Derby County v Queens Park Rangers – preview Q & A for Loft For Words

I’m sure I’m not the only Derby fan who sees this tie as a sort of quasi-derby match these days.  Beating QPR will never erase the memory of what happened, but it doesn’t harm anything either and I’m always looking for a performance when we play them – keeping above them in the table feels symbolic, somehow.

Their promotion didn’t do them any good in the end and now they’re bumping along below us again, finally having got rid of the assorted shithouses who drained the club of its Premier League millions.

Clive Whittingham does sterling work over at Loft for Words and I’m always happy to answer questions for him.

(For what it’s worth, my crude amateur statistical model, The Thing, makes Derby moderately strong favourites to win tomorrow and I am highly optimistic that we will see a strong performance for Rowett’s home debut – and a morale-boosting three points.)

***

Clive (Loft for Words): Taking your latest weird and wonderful season in order, why didn’t it work for Nigel Pearson?  A much sought after appointment at the time…

Ollie (Yours Truly): I think Pearson’s biggest mistake was not to bring in at least a couple of his own players during the summer.  He did no business before the start of the season and was completely caught out when the squad struggled to implement his methods.  Eventually, hand forced by awful results, he sold Jeff Hendrick to sign Matej Vydra and Ikechi Anya on deadline day, while sending Chris Martin to Fulham on loan – a patently ridiculous decision.  Thus, he left himself short (literally) in midfield and with no effective presence up front as a target for the long balls he insists that his defenders hit.

His hardman, disciplinarian reputation – which many fans believed was just what our squad needed – were never going to make up for the bald fact that he had made a colossal tits of his transfer dealings.  He shouldn’t have been surprised that a team set up to play on the grass with a midfield three couldn’t adapt to a more direct style and 4-4-2 without some new faces, but he was.

I don’t know if it’s true that ‘senior players’ told Mel Morris they couldn’t work for Pearson after we lost pitifully at home to Blackburn, but he is so arrogant, charmless, inflexible and generally psychologically flawed that it wouldn’t surprise me.  I said before he joined that I thought he would have been a better appointment at Villa, whose floundering squad seemed more in need of his brand of nasty-bastard, autocratic discipline.

LFW: Why would you go back to Steve McClaren so soon after sacking him?

DCB: Morris decided that the best way to get back to the style that worked so well (until you mugged us) was to bring back the man who had implemented it in the first place.  Plus he was out of work at the time.

LFW: Having started so well, including a win at QPR, it all fell apart again – why?

DCB: There was an initial bounce when the team were allowed to go back to a midfield three, but this could only temporarily mask the fact that the squad, by now a Frankenstein’s monster of various managers’ additions, is imbalanced. The players ran out of steam badly at Christmas time and the problem then was that McClaren’s main aim for January became a failed bid to get Martin back from Fulham, while he also repeated a previous recruitment mistake by signing a fancy but flimsy youngster to play what he calls the ‘controlling’ role in midfield. Julien de Sart can do many things, but he cannot control a game of football in the Championship.  The only convincing player we’ve ever had for that position is George Thorne and Mac’s 4-3-3 has never been as good without him.

Just like in 2014/5, Mac lost his way after Christmas.  Just like in 2014/5, we started to produce truly bizarre, incompetent performances – drawing 3-3 and losing 3-4 against lesser teams brought painful memories from his last spell back to the surface, for Morris as much as the rest of us, I’m sure.  It got very messy very quickly.

LFW: McClaren’s latest sacking is a sixth change of permanent manager in little more than three years – any thoughts that maybe you should have stuck with him?  Maybe the manager isn’t the problem?

DCB: Morris caused all the instability which followed by sacking Paul Clement, who was doing absolutely fine.  He got it wrong with Pearson and he got it wrong with McClaren, but both were out of work at the time, as was Rowett.  Not paying compensation has been a factor in all of the post-Clement appointments.

For what it’s worth, I think Morris got it right with Rowett.  He was probably worried that Norwich might make a move for him, unless he got a wriggle on, which would also have been a factor in pulling the trigger.

