Five years on, how far have we come? (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second half of what became an epic blog post marking the fifth anniversary of GSE’s takeover of Derby County from Peter Gadsby’s ‘League of Gentlemen’.  (First half is here)

Sam Rush told the recent Fans Forum that the Sammon deal took our summer spending to around £3.5m, while my best estimate is that we generated just over £2m, mostly by selling Steve Davies, Chris Maguire and Jason Shackell.  So extra money was clearly found from somewhere.

As the graph above shows, the club’s turnover (red line) was given a huge steroid injection by Premier League TV money.  The wagebill (blue line) steadily fell in the seasons after relegation, but stayed pretty much the same between summer 2011 and summer 2012, as did turnover.  Total debt (green line) dropped while the club was still in receipt of parachute payments, but has risen again ever since.

Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that the club’s total match receipts last season were £5,626,000 (slightly up on the year before).  So the good people of Derbyshire’s hard-earned ticket money accounted for no more than half of the club’s wagebill.  Even if you add on cash raised by merchandising (about £1.2m), it still comes to less than £7m in total.  The rest of our revenue – TV money and sponsorship deals and so on – still isn’t anything like enough to cover our overall expenditure.

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So in summary then, five years on from the arrival of GSE, how far have we come?  Well, this season has been slightly frustrating, in that it seems obvious that the current players can do it – it’s just that they need a bit more help from somewhere, if they are to become consistent enough to genuinely challenge.

It’s hard to put a finger on it.  Clearly, a proper star striker and an experienced central defender would do the trick nicely, but how to get them without losing money Cardiff style?  As that isn’t an option, the progress will continue to be incremental and will depend largely on the current group being kept together and maturing together (unless a windfall in the transfer market accelerates the process a bit.)

Clough is far from perfect and has made some pretty ordinary decisions during his tenure at Pride Park, both in the transfer market (Croft, Tyson) and tactically (playing Leacock as a right back at the City Ground, the Tom Carroll Fiasco, etc, etc).  His main achievement to date has been to keep us afloat when lesser managers may have been unable to stave off relegation to League One – a quagmire which has temporarily claimed some big clubs of late and will doubtless claim more in the seasons to come.

Currently, he is struggling to find the right balance in the team, but this is a problem caused at least in part by the meteoric rise of Will Hughes, who couldn’t have been reckoned upon as a starter six months ago, but has forced his way into the team in sensational style.

After the comprehensive FA Cup defeat at the hands of Blackburn, Clough came out fighting, snapping at the BBC’s Ed Dawes (who had asked a gentle question about ball retention): –

“Sorry, our 17 year-old’s having a little bit of a bad time today against an England international they had in there [Danny Murphy] and is it a Danish international as well [he could have meant the twice-capped Swede Marcus Olsson, or Norway’s Morten Gamst Pedersen], yeah, sorry about that, a 17-year old alongside a 20-year old…

“It’s a shame really, cos you know, we’re expected to compete when … I think the two strikers [Jordan Rhodes and Colin Kazim-Richards] and Murphy add up to the complete wagebill of our squad.  So I think that puts it into perspective.”

He may be overstating those players’ wages slightly, but it’s still a valid point and of course, he could have added that at the time of writing, Derby are above Blackburn in the league; but at the same time, Clough wasn’t forced to select the 17 year-old and the 20-year old together.  He could have left one of them out and picked somebody else on the left wing (Ben Davies, if he wanted more experience, or Michael Jacobs for extra pace).

But all Clough can do is put out the eleven players he has the most belief in and, ultimately, stand or fall with them.  Hughes hasn’t played well for a couple of games, but he’s not been linked with some of the Premier League behemoths for no reason.  Maybe he needs a breather for a game, or maybe against Huddersfield Town, it will click back into place for him and he will show us why Tommo thinks he’s the new Xavi again.

Once January is out of the way – generally, this window is a time for clubs under pressure to make panic purchases, not something that Derby really need to get involved with this season – next summer is really important.  Finally, there are not many unwanted players left to ship out (probably Tyson is the only relatively big earner we’ll be actively trying to re-home), which gives us a real opportunity to build upon the progress we’ve made by signing good players like Keogh, Brayford, Bryson and Ward, while developing the likes of Hendrick and Hughes through the youth system.

When Nigel arrived, surely all but the most churlish of Rams fans were hoping it would be him who managed to ‘raise the roof’ and bring success to Derby County.  But despite being the Son of God, he isn’t the Messiah and he can’t do it without money to spend.  At least if Clough left tomorrow, he could very reasonably point out that even if it still isn’t good enough to go up, the squad is far better now than it was when he took on the job, despite the wagebill having been cut by about 60%.

The legacy of Lionel Pickering – Pride Park, Moor Farm – is the foundation for a club that belongs in the Premier League.  Surely one day, somebody will get it right at Derby and unlock the potential in what is still without question one of the biggest and best clubs in England.  Whether it’s Nigel Clough and GSE who do it remains to be seen.

 

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