I Love This Squad
Several times this week since the final whistle of the West Brom game, I’ve thought to myself, “right, I’m definitely writing a piece on that” only for events to overtake me and the moment to pass.
However with so much going on and another play off campaign about to kick off against none other than Dirty Leeds, a bit of a review of last week and a preview of this weekend had to be done.
So let’s start with last Sunday. What a day that was. We were in the boozer at 8.30am for breakfast and by 9.30am it was rammed. The vibes were positive and the big question really was whether Keogh would play and how were we going to defend any set piece if he didn’t (accepting we aren’t that good at it when he is there). As it turned out, he did play and, despite a minor wobble with the equaliser, the Rams won out due largely to another immense cameo from Bennett (channelling Dean Sturridge to appear out of nowhere to poke home a loose ball, then channelling Balotelli trying to put his training bib on when trying to take off his shirt!) and Tom Lawrence pretty much having his best ever game in a Derby shirt. The only negative on a great day was me having to nurse a fat lip for the remainder of the bank holiday after my son smashed me in the face when Bizzle bagged his goal! Scenes.
To my mind this has been the most enjoyable season for some time, so I am so pleased we have achieved something for our efforts. Regardless of how we go in the play offs, Frank and Jody deserve immense credit for their achievements and hopefully this is just the start.
Fast forward to Tuesday and The Rams U18s became the champions of England after hammering Arsenal 5-2 in the North v South play off game. Regular readers will know that I’ve been a reasonably regular watcher of the youth teams over the last 10 years or so and I have to say that the pace agility and mobility of these lads is incomparable to anything we have seen for some time. For years I’ve looked at our youth ranks and struggled to see anyone who you thought had a chance. The football was beige, the players were bang average and the teams have been littered with shirt fillers simply making up the numbers for the odd lad who had half a chance such as Max Lowe and Jamie Hanson. At one point they even released Josh Lelan then invited him back as they didn’t have enough players! Let’s also not forgot the debacle of Steve Mac and Chris Evans filling the youth team with free transfers and bosmans a few years ago because they thought the standard was so bad.
Now we have a team chock full of lads who are highly skilled, athletic and aggressive and it’s honestly glorious to watch. Winning is a great habit but the key tenant of any academy is to provide players to the first team or create players with some resale value. This team has that in spades. Rangy winger Archie Brown grabbed the headlines with his hat trick and England striker Morgan Whittaker grabbed his brace almost under the radar. Max Bird was class, but the real star of this team without a doubt is Louie Sibley. Think Will Hughes with 50% more pace, strength and aggression, 80% more end product and a healthy enthusiasm for an altercation with the opposition and that is what you have with this guy. I will be staggered if he isn’t around the first team next season and once he is in, Rams fans are going to lap him up. Great work by all concerned (Jody Morris anyone?) on the general turnaround for our youth sections.
Now a quick word from our Scottish correspondent. The confirmation of the singing of Graham Shinnie was a bit of a surprise in terms of the timing but still welcome news all the same. Unlike most people on twitter, I haven’t watched Aberdeen regularly over the last 4 years so I couldn’t honestly offer an opinion on the player. However his pedigree is good, things I’ve read from those who have (genuinely) seen him seem to be unanimously positive and feedback like “combative as fuck” I’m totally having. As captain of Aberdeen, let’s assume he’s also a leader which we definitely need more of. In Frank we trust and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does. We can also retain the “He’s Scottish, He’s Scottish chant when Bryso leaves……..but wait, maybe he’s staying???? WTF.
I get the emotion around Bryson and there is no doubt no other player has such an attachment to the club and fans. However surely his time is up? I’m not having reduced wages, good around the place etc. Let the guy leave with dignity, get himself a few years somewhere (not Burton please) and let’s move on. Two words – George Thorne. Come on people, dry your eyes and man up!
So finally we look forward to tomorrow and the first leg of the play off semi-final against Leeds. With Spygate and all the rest, you really couldn’t have scripted it better.
There’s no escaping the fact that we were comprehensively mullered by them in both games this season and I think most Derby fans, through gritted teeth, would say they were the best team we have played. That said, both teams have moved on from the last game at Elland Road. Derby have been in decent nick pretty much since Mason Mount returned and look like they can score against anyone, particularly at home. Leeds meanwhile have bottled promotion, suffered various injuries and seem to have succumbed to the infamous physical and mental burn out associated with Bielsa teams.
How will Leeds react to missing out on automatics? Will they be like Derby under Billy Davies, reset and go hard again or will they continue their recent downturn and be taken out by the resurgent Rams? To my mind Derby have nothing to lose but equally every chance. This week has shown that anything can happen in football, but I would like to see us take at least a two goal cushion to Elland Road. The only thing certain is a period of high stress for all Rams Fans from 5.15pm on Saturday to full time on Wednesday.
However the play offs go, the killer difference is that defeat won’t be met by a wave of depression and negativity as in the previous few seasons. Sure they’ll be disappointment in defeat, but this season is already a success and a summer of intense recruitment will soon cheer everyone up should things go the wrong way.
After the Bristol game I saw a headline on a Rams Interview from Bizzle that said “I Love this Squad” (In my mind when he said that, he was sat on his settee wearing white socks, sliders, rolled up traggy bottoms and a vest, whilst pointing his index fingers to the sky). I think all Rams fans would agree whole heartedly with that sentiment from Mason and wish the lads all the luck in the world for this last round of games.
Come on you Super Rams!
Posted on May 10, 2019, in General Rams Comment and tagged Aberdeen, Bielsa, craig bryson, derby county, Frank Lampard, Graham Shinnie, Leeds United, Louis Sibley, Mason Bennett, Mason Mount, ramspace, the rams. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.