OK, so Kris Commons is history, blah blah blah. For all that he’s done exceptionally well this season, I am genuinely not arsed. In the modern era, it’s dangerous to get overly attached to players, when they aren’t tied to clubs in the same way that the fans are. Even the sainted Miles Addison might be tempted away one day… I could conceivably weep on that day, but that’s a different case entirely.
Anyway, I think it’s more important to focus on the players we have got, either for now, or for the long term. Everybody’s view seems to be clouded by the temporary bleakness of the picture – and of course I can see why, of course I don’t particularly enjoy watching us get hacked and bullied off the park by a bunch of cloggers from Sussex, or capitulating like muppets at the City Ground, or huffing and puffing our way towards an inevitable Billy Davies-away day classic result. I do not like any of these things. But I refuse to indulge in ‘board out’ tantrums, I refuse to believe that the current squad are going to get us relegated and I am not going to start ranting because an instant, gift-wrapped Commons replacement isn’t going to be announced before the end of the window.
The way I see things, the summer is absolutely pivotal and the recruitment has to be spot on. Clough has a major opportunity to reshape the squad in his image, with the albatross Robbie Savage (God bless him) finally due to be off the bill, Commo gone and very possibly a couple of others in line to be released. We know that Savage earns £15,000 per week – people moaning about lack of investment from the board might like to consider that the old geezer will take another £210,000 out of the club by 8th May – and that one Savage would fund about 23 Conor Doyles.
With all this in mind, I thought I’d look at the first team players’ contract expiry dates and see if that helped me to feel more positive about the future of the club. The answer is – yes it does, actually, assuming that GSE don’t cut Clough’s wage bill any more than they already have done and the signings we make in the summer work out.
CONTRACT TO EXPIRE END OF 2010/11 - Saul Deeney, Jake Buxton, Robbie Savage, Ben Pringle, Steven Davies, Alberto Bueno, Chris Porter
Deeney will probably be retained for another year, to sit on the bench. As has been outlined in Why England Lose by Simon Kuper (and noted by Ramspace previously), it makes absolutely no sense to have two highly-paid goalkeepers at the club, unless you’re Man City. At one stage, we had Stephen Bywater and Roy Carroll on the bill (thanks, Paul Jewell), which was just nuts. You have your number one, then ideally a talented young number two. If your number one gets a bad injury, you go out and loan in a competent keeper to man the fort.
Bucko hasn’t played all season and could well be on his way in May. Savage has already been told it’s time for him to bow out and anybody who saw the home defeat to Forest will agree with that decision. The Vancouver Whitecaps thing would have been the perfect resolution as far as Derby were concerned.
Pringle will probably be renewed for another year and let’s hope he kicks on. Which leaves us with the strikers.
Davies is the one I lament the most – clearly a talent, the poor lad simply can’t get himself fit. His cameo at the City Ground recently was the saddest thing, at least until he came on for the return leg at PP for five minutes and did nowt except for jump for the same ball as Chris Porter – a moment which rightly sparked a mass exodus from the stadium (no, of course I didn’t leave). Unless Davies plays regularly for the rest of the season and delivers on his promise, it could well be time to wave him goodbye. That would be really sad, but unfortunately, his record of ten starts in 2008/9, eight in 2009/10 and none yet this season outweighs his talent in my reckoning at this time.
Porter is an odd one and his much-vaunted ‘goals to games’ ratio could do with being tested by a prolonged run in the team. His nine goals have come from three starts in 2008/9, 13 in 2009/10 and six so far this time around. The fans got extremely cross with him against Forest, because he had a bit of a Rick Witter – and also managed to miss a Rick Witter.
Bueno, we know, will be offski.
CONTRACT EXPIRES END OF 2011/12 – Stephen Bywater, Dean Leacock, Miles Addison, Russell Anderson, Gareth Roberts, Dean Moxey, Paul Green, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Pearson, Conor Doyle, Lee Croft, Dave Martin, Tomasz Cywka, Luke Varney
The one that leaps out of me, from this list, is Addison – I want that extension dusted, pronto. The second one is Green. I’ve been a bit worried for Green of late; the poor lad has missed a bunch of chances, but his energy and drive are serious attributes. I hope Derby see the best of him again soon; it might just be that he can’t quite fit into the current system properly – but then, I almost got the impression that the current system had been introduced for Commons’ benefit and he’s gone now. If we don’t agree an extension with Green, other clubs will bid for him in summer, without a doubt.
Leacock, Bywater and Pearson are all on good money and will be under pressure to earn it from now on. You can’t help but wonder if Clough regrets extending the injury-prone Pearson’s deal. Bywater is an interesting one. The manager used to praise his goalkeeper quite regularly, even talking him up for the World Cup squad before summer, but that’s all gone quiet and even though he’s a good age for a goalkeeper (29), his contract has been allowed to reach the dreaded 18-month mark. Maybe Frank Fielding’s performances turned Cloughie’s head.
What about Deano? He has fallen out of favour and the stubbornness Clough exhibited by refusing to play Leacock at centre back despite having no viable alternatives was the key factor to the 2-5 at Forest – putting Leacock at right back, up against Tyson, was a dreadful decision and he was only restored to his natural position once the game at Watford was lost and it was threatening to get embarrassing. He put in a better performance in the Forest home game, but is now suspended for two matches and has forced Clough to try to replace him with Liverpool youngster Daniel Ayala. If Ayala gets in and stays in, who knows what the future holds for Deano.
Cywka has ability and seems to have a good attitude too. I hope he comes off. The left backs can both sod off tomorrow, for all I care (I used to think Moxey was really promising, but he seems to lack brains and I’ve lost faith in him. Roberts – bleh). The wingers Croft and Martin have been rendered redundant by the new system and anyway, Croft failed on loan at Huddersfield recently. We’ll not see much more of Anderson due to his injuries, unfortunately – if he can’t get right, we might even see a mutual termination in the summer. Varney will stay at Blackpool and fingers crossed, he won’t come back and haunt us, like all of other our former strikers do.
2012/13 – Mark O’Brien, John Brayford, James Bailey, Ben Davies (2013/4 – Shaun Barker)
These are the players who Clough sees as the long-term nucleus of the squad. I enjoyed Barker’s rant on Rams Player when he signed his extension, which very much seemed to me like one long dig at Commons. His commitment in the home game against Forest was truly inspirational and my heart went out to him as he stood alone applauding the fans, after the final whistle, with everyone else having made their way back to the safety of the dressing room. It seemed that he simply couldn’t bear to leave the field. His headers, blocks, tackles and covering that day were all superb and it’s little wonder that he has been rewarded with such a long extension and the captaincy.
I think the key point is that there aren’t many on long contracts anymore and I think all those that are, the fans would agree should be. The club tried to keep Commons, but he stayed true to the pattern of his career and ran down his contract before moving on. Good luck to him.
Now I’m off to start my “Extend Addison’s Contract” campaign. Who’s with me?