A few days ago, a rather cringeworthy tweet appeared on the Derby County feed:-
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) June 2, 2018
The problem I had with this messaging is that it made the club look much too starstruck about its high-profile new manager. And that is not a good look for any institution. The boss should never be deemed bigger than the club, no matter how famous he is.
Same goes for players, although I note with interest that some fans have lapped up the inevitable speculation that Lampard would like to be reunited with his old pal John Terry at Pride Park.
Terry turns 38 in December and has left Aston Villa, having reportedly cost the club more than £3m in wages for a single season. Bizarre financial decisions such as that, taken with a view that promotion could be achieved in a single leap, have left the Villa staring down the barrel of financial oblivion, it has now emerged.
Understand #avfc bosses refused to pay £20k for squad suits for Play Off Final at Wembley coz of financial worries. Also persuaded #burnley to make an early payment on an Ashley Westwood instalment that was due, so that they could pay May’s wages for staff and players. See #ssn
— Rob Dorsett (@RobDorsettSky) June 7, 2018
Derby County owner Mel Morris has, as is well known, decided that he will not breach FFP regulations by throwing good money after bad and is reining in the excesses to prevent the Rams from experiencing similar problems, which could lead to a transfer embargo (at best).
A look at the age profile of the current Derby outfield squad shows how ‘top-heavy’ it is and how few of the players could be said to be in their prime:-
Ten outfield players are aged 30+. One of the problems with this is that their resale value is inevitably much lower than a man in his prime. Too many of these players are on cushy contracts and couldn’t easily be shifted – and even if we could, it’s clear that Derby would have to accept a punishing loss on Bradley Johnson, to give the obvious example.
A further five players are aged 28 or 29 (including Jacob Butterfield, who will presumably get lots of birthday cards from Rams fans when he turns 28 on Sunday).
Only five players are in what you might call the ‘sweet spot’ of 24 to 26. Players in their mid twenties attract the highest transfer fees, by and large, which is why Gary Rowett raised funds by selling Thomas Ince, Will Hughes and Cyrus Christie – but now, there are precious few of those players left. The talk has been of sacrificing Vydra, because there isn’t anybody else within the squad who w0uld obviously command a fee of more than a couple of million pounds.
Then you’re into the ‘homegrown’ group of nine under 23s who have been in and around the first-team squad at some stage, ranging from 22 year-old Jamie Hanson to the 17 year-old prospect Jayden Bogle.
It strikes me that the club needs an embargo on signing any more veterans, no matter how famous they might be. Chris Baird, Darren Bent and Jason Shackell have finally been shifted off the wage-bill and that process of renewal needs to continue, in fact, should be aggressively pursued, in my opinion. In with the new, but just as importantly, out with the old. They’ve been around for long enough, they haven’t achieved promotion and it’s time for a new generation of Derby stars to be given the chance instead.
By the end of the 2018/9 season, we have a fantastic opportunity to shed a lot more of the older players. If my data is right, Pearce, Olsson, Bryson, Ledley, Johnson, Butterfield, Nugent and Blackman could all be released in twelve months time, even if they can’t be shifted before then (Davies, Huddlestone and Jerome are also out of contract at that stage, but with optional extensions – the details of which are of course undisclosed).
This is incredibly exciting to me – for the 2019/20 season. Because by that time, a huge chunk of unproductive wage spend will finally be gone, giving Derby a bit more room to manoeuvre in the transfer market and therefore a massive opportunity to progress.