The January transfer window is a time of uncertainty for fans of most clubs and it remains to be seen how it will pan out for Derby. The main talking point is stilll the future of our best player, Kris Commons. As second-top scorer in the Championship, on a contract that expires in summer, it seems inevitable that somebody will nip in and make him an offer and the club can’t even expect much in the way of the transfer fee if he is sold this month. This seems like a no-win situation for Derby.
Such is the general air of austerity around the club that nobody seriously expect Commons to stay, or even anybody to be signed to replace him, with the possible exception of a promising kid from somewhere. After all, Rob Hulse was sold in August and still hasn’t been replaced. The major problem for the club is that replacing players of the calibre of Commons, Hulse and Robbie Savage is impossible without serious investment, something the current board are clearly not prepared to countenance.
Nobody objects to Derby bringing through young starlets and the emergence of John Brayford, James Bailey and Tomasz Cywka under Clough is extremely heartening, but the younger lads do need a guiding hand on the pitch, sometimes. Savage is currently filling that role and doing it well, but once he leaves – presumably at the end of the season – there will be a void to fill and none of our other experienced players have quite the same sort of character. But then, does anyone have the same character as Sav?
Results in January, especially the FA Cup tie at Crawley Town and the home leg of the East Midlands Derby, will probably influence whether reinforcements are sought; however, I doubt we’ll see more than a couple of loans coming in. Other than Commons, who may go to Celtic this month, I don’t foresee much in the way of outward transfer activity, either – although some clubs might fancy Paul Green, who is currently doing penance for missing a shedload of chances by filling in at right back, whilst Brayford covers at centre back.
That Brayford is currently playing in central defence is a shame, as the team misses his pace, skill and driving runs from his natural position. We could seriously do with having him at full back for the Forest match, because he adds so much to our attack, as well as being able to cope with a pacy wideman running at him. Forwards such as Commons and Alberto Bueno can sometimes be marked out of games, but it is difficult to shut down Brayford, whose marauding raids cause panic in opposing defences.
We need the boost of wins at Crawley and against Forest, because the season seems to have gone flat. The play-off positions seem lightyears away, even if we’re only a few points off them and whilst I backed us for a cup run earlier in the season, right now, I’m just hoping that we don’t become the victims of a major giantkilling. To have to go to Crawley in front of the TV cameras on a Monday night is a major test of character for our players, who badly flunked their last such examination at the City Ground.
Ah yes, about that… In the most part, I had a fine time on 29th December. We wandered around the quieter, non-footballing Nottingham hostelries for the majority of the day, sporting no colours and sampling some good local ales. The journey to Forest’s lair is never pleasant for a Derby fan, but walking across the River Trent for a night match, with the mist illuminated by the floodlights, is a truly evocative footballing experience. Then you get to laugh at Forest’s naff anthems (“Mull of Kintyre” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” ) and settle in for what is usually a strongly-contested affair. Only this time, we kept simply giving goals away.
Fortunately, I was numbed from the worst excesses of the pain by the liberal quantities of ale I’d quaffed in the build-up. I vented my ‘enthusiasm’ by yawping unkind words in the direction of Billy Davies and the Derby-born Forest goalie Lee Camp and by giving the Rams the benefit of my years of coaching experience, by screaming ‘MOVEMENT!’ and ‘WANT IT MORE!’ at regular intervals.
Our defending was staggeringly poor on the night and Dean Leacock may well have paid for it with his future at the club. One particularly perceptive Derby blogger – Chris from Ramspace – noted that Nigel Clough’s post-match laceration of Leacock’s performance was reminiscent of the gaffer’s singling-out of Martin Albrechtsen, who was drummed out of the club in the aftermath of some unacceptably milky defensive displays. Albrechtsen is now back in his native Denmark and one wonders if Leacock will be gone by the end of the season too.
Deano is far more popular with Derby fans than Alby was, but it’s undeniable
that we’ve been giving away too many sloppy goals in the last couple of
months. It’s also worth remembering that Leacock has been injury-prone throughout his Derby career and is not as able to play through the pain barrier as the vice-captain, Shaun Barker.
Memories of the scintillating win against Crystal Palace, amongst others, remind us of what the current squad is capable of, but when they drop below their best level, we end up with experiences like the defeat at the City Ground. We have the opportunity to put it right by taking revenge at Pride Park in a couple of weeks – but another defeat, either in the FA Cup or in the East Midlands Derby, will ramp up the pressure on the board to come up with a major new signing.