I have to say that based on McClaren’s previous recruitment record, I didn’t have much faith in him to oversee a fairly major clear-out, which is what the club needs this summer.  But yes, it’s also clear that Morris has a gargantuan ego and has made a series of impulsive, or plain bad choices so far.  On the current trend, Rowett has until about Christmas to get it right, so we just have to hope that he hits the ground running.

LFW: Can you put your finger on exactly why Derby’s seasons keep following this pattern of high expectation, strong periods of form early in the season, then complete collapse at the end?

DCB: There are different reasons for each time.  2014/5 basically went wrong when Chris Martin got injured at Bournemouth.  We lost key midfielders to injury as well and McClaren had no idea how to cope without them.  His head had also been turned by Newcastle’s unsubtle advances, which undoubtedly destabilised the club.

2015/6 was torpedoed when Morris sacked Clement for no reason and replaced him with the unqualified Darren Wassall.  This season went wrong because Pearson was the wrong appointment in the first place.  McClaren did well to lift the team from the doldrums, but it would have been some feat to finish in the top six, bearing in mind the headstart we gave to the competition.

Getting the job done is going to take a combination of factors.  Firstly, Morris has to understand that he is not the manager and that whoever is in post probably knows what he is doing, especially if we’re fifth. If the manager is trusted and backed, then it comes down to the players doing the business and it’s clear that we need different ones, especially in midfield.

LFW: To an outsider looking in, yours looks to be a dressing room with more problem children / arseholes than you’d ideally want – Johnson, Ince, Bent.  Do the players cop any grief from the fans when it all goes tits up? Any rumoured dressing room issues?

A: Well, we certainly do need to change the squad around a bit.  Other fans would probably be more forthright than me on this issue.  What I will say is that although Ince has long been perceived as a ‘mardy’ player, his effort this season has been excellent, including an obvious improvement in his willingness to track back and defend for the team.  He will probably get my vote for Player of the Year. Unfortunately for him, his performances have probably earned him a move to Middlesbrough in the summer, poor sod…

On the other hand, Bent made a real tit of himself on Twitter recently, when he sought to defend the manager and team from what he described as ‘these fans’, who ‘make me laugh’, after yet another farcical last-minute cock-up, this time against Preston.  That really was one of those moments when ‘the mask slips’ and the carefully constructed social media image is fractured.  There is some confusion as to whether Bent will be staying at the club next season or not – McClaren’s regrettable penchant for retaining veterans means that Bent’s contract extension may already have triggered – but we’re not sure either way yet.

Bradley Johnson isn’t particularly good at football and so McClaren tried to invent a new image for him as ‘the warrior’.  He is one of several players who the club overpaid for and would be impossible to shift on for more than a fraction of what he was signed for.

So while I honestly can’t comment on whether these players are ‘arseholes’ or not, I can say that there are plenty within the squad who I do not associate with good football or good times and who I would not be sorry to see leave.

LFW: Why will it be different for Gary Rowett – who is clearly a very good manager at this level?

DCB: I think you’ve answered your own question there.  Also, I think there is a huge willingness for him to succeed from the supporters and a sense – to me at least – that he’s the right man at the right time.

He’s got no chance if Morris can’t keep a degree of distance from the club’s operations, but I genuinely believe that, if he’s allowed to, he can do a great job. He knows the division perfectly well and has proved that he can get results on a tight budget, overachieving notably at Birmingham, who looked nailed on for relegation and oblivion when he took the job there.  Given that there is general agreement that the squad needs a major refresh and there won’t be much money to throw around, Rowett’s credentials made him the outstanding candidate for the job at hand – much more so than McClaren.  The factors above *should* also lead Morris to have more patience this time.

LFW: The chairman was seen as something of a great white hope initially, has the chaos that has ensued damaged his rep at all?

DCB: Yes, of course.  He’s made a series of poor recruitment decisions which have set the club back – exactly how far back, we will understand probably by September.

