Departure Lounge – Chris Martin
Since Wolves first bid for Chris Martin some weeks ago, debate has raged amongst Rams fans as to whether we should take the opportunity to sell him and freshen up our attacking options.
With Chris now on loan at Fulham for the rest of the season and highly unlikely to wear a Derby shirt again (certainly not under Pearson), Rams fan still seem divided as to whether this was a good move or not.
Chris first joined Derby as one of those bizarre “try before you buy” signings Clough used to do, whereby we would loan a player at the end of the season and then sign them on a Bosman if they were any good.
Although he had certainly scored against Derby in the past, he was very much one of those strikers who end up drifting around on various loans and not really settling anywhere. Like most Clough signings of that era, he arrived out of condition and with issues at his previous club. There really wasn’t a lot in those first few games to get excited about and it’s fair to say that his permanent move did not have fans “gathering outside the ground” (FM reference).
The following year Clough started him as first choice. But it was with the appointment of McClaren and the advent of 4-3-3 that things really took off, as goals of all types started to fly in on a regular basis. However it was not only the goals but his fantastic link play which became so pivotal to our system and, to my mind, ultimately became his and our un-doing.
Whilst the 4-3-3 worked superbly well for much of McClaren’s tenure and for a good chunk of last season, Martin was so pivotal to it, it quickly became the Rams single biggest weakness. Firstly there was no one in our squad that could even come close to filling the role he played and secondly the better sides in the league knew if they dominated Martin, they stopped Derby. Burnley and Middlesbrough were particularly adept at nullifying him, and us, over many games.
This ultimately manifested itself in the 2014/2015 season run in when his injury at Bournemouth absolutely de-railed our promotion push when the Premier League was only 2 months away.
McClaren never got near a plan B, Clement tried but soon went back to 4-3-3 (even making Martin captain at one stage), Wassall didn’t really have a plan A and even Pearson reverted back to 4-3-3 & Martin up top for our only league win this season at Preston.
As all Rams fans will know, Martin has a very aggressive Mr Angry persona which is great when things are going well. When they are not, it comes across as petulant, moany and annoying and frankly does nothing to turn the tide in Derby’s favour. I am convinced it was this exact type of attitude against Benfica this summer that first marked his card with Pearson.
If you align this with Pearson’s clear desire to move away from the 4-3-3 and freshen/speed up our attacking play, then it’s easy to see why he’s not in the plan. A little bit like Klopp walking into Liverpool and dispensing of Benteke because he’s not a fit for gegenpressing/heavy metal football.
The debate on this decision is obvious. “Why get rid of the first 20 goal striker we’ve had for twenty years to a team of a lower standing than us” versus “He’d gone stale, it was time for a change, it’s a great deal”. The proof will clearly be in the pudding and if Vydra starts regularly scoring no-one will care what Chris does at Fulham. Alternately if Vydra and Wilson fail and Martin starts regularly bagging for Fulham, many Derby fans won’t be slow in pointing the fact out to Pearson.
Although I had advocated selling Martin all summer, when it actually happened I genuinely felt sad at the departure of “Derby’s No.9” who no-one can argue has been superb for The Rams.
However this decision ultimately plays out, Chris is sure to get a fantastic reception the next time he runs out at the Ipro….whatever colour shirt he is wearing!