defensively and isn’t in Bucko’s class with the ball.

    There’s been nothing in our performances against any of the top 6 sides recently that’s made me think we can win the play-offs, but we certainly stand a better chance if we attack full throttle. I doubt we can muster form between now and the end of the season though, and with all our holding midfield lynch pins broken it may not be possible to do anyway.

    Its the bloody hope that kills you. For me, after the last couple of months, football can f*£$ off.

    • Great comment Chris.

      Agree with most of that, especially the last sentence!

      Don’t worry though, Cricket starts this week, so we can throw ourselves into that.

  4. edi Mustaffa

    Hi! Chris.Can’t agreed with you more on this one.Something i think missing is just simply
    the lack of confidence in the dressing room.something must be done to boost the morale of our players. Plenty of international players. huge talents .don’t give up!!! Derby had seen some worse managers before, SM have done his very best, No one is right or wrong on this one.
    it’s just the circumstances that happens dictate the final result. Don’t panic…. Relax. play the 6 games like they did the last season. Go to Wembley for the Play Off Finals ..

    Only difference…this time around Derby are Crown Winners in the Play Off Cup…..

    All the best…..

    Edi Mustaffa

  5. Defeat from the jaws of victory? That’s what it feels like just now! The holy grail of automatic promotion seems to have slipped from our grasp…. Well, I think we just dropped it.
    Just when we looked to be kicking on, with Thorne coming back at just the right time, but….Chris Martin gets injured, that’s Ok we have Bent, great foreward thinking by the coaches! But then he gets injured too… Then George again… then Omar…. Eustace has gone for the season I fear… Bucko too… Albentosa, who had been christened by many as the new Stimac based on a few youtube clips, goes and gets injured and is only now ready for a stretch of games… but isn’t being played as he likely needs to work his way into the speed and chaos that characterises the Championship.Yes, one might think that the fates are against us.
    Yet we actually keep playing pretty well, Fulham game aside, but just can’t seem to win and every mistake on our part seems to fall to the opposition’s clinical feet.
    I take the game management comment, and that’s what had Steve M down from the stands, out of the dug-out with steam coming out of every orifice against Watford…and then they scored… it’s down to the players at that point…. and yet we still could have won given the chances we had at the end!!!
    Frustrated as I was, I like to think we have now turned a corner – a comment I may regret after the Wigan game – but at least we got a point this time!!
    I listened to the Watford game on Radio 5 and was struck by the comments made by Steve Claridge about how the crowd’s collective shoulders seemed to slump once Watford scored the first goal… and how that seemed to transfer onto the pitch. Gripes and grumbles from the crowd will impact the players. His comment was that if we keep playing as we had been we would get into the play offs as a minimum and I really do think we will. Yes, I know this wasn’t the plan, but you know what, come the start of the season I think I would have signed up for that…. I expected Norwich to be up there and thought they might have been the runaway leaders, with Fulham in the mix too. I thought we’d be fighting for the play off places, and here we are.
    Oh, and QPR dipped at a similar time last season too, and we all know what happened next…. Clutching at straws? Always look on the bright side!!

  6. Hi Chris,

    I’ve been struggling to write posts in the last few weeks as well – I spiked two or three for pretty much the same reasons you mention at the top of this timely post.

    I think ‘game management’ (AKA winning) quite often boils down to having players with experience and leadership qualities, more than anything. That was where The Eust came in so handy – he was the ‘coach on the pitch’ that some of these young lads need.

    I look through the other promotion contenders, they all have a midfield ‘general’, or at least battle-grizzled senior pros in the engine room – we’ve got babes in arms in there, as talented as they are. Think back to the Norwich game – Hendrick, Hughes and Hanson v Bradley Johnson, Graham Dorrans, Alex Tettey… literally boys against men.

    Hughes and Hendrick, or Hughes and Bryson, need a solid enforcer behind them to shore it up and bring the best out of their attacking qualities. Somebody like George Thorne would come in handy…

    On the Reading cup game – it was a shitter to lose that, but that was the day that Stephen Warnock was given his opportunity and promptly got himself sent off. The starting line-up wasn’t exactly weak and I’m sure we would have won with eleven men on the pitch.

    Albentosa – I remember a well-known Rams fan and former club sponsor tweeting that he’d been told Albentosa would have an Igor-like impact… Maybe we will see the best of him next season, but at the moment, it’s his lack of pace that concerns me. I’m hazarding a guess here, but I don’t think that McClaren dared start him against Watford because their strikers are so rapid.

    I agree that it’s time to leave out Christie and try to do what we did at times during last season, where Wisdom sat back more and Forsyth went forward more. Ask Shotton to play as a defensively-minded right back, stick Albentosa alongside Keogh and let him settle in. If we need a goal, change it up – stick Christie on, or even move Jeff back if needs be and bring on an extra attacker.

    The job of replacing Wisdom was a really tough one and young Christie hasn’t proved up to it – he might well improve with experience, but it’s been a long, tough season for him. It could also be time to take Forsyth out and give Warnock a try – unless he hasn’t impressed in training. In which case, that’s a costly howler, especially given that he’s on the wagebill for next year as well.

    Chris’ comment above makes reference to Chris Evans’ job as recruitment head and I think there’s a post to be done about that…

    Not signing a replacement for Bent and Martin on loan might well turn out to be what cost us automatic, but it’s hard to know what was behind that. Perhaps there wasn’t any budget left? Or perhaps it was just impossible to persuade clubs to give us someone on a short-term basis when they knew the other two would be back and fit in a couple of weeks. PL teams want their youngsters to play if they go out on loan. It’s a shame Mason Bennett was injured at the same time, as he might actually have been a better option than Russell, or at least could have been useful as a sub – I don’t think Kwame Thomas looks ready for the first-team, myself.

    I’m in shock, really – the Watford game was a complete disaster, leading on from the Wolves disaster and the Boro disaster and the Birmingham disaster and the Brighton disaster…. Trying my best to stay positive, but when you get this many body blows in quick succession, you start to feel them!

    I will trudge reluctantly off to Wigan tomorrow – and still, in my heart of hearts, expect us to win, in spite of everything. As I remember it, Chris Martin was unplayable at Wigan last year – I have everything crossed that he is fit to start.

    While I was typing this, Alan Green was on Five Live, discussing the speculation linking McClaren with the Newcastle job.


  7. Brilliant piece and hats off for having a go at describing the last three months. Just like Ben, I’ve snapped at comments made by bloggers – sorry lazerock.
    The fans that replied below have made some really interesting points and between them nailed why we are in the position we find ourselves – that’s what made this piece so good.
    My only contribution to the debate is I thought the crowd getting agitated contributed massively to their equaliser.
    Top marks again for putting this piece out there. It was a brave move and created good debate amongst Rams fans. Keep up the good work.

    • Cheers Nomis. Steve has spoken several times recent about “anger and frustration” in the dressing room. He should try being a fan of DCFC!

      Had this piece floating for a week or so but was hoping we’d turn it and make it irrelevant by tonking Watford. After Fridays fiasco it had to be done.

  8. martin dempster

    Excellent article (as usual) & a good reasoned debate to follow.. I must admit it’s a bit much saying the crowd getting agitated contributed to the other team scoring… why does this happen ?.. because the team have driven us to the point where we are chewing down to our elbows let alone fingernails in trying to hang onto games we should have been out of sight in… however, let’s keep the faith & see where we get to.. agree today’s game is massive .. we’re all Derby… aren’t we ??

  9. …and especially after yesterday, we’d probably all agree that if Chris Martin had stayed fit, we’d be six points clear with the champagne on ice.

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