I think we were all a little bit guilty of assuming that he was Messiah when he took over, but he has learned the hard way that football isn’t as simple as we all think it is from the stands.  If he can work with Rowett, there’s no doubting his financial credentials – in a sense, maybe he felt that his money had been squandered, particularly by Clement, who made some questionable signings in January 2016.

LFW: Finally, what exactly is ‘the Derby way’?

DCB: A figment of Morris’ imagination.  A naive attempt at spin, gleefully, predictably seized upon and shredded by the cynical massed ranks of pundits.  A nebulous, malodorous cloud, the whiff of which will probably take a generation to dissipate.

Share this with other people...
[Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Twitter] [Windows Live] [Yahoo!] [Email]
Posted in Derby County, History, Match Previews | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Derby County v Queens Park Rangers – preview Q & A for Loft For Words

Derby blow lead at Forest to reach ‘Peak Derby’

And so the afternoon after the afternoon before, myself and ‘three wise men’ – Joel, Jonathan and Chris – gathered to pick the bones out of a result and performance which, I sincerely hope, means that ‘Peak Derby’ has finally been reached…

Podcast Six

As I explain at the start of the show, Rowett’s task now is to change a culture of failure which means that Forest’s last-second equaliser was utterly predictable – injury-time collapse, check.  Goal conceded from set piece, check.  Failing to take advantage of weak opposition, check.  Snatching disaster from the jaws of victory, check.  All of these things, sadly, are what we are now associated with – not the flowing football of three years ago, not a productive academy, not being well run as a club, or with being an opponent to fear, either away or at home. First and foremost, we are thought of as ‘bottlers’ – a soft touch with a soft underbelly.

Unfortunately, under McClaren, it reached the point where Derby weren’t even winning the games they ‘should’ have won on balance of play – it was as if they needed the opposition to collude with them to have any chance of getting three points.  Whereas to get promoted, teams need to win ruthlessly, out of sheer habit – and that includes winning games that they have no real right to win. There is no way that the current squad is capable of that and I agree with Chris, who said he had no confidence in McClaren to oversee the necessary ‘redevelopment programme’ which is coming this summer.

What the team needs, in the best possible sense, is a bit more paranoia.  The point Chris makes about Billy Davies is a good one, because under his paranoid leadership, we became synonymous with 1-0 wins, often barely merited, but clawed out nevertheless.  I disagree with Joel’s point about a lack of fouls and yellow cards equating to a lack of commitment – and besides, if you can’t defend set pieces, it’s probably better not to give them away in the first place – but I understand the point he was making.

The podcast is well worth a listen, both for the optimistic view on the future under Rowett and for the sadly necessary dose of realism provided by Jonathan, who questions whether Mel Morris actually has the patience to stand by a manager when things start to go awry, as they easily can – or whether, at the first sign of trouble, Rowett will go the same way as everyone else has done (with the exception, it should be pointed out, of Darren Wassall).

Jonathan sounded a note of caution about Rowett’s track record, arguing that he should still be considered something of an unknown quantity, as he is yet to achieve a promotion and is relatively short in the managerial tooth.  I think that’s a little unfair on Rowett – he had Burton racing up League 2 when he was poached by Brum and to turn the Blues around from a situation where they looked nailed on for relegation, in his first high-profile managerial assignment, was an incredible achievement.  I haven’t found a single Bluenose with a bad word to say about Rowett yet and in the world we live in today, where everyone is criticised all the time, I think that speaks volumes for the transformational effect he had on the club.

When Rowett took over, Brum had just lost 8-0 to Bournemouth, at home, to fall to 23rd in the Championship.  In an interview with Ian Holloway recorded for Sky Bet, Rowett said the result was, in a funny way, a positive for him, “because it meant the players would listen to anything I had to say.  They didn’t want it to continue.”  Last week, he took over at a club in a much stronger position than that, but with much higher expectations and bigger egos to contend with – and not just in the dressing room.

