This is Voetbal, Young Man
Saturdays draw at Bournemouth was, on paper, a cracking result for Derby. Indeed coming out of this last weeks games against Forest Cardiff and Bournemouth unbeaten deserves immense credit to the players and coaching staff.
Only bagging 3 points from these games when we really should have had 9, maybe not so much.
In all three games the Rams deservedly took the lead but then let the opposition off the hook and allowed soft equalisers – all of which were clearly coming twenty minutes before they inevitably did. Yes we were robbed at Forest and the goaline clearance on Saturday from Lee Buchanan was more than a touch questionable. Yet in each game the Rams gave up the initiative, sat back and paid the price, much to the immense frustration of everyone of a black and white persuasion.
When Nigel Clough was made manager of Derby, he was met with a bloated, overpaid and underachieving squad. He was given a clear remit to sort the wage bill out whilst making the team competitive. The GSE group knew full well that tough times were ahead and knew the goodwill of the Clough name would buy him and them some time.
The remit of being competitive soon changed to ‘don’t get relegated’ as Rams fans endured a brutal couple of seasons. It was very tough viewing but, Clough did indeed sort the wage bill and kept us in the division. He then started to build the guts of a great side with a combination of Academy players (Hughes, Hendrick) and some smart signings (Keogh, Fozzy, Ward, Russell, Bryson, Martin etc).
Nobody would ever say that Nigel wasn’t a decent and genuine bloke. Well ok there are a few ex academy and bomb squad players who may not agree. But for the most part most Derby fans would say he’s a good guy who did a decent job under tough circumstances.
But let’s actually remember back properly. Remember those boring, formulaic interviews, the hours of hanging onto 1-0 leads, ‘Bucko’ jogging on with 20 mins to go as an extra body, the many late goals we conceded, the many tonkings where Nigel questioned the desire of players (sometimes specific individuals) the appalling use of substitutions (often not using them at all), being tactically annihilated by anyone with half a plan.
Fundamentally, Nigel did not have the ability to consider a path different to the one he had been bought up with, in order to take the quality players he had assembled to the next level
Now let’s consider Philip Cocu. A class act who has acted with dignity throughout his tenure against a backdrop of relentless batshit happenings on and off the pitch. Much like Clough, no Derby fan would say he wasn’t a decent, genuine guy.
Cocu was handed a horribly unbalanced squad with little or no time to improve it as well as the impossible task of replacing Tomori, Mount and Wilson. Under the circumstances, last season ended up being ‘ok’. Where it would have ended up if Rooney hadn’t arrived in January, I wouldn’t like to speculate.
With the magic 10 game point arriving on Wednesday, it’s probably time to now make a fair assessment on our start to this season and it’s probably not too harsh to say it’s been a disaster. The Rams currently sit third from bottom and would actually be second bottom if it wasn’t for Sheffield Wednesdays points deduction. Regardless of any outside circumstances, with the squad we have this is just not good enough.
We have again seen the manager questioning the players desire and commitment, a good year down the line when he was doing the same thing at Brentford (and Charlton). We have seen our attempts to play total football with the wrong personnel brutally punished and said tactic thrown in the bin for the time being. We have seen other teams look sharper and better organised. We have seen the Rams fail to react or change in different phases of the game or to opposition changes. Our old friend, late or token use of substitutions is back, as is appalling game management when we are leading. None of these are good things.
I actually like Cocu and would love him to get it right after all the shit he has put up with. However he has now had a very long honeymoon and I have had a feeling for weeks (and been saying it in various group chats) that this season is starting to feel like the end of the Nigel Clough era more and more by the game. Especially now it is clear we do actually have the guts of a decent team. Yes Phil has done the hard yards and many would say deserves a chance to continue his work, but I just can’t get away from my thinking we might need a ‘Steve McClaren’ to take this on.
If the many reliable sources are to be believed, the Rams appear to be on the verge of a transformational change of ownership. Should the deal go through as expected this week, whether the new owners wish to continue with the Cocu project will be a very early decision for them to make.