How I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the ride on Mad Mel’s Crazy Bonkers Derby County Train

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I spent hours on a piece analysing where Derby were up to under Nigel Pearson and within hours of me posting it, Morris has suspended him.

To be fair, if Clement’s performance last season was only good enough to get him to February, then it’s no surprise that Pearson’s ended in, reportedly, a massive dust-up before the end of September.

The fact that Morris was saying before the season that he liked the fact that Pearson would tell you what he thought and sort things out man-to-man (which was a clear dig at his last victim, Paul Clement) may have led Pearson to think that he could tell Mel what he thought and sort things out man-to-man, but when he did, he got suspended.

Cards on the table – I couldn’t stand Pearson.  From all the evidence I saw and heard, he was a charmless, humourless, paranoid bully, with no personal skills and zero flair.   I was never as keen on his appointment as many other supporters were – I saw the reasons why, but also catalogued my misgivings in a blogpost, which were around his bizarre ‘charge sheet‘ from the 2014/5 season, in which he verbally abused a young journalist, verbally abused a Leicester supporter and grabbed an opposition player by throat in the middle of a game.  These were not the actions of a normal, balanced individual and it worried me.  When I said he was ‘more suited to the job at Villa‘, I was really thinking, ‘please take him Villa – he might end up here, otherwise’.

I hated the way he seized so radgily on Owen Bradley’s use of the word ‘deployed’ in a recent pre-match interview – sneering and belittling the journalist for having the temerity to use a polysyllabic word, I guess.  Again, it was a little window into Pearson’s world, a little loss of temper at a vanishingly trivial ‘offence’, or something that he deemed an offence.

Anyway, he’s gone.  Mad Mel strikes again.

And I think we just have to accept that this is the way it’s gonna be from now on.  We don’t have a rational, hands-off chairman who leaves things in the hands of the professionals.  We have a guy who can’t detach himself – a kid running a sweet shop and going absolutely mental on the sugar overload, might be another way of describing  it.  All those icy-veined business decisions that made him a multi-millionaire…  Not relevant to his role as custodian of Derby County.  If results go badly, he will take it upon himself to do something.  He will ‘enter the dressing room’.

The old logic – that the manager needs to be given years to set up his team – is largely gone from the game in any case – if you screw up, you’re gone, quick as a flash.

Then again, I don’t know why I’m bringing up the word ‘logic’ in an article about Mel Morris’ Derby County.

Stability is boring anyway.  Remember GSE and Clough?  We pootled along in mid-table, painstakingly developed multi-million pound assets in Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick, shopped in Scotland and the lower divisions and eventually, the arse dropped out of the attendances.  For better or for worse, there’s no danger of things getting stagnant with Mel around, this much is clear.

I’m going to ‘live blog’ this evening and post it after the final whistle against Reading.

6:15pm – I announce on Twitter that I’m available to take the reins for the rest of season, if Mel requires a ‘cheap, FFP-busting option’ – by FFP-busting, I meant ‘helping the club comply with FFP’.  Not a very good choice of words, but there you go.  I was a bit over-excited at the time.  It get me a few likes, but Mel doesn’t call.  Perhaps he’s busy.

6:45pm – The team is announced and Lowe, it is glorious – Max Lowe is handed his debut (as predicted in my last article.  You know, the one I spent hours on and was then redundant almost as soon as it was published.  I don’t know why I bother…)

And it’s 4-3-3!  You know, that system we used for three seasons and which had us in the top eight every time and yielded 38 home wins, compared to 13 losses, but was apparently shite.

7:20pm – A chap rings Radio Derby to suggest David Wagner as a good replacement for Pearson.  It’s a lovely idea – a technical coach, previously assistant to the superb Jürgen Klopp, playing short, passing football with aggressive pressing.  However, think of it from Wagner’s point of view – why would you entrust your future to Mel Morris?  He’s been well backed by Huddersfield, who have allowed him to bring in his own players – and they would resist any attempt to poach him.  Such is the amount of Mel’s money that has been jizzed on non-producing players, that I don’t see how we could afford to pay even more money out on compensation for a manager.

7:36pm – Owen Bradley reports that Big Sam is about to be sacked as England manager….

7:40pm A couple of highlights from Twitter, as we warm up –

Brian Ellis (chief reporter at the Lancashire Evening Post) – Nigel Pearson on his way out? Well that didn’t take long. Most obnoxious manager I think I ever came across in 25 years as a footy writer.

My mate Stu – It appears talk of Sol Bamba was the final straw!

7:45pm – We’re off!  Ed Dawes censures Craig Ramage for using the word ‘transition’.  “You can’t use that word, it’s banned…”

7:48pm Tom Ince has a good shot and I get a genuine sense of excitement – two minutes in, it’s already better…

7:58pm Always worth having a look at the Match Centre for an idea of how the game is going.

7:59pm Rickie Lambert goes off with a groin injury, replaced by Kenneth Zohore.

Steve Nicholson – First chants of “Chrissy Powell’s balmy army” from the Rams fans. He will be on the shortlist should Nigel Pearson be sacked

8:04pm Cardiff have half a spell of pressure and there’s a bit of noise echoing around what sounds like a perilously half-empty stadium

8:06pm Ben Lavender posts a poll – would you take Steve McClaren back as Derby manager?  I vote ‘No’.