Reportedly, as Chris alluded to in the podcast, unnamed ‘senior players’ seem to have developed an unhealthy habit of preferring to talk to the owner than whoever the manager happens to be at the time.  It would be better all round, I think, if a degree of separation was imposed and that Mr Morris’ door remained firmly closed to the players from now on.  Make the players listen to the manager, whether they want to or not.  Let the manager manage as he sees fit, give him time to make the changes he needs to make and, with a bit of luck, we just might be a lot happier this time next year.

Share this with other people...
[Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Twitter] [Windows Live] [Yahoo!] [Email]
Posted in Derby County, Derby v Forest, History, Match Reports, Podcasts, Tactics, Transfers | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Derby blow lead at Forest to reach ‘Peak Derby’

Morris announces squad cull as Rams plan for future under Rowett

Mel Morris has announced plans for a major squad cull, which could lead to as many as ten senior Derby County players being shown the door this summer.

Speaking at a Supporters’ Charter meeting – as reported by Joel Clyne – Morris announced that under a new, tightened wage structure, a squad of around 16 senior professionals will be supplemented by loan signings and young players from the club’s academy.

Morris said that the new structure will only have room for ‘five to seven’ players classified as ‘high earners’, plus ‘seven to nine’ players on more standard Championship contracts – meaning that many of the current crop of 23 pros will have to leave.

If the plan is implemented effectively, it would leave Gary Rowett with a core of proven, quality players to work with, but the new manager would be obliged to include some younger players in his matchday 18.

On the back of Morris’ comments, it seems safe to assume that up to ten first-teamers will be free to go this summer.  Getting this many players off the wagebill would give Rowett room to recruit five or six new senior pros and loanees, while staying within the proposed structure.

Player wages are confidential and it’s impossible to know who earns exactly what, but to illustrate the task facing Rowett, if his retained ‘high earners’ were as follows:-

Martin
Nugent
Ince
Anya
Hughes
Keogh
Carson

Then that could mean the club would look to sell or release the following players:-

Bent
Vydra
Johnson
Bryson
Baird
Shackell

If the list of ‘mid-ranking’ professionals Rowett chose to keep included:-

Pearce
Christie
Forsyth
Thorne
Butterfield

Then Rowett would need to sell several more squad players to give himself room for new recruits:-

Olsson
Camara
Russell
Blackman

Younger players hoping for more opportunities next season could include:-

Mitchell
Rawson
Lowe
Hanson
Bennett
Vernam

Of course, the identity of the players staying and going will be determined by Rowett after he has had opportunity to assess the squad, but it is clear that he is expected to implement a major clear-out – or ‘redevelopment programme’, as Morris euphemistically termed it in his statement welcoming the new manager.  There will be no room for sentiment, with certain long-serving cult heroes just as likely to be shown the door as some of the recent high-profile flops.

More of Morris and Rowett’s comments from the Supporters Charter meeting can be read at www.dcfcpodcast.uk/supporters-charter-meeting.

Share this with other people...
[Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Twitter] [Windows Live] [Yahoo!] [Email]
Posted in Derby County, Finances, Transfers | Tagged , | Comments Off on Morris announces squad cull as Rams plan for future under Rowett

What happens next at Pride Park?

At the time of writing, the home howlers against Bristol City and Cardiff have the feeling of a period which defines this as another season of underachievement – the week when Derby fluffed their lines again.

The disastrous events of last week have left Derby 11 points off the play-offs, with only 15 games left to play.  Anything can still happen and three points on Tuesday would be a start towards repairing the damage, but clearly, this is a gap which is going to be very difficult to claw back.

So, what happens next?  In the short term, changes to the side are inevitable and over the longer term, there may well also be repercussions for some players too.

Firstly, the changes which McClaren can and probably will make immediately.

Christie and Lowe 

McClaren’s formation works best with full backs who raid.  Even Christie’s surprisingly vocal detractors have to accept that he does this better than Baird, while Lowe should be seen as a seriously promising talent who deserves to be nurtured and developed, as Hughes and Hendrick were.

