I’m pleased to welcome back my anonymous guest blogger, with his take on the recent Fans Forum with Rams’ chief executive Sam Rush.
Take it away, Mr Mystery Man…
This was my third “Your 90 Minutes” forum and I was pleased to find that they had reverted the format back to “ten people around the table chatting informally with the Chief Exec”, as per the first of these that I went to in 2012, rather than “200 people in the Pedigree Suite bellowing angrily and incomprehensibly at the Chief Exec” format from the one in January.
The evening’s agenda was the usual 45 minutes of open questions to the club, then 45 minutes of the club’s marketing people seeking the fans’ opinions – this time, their chosen topic was “Match Day Music”.
The shadow of the Burnley defeat hung heavy over the first half of the programme, which actually lasted well over an hour, and the tone of questioning was considerably more negative than I think it would have been had the forum happened on the back of the Yeovil and Brentford goalfests.
Sam clearly anticipated this and was very honest about how much the defeat had hurt everybody at the club. Nigel, more than anyone, was devastated by it.
Centre Backs / Defence
There were a lot of questions about why we’re not strengthening at centre back, given that the first publicly acknowledged target of the summer window was Alex Baptiste. Apparently, Nigel thought that Baptiste was better than what we have, but since then, we simply have not identified any targets that we think are better than the players we’ve got [Clough obviously passed on Roger Johnson, who joined Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Wolves last week – DCB]
Adam Smith had a dead leg when he came to us, hence Freeman started the season in place of Brayford. Nigel thought he deserved to keep his place after a couple of good performances. However, after the Burnley game, it’s a given that Smith will start at Millwall.
The most interesting admission was that the club believe ALL the defenders have under-performed this season in comparison to last season.
Rush said that there wasn’t all that much interest in Bray until the Wigan deal, which wasn’t good enough, so we turned it down. Then, just when we didn’t expect him to leave, the Cardiff offer came in. The club didn’t want to stand in his way, as he’d always said he wanted to go if a Premier League club came in for him.
Obviously, it’s disappointing for Bray that he’s not really played yet. When someone asked, “can we have him back on loan”, Rush very quickly replied, “I think Nigel would LOVE him back, so don’t rule it out!” [If he did come back, maybe it would be to play centre back? – DCB]
Forest Home Game / The South Stand
Plans are in place to keep the South Standers where they are for the derby and give the away fans the South East Corner. Forest will get less tickets than normal, but it will probably be more than the 2,002 they are giving us. This is subject to approvals, but the club are hopeful it can be sorted out that way.
Generally, the South Stand experiment has been considered a massive success so far and the longer term plan is to gradually reclaim the whole of the stand for Derby fans.
Loans / Transfer Market
Some of the Brayford money is covering the Adam Smith loan and some remains to be spent. We had to pay Crewe a fair chunk of sell-on money too [15 per cent of the profit went to Crewe. I estimate this as being around £120,000 – DCB]. Smith is not cheap – there was a loan fee (six figures) AND we’re paying his full wages, but he had the choice of half a dozen clubs who wanted him, so we did well to get him.
Tom Naylor and Jimmy O’Connor loans – we’re paying half their wages. In the case of O’Connor, it sounds like we were begging Bristol to take him!
It was also mentioned that we had to “pay off” Tyson before he would leave.
Apart from clubs with parachute payments and Forest, no other clubs in the division have done more transfer business than us this summer, so it’s interesting that some people still think we haven’t bought enough players..
Rush stated that one of the benefits of his former role (head of a player’s agency) was that he knows roughly the wage budgets / structures of almost every other club and that he can state categorically that ours is “average” and therefore, despite the Baptiste situation, we can compete on wages with most clubs. Grant was stated as an example, having chosen Derby ahead of other interested clubs.
Rush told us that Baptiste had asked for wages well in excess of £20,000 per week, which is “some way above our highest earner”, adding: “Could we afford 20K a week wages? No. Could we afford 8-10K? Yes.”
So I guess from that, we can ascertain that the top wage at Derby now is around £10k. Tyson, Rush said, was “on good money for any football club” [I have been reliably informed that Tyson was among the top earners, on more than £10K a week – DCB].
On the subject of spending and parachute payment clubs, one of the things that Rush was keen to get across was that people should not equate parachute payments with guaranteed promotion and that no parachute clubs went up last year. Every year, Rush said, at least one club “like Derby” gets promoted, so there is no reason why it can’t BE Derby.
The implication was clearly that is the official strategy. Spend little and wisely and cross your fingers, rather than spend big and risk the farm.
He’s a strong target, but is having a minor op next week, so it’s not imminent that he will join us, if at all.
The most controversial question of the night was “how patient are the board prepared to be with Nigel given that the team is now completely his own and we’ve had the alleged ‘good transfer window’ and that this is the ‘strongest squad he’s ever had’?”
Obviously, Rush was never going to answer this fully and it was the only time of the evening where he really came across as being on the back foot.
He made it pretty clear that changing the manager was not an option they would take lightly, given how far we’ve come with Nigel. He recognises that Nigel polarises opinion and that is understandable with a manager who has been in post for so long. However, it’s easy for fans to think that changing the manager is the answer to all problems, but for a club, it’s a much bigger decision to make.
Rush did say, “clearly we can’t have too many more defeats like Burnley” – the closest he came to an admission that Clough is not untouchable.
It has been reported that Prince Abdullah considered investing in DCFC before choosing Sheffield United, but Rush categorically stated that there had been no contact from him, or anyone involved with him. If he looked at DCFC, then it was from afar!
Match Day Music
The Match Day Music topic was far less interesting. In a nutshell, we were all asked to name a song we thought the team should run out to and then the the list will be collated and put on the website for people to vote on.
Kasabian was mentioned, but quickly shouted down because of the Leicester connection. My objections were far more simple than that – Kasabian are atrocious.
Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best” was surprisingly popular [Jesus Christ! – DCB], with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” an interesting last minute addition. For the record, I went with “The Dambusters March” (one of the few times that Pride Park Stadium ever comes close to feeling like the Baseball Ground, IMO.)
Thanks as ever to our Fans Forum mole – some good insights there, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Until next time – be seeing you…