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…
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.