The Wassall thing was like a bad dream and surely, surely now, it is over.
It is inconceivable that the Mel Morris who became ‘the grizzly bear’ post-Reading sat watching that mess and thought: ‘this is a guy who can take us forward’.
The boos that rang out when Wassall subbed Russell for poor Nick Blackman (and when fans thought he’d subbed Bryson), then the jeers when Jacob Butterfield finally had a pass-back on target in the 80th minute must have told Mel everything he needed to know.
Watching this ponderous, witlessly direct excuse for a performance, it was obvious that, never mind a team confident enough to win promotion, even the basic style of play – something I’d assumed was a key pillar of the mythical ‘Derby Way’ – was gone. If not exactly scintillating, the approach was at least considered under Clement. Wassall, on the other hand, instructs defenders to play long diagonal balls, in the vague hope that the lone striker can do something with them. This makes Martin look crap – what is he supposed to do with a floated ball, with a centre back right up his arse and another lurking close by? Even when he did win a flick-on, there was nobody anywhere near him to latch onto it. This was miserable, awful, ineffectual, cowardly football – easy to defend against and ugly to watch.
If Wassall wanted to go long, then why not have the courage of his convictions, drop a midfielder and pick Bent instead? But then again, the nearest thing to a tactical insight we’ve heard from Wassall is that ‘formations are irrelevant.’ They are not. Perhaps he could learn a trick or two from Steve Bruce – but he should not be learning the hard way on a stage this big.
Everything is in place for Derby County to be a successful club in the Premier League, except for the manager. We need someone with a strong vision for how he wants to play and good knowledge of the domestic transfer market, so that when players are presented to him as options, he will know whether or not he could use them. If the next head coach does not have a strong influence on recruitment, we run the risk of more costly, scattergun signings which seem like a good idea to the ‘committee’, but do not actually strengthen the team. It is a crying shame when good money is wasted.
Key decisions will have to be made this summer – with Hughes and Bryson fit again, we’re now overstocked in central midfield and there is still the age-old problem of a lack of cover / alternative to Martin up front. You could also ask whether Martin should continue as our ‘main man’ at all, or do we let him go and try something different now? These are multi-million pound calls with long-term implications and getting them right could propel Derby back into the Premier League. Getting them wrong could set the club back years.
Wassall clearly pleases his boss with his work ethic, but he does not have the necessary experience, tactical insight or recruitment knowledge to be Derby’s first-team manager and it is unfair for him to be placed in this position. The decision to put him in charge for the season after sacking Clement remains completely inexplicable – and I’m just hoping, with all of my heart, that Morris has a rabbit up his sleeve for the summer.
The Derby County job is not one for a rookie to cut his teeth on. It is one of the very best jobs in English football, especially now. Everything is ready for an experienced operator, somebody with sufficient leadership qualities and status within the game, to rally everyone – players, staff, fans – behind them and take this club to the next level, where it belongs.
No professionally conducted recruitment process could possibly scour the market and identify Wassall as being the best candidate – or even put him on a longlist.
In my last post, I said it was time for Derby County, the sleeping giant, to wake up. Well, the alarm bells are really ringing now. Wassall has got to go.