Baird has had a really good run and surprised me by showing how effective he can still be as a Championship full back.  However, the whole rationale for him being there was as a ‘steady eddie’ to help shore things up.  That is no longer working – Derby have struggled defensively for a few weeks now, not just in the past two games – and so I believe it’s now time to look to the future by bringing back Christie.

On the other flank, Olsson has presumably been preferred to Lowe for his experience, but why hold a potential star player back any longer for the sake of a competent journeyman?  I don’t think Lowe is that much worse than the Swede at the minute anyway and he has so much more scope to improve.  Have faith in Lowe, bear with his growing pains and reap the long-term rewards.  What have we got to lose?

Shackell

After his impressive performance against Leicester, one or two fans put their heads above the parapet to suggest that maybe it was worth bringing him back into the side.  These voices were soon shot down by the majority, who favour the cult hero Pearce, with my recent poll showing 75 per cent of fans who responded choosing a centre back pairing of Pearce and Keogh.

Derby still have one of the best overall defensive records in the division, but the topline stat masks a genuinely alarming decline in performance in recent weeks. The Rams have conceded 120 shots in their last seven league matches, which averages out at an unsustainably awful 17.1 shots per game.  For context, Rotherham give up an average of 17.8 shots pg and they are plunging out of the division like a stone.

Eventually, some of those shots were going to start creeping in and this was the week when the levee broke.  Meanwhile, we have an experienced, quality centre back kicking his heels on the bench, having put in accomplished performances against two Premier League teams in the FA Cup.

This is no way about ‘scapegoating’ Pearce – defending properly is about much more than just the back four and there are issues with the midfield balance for McClaren to chew on as well – but now is the time to restore our most talented defender to the side, in my opinion.

*

Those are the obvious options for changing the team’s fortunes in the short-term, but how about next season?

Prepare for summer clearout

Several players simply have to be moved on as soon as possible, for their own good. Top of the list is Vydra, closely followed by Blackman and I’d say Camara (although McClaren has made encouraging noises about the latter, despite his horrendous performance against Bristol City).  Russell is ticking down to the last 12 months of his contract and given the amount of speculation there has been already, I think he’ll be offski – again, it’s probably right for him to move on at this stage of his career.

We have to accept that we’re going to lose quite a lot of money on some players and that will make recruiting replacements more difficult – but it is what it is. Mac can’t use them.

With Forsyth coming back and Lowe emerging, I’d consider letting Olsson go. I would allow Johnson to leave, if we could drum up any interest.  I don’t see him as a player who fits into McClaren’s system – he is not a natural holding player and not technically adept or quick enough to play further up the pitch in the 4-3-3.

Midfielder passing
Tom Ince – Be braced for bids

Assuming we don’t go up, Ince is going to be in high demand.  Clubs coming down from the Premier League immediately start to hoover up the best Championship talent and Ince will be near the top of the list for any clubs looking to yo-yo.  Much will depend upon the player and whether he feels the grass looks greener elsewhere, or whether he wants to continue his love affair with The Mac.

Identify new midfielder(s)

The midfield three is a problem area at the moment, simply because the available players aren’t functioning as a coherent unit.  Possession and pass success are miles down on where we expect them to be, the defence is not being shielded effectively and we are heavily, overly reliant on Hughes for creative spark from this department.

Possession difference

Johnson has tried his best to adapt to the holding role, but it doesn’t really suit him.  De Sart is another Mascarell type – a wispy, technically nifty playmaker, who struggles to win the ball.  Of course, Thorne was perfect for the role and it will be hard to find another player of his calibre without spending a lot of money. Ideally, the man himself would return in full effect, but in any case, we will certainly need effective cover for him.

