Nigel Clough’s five best signings as Derby County manager

With Shackell sold and no word yet of who the replacement will be, Derby County fans are pretty unhappy at the moment – to put it mildly.  So it seemed like a good time to try to cheer a few folk up (not least myself) by compiling a list of Clough’s five best moves in the transfer market as Rams manager to date.

My recent top five Clough flops list almost picked itself – a few folk mentioned Dave Martin and Ben Pringle in addition to Maguire, Croft, Tyson, Porter and Carroll, but that was about it.

On the other hand, I’m fairly sure that some people will disagree with my selections for this top five Clough hits piece, which says something about Nigel’s ability to pick a player – especially considering the fact that he has never been allowed to spend particularly lavishly.

Shackell’s departure leaves a hole, but it’s something that Clough has mused about openly for weeks and he must have a plan to replace the vice-captain, otherwise, the sale wouldn’t have been done so promptly.  He’s already picked us out two top centre backs – maybe, just maybe, he has already identified a third.

Anyway, while we wait to find out the new man’s identity, it’s worth remembering the following five Clough signings and crossing our fingers that this summer’s purchases are just as good.

*****

1) Jason Shackell (£750,000 + add-ons, Barnsley) Played every minute of every first-team game in his first – and last – season at Derby.  More than that, he played bloody well.

Something of a ‘Rolls Royce’ defender, as Shaun Barker put it, Shackell was to my mind the Rams’ player of the year last season – as Tommo points out, he would have been missed more than Craig Bryson if he hadn’t been there.  His authoritative defending, leadership qualities, poise and positioning were all vitally important for the Rams all season.

It’s hard to see how we could possibly replace Shackell with anybody as good without spending all of the £1.1m Burnley paid for him (and then some), so we’ll just have to hope that Clough has something special up his sleeve.  Apps 49 Gls 1

2) John Brayford (£500,000+, Crewe Alexandra) For all that he says that every player has his price, you can’t help but think that Brayford is one player Clough would fight tooth and nail to keep.  Defends hard, attacks with purpose and is a very steady character, who could well be captain for the Rams in time.

His brilliant goal against Watford in the 4-1 demolition at Pride Park in 2010/11 is still one of my favourite Derby County goals.  The alertness, pace, strength and will to win he showed – plus the thumping finish – made it a very special moment indeed.

Injuries kept him out for too long last season and it’s to be hoped he’s put them firmly behind him, as he will be a top right back for years to come – hopefully with us.
Apps 74 (1) Gls 0

3) Craig Bryson (£350,000+, Kilmarnock) A steal.  Hard-working, tenacious, energetic and whole-hearted, Bryson’s stamina and work ethic make him a classic box-to-box midfielder.  His assured form convinced Clough that he could allow Paul Green to leave.  Bryson is younger and better than the Ireland international and could well be the Derby County captain sooner rather than later – an honour he’ll have to fight against Brayford to claim.  Apps 46 Gls 6

4) Frank Fielding (£400,000, Blackburn Rovers) With Stephen Bywater tweeting, creating modern art, throwing the ball into the net and generally rocking the boat, we had a major goalkeeping problem until the arrival of England U’21 international Frank.  An absolute bargain signing from Blackburn Rovers, Fielding is an agile, confident and dependable young keeper who will get better and better in the years to come.  Again, hopefully with Derby.  Apps 60

5) Shaun Barker (£900,000, Blackpool) Cult hero, leader of men, rock fan, all-round good guy.  If it wasn’t for the wretched luck he’s had with injuries, Barker would be number one on this list with a bullet and I couldn’t bring myself to leave him off entirely.  Which also handily meant I wasn’t forced to chose between Theo Robinson, who was joint top scorer last season and Jamie Ward (who still has much to prove, in my opinion).

It’s typical of Barker’s bravery and commitment to the cause that he got his terrible knee injury making an important clearance in the East Midlands Derby.  Whoever our new centre back turns out to be has big boots to fill.  Apps 99 (5) Gls 6

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