8:07pm “Johnson’s first touch gives the ball away” says Ed.  I’m afraid that’s something you see all too often.

8:10pm Patient possession – remember that?  And Hughes has a shot blocked out for a corner.

8:11pm More shots!  Ince, saved, Vydra, saved for corner……  This is exciting!

8:12pm Another corner!  Not that we ever score from corners.  But neither does anybody else – a study of Premier League corners 2011-13 found that only two per cent of them resulted in a goal.

8:14pm Ed says how much he’s enjoying himself.  Me too!  Long may this continue.

8:18pm Noone denies Butterfield, aaaaargh…… Nerves!

8:19pm Lex Immers sounds like a super-villain.  Meanwhile, Whittingham nails Vydra and is booked.

8:29pm Max Lowe getting lots of praise.  Which makes me idly wonder…  Did Morris not feel that Pearson shared his focus on youth?  That was part of why Clement was sacked, apparently.  When ‘the kids’ came off the bench in the cup friendly against Liverpool, Pearson said it “wasn’t political”, which I thought was a very odd choice of words.  If it wasn’t political, why even say that?

8:34pm Half time 0-0 and were those a few boos from the home end?  Ed suggests that Derby have ‘better control’ and the pass success is certainly much more like it – 84 per cent, compared to 75 per cent under Pearson.  That’s the extra central midfielder.

8:40pm The Derby Way is back, apparently…!

Hebberd’s Shin Pads ‏@wristslasher909 – We lost the plot appointing Pearson, never a #derbyway man.  I would never have paid to watch 2 seasons of that shite

MEL8:52pm We’re back and Ramage just launched into Ashford & Simpson’s Solid (as a rock), in praise of Alex Pearce.  Would it be a stretch to suggest that this is all reflective of the delirious sense of relief which has followed the suspension of Mr Pearson?

8:57pm Ince denied by Amos, there’s that excitement again…  The Rams fans are audible – all 317 of them.  God love them, every one.

8:58pm Ramage discussing the fine art of ‘defending from the front’ – something I also heard the great Klopp talking about last night on Sky and which I thought was sadly lacking on Saturday.


9:00pm Ramage: “Possession football – our footballers are coming good.”  YES RAMAGE, YES POWELL

9:01pm Eek, a stung Cardiff come straight up the other end and win a corner, which is headed just wide by Morrison…  Lucky.  “TOUCH TIGHT”, roars Ramage.

9:03pm Ramage using the ‘E’ word…. ‘Enjoy’.  “They’re enjoying it”.  First time all season….

9:08pm The away fans remind me what the Derby way is:-

“If you don’t attack, then you get the sack,
It’s the Derby Way…”

That’ll do as a definition for me!

9:13pm Bradley Johnson getting plenty of encouragement from Ramage.  If he can do that holding role, it would be a huge bonus for our season.

9:15pm Top three players on the park, according to

Ince 7.7 (/ 10)
Lowe 7.6
Pearce 7.4

9:16pm Ed says “Cardiff are the worst side we’ve come up against and if Derby can’t beat them…” Instantaneously ushering in a spell of Cardiff pressure and making everybody listening curse him bitterly.

9:17pm Ramage: “This is the Bradley Johnson we’ve been looking for”.  Long may that continue.  Ed: “Derby’s passing has been very good this evening”.  Long may that continue.

9:19pm 15 minutes to go and Cardiff trying to mount a comeback.  You’d think it would be time for Powell to use his bench – but the bench is Baird and five forwards.  A reminder that there are still some problems, for whoever is going to take the job on, to tackle.

9:20pm Nick Blackman is coming on… It’s a fresh start for everyone.  He’s on for Vydra.

9:24pm Blackman has won a penalty and Connolly is sent off!

9:24pm Nerves


9:26pm Derby have scored more than one goal in a game for the first time all season.  No Pearson, no problem.  Apparently.

9:26pm: Ramage: “I don’t know, this 4-3-3, you know….

“They’re not a team of doggers.”

9:29pm Ince is withdrawn for Russell and receives warm praise from the commentary team and the fans.  Lovely.  Another player who had apparently been destroyed under Pearson.  Centre back Manga is brought on for the injured super-villain Immers.

9:31pm I just keep hearing long spells of commentary which involve Derby passing the ball to each other.  It’s like the good old days again.

9:33pm A pithy quote from a long suffering Cardiff journo…

Dafydd Pritchard ‏@DafPritchard
One more goal and Derby could double their tally for the season in one game.


Since I was young
I followed them
The 4-3-3
It’s the shape for me….

9:35pm Five minutes of stoppage time to play.  Nigel Pearson is still trending, but has been displaced from the top of Twitter by terms like #SamAllardyce, Southgate, Nicklas Bendtner (unfortunately) and Steve Bruce (in connection with the England job, not Derby)…

9:38pm Ramage: “It’s been a stroll.  We could get another one, here… I’ve been starved”.

9:39pm: Weimann on for Anya, to waste a few seconds.

9:40pm Butterfield almost scores another one… “WELL DONE” It’s the Ramage Roar

9:40pm “AND THAT IS TIME”, Ed says.  Cardiff 0 Derby 2

Bigger tests than a moribund Cardiff are ahead of us, but this is where it starts.



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