***

But before all that, it’s Burton and the return of Nigel.  You can see this going wrong, can’t you?  We know what he’s like – he loves the drama of these locally significant clashes – we always beat Leeds when he was here and there was the ‘ten men’ victory at Forest, which left some bloke called McClaren in ‘shock’. There’s Shaun Barker to come back, who everyone loves.  Kightly is a decent player, then there’s the time-honoured ‘law of the ex-player’, which covers Luke Varney and Tom Naylor.

Four more wins should just about see the Brewers safe and they’ve racked up three in their past six matches.  My reading of the stats – via my crude, but surprisingly effective model ‘The Thing’ – calls this game a draw, but you can imagine how the atmosphere could turn anxious and awkward for the Rams if it’s still level (or worse) after 75 minutes.

This strange, sort-of derby has banana skin written all over it and it will take cool heads for the undoubted extra quality Derby possess to prevail.

Share this with other people...
[Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Twitter] [Windows Live] [Yahoo!] [Email]
Posted in Derby County, Give The Lad a Chance, Statistics, Tactics | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on What happens next at Pride Park?

Derby County v Bristol City preview, with the Exiled Robin (and infographic)

Now that the Leicester sideshow is out of the way, it’s down to the real business, which is the play-off challenge.  There’s no place like home and Derby are looking forward to three games on the spin at Pride Park, all against sides dwelling in the nether reaches of the Championship.

These are the games which we must capitalise on and so the target really should be at least seven points – two wins and a draw would give everyone a shot in the arm and keep the Rams at least within touching distance of the top six.

Of the three upcoming opponents, the most disappointing this season have undoubtedly been Bristol City.  While Cardiff have struggled for a while now and it’s a miracle for a club of Burton’s size to be competing at this level at all, the Robins are a team who seemed to be going into this campaign with the momentum and financial backing to at least be highly competitive in the Championship.

derby-v-bristol_20123798_ec2b882d141b07f44265f55c4a6d5090fd650013

I expect Derby to win this game, but I do not expect it to be a pushover by any means.  As the infographic shows, they’ve got far better underlying attacking indicators than their lowly league position would suggest – 15.1 shots per game is the second highest in the Championship and most of those have been taken from within the 18 yard-box.  They’re creating more than enough chances and Tammy Abraham has certainly done his fair share of converting them, but a lack of reliable goalscoring support is holding them back, compounded by the fact that the defence has been insecure.

Overall, City’s attacking form has been so much better than Derby’s this season that my (fairly crude) statistical model The Thing has this game down as a draw.  But the Robins’ form has nosedived spectacularly since December and until beating Rotherham 1-0 at home last week, they had not won a league match since 3 December (a 2-0 home win against Ipswich).

I was curious as to what exactly has gone wrong for them this season – so I thought I’d check in with the esteemed Bristol City blogger and ‘Exiled Robin‘, Paul Dinning.

Derby County Blog: Whathefuckhasgonewrong?!

The Exiled Robin: Ha ha, where do I start?!

We were probably punching above our weight earlier in the season, but no-one predicted the demise on quite this scale.  It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s happened, but the run of defeats started at Cardiff in October in Neil Warnock’s first match, where we were out-muscled and out-fought, followed shortly by being as outplayed as we have been in a 2-0 defeat at home to Brighton.  It seems as if almost from that moment, the manager and staff lost a little faith in the style and the team that had got us to that position previously.  They have been switching players, formations, styles and – well, everything really – with little success since then.

The two games that caused the most gripes were consecutive home defeats to Reading and Cardiff, where we were 2-0 and 2-1 up respectively heading into the final few minutes and managed to lose both 3-2.

It’s easy to forget that for the first four months of the season, we’d had more shots and created more chances than anyone else in the league. Unfortunately, the run of defeats has seen us change approach so dramatically that at times we now feel like cheering whenever we cross the halfway line!

DCB: Any concerns that Lee Johnson has irredeemably lost the plot, or do you still think he’ll be able to turn it around?

TER: Given the volume of changes in personnel each game, plus some erratic and questionable substitutions over the festive period, you have to have doubts.  Players who played a dozen straight games are suddenly not even in the squad for a few matches, substitutions have followed a predictable trend (until Saturday, when we tried something different and finally won!)  The pace has slowed to pedestrian at best, we don’t get forward quickly enough…. need I go on?

