I made the mistake of reading an online messageboard the other day and came away fuming. The upshot of the thread was that Shefki Kuqi is our best player and Luke Moore was ‘a waste of shirt when not scoring’. Another fan backed this up with statistics that showed that Derby have a better record when Kuqi starts than when Moore does and that was that – Moore is rubbish, Kuqi is our best player and Nigel Clough is blind to this obvious truth.
This reasoning was so facile and crass, that it made me very angry. For a start, Kuqi came in at the same time as Alberto Bueno, who is without question our most talented player – it could easily be argued that in fact, Bueno made the difference that these supporters attributed to Kuqi. Also, Kuqi came in at a time when we were playing a lot of the bottom clubs at home – Boro, Preston and Crystal Palace were all put to the sword and would have been whether or not Kuqi had started.
Moore scored good goals in the wins against Doncaster and Scunthorpe. If he hadn’t, we would have drawn both games and been four points worse off. He also set up Kris Commons’ goal on saturday with a delightful chested lay-off and it isn’t his fault that we lost two quick goals and consquently the game to Norwich City – one was a fluke, the other was the result of poor play from our defenders. How come Barker and Leacock are immune from criticism, but Moore gets stick?
I understand that the fans took to Kuqi – my dad loves him and I can see why – but they must understand that at 34, he is not a long-term option. As hard as he works, Kuqi is no longer capable of playing 90 Championship minutes week in week out and has lasted the full game only three times during his loan spell. His goalscoring record of two in eight is hardly sensational and when he came on at Leicester recently, his contribution was negligible.
Moore is a different type of player. He is less physical and not a natural target man, but he is ultimately better than Kuqi – faster, sharper, more of a goal threat. He will not do well with long balls tossed in his direction from the back, as Steve Howard or Kuqi would. But that’s not the sort of game Clough wants to play and I back him on that.
The modern game is as much about brains as it is brawn and hopefully, Moore’s more subtle style will ultimately blend well with the quick, clever movement of our ball-carrying attacking midfielders. I just hope that the fans give Moore the chance he deserves and has proved he deserves by scoring three goals in six starts for Derby so far. We must trust Nigel if he feels that Moore will work well in our system and get behind the player, just as we did with Kuqi. I’ve seen Kuqi make dreadful mistakes and nobody got on his back. I think that if Moore is shown the same sort of support, he could be lethal for us at this level.
Meanwhile, the wait for Kris Commons to commit his future to the club continues. Clough has made mention of his wage demands being a stumbling block and it may be that the little ‘Scot’ feels he can get more money elsewhere. If so, good luck to him. Everything has gone a bit quiet on this front of late, but the club have made clear to the fans that an offer has been put to Kris. Whether it’s a good enough offer is another matter. Shaun Barker is reported to be in contract talks too and I’m sure that all Rams fans would like to see the future club captain stay with us for much longer than his current deal, which expires in 2012.
Honourable mention should go to the young goalkeeper, Frank Fielding, who has done a superb job for the club in his two-month loan spell from Blackburn Rovers. Fielding, who plays for England under-21’s, is only the number three at Blackburn, but has shown by his performances that he is already too good for reserve team football and is ready to play regularly at Championship level. Stephen Bywater will return after the Bristol City game, but I’m sure I’m not the only Derby fan who would love to see Fielding come back as our number one in the future.
We’re not far away from a play-off contending squad, as players like Leacock, Barker, Brayford, Bailey, Cywka, Green and Commons would be an asset to any club at this level. However, the recent stutter in form shows that we are not yet at the level of a QPR or a Cardiff, who have the squad depth and budget to dominate the division (one funded by a billionaire sugar daddy, the other of which gambled on promotion by running up debts). We also don’t have the well-settled look of Swansea City, the demented ambition of Nottingham Forest’s manager, or the apparently vast resources of the new Malaysian owners at Leicester City. Despite all this, I am a happy Ram and long may that continue.