The tempo we played with at the start of the season has disappeared and the “one up-front” formation, which worked well earlier on, with midfielders getting forward to support Tammy Abraham, has become the stick which is perhaps understandably being used to beat Johnson with.  The midfield sits 30-40 yards behind Abraham and he only gets long balls now pinged to him.  Even then, if he manages to control one in three, we then haven’t got players close enough to him to make anything of it and it’s all very ponderous, slow, seemingly lacking bite.

Saying that… and I do get a lot of stick for this – we have still only lost one game by more than a single goal, which indicates teams aren’t pulling us apart.  With a touch of luck, a referee giving a soft foul, a deflection – those defeats, especially at home to Reading and Cardiff, could easily have garnered three points and things would be looking a lot rosier.

But they didn’t, and until we can stop the extended run of defeats, Johnson will be under tremendous pressure, from the fanbase at least.

DCB: Tell me about Tammy Abraham – what a signing he turned out to be!

TER: Yes indeed, although he too is struggling under the burden placed on him by the style of football we’ve changed to.  When he was scoring goals for fun, he pretty much just had to be in the right place at the right time.  That’s not meant to denigrate him in the slightest – it’s quite a skill – but the majority of his first ten or so goals were scored from around the six-yard line, as we were pushing other players forward, getting crosses in, shots were raining in and taking deflections or being saved and he mopped up beautifully.

Now we’re not and, at times, he looks what he is – a gangly 19-year-old kid battling two hardened Championship centre-halves on his own for 90 minutes.  By the time chances come to him, he’s so desperate to score that he’s started to snatch a little and shots have been blasted high and wide in recent weeks.

But that’s a somewhat petty criticism – he’s been fantastic in the main, has scored plenty of goals and, for a big lad, has fantastic touch and skills when the ball is at his feet.  I feel I can see a recognisable difference in his ability to get and control the longer ball fired up to him (he’s had plenty of practice!) and we’ll enjoy him whilst he’s still with us, because you can pretty much guarantee he won’t be at Ashton Gate next August.

DCB: Are there other players who give you grounds for optimism?  I noticed that a couple of foreign players have joined recently – any kop?

TER: A number of the new signings look strong.  Bailey Wright and Dave Cotterill have already shown a level of Championship experience not present in much of the rest of our squad, and offer a level of composure and assured thinking.  Jens Hegeler is a central midfielder apparently picked up for a bargain price from the Bundesliga and he looks a quality addition to shore up the midfield.

Up front, we’ve added Milan Djuric, a Bosnian international giant of a striker who gave Neil Warnock’s centre-halves a right going over, which tells you all you need to know.  He can be a big help and is certainly an option if Tammy isn’t working out.

The biggest news story was of course our capture of Matty Taylor from our Blue rivals on deadline day.  The fact we signed him was funny, the fact it was a bargain basement fee made it hilarious and it made for a rare day of fun on our social media channels during a month of gloom and despair!  But all that stuff aside, to sign a chap who’s scored so many goals in the bottom two leagues in the last 18 months for such a low fee has to be seen as a risk worth taking and hopefully, he can make the step up quickly.

DCB: Finally, assuming that City stave off relegation this season, which I’m sure they will, how do you see the future for the club – grounds for optimism?

TER: Yes, in the main, but we’ve got to rebuild confidence in the players, fans and coaching staff.  We’re not going to be able to play in the style we currently are for long – partly because fans won’t want to come and watch it, but hopefully a couple of wins nicked here and there can see us progress again and become more of an attacking threat once more.  Everything is in place around the club, we’ve just got to find the right formula on the pitch and sidelines.

Share this with other people...
[Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Twitter] [Windows Live] [Yahoo!] [Email]
Posted in Derby County, Match Previews | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Derby County v Bristol City preview, with the Exiled Robin (and infographic)